Deja Vu

I love Instacart. (My wife probably loves it more.) You build a list, somebody picks out your stuff, it arrives. It is a great service, pandemic or not. They are always adding stores, so they bring her groceries, they bring me booze. You can get delivery within two hours during the day. Peace in the neighborhood.

However, there is a $35 minimum before the free delivery kicks in, and sometimes you really don’t need $35 worth of stuff – you need one specific thing, but you need it in a hurry.

It’s almost Thanksgiving. My wife ordered all of the ingredients for Thanksgiving from Kroger which is really just InstaCart with additional Kroger fees. She got almost everything she wanted, plus a really large turkey. The only thing they didn’t have was pepperoni.

She tried every store around, and everyone was out. Apparently, there’s a pepperoni shortage. So, while we were on our weekly Zoom Happy Hour, I started looking at Instacart. I found Market Street – a store I had never seen around here. They had Boar’s Head pepperoni sticks. Actually, it was a featured product. The sticks were the right format and Boar’s Head was the right brand. Jackpot! (If it was in stock.)

I ordered forty-five dollars worth of pepperoni. To most people, that seems like an insane amount, but it really just proves I’ve been married to an Italian too long. How much pepperoni do you need for four people, when three only like pepperoni a little? Ten sticks. Hey, it’s not like it goes bad. Then, I through in some Heath bars, so I would have something to eat while the others enjoyed the pepperoni.

They had the pepperoni. Everything got delivered before the Zoom call ended. So, either delivery was blinding fast, or we talk a lot.

One holiday crisis averted.

Back to the turkey. It was larger than she asked to get. It was free, so I’m not complaining, and I didn’t really understand why larger was a problem.

I found out why larger was a problem about 1:00 AM this morning, when as I was trying to go to sleep, my wife told me she needed a new roasting pan. The turkey was too large to fit in any of the pans we had in the house. This is not the type of problem I am used to solving at 1:00 AM.

She found one she wanted on Amazon that would be delivered December 30th. Oops. I was impressed that they had a delivery date of an essential item that would miss both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As she was desperate, she said an aluminum disposable pan would do. We can get those from Whole Foods Amazon Prime Now. So, I ordered two different sizes for delivery between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM, and just paid the nine dollar delivery charge to have four dollars of aluminum delivered.

Then, I thought “Big Lots would have pans.” Off to Instacart. Nothing, or at least nothing acceptable. Then, my wife said, “Bed Bath and Beyond.” Bingo. A roasting pan (called a “roaster” which is why we didn’t see it on the first search) is available for $27. So, now I just need something to make up the balance.

I started looking at kitchen gadgets. I love gadgets. I don’t use them half the time, but they’re fun. While I was doing that, my wife said, “I need a strainer.” (It was late, or I would have said, “If you want a strainer, skip the fiber.”)

So, we looked at strainers. The photos were misleading, but she found one she thought would do, and I added it to the cart. That put us close to the minimum order.

However, before the strainer distraction, I noticed they have a mini-waffle maker for $10. What could be better than mini waffles? After a lot of discussion, the wife said I could get one. Then, she thought about Keto waffles, and said “Get two.”

So, order placed. Whole Foods Prime Now order canceled successfully. Peace in the neighborhood.

This morning, I was looking at online reviews, and it turns out the Keto community loves not only the waffle maker but its siblings as well – the pie maker and the Bundt cake maker. Why? Because they make small servings quickly and you can make Keto versions of many desserts (some of which may actually taste like desserts.)

So, into the cart they went.

The fun part of the Instacart process is watching the shopping. The shopper found the Bundt cake maker. Then, the pie maker.

Uh, the waffle maker? The roasting pan which was the whole reason for the shop?

She messaged me about the roasting pan and said that was the old version, and the new version was the only one available. I told her the dimensions we needed for our jumbo turkey and she sent a photo showing the size. It will do. In fact, it was the same as the old one. Whew.

Then, the waffle maker. Last night, I noticed they had the waffle maker and a “gift set” where you paid an extra $10 to get a cookbook. Who would do that? The person who was in the bathroom when the message came in that only the gift set was available. Dammit.

Hmm. The order just arrived and we got the cheap waffle makers. All is good.

So, we got exactly everything we ordered (almost) and what we got will work. Actually, the strainer hasn’t been blessed yet, but it looks like the old one.

My only fear now is that at 1:00 AM tomorrow, I am going to be told, “I need a new oven. Before Thursday. The pan won’t fit in ours.” Pray for me.

Now, to the deja vu part.

The fun part of Instacart is you never know what you will get until the shopper checks out – and sometimes not until the order arrives. You will get substitution notices, but sometimes they’re inaccurate, and they’re almost always too late to cancel them. (Things like tomato paste instead of tomato sauce.) One way to prevent this is to set all items to “No substitutes” on the order. This will guarantee you get the brand you want and the quantity you want. This is what I did with the pepperoni and the roasting pan.

There’s only one issue with “No substitutes” – you won’t get anything as a replacement. It’s all or nothing.

So, as I watched the order Saturday, I was thinking – “If these guys are out of pepperoni, somebody is driving thirty miles to bring me some Heath bars.” I love Heath bars, but even I think that is excessive.

So, as I watched the order this morning, and all the excess items were found, and only the roasting pan was missing, I remembered an IT project long ago.

The team desperately needed a $3000 projector for doing presentations. Back in the day before you could get a mini projector at Amazon for under $100, these were really expensive items.

The only way to hide three grand in a budget that was going to have something cut was to add something more ridiculous as an obvious target.

