Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Now that “the holidays” have passed, you find yourself in that strange limbo-like stage between the vacation mind set and the harsh reality of being back at work. While you float between fantasy and reality, your mind ponders whether you really did eat your body weight in Cheez Whiz – don’t deny it – and if there’s some way you can convince your neighbors that your Christmas lights are actually up in celebration of Ground Hog Day (so you’ve got until February to take them down). Inevitably, these musings – spurred on by heartburn and the anticipation of having to get back to work – cause us to look inwardly and decide we’re, by darn, gonna make some changes in our lives! And so begins the list of New Year’s resolutions.

Let’s be honest here: the vast majority of us aren’t going to try to scale Mount Everest or swim the English Channel (whether it’s for reasons of laziness or sanity). We are, for the most part, trying to kick a bad habit or get out of a rut into which we’ve let ourselves fall over the year. I’ve been there, and I’ve made my share of lists – that have gone, probably, 98% unfulfilled. But that’s not the point. The point here is that we all need to come up with resolutions that will enable us from forming bad habits in the first place. Here are but two resolutions that I promise to devote my full energies to throughout the year:

1. It never fails. Whenever I sit down in a doctor’s office or wait to board a plane with a good book or magazine to read, somebody in my general vicinity decides now is an excellent time to call someone on their cell phone and proceeds to speak at a volume that a 60-year-old fading rock star could hear. Mark my words: in all of 2007, I resolve not to begin reading my book aloud so I can drown out the caller and be sure I’m following the intricate plot. Although I might be confused about why Harry Potter’s been sent to detention again by Professor Snape, it would be rude of me to intrude on the caller’s peace.

2. Driving along the great highways of our nation, more often than I would like I find myself in the far left lane (some dare call it “the fast lane”) applying the brakes and then following a much slower car ahead of me. I follow closely in the hopes that the driver ahead of me will notice their error and get over. Oddly enough, they don’t. Flashing the lights doesn’t help because they’ve demonstrated that they’re either not looking in their rearview mirror, or they have a vitamin deficiency that precludes them from seeing my car. It is my resolution for the upcoming year that I will not affix a large metal plate to the front of my car to help me in pushing these people out of the way. Obviously, these metal plates are needed for these drivers’ heads.

I hope this helps you in coming up with your own list of resolutions. If you need further help in deciding what needs to be changed in your life, call a friend. Might I recommend you do so on your cell phone in the middle of a movie just when the plot twist is being revealed – you’ll get plenty of people telling you what to do.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

These Stones Weren't Rolling

Not too long ago, I had the chance to spend a week with the Stones. For those who know me, it may be hard to believe that during that time I freely popped my fair share of pills and found myself seeking the sweet relief of a good puking more than once. It was an experience that few men my age get to have, and it’s certainly one that I won’t soon forget. Unfortunately, though, Mick and Keith won’t ever recall these events because they weren’t there – the Stones to which I’m referring were of the kidney variety, and the drugs were prescribed to me by a real doctor. No brush of fame here – just the need to brush my teeth each time my stomach decided to tell everyone to get out of the pool.

This wasn’t my first bout with these little buggers that cause so much pain and misery that kicking the neighbor’s dog – no matter how yappy it’s been in the past – won’t bring any satisfaction. When I first passed kidney stones about three and a half years ago, numerous people told me that the pain was equal to that which women experience during child birth. After careful consideration, I concluded that these people were (a) full of crap, (b) more highly medicated than I was – and perhaps not by anyone formally recognized by the American Medical Association, or (c) high school biology class dropouts. Let’s take a moment and review the mechanics involved in each process, shall we?

With kidney stones, you’re trying to push a small grain-of-sand-like object from your kidney to your bladder – yes, a little grain of sand. The pathway between these two bodily repositories is very narrow and lined with muscles, so the pour-some-acid-in-an-open-wound pain comes from the muscles trying to push the stone down a skinny tunnel. My doctor, in describing this process, took a rubber glove and stretched out one of the fingers while simulating trying to push a grain of sand through the glove finger. He was fortunate that he had previously pumped me full of some really great feel-good drugs, because the entire time he was going through this educational process with me, he had a huge smile on his face. In retrospect, he was either an unusually friendly human being (unlikely, because we were on a really bad HMO), or he was the Marquis de Sade – my mind was on other things so I didn’t check for a name tag.

I don’t believe I need to go into detail about the birthing process. Suffice it to say, in this scenario, the grain of sand is the size of a watermelon with arms and legs, and you don’t have to worry about how much it will cost to put the grain of sand through an Ivy League college or whether it will grow up to be the next Adolf Hitler once it’s out. Nor with kidney stones does one run the risk of having stretch marks that resemble a relief map of the Amazon.

It would seem reasonable to presume that women are far better equipped to handle a higher threshold of pain in all aspects of life, but the next time your wife or significant other starts to cry because of something you deem to be no big deal, I would caution against saying, “Come on, honey. You shouldn’t cry over this. You went through childbirth – this is nothing.” If you do find yourself making such a statement, heaven help you because the pain you’ll soon experience will be far worse than kidney stones!