Monday, August 29, 2005

Some Call it "Berserkley"

I went on an adventure this morning. I took the 43 bus into Albany, where I imagined I hadn’t been before.

As it turns out, the client lives right near the little hip Solano Avenue district I pass through and shop in when I housesit for another family.

The lady and her ten year old daughter showed me the little house and yard. They have a trampoline AND a hot tub. I shall be in bliss.

I was repeatedly jumped on, slobbered over, and barked at by their Springer spaniel. The eighteen year old cat just lay on the back of the couch and purred for about an hour, solid. She returned my whisker rubs with cat drool, as I expected.

On the way back, I hiked up to Half Price books. I hadn’t eaten, so I stopped in at an Indian restaurant and got watermelon juice (?!), garlic naan, and veggie samosas. I didn’t eat the naan, because with my previously frozen tikka masala, it’d be dinner. But I occupied a bench in front of a nail parlor and had a quick samosa moment.

A pair of fiftyish ladies exited a Honda, sniffed the air, and made a beeline for me. I had my headset on, so I didn’t really pay any attention until one addressed me. “What is that?”

I squinted up at her and explained, “It’s a samosa, you know, potatoes, peas and spices wrapped in pastry and deepfried. ‘S really good.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“That Indian place right next to the café there on the corner about a block down.”

I don’t know that they said thank you, and frankly I didn’t care then and don’t care now. You wanna interrogate me rudely? Ask me what I’m eating; I’ll be happy to tell you.

I did notice that those ladies spent less than 15 minutes in the quilting shop, came out and headed down the block toward the Indian restaurant.

I spent a lovely hour or so browsing the bookstore, and managed to get out of there without spending more than $20. For me, that’s a raging success.

On the bus on the way into Berkeley, I saw this little older black woman dressed in classic 50’s “bull dagger” style. She was the cutest thing. We had a short conversation until we got off the bus downtown, and she cracked me up several times.

I finished an earlier transaction at the library. Last week I’d thought I’d returned all my books and went to check out five more. Turned out I’d forgotten one, and owed late fees. I don’t really think I was supposed to be able to check anything out, but after I paid the late fees, the clerk overrode the hold and let me off with me new books and a reminder to find the other one. It was, of course, under a pile of stuff I’d checked under about five times. *sigh*

California is such an odd experience. I’m beginning to understand why all the patients think everything is negotiable, because it kinda is. The boy at the convenience store who sells me beer, doesn’t know the exact prices. So, I give him approximately what I feel like paying, and go away.

I’m beginning to think taking acid in Berkeley would be overkill. It’s just so damned surreal the way it is that I don’t need to adjust my attitude to feel like I’m on another planet. A vastly superior one, by the way.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Child-free But Still Paying

The future has arrived. Finally, the number of single-person households, and multiple-person households that lack children, out number the married-with-children set.

All my life, I’ve been told and shown how the majority gets to set the rules. Well, now I’m in the majority and I want some changes made.

Let’s start with the metal tube I’m currently trapped in, hostage to someone else’s choices of yestermillennium.

Because my lovely country has utterly failed its citizens in the provision of basic health care for all, this months worker strike is being brought to you, and unfortunately me, by the mechanics’ union of Northwest Airlines.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve hated NWA management for years. My sympathies are solidly with the strikers and unions. However, sitting on the tarmac for an hour with Rosemary’s Other Baby tenderizing my kidneys every four seconds does slightly reduce my pro-union fervor.

The union members say it’s impossible to raise a family on their income. That may be the case, but perhaps we as a nation should think more seriously about whether raising children with one’s income is the best way to spend it.

In fact, I’m devoutly wishing that the father behind me, who to his credit is valiantly and unsuccessfully trying to keep his 4 year old from kicking the back of my seat for the next three hours, had more seriously considered his decision to reproduce.

There are ways around this that, due to nouveau majority status for the childless, I wish airlines would consider:

1. Designate one non-stop route per day to the X most popular destinations, as child-free.
2. Charge parents extra for children under 7 (about the age where glaring works almost as well as a dope-slap)
3. Charge a small premium for child-free flights, too. Right now, I’d pay $50/flight not to hear “When are we leaving”, “Are we there yet”, and “WAAAAAAHHHHH, I WANNA SIT BY THE WINDOW” (repeat 12 times), ever again!

