Monday, April 19, 2010

What we have here is a failure to communicate

I came to the realization the other day that human beings no longer communicate via actual thoughts, words, gestures, expressions or face-to-face social conversation.
No, now we all hide behind the new media. Facebook, Twitter, text messaging. Little blurbs that, in essence, are meaningless and, for the most part, keep us anonymous in that we are unseen. No facial expression, no tears, no laughter, no love. Just an alphabet of random ramblings.
The idea struck me as I logged on to my computer first thing one morning this past winter. Somehow things had seemed different for awhile. I wasn't really sure what it was. Then it hit me -- no email came flooding in to my inbox!
Used to be that when I logged on first thing in the morning there were emails from friends and relatives both on the continent and off. What changed? Did they get too busy? Did they suddenly find me dull and boring? (Surely not!) Had they joined a cult and were being held against their will? Were they dead!
Nope, none of the above....instead they were all on Facebook.
So now instead of a newsy email full of personal tidbits, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes poignant, I get to read two or three line descriptions of what people in my life are up to. Unfortunately everyone else they know gets to read the same thing. Not personal; not directed to me.
Sorry folks - it isn't enough.
We are becoming a generation of instant messengers. I really don't care if your baby just pooped or your sheep died on Farmville. (Yes, I sheepishly admit to being a Farmville farmerette for a couple of months, until I decided this was really, really not the best use of time. After harvesting 900 crops of soybeans I was not sure what more I could do! Stabbing myself with a gift pitchfork came to mind.)
As I scroll through the Facebook posts each day I learn that someone cleaned out their closet, someone else joined the Support William Shatner for Governor General campaign, someone else posted yet another cat picture.
Nothing wrong with that mind you. My last post was about a book I had read. I like to think the fact I read books has some redeeming qualities. But maybe not. It seems words don't much matter anymore.
I have a feeling though that this is just another cycle in human evolution. You can't fight progress -- blah, blah, blah.
We started out grunting and gesturing when we assumed an upright position. "Og, get dumb ass over here and skin mastadon." Followed by whatever the grunt equivalent for "Yes, dear" was back in caveman days.
Then we started making pictographs on cave walls. Crude drawings of animals, gods, and even each other. Progress! A thought process and communication was forming.
Time marched on; language developed. Writing evolved. The printing press was invented. And happily we lived for centuries thanking the dieties above that we had discovered words and reading and thoughts and ideas. From Socrates to Shakespeare to Salman Rushdie. Words, words, glorious words.
Can you imagine Shakespeare on Facebook or Twitter?! We would never have gotten beyond, "What light through yonder window breaks..." Juliet would have been left pacing her balcony wondering what the hell Romeo was talking about. Fie!
Life has become too cryptic. Facebook and even Twitter (even though I don't Tweet) are great ways to catch up, but most people seem to use social networking sites as their only communication outlet now. And I don't like it! It's lazy.
Sure, the quill pen and inkpot gave way to the ballpoint and the typewriter made way for the computer, but do we have to give up real interaction and communication in the name of so-called progress? Just insert a computer chip in my forehead and I won't even have to type ... I can just send thoughts your way. And you won't like the ones I am having now.
Words separate us from other life forms on this planet. Use them, cherish them. Or we shall all be left to grunt and point once again.
Meanwhile, I shall close my rant and post it on Facebook, because none of you heathens will read it anywhere else!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And so this is Christmas....