The team added a ten thousand dollar server to the budget. This was insanely expensive even then, and they already had a number of servers, so it was obviously a waste of money.

They got the server. The projector was cut as an extravagance.

So with Instacart. “I really need three dollars worth of collard greens, so I’ll add thirty-two dollars worth of other stuff to make up the order.” The shopper brings the other stuff.

Some things never change.

The Grand Plan(s)

I may not always implement, but I do love to plan – especially when mapping is involved. While we never got the RV of our dreams, and we haven’t done a road trip lately, I still have the maps for my planned RV trips.

My main goal was to find a route we could do relatively easily and relatively cheaply. (Relatively being the key word.) I was thinking a couple of trips within the State of Texas would give us a good distance to cover but still not take as long as driving to Ohio – it’s half the distance to Big Bend as it is to Cedarville (approximately.)

So, these are all the routes I had in mind. Don’t fall in love with a dreamer.

Email Addresses and Idiots

I do sometimes think there should be a license and an exam before people are allowed to use the Internet. I know most people “don’t use” email any more, because they’re all texting or using any number of other apps, but I looked at my Yahoo Mail account for the first time in a couple of months, and I had fourteen thousand emails, and four were actually meant for me.

I understand the few spam-like emails where someone was asked for an email address and “kjg” is easy to type, so I get those. I understand the true spam where I need a solution for impotence or low blood sugar or high blood sugar or where I need to help transfer funds from some poor widow somewhere.

I don’t understand the random Karens and other Kevins who apparently think you can just use your initials and then email will magically find you. YOU CAN’T JUST MAKE UP AN EMAIL ADDRESS. You have to actually register it. With a provider.

I have at least two Karens and a Kevin who have been using my address for YEARS and apparently never noticed they weren’t getting any replies to their requests from vendors. You would think that after never seeing a receipt from any purchases for say, a week, you would check your email.

I had one that was using my address as her backup address, which was great, because at least that way I could get into her real account and remove myself. (That’s all I did.) The others just had their receipts deleted.

The final straw was the message another Kevin sent me today that just said “TEST.” So, I sent a note back that said, “If you were trying to see if you could reach me, it worked.” I have not heard back.

On the bright side, the idiots using my email to register for dating sites have apparently all found dates, because I’m not getting those emails any longer. I’m impressed, since the last one that used my email address had his profile changed to a 4’11” 400-pound bald Indian transvestite in a wheelchair. I guess there really is someone for everyone.

I have had my Yahoo account since the early 90’s and I stopped using it for email because I registered my own domains and then Yahoo accounts became spam magnets and Yahoo doesn’t do anything about spam. (It was very useful when I was supporting Lotus’ anti-spam product, since there was no shortage of spam to use for testing.)

I should just delete it, since I don’t use it. However, it’s probably my oldest account, and my only “kjg” account besides the ones I manage myself.

KJG was too short for AOL, Google and most other providers. It’s always too short for a corporate account. I think it’s too short for Yahoo now, but it’s grandfathered, so it still works.

So, it is MINE. Just because your initials are KJG does not mean that is your Yahoo email address. I don’t need your catalogs, appointment confirmations or mail about deaths in your family. Use your own address. It’s the one you used when you signed up with Yahoo. You did sign up, right?

People are idiots.

Oh no, not again

Somewhere in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams recounts how the Starship Heart of Gold uses its Improbability Drive to escape an attack. By using the drive, the missles converging on the ship become a whale and a bowl of petunias, which is rather improbable. As the petunias fall through space, the only thought it had was “Oh no, not again.”

I know how the petunias feel.

So, in 2017, I was “laid off permanently” by IBM. My brother the attorney said there was no such thing, but my assumption is that by terming it “layoff”, they didn’t have to report the numbers somewhere. When I called the benefits managers, it turned out I had retired.

This was the most traumatic event of my life, and I’ve been divorced. I was shell-shocked for quite a while, but at least I had severance pay for a bit.

It took almost a year to find a new job because I’m old and my resume is all IBM and not something useful like AWS or Google. However, I finally got a job on an IBM project as a contractor. I became the liaison between IBM and the customer. This was challenging to my sanity, but not that challenging. I did learn a lot of Watson stuff, but, again. IBM.

That project got terminated by the customer and I had about two weeks notice that my contract was ending. Everyone felt really bad, because it wasn’t my fault the system really didn’t meet their expectations.

Oh no, not again.

I got another job rather quickly, ironically at IBM, because now I was a Watson person. On the bright side, I was an employee of the contracting company, not just a hourly contractor. We spent six months trying to figure out all of the documentation the development team had never bothered to produce, and here we are, at the end of another quarter.

Oh no, not again.

I was told Wednesday at 4:45pm that my contract ended that day. It’s a good thing I’m not a contractor, or I’d be out of work! Ah, but as my contract was ending, I was being furloughed. “Furloughed” is “laid-off” if you have a Masters Degree.

So, one job for 19 years. Three jobs in three years.

Two Months Later

Well, the world hasn’t healed and my foot hasn’t healed.

I have been working at home for years, so the complete shutdown of the universe hasn’t really affected me. In a way, it’s a bit of a gyp – I get to just go to work like normal as people around me stay home, bitch and day drink. Of course, they’re also trying to figure out unemployment.

I’m hopeful that the insanity will end soon, but I’m not hopeful. I would like to get out again. I would really like to travel – we’ve had three trips canceled so far, and there’s a couple I’m concerned about.

You’d think by not traveling, we would have saved money, but the delivery fees for everything have pretty much absorbed a bunch of it.

