Like a Rolling Stone

So, last week I went to the doctor and to paint you a picture, I’m standing there at this open-air front desk with absolutely no privacy in a waiting room as crowded as a 1980s U2 concert when the receptionist boisterously (read, loudly) asks me, “Why are you here?”

“What, like existentially you mean? Let me just whip out my copy of Jean-Paul Sartre for a moment: um … Nausea? Um … well, you see, I’m feeling the nausea of existence, of existing, I’m feeling an unbearable lightness of being in my upper abdomen … No, that’s not right. I remember now, even if you, dear receptionist, do not. I have a kidney stone. Yes. A kidney stone. Happy now, all you people listening in from the waiting room?”

At this point, I feel like turning around to them and with outstretched arms, boldly asking, “Are you not entertained?” Because you just know they’re listening. And now, someone’s nodding to their partner and saying, yep, guessed it!

You see, there’s not much to do in a waiting room, and yes, everyone plays that same game you play. The game of ‘keep yourself from falling asleep while waiting 500 hours for a doctor to show up,’ officially titled “What are they in for?” It works like this: observe people in the doctor’s waiting room and ask yourself, “What are they in for?”

Simple, right?

That tired looking young man with the hand in a kerchief who just walked in? Lost a fight with a rabid raccoon, no doubt. The young child playing with the toy tractor on the carpet? That’s an easy, and boring, one. He obviously has the plague with accompanying free-flowing mucous… which he’s now so generously sharing with everyone in the room because he doesn’t cover his mouth when he coughs (instead, choosing to aim it quite purposefully toward his waiting room neighbors) and the same hand he uses to wipe at his nose also touches every surface within a 10 foot radius. The elderly woman clutching her right knee while staring stoically at the opposite wall? Well, you’d think arthritis, but no, trampoline injury. Oh, you thought you were the only one who plays this game? Nope.

Sadly, in most medical offices, the staff take the fun out of this harmless entertainment by announcing to all and sundry exactly why a patient is there in the first place before the peanut gallery even has a chance to guess. Or else, they force the patient to divulge such information with little empathy for any embarrassment such an admission might cause.

What was that? Can you repeat that, sir?”

“I SAID, I CAN’T PEE STANDING ON MY HEAD ANYMORE!” 

I’d like to offer this open letter to medical receptionists everywhere.

Dear Receptionists: please, in future, understand that I’m a very private person by nature, and no, even in this day and age when everyone seems hellbent on informing everyone else of the exact flavor of icing adorning their morning cupcake, I do not want a crowd of people to know I have a kidney stone. Or a cold. Or a case of raging foot rash. Shouldn’t you already have that information written down somewhere? In the system? I mean, you’d think that the 20-question pop quiz I was given when I made the appointment over the phone would’ve sufficed. Not to mention, we’ve had the benefit of computers for a good forty years now. We’re not living in the age of Pong anymore. We’re living in the golden age of computers and databases and cloud-synced note-taking software and I would have thought it’s pretty easy, when I tell a receptionist over the phone that I want to see the doctor about my kidney stones, to therefore just make a note of “kidney stone.”  Or forget that, if that’s too hard, just write “kidney.”  That’s six letters for God’s sake. And when I get to the waiting room counter, I can just sing the chorus of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone and you can put the puzzle pieces together.

But no, they want me to announce my exact condition to the world, as if I’ve suddenly been thrust into an intervention, and admitting my problem to a circle of total strangers is the first step. Hello, my name is Wendy. I have a kidney stone. Yes, it is a problem, Yes, I admit it. But I don’t want to tell others about it. Please. Is that so hard???

If the receptionist is doing triage to see if you take precedence over the next person in line, I have to ask why? You have a set appointment. Receptionists shouldn’t be doing triage. That should be done over the phone as well. It’s called streamlining the process, people. It’s called efficiency. It’s called organization. Not the world-famous best-selling author of a dozen minimalism and organization books, Marie Kondo, organization but … no, wait, hang on. Marie Kondo would be a marvelous help here.

Does this kidney stone give you joy?” she would ask.