I have always been a bit of a waif and stray over the Christmas period. The only-child syndrome -- no siblings and no cousins, aunts, or uncles within thousands of miles.
Not a holiday that really impacts me greatly. I don't put up a tree; there is no wreath on my condo door and I am not traditionally religious.
The only vestiges of the festive season around my livingroom are the Christmas cards sent by those who still go through the niceties of the season. (Much appreciated, by the way!)
I am not the Grinch...far from it. Although, I believe I do have that reputation. But as experienced by the odd green character from Dr. Seuss... even the Grinch finally got with the program.
By all the world's standards, I have a lot to be thankful for. Place to live? Check. Recent model car? Check. Enough food? Check. A bank account with a total above zero? Check? Some meaningful work, albeit not as much as I would like? Check. A few good friends? Check.
But I had a lesson this week in humility.
I work a few months of the year as a senior editor at a large publishing company in downtown Toronto. Nice desk, nice computer, cheap and good food in the company cafeteria and a great boss.
There is also a lady who comes around every morning around 11 a.m. to empty my trash. There is never much in my rubbish; a few sheets of copy paper, maybe a coffee cup, a banana peel.
She empties my container. I briefly turn around, smile and say thank-you. I often wonder if many other people even do that much, or if she is invisable.
I casually mentioned to one of my co-workers earlier in the week that it might be nice to have a "whip round" for the cleaning lady. For those who don't speak Brit, a "whip round" is a small collection of money.
There are only five or six of us, so it wasn't going to be much of a haul at five or ten bucks a head. Since Christmas Eve is a half work-day and we were not sure if she would be at work, today was presentation day. When our hard-working friend came around to empty our trash, my colleague to whom I had made the collection suggestion had put together a lovely card, stuck a small ribbon and a candy cane on the envelope, and we presented "our lady of the recycling" with our small offering. It was maybe $30 or $40.
I am still shaken by the reaction. Most of us have so much and often forget that other people, even in our very midst, often have so little. And sadly, expect no more.
Our lady hails from a far off land. She commutes by train early every morning from the outer suburbs of Toronto to come in to our glass tower to do what most of us consider menial work. I don't know much more about her than that. I do not know if she is married or has children. I do not know if Canada is all that she expected. But I do know she is happy to have a job.
And I do know that today, this Grinch was very close to tears. I have never been hugged so hard or so often by someone for so little. It was little hardship to me to toss in a few dollars for someone I truly believed deserved a small acknowledgement. But her reaction was as if we had all given her the winning ticket on the lottery. It wasn't one million dollars, it was, well, very little.
As Dr. Seuss might say, "She hugged us all, the tall and the small. And for such a small token; our savings far from broken."
Well you get the picture.
And that is what Christmas really should be all about. At least for me. It doesn't matter where I go or what I have to do on Dec. 25th -- it doesn't matter if I just stay home and watch TV and eat a frozen turkey dinner.
What matters is that one person, who did not expect it, was made happy...totally surprised and grateful for such a small, small gesture. And in return, "our lady of the recycling" gave us so much more than we gave her.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Easy Zzzzzzzzs For Me