I still want a refund on the year. We didn’t make our anniversary cruise (broken foot and ankle), we didn’t make my 60th birthday trip (quarantine) and we’re not going to see the grandkids (more quarantine.)

I didn’t get to do anything for my 60th birthday. So, 65 better be a big deal.

Diagnosis: Insanity

There is being cautious in the time of danger, and there is complete overreaction. This is the latter. We have lost our collective minds.

We have had Ebola, SARS, Swine Flu, the regular flu, and Lord knows what else in my lifetime. There is a new, unknown threat every two years (conveniently consistent with election years.) This is the first one that has canceled events, shuttered businesses and locked everyone in their houses, wearing masks and hoarding toilet paper.

What has changed? A number of critical issues, which I believe over time have weakened society.

Overprotection is Bad

We’ve had a full generation that grew up over-protected, and now they’re freaking out.

Think back to when you grew up. Were you driven to a school that was three blocks from your house? I rode my bike or walked the mile to school until I switched to a school fifteen miles from my house and rode the school bus. Did you have to wear a helmet to ride a bike? I didn’t. Did you need knee pads to wear skates? Could you go beyond the end of the block without your parents reporting you missing or calling you on a walkie-talkie? Did you get told to “walk it off” at least once? Did you lose games?

If not, you were probably raised overprotected. We have an entire generation or more who never experienced the basic pains of childhood – which is not really that bad. It’s a learning experience. Fall down the spillway, you learn not to walk there. (I didn’t, I fell down twice – the second time, showing where I fell the first time.) Fall off a bike, you learn to pay better attention. Walk to school, you learn independence. Blow out a knee in soccer, you learn to play better. Get some stitches, have a cool scar to build a better story around in old age.

Common Sense is Missing

How have we gotten to the point where we have to tell people, “If you’re sick, stay home?” and “Wash your hands”? Really? Really? Didn’t your parents teach you that?

As an aside, I am basically an hourly worker at this point, even if I’m called an “employee”, so going to all the doctors appointments for my broken ankle and foot recovery, the two days in the hospital recovering from the failed nerve blocker after the surgery, and anything else I do during the day that is not in front of my computer costs me money. I’m pretty sure I’ve used up most of my earned vacation at this point, because I really don’t have sick time. So, I get it. Being sick costs money.

That said, if you’re sick, stay home is not about you. Its for the protection of others. That’s where we have completely failed as a society. We are more concerned about ourselves and our needs than the community at large. This is a major issue.

The other example of the “Me” society is hoarding … anything. You don’t need sixty rolls of toilet paper. You don’t need dozens of masks. You don’t. This is why ERs will be overrun with people who are not sick. Me. Me. Me.

Think It Through

All schools are closed. Except for meals.” DISD has decided to continue providing food to students in need. There will be more than 500 students in the school, but served in the classrooms so they are smaller groups. Uh, if they’re in the classrooms, why not teach them? If these children are from homes that can’t afford food, how are they affording high-speed WiFi to do homeschooling for the rest of the year?

I’m going into isolation. I will just call for food delivery.” Who delivers your food? Oh, yes, drivers on minimum wage and tips. Remember, “if you’re sick, stay home?” That would be the target group for that message.

I’ll wear a mask 24×7 to protect me.” A face mask is for people who are ill, not for people who are well. This is according to the CDC and WHO. Don’t wear a mask if you are well. You look like a putz and you’re keeping a mask from someone who needs it.

I need six hundred rolls of toilet paper.” Review the CDC’s advice on caring for a COVID-19 patient at home. Amazingly, it doesn’t ever say, “Wipe their ass every sixteen seconds.”

My kids are home from school. Guess we’ll go to the mall.” Do you understand what self-isolation means?

I heard garlic can prevent coronavirus.” Uh, Italy?

Keep It In Perspective

I am not saying the spread of COVID-19 is not bad. I’m just saying, there is worse. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm and you will see there is an estimate of 22,000 to 55,000 deaths from seasonal flu in the US. This happens every year. Every fucking year. Just in the US. This is even with everyone able to get a flu shot at pretty much any corner drug store. COVID-19 has 4,613 deaths worldwide, per the WHO.

Why does the US not shut down for six months every year during seasonal flu season? We could save thousands of lives.

I have seen estimates that COVD-19 has about 80% mild cases. So, yes, if everyone in the US was infected, we would potentially lose 20% of our population. What are the chances of that actually happening?

If you are not in the high risk groups, much of the time, COVID-19 will be like a mild flu – stay at home and self-treat. The press never seems to mention most cases are “stay at home, self-treat.” You don’t need ICU time. You don’t need to be on a respirator. You need rest and chicken soup.

Information, Not Hysteria

Ever since CNN went on the air in 1980, there has been a need for constant news. When I was growing up, TV stations went off the air at night, and there was peace and quiet for a few hours. With CNN, there is no escape. Then, they got competition. Now, we have wall-to-wall coverage of crap we never would have known about years ago, as long as it fits their model and the biases of their owners and staff. It is relentless.

So, COVID-19, a disease with a very high survivability rate outside a few high-risk groups (which are generally high-risk for any respiratory disease), is suddenly a “deadly pandemic scourge which cannot be stopped.”

The annual flu is deadly. Car wrecks are deadly. Smoking is deadly. Chicago shootings are deadly. Most probably cause more deaths than COVID-19 has. Not a lot of coverage.

The World Health Organization has information. The CDC has information. Everything else is noise, and most of it is designed for ratings and not to actually help anyone. The more you panic, the higher the ratings. Just turn it off.