And I would reply, “Why, no. No. It. Does. Not.

And she would say, “Then it’s high time you remove it from your life.”

Either way, that’s a vital conversation. But it can be done over the phone. Not in the waiting room. I’m not Bono. I’m not a dancing monkey. I have a medical problem. And I want it fixed without the eyes of the world watching.

If you do decide to forego any sense of privacy and give the receptionist all the gory details of your predicament, be prepared to say it all again, verbatim, to the nurse who takes you back. Because, guess what? They didn’t take notes either.

Finally, you get to the doctor, a man who looks suspiciously like U2’s The Edge and he asks, while looking at nonexistent notes, “What can I help you with today?”

And having repeated the story of your ailment 200 times by now, you explain, “I’m on the edge of insanity, doctor. Even Jean-Paul Sartre could not explain my existential nausea.”

And the doctor kindly admits you to the hospital where you get locked up in a nice padded cell, feeling more nauseous than ever, with Marie Kondo shaking her head at you because you still haven’t gotten rid of your kidney stone.

But hey, in the spirit of that aforementioned intervention, at least something got admitted, and that’s the main thing.

I’d just prefer it wasn’t me.

 

P.S. I made the kidney stone thing up.

Trolling Fate

While out and about yesterday, I found my soulmate. Well… not my soulmate exactly, rather, I found their vehicle. And no, I didn’t wait around to see who returned to the Jeep. That would just be creepy.

I know, I know, I threw my destiny right back in fate’s face. But, better alone than a creeper. Heyyyy, I bet there’s a country song in there somewhere.

 

It’s Raining Ramen

There’s something to be said for knowing how to do things yourself. You know, not just knowing how to sharpen your kitchen knives, catch a moose, house-train said moose, make the moose your friend … you know, as one does, but things like knowing how to iron a shirt, sew a button, change a fuse. Especially in this day and age, when everything is Googleable and we’re all carrying in our pockets these little crystal balls we call smart phones.

No longer do we need to memorize exactly how to house-train a moose. And if you find yourself one day lost in the middle of the woods in the night, starving, drenched in the rain, your feet squelching through the mud, and you do find a moose (no, really, bear with me here) you can whip out that trusty smart phone and ask it “How do I catch moose” and sure enough, you’ll find a YouTube video tutorial explaining the entire process. You can then ride the moose home. Provided that you’ve mastered the “make the moose your friend” step. That part is crucial.

That’s where technology might come in handy. Assuming of course, that you have a waterproof phone and battery and an actual moose.

As for deliberately getting lost? Hmmm … just don’t look at your phone. Easy-peasy, trust me.

Sometimes though, I wonder if we’ve gone too far in turning to YouTube for all our DIY needs. I mean, where do we draw the line?  You might have seen, for example, videos of people fixing things with Ramen noodles. Dry Ramen noodles, that is. Not cooked ones. That would just be gross, and I imagine, incredibly difficult. But seriously, repairs are being made with dry Ramen noodles. Tables, chairs, kitchen sinks, toilet bowls, you name it … apparently, it can all be fixed with Ramen noodles.

Yes, everything.

What kind of a spoiled, entitled society have we become where we actually use the things we’re supposed to eat to fix the things we now use to dispose of the things we eat? This is just getting silly, if you ask me.

Ramen noodles are meant to be eaten. Aren’t they? Right? I mean, I think we can all agree on that, yeah? At least that’s what I grew up believing. So what if they’re not good for you. They’re still a food product. Not a DIY repair-all tool.

Yet, here we are, browsing the interwebs, watching videos of people using noodles to fix everything, and it makes you wonder … how do the noodles feel about this? If I were a noodle, I’d be downright offended. Something dating back to China’s East Han Dynasty sometime between A.D. 25 and 220 deserves a bit more respect than ending up as part of your toilet.

My point is, are we just that bored? Are we really so desperate for novelty that we’ll actually use noodles for fixing tables and toilets? The answer is apparently a resounding “yes.”  Along with a shit ton of professional-grade solvents! Can’t imagine that’s good for us or the environment.

Seriously though. Noodles?