"To sleep, perchance to dream - aye, there's the rub." So said William Shakespeare, but what did he know?
To sleep, perchance to, well, sleep would be my preference! If only...but there's the rub, indeed.
Everyone goes through sleepness nights at some point, but in the past few months Mr. Sandman has all but deserted me. Oh, I can fall asleep just fine, and then "bingo" -- I wake up at 4 a.m. On a good night, maybe 4:30 a.m. after four to five hours sleep.
I am talking wide awake. Not a roll over, open-one-eyelid, swear at the clock, and drift back to sleep kind of scenario. This is a wide-eyed wanna get up and dance kind of awake.
Problem is the urge to dance quickly disappears a few hours later. It is especially bad during those periods I have to get up early, trudge to the bus stop, and present myself for a paying job. If I wake up at 4 a.m. and toss and turn for three hours, by the time I get to work, I am exhausted before I even log on to my computer. By 2 p.m. I am a very cranky little puppy! And since editing is my job, bleary eyes are a bit of a problem. My boss actually likes me to have my eyes open when I edit copy. He says it helps prevent libel suits. Point taken.
I have tried turning the TV off an hour or more before retiring for the night. Or turning the computer off for the same length of time (having been told the blue light from a monitor or TV screen makes the brain more active... and God knows I do NOT want an active brain at 11 p.m.). I have tried warm milk, warm baths with lavender scent, and reading. Not one thing has made any difference.
A new bed didn't help either; neither did an orthopedic pillow. Flannel jammies, or no jammies...nothing makes a difference. I still wake up.
So I asked my family doc, Bernie, to send to me a sleep clinic. One of those overnight rest homes for insomniacs.
I presented myself to the clinic at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night ... jammies in tow. (I didn't think they would appreciate the no jammies look...and considering how cold the room was I should have packed a parka.) Armed with a book, reading glasses, and high hopes that maybe a different atmosphere would induce sleep, I was almost looking forward to a night in the Motel 8 for Insomniacs paid for by our provincial health care system.
For those who have not had the "pleasure" of attending a sleep clinic, all I can say is if you didn't sleep well before, you sure won't sleep much that night. At least I didn't.
After being hooked up to a head full of electrodes to measure my brain waves, two bands around my chest to measure heart rate, electrodes on my legs to measure muscle and leg movement, and a couple of plastic thingies up my nostrils to measure oxygen saturation, I could barely move.
I usually sleep on one side or the other... being hooked up to all these wires meant I could only sleep on my back. Personally, I think that was an evil plot to make me snore. I am persuaded almost everyone comes out with a diagnosis of sleep apnea so the clinic can sell you one of those masks that make you look like Darth Vader but keep you alive at night, since sleep apnea suffers stop breathing.
At 11 p.m., it was lights out. The sleep technician came on the loudpeaker in the ceiling over my bed and asked me to breath, hold my breath, and a number of other exercises to make sure the electrodes and other probes were solidy attached and properly monitoring my every move and breath. Then I was supposed to fall asleep. Instead, I kept thinking about her job -- watching people sleep all night. I wondered if the boredom put her to sleep! Maybe I should apply.
An hour later I am still staring at the ceiling. The room wasn't totally dark and I could see the outline of the furniture, which didn't help. Then I guess I drifted off. I can recall waking up at least three times, and then woke up for good at 5 a.m. I got up and said I might as well go home, because I wasn't going to fall back to sleep since I knew I had to get up at 7 to go to work anyway.
It took half an hour to unhook me from all the wires and tape. The first thing I did at home was dunk my head under a hot shower to get all the goo out of my hair used to attach the brainwave electrodes. That was not pleasant. Then I had marks all over my face and a rash on my cheeks from the tape used to keep the nose apparatus in place. I went to work looking like I had spent the night with a sheet of sandpaper for a pillow.
The good news? Well, I don't have sleep apnea (no Darth Vader mask for me!), apparently I didn't snore, and I didn't have restless leg syndrome. So I still have no idea why I keep waking up at 4 a.m. They called it "interrupted sleep pattern" and I am supposed to go back for a consultation at which the sleep clinic boffins will probably advise me to drink warm milk, turn the TV off an hour before I go to bed or take a hot bath.
Apart from taking a rubber mallet and hitting myself over the head when I wake up -- I am not quite sure what else to do.
As an old friend in New York City, who is almost 86, told me... "You are probably just getting old and don't need as much sleep." Gee, thanks for that!
For the past 15 years, she has regaled me with tales of waking up at up at 3 a.m. and watching reruns of The Golden Girls until she nods back off.
Just shoot me now!
Suddenly I am getting verrrry sleeeeepy....after all it is 4 p.m.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Middle Ages - One Wrinkle at A Time!

They say age is all in your mind. I have a news flash for this "they" person. They lied!

Just ask yourself how many of your belongings clocking in at more than half a century old still work as well as they used to. Hell, do they even work at all? You might have an old Underwood typewriter or black and white TV stashed in the basement, but do they get a workout. They are merely quaint antiques. Could you even get parts?

I was pondering the "age question" after attempting to return to the game of tennis in the past month. A friend, who is more than half a decade younger than I am, started taking tennis lessons, so I thought it might be a good idea to get back in the game so we could play. After spending a perfect day at the Rogers Cup Women's Tennis with her, I was inspired to go out and buy a new racket the very next day. (I did play for ten years in my mid-20s to mid-30s.)