Proportionate Response

It’s a pandemic!” Once an epidemic (a rapid spread of a disease within a given population) occurs in multiple countries, it’s a pandemic. That’s the definition. It is a loaded word now, but it quite literally means as soon as there were cases in China, Italy and anywhere else, it was a pandemic. Don’t let a medical term panic you. AIDS is still a pandemic and you don’t hear a lot about it anymore, because it’s mainstream.

Our emergency rooms can’t handle everyone being sick!” This is probably true if everyone goes to the ER at the same time and needs constant care. Also, does everyone with seasonal flu go to the ER? There seems to be more of them.

People will be treated in the hallways!” Here’s a fun fact – that happened before COVID-19 ever erupted. My wife went to the ER in Pennsylvania with chest pains in 2018 and they had marked spaces in the hall for beds. They would bring a curtain when she changed or was examined. This was on a Monday. So, some ERs are already overrun on a regular basis. It’s not news. So, here’s a thought – if you have a cough or a runny nose, go to urgent care or better yet, your doctor. If you have a gunshot wound or a bone sticking out, go to the ER. If you don’t have symptoms, you might not really need a test on day one. Stay home and enjoy your mounds of toilet tissue.

One of the reasons The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was popular was because on the cover, it said “Don’t Panic.” Wise words.

Broken Dreams

This report has been a long time coming. Still, better late than never, I suppose.

On January 10th, I was going to let the dogs out for a pee break. I was annoyed, which is not a good way to be when traversing tight areas. I caught the corner of the dog ramp with my foot, and tripped. As I fell, I considered my options: fall on the wooden ramp itself, fall forward and hit a glass coffee table, fall sideways and hit a wire dog crate, fall right and hit a brick fireplace. Eventually, I just collapsed on the floor.

The first (sad) thing to admit is that I had tripped over this particular ramp before. Every time I did, my Spousal Unit mentioned we should get rid of it, but she never will. Even now, it’s just blocking the other side of the couch.

The second thing is that this time, it really hurt. I couldn’t even consider getting up for a couple of minutes. I just lay on the floor, wondering what to do, and thinking I could soon be the second person in this house Dallas Fire Rescue might have to come lift up (RIP my Mom-in-law.)

Finally, I got up and struggled back to the couch. I never twisted my ankle this badly, but I assumed I could “walk it off.” However, unlike other falls, it wasn’t getting better.

By morning, it was worse, so it was off to urgent care. I would have gone to the emergency room, but didn’t want to waste an entire day on a sprained ankle.

The urgent care by us said on the website that they did x-rays and handled minor broken bones. This was useful, even though I was sure it wasn’t broken, because I had never broken a bone in my life.

The website lied. They had the equipment but nobody there who could use it. The physician’s assistant on duty was useless, but she seemed to confirm it wasn’t a break, so I just figured “Suck it up, Buttercup” and get on with life. Since the PA was an idiot, we decided to just get an appointment with my orthopedic practice. We could have driven across town for a x-ray, but the specialists always do their own, even if you walk in with them, so why waste the time and money? Besides, the PA said it probably wasn’t broken (she didn’t see bones sticking out), so even though she was an idiot, that confirmed my lifelong failure to break a bone, so that was good enough.

On Monday, we managed to get an appointment on Wednesday to see the orthopedist. Those guys are busy. So, I just hopped around in the meantime. The PA didn’t think I needed a boot, so I just limped around in my flip-flops, since I couldn’t fit into a shoe.

Wednesday morning, we saw the orthopedist. They sent me for x-rays before he came in, so I got to limp the entire length of their offices to the x-ray room (and back.)

The doctor looked at the x-rays and said I had broken my foot … and my ankle.

Broken, I believe

He asked why we had waited to come in, and we said we went to urgent care on Saturday, and they didn’t think it was broken. “Didn’t they do x-rays?” So, that was that story, again. My wife is always happy to trash one practice to another. “They didn’t put you in a boot?” More trashing.

Urgent care’s care did not look good.

That afternoon, I had a CT scan which also said I had broken the crap out of both my foot and ankle. From tripping over a dog ramp.

As they got me a boot, we started discussing surgery options. It was January 15th. We had an anniversary cruise on February 9th. Nothing major, February 11th was just our 20th wedding anniversary. The doctor said we could go, no big deal, it I wasn’t like I was going to do any more damage, but the idea of a cruise on a new ship with no snorkeling, actually no beach time, and getting around on a scooter wasn’t very appealing.

We canceled the cruise in the 100% penalty period. Always buy insurance! The checks are in the mail.

We scheduled surgery for January 21st. I had to go to the hospital the day before for a surgical pre-check, since there wasn’t time for my family doctor to do it. Luckily, I passed.

Surgery was thankfully not at the crack of dawn. We got to the hospital (well, the day surgery facility) and got checked in. I got my bed and my gown. It almost fit.

The anesthesiologist came in and said he was going to administer two nerve blockers to help get ahead of the pain. After that, it was general anesthesia, as well.

The doctor came in and autographed my foot so he would remember that the one amazingly larger than the other was the broken one.

Off to the OR. I’m traditionally a good patient who has recovered faster than average. This was going to be my first set of metal plates. The doctor said he would probably leave the ankle alone unless he saw something he didn’t like. He saw it. So, one plate in the foot, one plate in the ankle.

I woke up in the recovery room in the worst pain I have ever experienced. I couldn’t focus, it was so bad. Apparently, my body has alternate nerve paths to my foot which didn’t get blocked.