No, I don’t want green Ramen and ham.

And I don’t want Ramen noodle chairs either, Sam I Am.

What’s next? People will be asking you if you want your Ramen soup on a Ramen table in a Ramen bowl?

“And where’s the toilet?” you’ll ask. “Oh, the Ramen toilet?” they’ll reply. “Down the Ramen hall and on the Ramen right.”

You may as well be in a Ramen boat with a Ramen fox eating green eggs and ham (because of course, there’ll be no Ramen left to actually eat, everyone’s using it to fix things).

So how do you fix a table or a toilet without ramen noodles? Ahhh … therein lies the problem. You see, no one knows anymore. We’ve all been turning to YouTube for anything and everything for so long that we now just trust it blindly.

But listen, this where it backfires.

Have you heard of something called ants? What about roaches? Wasps? Weevils by any chance?  Before you go fixing everything around your house with Ramen noodles, just remember: there are plenty of creatures in the world that still like to eat Ramen noodles whether you’ve glued them onto your bathroom sink or not.

One day, you might just come home to find a moose in your bathroom eating your toilet bowl. And you haven’t even gotten to the YouTube video series “Make that Moose Your Friend” yet, so basically, you’re screwed.

No. It stops here, I tell you. Just eat your freakin’ Ramen noodles.

And call the plumber already. The toilet’s leaking.

Please.

Laborious Labor Day

Labor Day here in the U.S. is on Monday… but gluttons that we are, many Americans tend to start celebrating sometime late on Friday.  Keeping that in mind, I want to wish all of my U.S. followers a very happy, enjoyable, and peaceful Labor Day weekend.

Now with that said, I must confess that Labor Day is one of those holidays that has always confused me… mainly for its contradictory nature.

I mean on Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothers and gift them with the present of doing nothing all day (not that many mothers get away with actually using the gift).  Father’s Day is the same way. We encourage fathers to do “their own thing” on their special day. The effects of most holidays coincide with the original purpose behind said holiday.

But not so Labor Day.

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Now, one would think from this description that workers should have the day off to relax and reap the rewards of the labor they’ve given to their employers and to society as a whole. And indeed, many employees do in fact have the day off. However, many of the hardest working people do not. On this day of celebrating their contribution to the world as we know it and to the workforce in general, they are instead forced to work.

Retail workers bear the brunt, just as they do at Thanksgiving and Christmas, given all of the sales that crop up on Labor Day. But they’re by no means the only ones. Military, police officers, firemen, food service, paramedics, convenience store workers, gas station attendants, all manner of hospital employees… to name a few.  And yes, many of these good people are essential personnel and life is much better and much safer (for the rest of us) with them in their respective jobs, even on holidays, and God love them for it. Others not so much. Retail, food service, convenience stores, grocery stores… there’s no reason to not let these people enjoy a much deserved day off except… except… that it cuts into profit.

So when all is said and done, Labor Day has been turned into a perverse contradiction of its original meaning and rather than truly celebrating the worker, it has devolved into just another way to take advantage of those who cannot afford to lose their jobs by protesting a holiday shift.

Such is America.

click pic for origins of Labor Day (including quote above)

Beauty is as Beauty Does

I think YouTube’s beauty community tends to be a bit underappreciated. Underneath the drama and obviously forced collaborations lies a community that inspires me. No, seriously.

It’s easy to forget that the talented young people on YouTube do more than apply makeup under carefully positioned lighting. These influencers run a business. Although it looks like fun, I imagine that they work hard. I’m not sure if it’s worth multi-millions a year hard, but still. I can’t even get my life together to buy groceries and gas in the same week, and here these people are, figuring out contours and crafting the perfect cat-eye all while maintaining cosmetic sponsors worth more money than I could ever hope to have … and that includes my “win the lotto” retirement plan.  And have you seen the ones that can curl their hair WITH A FREAKIN’ FLAT IRON? I didn’t even know that was a thing. It’s impressive.