Turns out the friend who inspired me to take up the racket again doesn't want to play me until she has a few more lessons. Yeah, she has a cute tennis coach. What can I say!? But I now had this hot new black and red racket and I was spoiling for a match.

So the first person I played was a 72-year-old guy who lives in my condo building. He's got a few years on me, but is a regular player at a local club.

On a recent Saturday morning I coerced good old Bill into wandering over to his club so I could try out my new Wilson racket. After getting the feel of it, I realized my serve had survived the decades and whacked the ball into the box easily. I was returning a good few balls, too. And my opponent was sweatily running around after my deft shots. I came home positively glowing, pleased I had given the old codger a run for his money.

Yesterday, I got a painful dose of reality. I played a 42-year-old woman who is in great shape. Drove north, out of the city, to an elegant club, beautiful surroundings, clay courts - what more could I ask? I should have asked for a 72-year-old opponent - that's what! After an hour workout with a younger partner, I was feeling pretty ragged. I could feel my left knee getting a bit cranky every time I tried to stop short and return one of her hits. Obviously my moving parts don't work as well as they did 30 years ago when the oil, grease and ball bearings were still working.

Now this knee glitch came as a shock. Last night and this morning came as a bigger shock. The knee still hurt! Even more so. It kind of grinds and clicks. Is this the sign of things to come? Will Marley's Ghost be visiting me in my slumbers tonight to show me visions of the future filled with gnarled limbs and saggy bits? And joints that clatter and clank like the proverbial chains of doom?

Shoot me now...please!

It probably hits me where it hurts the most (my ego!) because I have (til now!) been one of those lucky people who was always taken for a decade younger than they actually were. Apparently this wonderful characteristic has gone like a whiff of smoke up some chimney. (Not that I appreciated this trait at age 28 when I was still being asked for ID in drinking establishments, much to the glee of my friends.)

If the creaky tennis knee isn't bad enough, I went to a movie two Sundays ago. And without even being asked, I was given a Senior Citizens ticket! I offered a $20 bill expecting somewhere around eight bucks change - and received back more than $12. I was puzzled until I looked at the ticket and it said in VERY LARGE PRINT - Seniors Admission. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. On the good side, I had an extra two bucks for a coffee. On the bad side, I realized not that many people tell me I look ten years younger anymore. I am not 65. Let me repeat...NOT 65. I felt like I should have done what I had to do at 28 and haul out my ID but this time to prove I was not a Senior Citizen.

But I quietly shuffled off to my theatre seat and drank my coffee bought with the savings from the illicit senior's admission price. Two bucks for my side.

This morning I decided if was this bloody old, I had better talk to a financial advisor to find out if I would end up dining on cat food a la carte in five years. Then again, I have friends who have the most adorable pair of puddy-tats who eat better than I do now. The descriptions on their cat food cans make my mouth water! Lobster and yam puree, Lamb and leeks....yum. Nope, I definitely don't eat that well. So probably cat food is out of the question, too.

Never one to like anyone else meddling in my financial affairs, I always self-directed my savings and RRSPs and so on. But finding it harder and harder to land a paying gig these days (well, who the hell wants to hire Methuselah?), I thought maybe I should seek a second opinion.

Back in the day (which is an old person's way of saying a few years ago), when I was a business writer I used to interview all manner of advisors and financial gurus. I always stayed well clear of them for my own money though. I figured why pay them a fee for doing what I could do myself.

But this morning I broke tradition and I saw Steve the Financial Guy for that second opinion. I sat down and asked Steve: "So, how long do I have?" Normally the kind of question you ask your doctor. But I meant financially; when is "it" gonna run out? It being the money, the green, the moolah. What stands between me and 9-Lives on a bun?

Steve-o seems to think I should start taking CPP now. "NOW as in this minute?" I asked incredulously. "But I'm not 65."

His theory is that I have to determine, based on family health patterns and personal health history, how long I think I will live. Easier said than done. I have high blood pressure; I come from British stock whose arteries attract every kind of animal fat that can stick to them. So who knows?