Unfortunately, since I had the nerve blocker, I wasn’t given any painkillers after surgery. So, after I couldn’t cope, the staff gave me Fentanyl and not much happened. They gave me hydrocodone, and that started to help, but I couldn’t get ahead of the pain. They finally admitted me.

After a while in the room, somebody gave me morphine, and that knocked the pain down. After that, it was hydrocodone every four hours.

As usual, the doctors successfully downplayed the possible pain aspects of recovery. They managed to have me never consider what cutting my foot open and screwing stainless steel plates into multiple bones might feel like after I woke up. Well played.

Overnight, my wife discovered the order for hydrocodone was “as needed” and not “every four damn hours so he doesn’t die”, so I had a dose an hour late, and the pain came back. An hour or so after that, I asked for more morphine, and it settled back down. From then on, we asked for hydrocodone a bit early, just in case.

The whole “drugs working slowly” was new for me. A nurse would give me something, and say, “You’ll feel better in a half-hour or so.” It would take an hour or more. So, getting meds on time became critical.

Here’s a funny thing I learned – anesthesia can put your bladder to sleep. Then, you can’t pee. Joy. Of course, trying to pee off the side of a bed into a handheld urinal while two nurses and your wife are discussing your ability to pee three feet away is difficult, anyway.

So, now they had to manage my pain and try to awaken my bladder. Day two in the hospital – the day facility not really designed for overnight guests. You know you’ve overstayed your welcome when they stop comping you’re wife’s meals.

I do have to say, the staff was great. The nurses managed to keep my wife calm and me medicated. I can’t ask for more than that.

Here’s a fun way to start an unexpected day in the hospital – physical therapy. As a new cripple, I had to learn to transfer from bed to a walker, from a walker to a knee scooter and from either to a potty chair. The physical therapist was very insistent that I do this all within about twenty minutes. I was a heavily-drugged patient who had no sleep. It was interesting.

I did enough transferring to get the physical therapist to leave me alone, and tried to get some sleep. However, they still wanted my bladder awake.

Have you ever heard of a catheter? It’s a small tube that goes into your bladder to help drain urine when you can’t pee it out on your own.

Actually, it’s a glass rod a nurse inserts into a body part you had once promised to reserve for your wife. “Small” may be true, but the opening it is going into is even smaller. It hurts like hell, but then it’s in. Don’t move too much, and it’s fine. Well, less painful.

Here’s a tip – drain your bladder for all your worth when the catheter is inserted. Otherwise, the staff will decide you need a more permanent catheter, which means pulling one pipe out of your manhood and replacing it with another one.

You know, a nurse handling a guy’s business is a key part of a lot of porn films (I’ve heard.) I doubt the hot nurses in those movies had catheters in their other hand. That would be a horror movie.

Here’s the interesting part of having a catheter in – you pee without knowing it. At one point, the nurse asked me if I knew when I peed, and I said, “No.” She said, “You’re peeing now.” Three women’s (two nurses and a wife) heads all did the “puppy tilt” to watch the tube running out of me.

Thursday, I got the catheter removed. A while later, I finally peed. I transferred to the potty chair to do so, which made physical therapy happy. I’m pretty sure one motivation was avoiding having the catheter replaced. Since I successfully emptied my bladder on my own (they measured it), I was allowed to go home. I would have run for the door, but … broken foot and ankle.

In Tuesday, out Thursday. For day surgery. I’m losing my touch.

The hydrocodone continued for a few days after I got home. In truth, I would never get addicted to it, but I was afraid to stop taking it. I don’t want the pain back. I finally started dropping the dose, and then spreading them out, and then it was gone.

The main problem with losing a foot temporarily is learning to walk without it. The technical term is “non-weight-bearing.” In other words, I can’t let my right foot hit the ground. I could hop for six to eight weeks, but that’s probably not feasible.

The solution is reams of equipment. When my wife had Achilles surgery years ago, all the equipment was so expensive, you had to get the insurance company to find someone to provide it. Now, you get it from Amazon.

Here’s the foot support gear:

  • Wheel chair (rented)
  • Walker (hospital)
  • Boot (doctor’s office, pre-op)
  • Knee Scooter (Amazon, two tries, sent one back)
  • Potty chair (hospital)
  • Bath transfer bench (Amazon)
  • Bath chair (Amazon, as backup)

I have been living in my wife’s recliner since the operation. The dogs are very confused. If there is a laptop in front of me, I’m at work. If there’s food, I’m on a break. If I’m reclined all the way, I’m sleeping. It’s two shuffle steps to the bathroom, two shuffle steps back. I hate it. My wife lived in this chair after her shoulder surgeries and I don’t know how she did it.

The first two weeks after surgery, I was in a splint, waiting for the swelling to go down.

After two weeks, the splint was replaced by a cast. Before the cast went on, I had more x-rays. This time, I was taken in a wheelchair because it was broken. Then, the cast went on. My first cast.

My first cast (with Graham Gnome)

Three weeks later, the cast came off, and was replaced by the boot. The boot I was given the first day at the orthopedist, after they realized that urgent care didn’t give me one.

My last week in the cast, I moved back to bed at night, because I couldn’t take the recliner any longer. I vaguely remember “just going to bed.” Now, it’s getting the knee scooter to get down the hall, falling sideways into bed, moving the scooter so my wife can put the potty next to the bed, and then go to sleep. It’s still better than the recliner.

The longest challenge is taking a shower. I have a foot and ankle that can’t get wet. So, down the hall on the knee scooter into the bathroom. Do a 180 (harder than it sounds in a narrow room.) Slide onto the transfer bench. Scoot into the tub, sticking the boot out, so the boot can be replaced by a cast cover (waterproof, self-sealing). Into the shower. By this point, I’m exhausted. Luckily, it amuses the dogs. After the shower, everything is done in reverse, drying everything carefully to keep the foot and ankle dry.