I can’t do makeup for shit. I’m horrible at it. But I do find myself giving the tutorials a try from time to time. Is it always a successful recreation? Ummm, no. Is it a hell of a lot of fun to try? Absolutely. Well, mostly. Okay, usually. Fine, if I’m being completely honest, it can be almost as frustrating as driving in heavy traffic, and we all know how I am when I’m driving in heavy traffic. One side of my face ends up tolerable and the other side, well, it turns out different, shall we say.

I still like watching the videos though. The whole thing with social influencers profiting from these beauty tutorials is a relatively new phenomenon.  Back in the day, if you wanted to learn how to do makeup, you experimented with a best friend (makeup… yeah, we’re talking makeup here…sheesh, get your minds out of the gutter, people!). Or had a visit with your friendly Avon or Mary Kay representative – and the pushy sales pitch that went with it. The lovely Elizabeth Arden coined the phrase “makeover” and provided the service in her salons with many others following suit. However, this was – and remains – an unattainable decadence to many, if not most. Now all you need is a WiFi connection and boom! you’re on the road to a perfectly contoured and highlighted night out on the town.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that a lot of you are rolling your eyes right now. YouTube in general, and especially the “influencers,” are an oft-maligned group. However, much like the song lyric sites that save us all from embarrassment during our daily mobile concert commute to work, online tutorials (makeup or otherwise) are changing how we access information and learn new things… and they’re making this information available across the board. And given the fact that the individuals who do these sorts of things have managed to snag jaw-droppingly lucrative sponsorships as recompense for their time, I can’t help but think this younger generation has got it all figured out.

Libraries, am I right?

Okay, so I know that I said I was off my book kick, but well, to put it bluntly, I lied. Although to my credit, this is more about libraries than books. Yeah, yeah, fine, I know. It’s about books.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the local library. Shocking, I know. The same can be said for when my kids were young readers. Quite honestly, nothing has changed. Walking into a library is heaven for me. It brings a sense of tranquility and excitement, if that makes sense. I do it as often as possible.

I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who don’t even own a library card. I mean, WTF? It’s free for goodness sake … free knowledge, free entertainment, free escapism. The question shouldn’t be, why do you need a library card, but rather, why don’t you have a library card?

They call the internet the information superhighway … well, the libraries had this down pat long before the internet was thought into existence. I’ve always thought that the idea that you could walk into an information storehouse and take as many books as you want home – for free – was just too good to be true. From self-betterment to the opportunity to explore new and exciting worlds, libraries are valuable.

In what might seem like an unrelated statement (but trust me, it’s not), if you’ve never seen 1994’s, The Pagemaster, I highly recommend it. Yes, I know you’re all adults. So what? It’s an awesome movie. I first watched it with my son and it soon became a favorite for us both, and then my daughter as well, when she came along. It brought to life, literally, the books we already loved so much.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve been known to watch it just a *cough cough* time or two in recent years.

The Pagemaster is focused around a ten-year old boy named Richard. Young Richard bases his perception of life on statistics and figures and risk assessment, resulting in a fear of… well, just about everything. Upon getting caught in a storm, Richard takes shelter in a library to wait out the nasty weather. A fantastical adventure ensues as Richard encounters the Pagemaster, three books – horror, adventure, and fantasy – who seemingly come to life (horror, bless his heart, is my favorite … I know, typical, right?), and various fictional characters from beloved classics. To avoid spoiling the entire movie (I will reiterate that I highly recommend you watch it yourself), Richard gains a new sense of confidence and fearlessness by the end of his adventures.

It would be easy to say that The Pagemaster is a metaphor for the way books offer excitement, adventure, and a new perspective on life that we can carry with us forever, because it’s true. But it’s more than that. Books let us explore worlds that we never knew existed while helping us to be more present in our own. They quite literally feed our imagination to keep our sense of wonder alive, and this movie captures it all. An homage to libraries everywhere, The Pagemaster captures the importance of books and the impact they can have on young minds (though old minds could benefit from a book or two as well!).

So, while it might seem a little odd to recommend a movie in order to encourage reading… that’s exactly what I’m doing. I mean, let’s face it, today, now more than ever, we need books (and the libraries that safeguard them) and all they have to offer.