He figures if I take it now, I will have a little extra every month to play with. True. That would help.

It's a lot to think about. The retirement money, the cranky knee, the getting older. But, hey, if I creak up to the theatre kiosk, maybe I'll keep getting those Senior's Admission tickets to the movies. Then I can probably put off taking my Canada Pension until I am 65 with the savings. Then again, the girl who sold me the senior's ticket was about 17 and I probably would have looked old to her if I had been 40! It always pays to have perspective.

Sometimes You've Just Gotta Laugh.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Missing in funny bone! it has been more than a month since I found anything remotely funny. And that was my colonoscopy. Shows you how I have been viewing the world of late if that was the funniest thing that has happened to me since June!

I thought of all kinds of topics that intrigued, offended or vaguely amused me...but none worthy of more than a paragraph or two. The garbage strike here in Toronto resulting in festering piles of fetid garbage, Michael Jackson's worshipful fans beating their collective breasts in angst, having to pay five cents if I need a plastic bag at the grocery store in Ontario's zealous move to join the environmentally-friendly crowd. They all gave me pause for a tirade or, at the very, least mock humor.

You can bet I had a few choice words for each and every one of those topics. But did I find them really funny? Hell, no. The garbage situation stinks, the Michael Jackson event was just another bizarre episode in a bizarre life that includes his bizarre fans, bizarre kids and bizarre father, and the plastic bag "charge" is annoying - just add the damn money to the price of the merchandise. I do take cloth and reusable bags out with me now everywhere I go...but I find myself in the store with a cart full of groceries and, as usual, forgot the bags in the trunk of the car. Hence, I pay for bags...again and again. I have become a bag lady. Finally!

I don't know which elbow my funny bone is located in...but I have felt both the right and left arm and something is just not there. Missing in action? Dislocated? Ingrown? A stress fracture at the very least.

Now the source of my sense of humor failure could be that I joined the working throngs again a few weeks ago. Don't get excited is merely a contract and I shall be hitting you up for free drinks again anytime soon. In fact, how does the end of July sound? Gin, heavy on the tonic, no ice.

While the journey to work on what passes for public transit in this so-called world-class city is depressing enough (strap hangers who don't use deodorant or people with PERSONAL listening devices stuffed in their ears turned up so loud that even I can hear the music four seats away) ... it is the tender age of my co-workers that has me even more humor depleted.

Well, not so much my immediate co-workers, of course. (Hell, they might read this...and I have to say right here and now they are LOVELY people.) But I had the bad luck of being assigned the "empty" cubicle which is directly behind my own workmates' cubicles and directly in front of two people from another area of the company. It is these neighbors that cause me grief.

They are young, young, young...and they talk, talk, talk. All day, every day, non-stop. I keep wondering when any work is taking place. The chatter is all about playing Guitar Hero, preparation for a brother's wedding, how drunk some buddies got at the weekend or the latest news on when little "Johnny" spit up or had a bowel movement.

It is really hard to concentrate on my own work with this constant racket going on. I mean girls will be girls, but the odd thing is that I sit in front of two young guys. Yup! Men, guys, hombres, hommes -- not giggling, gossipy gals. Who said women talk a lot? We got a bum rap! These two guys make most women seem like we took a vow of silence and joined a nunnery. I started referring to them (behind their backs) as "the girls" on my second day at the office.

From 9:30 a.m. to around 4 p.m. (which is about the time they settle down and decide they actually need to turn in some work to merit a pay cheque), these dudes (one definitely under 30, the other around 30 ... but seemingly more like 12) chatter. One is totally besotted by his offpsring. Now I am all for modern-day fatherhood. Burp the kid, change the diapers, take the lad out for a walk...but I have been subjected to every poop deposit, burp, tinkle on the toy piano, banging of drumsticks on a pot lid that this kid has ever produced. Day in, day out. No infant prodigy moment has missed my ears. It is like no kid in the history of the world, since Adam was a sprout, has ever done these things.