I’m very glad I’m home-officed. I can work without much effort other than getting my laptop out and logging into the systems. My team is spread out all over the world, so time zones are a challenge but nobody is missing me in the office.

The only other concern is that the top of my foot isn’t healing as well as the doctor would like. So, he’s keeping an eye on it. Apparently, there’s not much skin on top of the foot. I’m a bit concerned they will be debriding it – which is a polite term for “cutting off a bunch of dead skin.”

It’s going to be an interesting scar. Well, scars.

On March 4th, I can put “some weight” on the foot. I need to ask what that really means. I’m thinking running a marathon is probably out.

On March 11 (a month after our anniversary), I may be able to walk again. Then, starts physical therapy. Two months or so since I tripped and couldn’t fall properly.

I’m hoping to be fully functional by my 60th birthday in April. Yes, this was going to be a year of landmarks without adding “first broken bone.”

Closing Globe Life Park

Billy Joel, the patron saint of closing baseball parks, closed out the Texas Rangers’ time at Globe Life Park in Arlington (aka “Dallas” which has to make the Arlington city officials insane – never have a city with one pro team is named after a neighboring city and another is named after the State) with a two-hour hits set. He offered the audience a choice of “deep cuts and album tracks” or “hits” early on, and the crowd chose “hits”, which seems predictable.

If you can’t close a park with World Series baseball, Billy Joel is a good second choice.

There are few artists left that can play two hours and all the songs are known by most (if not all) of the audience – and even fewer who are doing all their own work, and not also covering other bands they used to be in (I’m looking at you, Sir Paul.)

It would be interesting to compare this set list to the last time he played here, since he hasn’t had any new (rock) material since 1993 (or so.) He was one of the first artists to make a business out of rehashing old material (I’m looking at you, Jimmy Buffett, Rolling Stones et al), but he’s still one of the best.
For anyone that remembers him as a balladeer, listen to the encore. Loud.

Billy Joel is one of my few “just buy the tickets” artists for good reason. It’s a fun show, faithful to the records of my youth, with some surprises thrown in, just to keep people paying attention. There’s an unapologetic New York lens on much of his work, but this set is fairly universal. “They’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone” is still the finest one-line summary of divorced guy business travel there ever was.

Billy Joel Setlist Globe Life Park in Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA 2019, Billy Joel In Concert

The Day from Hell

Last Monday was a Day from Hell which stretched into the Week from Hell, and so much of it is blamed on “Corporate America” and so much of it was preventable – not easily, perhaps, but it’s not like they didn’t see it coming. Even more chilling, it’s going to happen again.

Every year about this time, we have Spring storms. On Sunday afternoon, we had a Texas-sized Spring storm. Trees down all over the place, a crane fell on a building, you name it. It was pretty bad, even by our usual Spring storm standards. Also, it was fairly predictable that it would happen eventually.

So, just like every year when we have a Spring storm, the power went out. This is because all of our power lines are overhead and nobody trims back the trees which are going to fall during a Spring storm. Therefore, power lines come down.

Oncor

Also, just like every year, Oncor sends out a note “Power will be back tonight”, then moves it to “tomorrow” and then eventually just sets their voicemail to a self-congratulatory message about how hard their crews are working under such stressful conditions (it was beautiful out on Monday, the day after the storm, not that I could enjoy it), and how people from other States are coming in to help restore their patient customers’ power.

Here’s a thought, dumbasses – how about trying prevention, since your damn cure always takes days?

I hate Oncor. This is probably not a secret. When Texas deregulated electricity a few years ago, what they really did was create another set of middlemen that do the billing. They buy electricity in bulk and sell it to the consumer. Whoever can lower their costs, say, by having no customer service whatsoever or selling at various prices under different names, can provide the lowest price.

However, Oncor owns the lines, the generators and all the other components that fail every damn year during Spring storms. So, every “electric company” in my area of the State has a sign on their website that says, “Oh, yeah, when you have no power, don’t call us, call Oncor.”

Oncor is what happens when you have a monopoly. They just cash the checks and don’t really consider making real improvements to the infrastructure because that costs money. They just make repairs as needed, at whatever speed they can manage.

I was just in the Caribbean, on the island of St Maarten, which had been virtually wiped out by hurricanes a couple of years ago, and as they’re rebuilding their completely destroyed infrastructure, they’re burying their electrical wires, to help withstand a storm.

There’s a thought. If the lines were underground, trees would have a more difficult time falling on them. Dallas has their streets torn up constantly anyway, why not bury the damn power lines?

The real issue is that some bean counter at Oncor is looking at the statistics, and we had power 362 of the past 365 days (mostly.) So, we had a 99% uptime. That’s really good.

Here’s the problem – all those downtime statistics don’t recognize whether the downtime was all at once. If we had an hour here or there all year, that’s one thing. 72 hours in a row is when all the food goes bad, the dogs become more psychotic, and I end up in a hotel.

So, Oncor disappointed me, but didn’t surprise me.

The irony is that Oncor has their own weather people. Apparently, they can’t predict any bad weather, but they can recognize it after it hits. I can do that without a degree in meteorology – if you want to know if there was a Spring storm, look out and see if all the houses are dark in the middle of the afternoon. If you wait until evening, it’s even easier to diagnose.