A note to parents of children under seven years of age. Please invest in the biggest package of foam earplugs you can find, when buying a public transport ticket for your drape ape. Offer them to all the people within six rows of your child. It helps the rest of us stifle the need to wrap our fingers around the neck of your anklebiter and squeeze real hard, after the 15th piercing shriek of frustration brought on by another unsuccessful attempt at “I open the window, Daddy.” Think of it as your little investment in world peace.

I’ve spent considerable time and money to ensure that my life is child-free, only to be assaulted by other people’s children every time I leave the house. Do I also need to offer retroactive vasectomy discounts out of my own pocket? There seems to be a large social need for same.

If you are a parent, the rest of us are aware that to you, your evil spawn are the cutest things imaginable. Do please retain the realization that to the rest of us, if they absorb their education and potty training, just might make the cutoff demarking “decent cannon fodder” for our next dumbass war. (Don’t go thinking I’m setting the bar low, either, that’s the highest it goes, pending an advanced degree by said child.)

My self-supplied earplugs have now expanded, allowing me to hear myself bitch. Ahh, relief.

There really should be a scientific study of exactly which piping, childish tones are liable to set activate homicidal fantasizing in unrelated adults.

Haven’t these people heard of Valium? Had I not checked my supply with my baggage, I’d offer.

Speaking of drugging children, I’m advocating a return of laudanum to pharmacy shelves. That’s what happened to children in the early-to-mid 20th century; they were simply opiated into somnolescence. Why did you think those nostrums were known as “Mother’s Helpers”? Mother didn’t take them, the kids did. Again, I was born too late for any of this kind of fun. Who were the idiots who decide this was a bad idea, and where can I spit on their graves?

If you don’t want to drug the kids, fine, bring enough opiates for all the adults within a 60 foot radius of your demon seed. I’m certain your largesse will be appreciated. You may notice that people no longer glare daggers at you in-flight, and you are no longer surreptitiously tripped on your way to the bathroom.

I remember “family” television, the “family” hour, “family dinners” and all that happy crappy. You know what? I ostensibly grew up in a “family”, and got none of that, except for the year I moved out when I was 13. There is no overwhelming “American* Family” anymore.

Let’s make new room and rules for the new majority. The American* single person needs some space, now that the kids have flown the nest. I think it’s about time, too.

*For the purpose of this article, I am referring only to U.S. citizens. My apologies to Canuckians and the populations of Mexico, Central, and South America.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Jerry's Dead, But I'm Still Grateful

I still have audio tapes. Very few, but many of them are Grateful Dead bootlegs of past shows. They are not illegal, despite the fact that they were recorded by an audience member with a microphone.

This is due to an idiosyncracy attributed to Jerry himself. He wanted people to be able to share the music among themselves, thus the band allowed bootlegging. The only stipulation was that it should remain a trade system, with no money changing hands.

This evolved into the roped off “taper” sections of the audience, just in front of the soundboard. What struck me was being able to hand security my tape gear while they frisked me (veeeery lightly).

At the Autzen show, the chick frisking me was kinda cute, so when she finished I batted my eyes at her, “You want to try again?”

She growled “get out of here, “ and swatted my ass as her co-workers laughed. I miss Dead shows. There was a feeling I just can’t describe, but it’s akin to spending the day with 6000 best friends you never knew you had, and everyone’s favorite band came to play just for us. It was the best feeling in the world, and nothing will ever replace it.

That’s why I hold on to those tapes. I can’t bear to give up my memories of those happy times. I have a tape of a concert I was at. I think I can hear myself yelling. It’s pretty cool.

However, I don’t know that many Deadheads anymore, now that we are scattered hither and yon, searching for just that groove again. New tapes are hard to come by, and my old ones are slowly deteriorating.

Recently, I just simultaneously orgasmed and started to cry, twice. Why? Because as an inveterate Public Radio listener, I just found out that almost every Grateful Dead concert has been posted to the Internet.

Shows from when I was an embryo are available, but not the last show I had tickets for, which was never played. Jerry died in Chicago that summer, his last show was July 9, 1995.

To all the people who stood in the sun holding a hot boom mic, thank you. Kudos to the site and all who have had a hand in creating it. I have gotten a little of my peace back, knowing there’s a little bit more Jerry left for me to discover, one download at a time.