It's OK buddy...your sperm works. Cajones are up to snuff. Enough already! You have a kid, we get it. The kid does, well, it does what kids do. Eats, take a dump, and bangs on pot lids. End of.....

And you know those really irritating voices? The one's that announce, "I am talking to my deskmate...but I REALLY WANT YOU GUYS TO HEAR ME FOUR DESKS AWAY!" Well, that's daddy-O. Unfortunately, I am one desk away.

The younger guy is single with a girlfriend. He doesn't talk quite so much...but then he doesn't have a kid to brag about, does he? But I did hear how many delicious meals his lady can make with a can of condensed soup. Lucky guy! Marry her, marry her now. Do NOT let this Julia Child wannabe get away or you will be forever doomed to a dinner of Big Macs.

So, yeah, I am not feeling the humor. Attention deficit disorder is rampant! And working right nextdoor to me.

I am left wondering what happened to good old-fashioned manners? The workplace is for work....have your coffee breaks, lunch breaks, spend an hour in the bathroom reading the paper. I don't care. But don't talk all day (about absolute drivel) and prevent me from doing my work.

Or I will take great pains to find my funny bone...sharpen the end and toss it over the cubicle wall. But alas, even if it hits its mark, I suspect all I would hear is the tell-tale hissing escape of hot air.'ve just gotta laugh! Or not!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The colon: It's more than punctuation!

As a young journalist, I didn't think of the colon as any more than a useful tool of punctuation. Well, times have changed!

Now I am an older (not necessarily wiser) semi-retired journalist, the colon has suddenly become a body part; a place of sudden interest to be probed by the medical profession.

And so it was, I spent yesterday curled in fetal position staring at what was the inside of my own colon on a flatscreen monitor. It's a good thing pink is one of my favorite colors.

After a certain age, the medical profession likes you to have the dreaded colonoscopy every ten years or so to probe the outer limits of that delicate area. (You have it every five years if you have a family history of colon disease.) I had my first one about nine years ago. No muss, no and out and all was fine. I was so relaxed back then, I didn't even take the sedative and painkillers offered prior to the probe "going where no man has gone before". (Apologies to Captain Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise). I had it done Commando! Gritted my teeth, dropped trou, and presented my nether regions to the world. Well, at least to the doctor. Hopefully, the film version will never be shown on a giant screen near you.

So, this year, I was ready (not very willing or eager, I might add) to undergo this test again. Now, I do have to say the prep the day before was more civilized than years ago with a newer product called Pico-Salax. Yes, kiddies, it is a purgative and you will not eat solid food for more than 24 hours. You do drink lots and lots of liquid...and I mean lots. Litres of water, tea, clear soft drinks, Gatorade. By the time you go to sleep the night before your procedure you should be squeaky cleaned out. You probably won't sleep much though and will likely be dreaming of pork chops and beef jerky.

C-Day Arrives: Present self at the clinic. Meet the doctor who is doing the procedure. The wonderful Dr. O. This doc is thorough to highest degree and has a nice sense of humor (which suits me, since it is how I try to get through all of these ordeals myself!). He spends quite some time asking general medical questions, history, specific problems etc. Asks if I want the sedative/painkiller medication. And I bravely say, "No, I had a colonoscopy nine years ago and didn't take it; I should be fine." At this point, I did not know I had undergone a metamorphosis and had turned into a complete wuss in the past decade. More on that later.

This time there was a slight difference in that I was having an endoscopy down the throat as I was getting probed from both up and down that morning.

The doctor's assistant takes me into a room, and makes me comfortable on an examing table. She gets me ready for the endoscope first, by putting a circular plastic guard in my mouth to keep it open. Now this presents a problem for me. Painful? No. Tastes bad? No! Problem is, I like to talk when I have medical procedures done. And I couldn't talk with this thing in my mouth. I like to ask questions or astound the medical staff with my own sage observations and medical knowledge (Doctors either hate this or love it...) I even like to crack a joke or three. The good Dr. O comes in and asks if I am ready. I try to answer and out comes a mumbled phrase that sounds like Chewbacca gargling. I boldly reach up and take the hard plastic mouth opener out and talk. Then I put it back in. This happens several times as I think of something else I want to say. In, out. Talk. In, out. Talk. Dr. O gently smiles. "You like to talk, don't you," he says. He is observant, I will say that.