Here’s why power is important to me. There are basically three things I do at home, besides cater to the dogs and appear to obey my wife. I eat, I work and I sleep. With Oncor’s courageous three to four-day repair cycle for a very predictable, almost annual occurrence, I can’t eat (we’ll be throwing out all the food in the refrigerator and the freezer), I can’t work (I need WiFi, which needs power – even though I’m pretty sure the phones are working because their lines are underground) and I can’t sleep (I use a C-PAP for my sleep apnea, and without it, I wake up constantly during the night. I spent Sunday night constantly dreaming I was drowning. It was not pleasant.)

So, I’m a wee bit bitchy as I’m starting to write this on Monday night, because the only way for me to get a decent night’s sleep – and get some work done in the morning, was to break down and get a hotel room. I am now at a work staycation, two miles from home, at $200 per night. The Spousal Unit is home with the dogs, who are freaking out about being in the dark all day.

I got the hotel room because a couple of other companies failed me. One I hadn’t dealt with in years, and one I deal with constantly.

Amazon

First, the one I deal with all the time – Amazon. How do you get around a dumbass power company? You purchase another independent power source. Amazon had a battery backup that other people used for their CPAPs, so that would be perfect. Sure, it’s $250 that Oncor should pay, but it would be delivered by Monday evening.

Wrong. Somewhere between hitting Enter and the first delivery update, the delivery day got changed to Friday. By Friday, even Oncor should have the power restored. (It actually arrived on Wednesday.)

So, great try, Amazon, but when I order something for same-day delivery, there’s a reason.

REI

When Amazon said “delivery on Friday”, it meant I could spend another sleepless night at home or find a generator or battery locally. We called everybody we could think about – and nobody had one, but then I remembered someone had mentioned “camping with my C-PAP”, so we went to REI. The one by our house was sold out (obviously, since I was not alone in this thought), but they found us one in Plano (which wasn’t affected by the storm), so we drove the 25 miles to the Plano store to pick it up.

We had selected this unit from the small list of units available specifically because it could be charged in the car – it has a 12-volt adapter. Since we have no working outlet to plug it in, we needed a backup power source without spending another $150 on a solar panel. This is partially on us, because we should have asked, but the 12-volt adapter is the one thing that is not included in the box.

We talked to Lee at the Plano store (who shouldn’t be at REI, he should be at Dick’s, because he is one) and his solution was to try to upsell me to the more expensive model because “those batteries come charged.” Then, he suggested just going to Walmart or McDonalds and plugging it in. Uh, I’m not going to spend eight hours in a McDonalds, Sparky. I’m on a low-carb diet.

So, Monday I bought two battery backup units in one day and one will be here Friday, and the other one could easily be charged in my home if Oncor restored the power – which was the problem in the first place.

So, REI Dallas, rock stars. REI Plano, not exactly helpful. (While Lee was trying to upsell me, Virginia called the Dallas store to see if they had the adapter, and they said “No.” She asked if they could see if any other store had one, and they said, “Sure, but the guy in Plano can do that.”

Then, it turned out the upgraded unit was available in Southlake, which is another 50 miles or so of driving, so we declined.

Sprint

The final culprit in my near-breakdown is Sprint, who must have lost some towers during the storm because our cell service was for crap yesterday. I couldn’t get anything done without being on WiFi. I couldn’t make calls, I couldn’t browse. If all I had was cell service, it wasn’t going to work.

By evening, the Sprint connections seemed to be improving, so maybe there is hope for humanity.

Actually, there is hope for humanity, because every dark cloud has a silver lining (or a lot of rain.)

Starbucks

Finally, some heroes, or at least companies that meet the challenge of a Spring storm in Dallas. Thanks to Starbucks for being open, having coffee, and having a web app, so I can walk in, see a line around the store, find a seat, log in and order my coffee, bypassing the line. By the time I explained to my boss online (over their free WiFi) that I was going to be out all afternoon with a doctor’s appointment and had no power or Internet at home, so I was taking the day off as vacation, my coffee was ready.

That was the final blow. I’m a contractor on my current project, so taking a day off basically means losing money. I really couldn’t see charging someone when I was probably going to be dozing off all day, and I was supposed to start a three-day medical test Monday afternoon – and was told to expect two hours to install the equipment.

So, I took a day off.

I got to the doctor’s office fifteen minutes early. They were closed for the day. The building had no power.

DoubleTree by Hilton

Every hotel around me was booked solid, because my neighbors were smart enough to avoid the four hours of touring the Metroplex while trying to find a generator and just moved out of their houses for a couple of days. By the time I conceded the fight and decided I needed a hotel to sleep and work, everything at a reasonable rate was taken.

I’m not saying DoubleTree is unreasonable, I’m just saying it’s a rate I’m used to paying with an expense account, not out of my own pocket. By the time I booked, what they had available was a Junior Suite. Not the most inexpensive room in the building, but if you’re going to suffer, suffer in style.

I love this place. I would stay here all the time, but it seems silly to stay in a hotel two miles from your house, and I can’t afford it all the time.

The staff is great, room service is fast and on-time in the mornings, the WiFi works, and I have a view of East Dallas out my floor-to-ceiling windows. Suffering should always been like this.

I had the room to myself most of the time, since my wife declared she “wasn’t leaving the dogs.” I’m not sure if this was to remind me of my place in the hierarchy or make me feel guilty, but it’s very hard to make me feel guilty when I’m looking out a 10th floor window and I already know where I rank.

She did spend afternoons at the hotel, which made working a wee bit difficult. I’m not used to the person in the next cubicle laughing at Facebook videos and memes. Well, I was at one point, but I’ve been home-officed for so long, those memories faded.