If there ever were needs for the Internet to fill, it is this, possibly the least of these, for which I will be forever grateful. The Dead’s massive oeuvre can finally be in the hands of the majority of his fans, old and new.

I’ve got a miracle, every day.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Poor Me, aka "Badphairy's Fed Up"

One of my bosses has been stuck in Poor Me *Whiner Mode* for several months now.

Note to self: Things Not To Say To Employees:

“What should I do with this?” (tosses phone message at me). Umm, gee there, Sparky, I dunno. How about you figure it out because you, not me, are the freakin’ doctor, hmm?

“You are all here to help me.” Oh? Do you need your ass wiped as well as kissed and then nose-polished, there, Supreme Being Whom I Adore For No Apparent Reason?

“None of you are working as hard as I am.” Really? Well, since you returned from a Hawaiian vacation less than 72 hours ago, what exactly do you think the rest of us were doing while you burnt your pale, speckly, cellulite ass in the Polynesian sun? I can rule one thing out for you, WE weren’t lying on the beach when not enjoying some bloated boogie-boarding.

“See? People calling in with health problems is how I get screwed over. Everyone’s out to get me, and this is how they start.” Really, I mistakenly thought that AS A PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN, you were supposed to address people’s ongoing health problems. How exactly am I wrong about this?

Gee, I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that you jumped in your late-model white convertible every evening and motored home to your luxurious home in the Oakland Hills, with the pool and music studio and your wife and child. While I take a shuttle (I no longer can afford a car) home to one cockroach-infested room in Oakland that harbors my… cat. Yes, I feel so sorry for ya, there, buddy boy.

I am constantly being placed in between you and everyone else, in a way I don’t appreciate.

You tell me over and over again you don’t want new patients. You then tell E, “Sure, when you have new people coming in, call and see if I’ll follow them.” So they call, begging me to get you to accept a patient when I am certain you won’t. Because you told them in person to call, they won’t accept my “no”. I give you the message and do you just call them and say “No?” Why no, you don’t. You don’t contact them at all, leaving me to make up some excuse.

When the R's call over the space of a few weeks, asking you to take their friends, do you respond? No. Is Eve pissed? Yes. Do I feel like defending you? No. Do you ever call her at all? No, you gave me back the note alluding that I should call her and refer them to Dr. R. Coward.

If you don’t want patients then tell them no. They don’t listen to me, because for the last five years, regardless of the receptionist, they have known to get your last word because it probably won’t be “no”. Blaming me for this does no one any good, and it’s not my fault. The same is true of people just “stopping in.” Contrary to what you seem to believe, I don’t call the patients in the morning and ask them to come in and surprise you just to see the look on your face.

I’d be happy to help you draft a letter to your patient population:
"Thanks so much for being my patient, however I do have one request. Please do not refer your friends and relatives to my practice. I have too many patients as it is, and would like to make sure that your wait time for an appointment, does not grow any larger."

You seem to view every new patient as a sin against you, perpetrated by me, even when you admit it wasn’t my “fault”. Jerry N’s wife was accepted by you six months ago. Yet you threw a fit about her, then threw your appointment book at my desk when you realized you had done so saying, “You got me.” I did not GET you, you got yourself. You then blamed N for getting you to accept Jerry in the first place. All this could have been avoided had you simply said, “No.” Yet it’s blamed on me.

This demonstration not being sufficient, you returned not three minutes later to give me a long and impassioned speech about how “they” get you, and how “they” will continue to get you until the end of time. And I’m supposed to do….what about that? I don’t even know who “they” are.

Because your persistent complaints seem to be, “I don’t want new patients, nor half the ones I have; I work more than anyone else on the planet; it seems to me that you would like to not work as much, see fewer patients, have a smaller patient load, and more days off. How about you just admit that and change your hours, rather than being all stoic until you fly off the freakin’ handle again?

If you truly feel that you have the worst lot in life on the planet, that the whole world is out to get you, and that you are powerless to do anything on your behalf, well, I’d call that depression and seek help. Oh wait, I did. Perhaps it’s your turn.

I know it worked for three years to yell at B til she cried once or twice a month. I’m not B, so let’s work out a different solution.