At some point I had to give in and let the procedure happen, if it was ever going to be over before his next patient needed the room. So Dr. O began snaking the endoscope through the round mouth guard and down my throat. Of course, I started to gag, forgot completely how to breath through my nose, panicked, and tried to breath through my mouth which was now stuffed with the mouth guard and several feet of black snaking plastic heading south. I could hear the doctor trying to calm me down, urging me to relax. "We are in the stomach, no signs of abnormalities or ulcers; a small hiatus hernia, no visable tumors etc. etc. etc."..... OK, this was all good. Then he started to pull the endoscope out...and I started gagging again AND trying to talk. Tube in throat, gagging and trying to talk is not a good mix!

OK, calm down, wussy is done, over. You are alive. You heard Dr. O say there were no real problems. Your throat is a bit sore, but you are FINE.

Onward, and dare I say - UPward. Time for the colonoscopy. Now since I had this done before, I was not worried at all about any discomfort. Well, a little, but not much.

And so, now resting on my left side, curled in fetal position, and looking once again at the giant flatscreen monitor, I can see something looming up in the picture. Oh God, it looks like a hose and that looks like, um, looks like - a part of me that due to the limited range of the human neck I have never seen before. If anyone calls me an asshole again...I can verify now that at least I do have one.

Trying to regain my dignity, I respond to Dr. O's question "are you ready to proceed?"
"Yes, go ahead," I say meekly.

Arrrrgh, me mateys, head for the open sea, full steam ahead. At least that is what it felt like. Steady as she goes. Aye, Aye, Captain O-Liner.

I am starting to see my colon on the screen in shades of lovely pink. Cleaner and glossier than a newborn baby's butt. Looks charting unknown regions of the galaxy. Is that an ass-teroid I see, a shooting star? Oops, no... only gas bubbles.

Upwards we go. Owwwwwwwwww.......and I clench the table. Apparently that was me yelling. The scope is now attempting to turn a corner and my colon does not want it to. After several attempts with me trying to breath deeply (Doctor's orders), but really just yelling Owwwwww.....we finally make the turn. Across the transverse colon. I relax a little now and offer some light banter. "Hey I didn't choose to come here, but you guys actually chose to stare at butts for a living, ha, ha...." Not funny in retrospect, but it was as good as I had at that moment.

I am feeling pretty good now...with NO DRUGS, remember. I was just feeling happy I was now over the worst hump; that bend in the colon highway. I had forgotten this was a two-bend road. Up, across and down. Owwwww..... Owwwwww...... Owwwwwww...... Yes, three loud yells came out of me in close succession.

"OK, we'll stop for a minute," says Dr. O. I asked if we were done yet and realized we had to turn the second corner for the race to the finish line down the ascending colon. That right hand leg that leads down to the appendix.

I thought, "Oh crap....". I didn't have any left in me. But the sentiments were there.

After recovering a little, we tried again. And again. And again. Each time I felt like Octomom. Was I delivering octuplets or was I just having a colonscopy? I found myself wondering if I could request at epidural for a colonoscopy! I already knew the answer.

I gasped out that we should stop now without bothering to explore than last blind alley. I said it would be just fine by me if we skipped that part since the rest was fine. But Dr. O gently persuaded me to give it one more shot. I did, complete with more loud pants and Owwwws.... (He is a patient man with patients!) His assistant also got into the act by reaching across me and pushing externally on my lower abdomen. Finally we rounded the bend and were heading down the ascending colon. And there it little pink polyp. The only one in all those feet of pinkness. Which would never have been found if Dr. O hadn't stuck with it. He snipped it off (it now goes for biopsy, but I have no reason to believe it isn't fine) and the ordeal was almost over.