The hotel even had enough outlets so we could plug in the REI battery backup unit so my wife could have power for a reading lamp at home. She didn’t need it as badly as the dogs, who are apparently now afraid of the dark. (Actually, they’re afraid of the normal noises in the neighborhood they usually don’t hear – so much for dogs’ vaunted hearing ability – because the windows aren’t wide open to get a breeze in the house.)

We did not have the famous Doubletree cookies because my wife is minimizing carbs and she was watching me. After we got everything set up in the room and she went home because “she wasn’t leaving the dogs”, I forgot to go back downstairs and get one. Or six.

Epilogue

Just after I booked the hotel, Oncor texted me that the power was back. After just enough time for me to start cursing and reading through the cancellation policy, they texted and said it was out.

The Oncor auto-text messages went from a specific time estimate to “We are reviewing damage in your area.We will provide an update when your power will return.” which is the marketing version of “Beats the fuck out of us. Ask one of the power guys from another state. They seem to know what they’re doing.”

My favorite text from them is “Your power is restored. Please reply “N” if it is not.” Don’t you know?

The power finally came back Wednesday, so I went home after work that afternoon to help throw out all the food in the refrigerator and the freezer.

I spent one last night at the hotel so I could do my homework and because I didn’t have much faith the power would actually stay on. Also, it was a nonrefundable rate. (At one point, our power was back and the house across the street was still out.)

MR-Ay-yi-yi

I hate most medical procedures. Let’s just get that fact out of the way. No matter how cool the technology is, they never let you look at the screens, so what’s the point?

I haven’t even had my MRI yet and it’s already been a bad experience.

The only person who hates tests more than I do is my wife which is why I need to keep her about sixteen miles away from me before I have a procedure done because there is a very good chance she’s done it before and there is an absolute chance she will be filled with the need to share all the negative, horrible things about it.

Now, she’s a horrible patient, so I can take most of it with a grain of salt, but I had to have an MRI this week and she got into my head before the machine did.

I’ve had three MRIs. When she had to have one, I really didn’t understand the whining and gnashing of teeth – but then I realized hers was on her shoulder (head-first into the machine) and my first one had been on my knee (feet-first into the machine.) She needs tranquilizers. I think tranquilizers are for sissies.

I’m not usually claustrophobic – except in really, really crowded spaces, say, an elevator on a cruise ship right after muster drill and before drinks are available.

I had an MRI on my neck a couple of years ago when my doctor thought I might have a blockage (no, I did not.) It was loud. They give you headphones and play music, but you can’t necessarily hear much other than the machine. The operator asked what I wanted to hear and I said, “Adele” which got a strange look, but my wife had been listening to her a lot and all her songs seemed about five minutes long, so I figured that would be a good way to estimate time in the tunnel. That assumed I could actually hear when one song ended and the next started. (That’s not a comment on Adele, it’s a comment on the noise level.)

I had an MRI on my brain last year when I was having a massive vertigo attack that people were hoping wasn’t a stroke, and it wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t that bad. It was loud. They put a cage around my head so I couldn’t move very much. That was very unpleasant. I kept suppressing the need to call out “Clarice”. I passed the time trying to guess what song was playing because it was much louder than the first one, and I just requested “Classic Rock”.

So, I had some trepidation about yesterday’s test, but it’s not like I haven’t survived it before. My wife had told them I needed a larger machine, but I didn’t really think it mattered much. I have a beer belly, not a beer head.

Ho ho ho.

The technician was very polite – he could have just said, “Wow. What a lardass. You’re never going to fit in here”, but he didn’t. He said, “They want me to give you an IV, but let’s just test this first and see how it goes.”

I got about two-thirds of the way in, and that was it. Wow. Panic attack. Claustrophobic attack. Give me some Valium. Stat.

He rolled me back out and said, “Yeah, you probably need the bigger machine. The front desk can get you scheduled at another facility that has one.”

So, here’s a question. You have some machines that are almost guaranteed to cause panic attacks in probably half the population, and larger machines everyone can use. Why do you still have small machines? (Yes, I know, they’re expensive, but still. If you’re not using them because prospective patients keep running [waddling] off in fear, you’re not making any income, anyway. Sell them cheap to a rival lab and get some Hungry-Man sized machines. Increase your business.)

Another question. Can’t you train the staff at the check-in desk (better yet, at the referring doctor’s office) to recognize the difference between, say, someone who enjoys food and a fashion model, and route them to the proper clinic?

I got the MRI rescheduled this morning for next Wednesday. Now, I have almost a week to remember I finally couldn’t handle an MRI. Almost a week to remember the Silence of the Lambs cage they put around my head. Almost a week of the wife saying, “Maybe you need Valium. Wait. They’re looking at brain function. Maybe you can’t have Valium. Wow. I really needed Valium for mine. It was horrible.” This may finally require drugs next time – and I swore I would never take drugs just for a stupid test.

I was originally rescheduled for Tuesday but then the scheduler noticed my neurologist wanted a 3T machine. There are 1.5T machines (T is Tesla, some weird unit of measurement) and 3T machines. 3T produce better images, faster. Why are the 1.5T machines still around? Can’t you sell them to the rival clinic and get the best ones? Can’t we speed up the depreciation? (Yes, I just passed my accounting class.)

So, I need the wide-bore 3T MRI machine. In layman’s terms, the lard-ass, high-quality machine.

So, I have a few days to think about getting rolled into a tube headfirst (with my head locked down) so they can shoot magnetic rays at me. Also, the same few days for my wife to remind me how horrifying an experience it is for her, and therefore, for the universe at large.

I may need Valium now.