A few minutes later the scope is snaking its way out the same way it went in....only with much less difficulty. Discomfort, but no pain to speak of. But there was enough gas being released to float the Hindenburg. Just nobody light a match, please!

So that is it...over for another decade. And you can be damn sure ten years from now I will take any free, cheap drugs they want to throw at me. My days as a medical stoic are over. Instead of older and wiser, I'm just older and wussier. I'll live with that.

Sometimes you've just gotta laugh!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Boyled in oil...

Well, the painful spectacle of Susan Boyle is finally over. She came second on Britain's Got Talent. All I can say is thank God it's over!

Unlike several friends and acquaintances (some of whom admittedly got teary eyed at her trilling tones), I never quite saw the magic in Ms. Boyle. Sure, her singing was very nice. It was NOT spectacular. Her talent wasn't different or better than many singers of that genre of music. She wasn't going to be playing the beautiful ingenue lead in Phantom of the Opera any time soon.

So what was it Susan Boyle had that so captivated the public around the world?

She made the superior feel even more superior. They could pretend to back the nag with the sway back to win the race in the hopes they would look noble. She made the shy and those who have a low sense of self-esteem feel better, because, well, Susan was one of them. And look how the audience loves there must be hope for every other pub singer or garage band strummer locked away in a small town.

The bottom line is that she really wasn't a saleable commodity in the long run. Coming second is no small potatoes on Britain's Got Talent or on American Idol for that matter. On American Idol number two often goes on to bigger and better things than the winner. But you have to have a persona and a talent that has staying power and not just be a media spectacle for a few weeks.

Will Ms. Boyle be a household word six months or a year down the road? I doubt it.

Firstly, her style of music does not appeal to the downloading iTunes age group. In other words, the young. Not many older folks still buy CDs... so after the dust cleared Susan Boyle was ultimately not very marketable. Just who was going to buy her CDs or download her songs to their iPods? Very few in the long run....and it is the long run that counts.

And we all know, whether is it Simon Cowell or any other music producer, they don't just want raw talent, they want a marketability factor. Something or someone they can sell. Susan just doesn't have that. She has quirkiness mixed with the homespun. In this world of glam and glitz what Susan has doesn't make for eye-catching covers on weekly celeb magazines.

Her makeover (admittedly small that it was) came too soon after that first winning performance. It was as if the Susan we all came to know and love was not good enough in her own eyes or the eyes of Britain's Got Talent producers. So they tried to tart her up a tad. From a dowdy dress to a trendy pants outfit only made her suddenly seem false. Like she was cashing in on instant fame. If a sparkly old-lady dress and bushy eyebrows got her where she was...why was that no longer acceptable? Because dowdy is not marketable.

The "never been kissed" fable, to "she lives with her cat", to the "she sings in local pubs" stories all left me vaguely uncomfortable. Like "let's all feel sorry for Susan....poor dear, she doesn't have a life."

She does...and she will go back to it.

Boyle will have a year of being promoted and will probably end up singing in a few Euro variety shows. But my prediction is that she will disappear almost as quickly as she appeared.

The public is ever fickle...and while it feels good to back a dark horse, when that horse doesn't win we go on to greener pastures.

As for being shy and retiring...there are enough video clips of Boyle on YouTube to prove other wise. There is a video of her singing in a pub 20 years ago to a group of bored half tipsy Scots. There is a CD that she recorded for a charity event a decade or so ago as well. She is not the shy and retiring old maid she has been painted by the mass media. But it makes a good sob story.

She's been out there all along performing in front of her peers...But this was the first time she created a media frenzy for performing. It became apparent she couldn't handle the pressure of the media spotlight during this final week of the competition when she was put in seclusion lest she have a meltdown.

I don't blame Susan for any of this...I blame the media. They had a good laugh with it for awhile and now the story is over.

Let's all just let Susan go back to singing in the pub. I'm sure her cat will be glad to have her home.