July 27, 2005

Is There a Qualified & Humane Doctor In The House?

With the exception of a healthy pregnant woman, nobody ever really wants to go to a doctor. Bear this in mind as I let loose a long-time peeve of mine.

I’ve read several posts recently, written by people who had either been to the doctor or are in need of a visit to one. With the exception of one of these posts, I smelled fear … but not the type that stems from the great unknown … rather, the type that is evoked by a whip-toting, I-don’t-want-to-hear-your-excuses, self-absorbed physician.

I called my own doctor’s office a few weeks ago ~ not because I was ill but because I was instructed to do so by my pharmacist who couldn’t refill my prescription without permission. It was time to call the doc and spend $60 for him to tell me, as he apparently must (every six months), that I am doing well and should continue to take the exact same pills at the exact same dosage … but I digress.

A Small Dose of Humiliation

My doctor is pretty nice, actually. But even he, on occasion, will shoot me a condescending look much in the same way my father did if I acted up when I was six years old.

My point is this - we are paying (and dearly) for their services, their advice, their opinions ~ and often times ~ for their kids’ college education. We pay, they deliver. If they don’t deliver the goods, we should take our business elsewhere. Are you with me so far?

Why is it then, for some reason we allow them to humiliate, intimidate or insult us on occasion? I’m not in reference to the dreaded positive test results or good heavens, worse news. I’m referring to the “Hey, you haven’t been staying off the salt the way I told you to,” or “I thought you were going to try to lose some weight.” How about, “You MOVED that leg? I told you NOT to move that leg.”

My favorite is ~ “What do you MEAN you’ve stopped taking that pill that made you break out in hives and talk with a lisp? I TOLD you it will help build stronger bones!”

Doctors today seem to feel they have license to reduce us to slobbering, weepy, helpless tots any time we don’t do exactly what they “suggested.” They’ve also completely forgotten what the word “suggest” means. It’s not a command. We’re not in the armed forces, and even if we were, they haven’t any hash marks on their sleeves or gold stars pinned to their golf shirts.

We call an electrician when the wiring skips a beat. Imagine if he came to the house and looked over the top of his glasses at you scolding, “You went out and bought a new appliance? When were you going to consult me? Huh smartass? That’ll be $847 for today and I’ll be back tomorrow with the parts ~ IF you follow my instructions.” If you’re anything like me, you’d show him the door in a heartbeat … physically … loudly.

The plumber doesn’t walk in the door and have a hissy fit because your little one shoved his Tonka toy down the toilet. He gets down to the business of removing the obstacle, he collects his money (and your firstborn), and leaves. It’s really that simple.

I’m not done yet.
There’s yet another “doctor” issue brewing here.

Is He Smart or Is He Ain’t

Back in college, one of my professors reminded our class that doctors were first students, and they all cannot have graduated at the top of their class. When we submit a resume, we include our educational credentials. We sometimes even boast about awards, achievements, etc. We are chosen (or not), based on these credentials and prior experience.

Why is it then, that people don’t “interview” a doctor upon their initial visit? Think about it for a minute. Here is a man or woman, who you are likely to “hire” for the purpose of helping you to stay alive for cripes’ sake, and you don’t even know his class status. He could have just slid through med-school by the skin of his teeth. The pretty diplomas and degrees on the wall don’t tell you that he might have graduated 56th in his class of 60.

It would be nice to apply for a hoity toity position and get hired based on the look of your car (yellow pages ad), your suit (impressive office), or on the fact that you have a lot of buddies (patients). How cool would that be? We’ll never know ~ because it’s not realistic. Not for us, that is ~ only for doctors.

I’m still not done yet … but almost.

It’s Not His Area

Long gone are the days when you went to the family doctor (General Practitioner) for anything from a laceration to a stye; from an ulcer to a slipped disk. Nowadays, unless you have the flu or high blood pressure, chances are your doctor is going to send you to a specialist. What in the HELL is that?

It’s a vicious ploy, I tell you. If you’re very lucky, said specialists all share the same building and you only have to walk up four flights of stairs, three doors over and past the sun-filled, gilded mirror, indoor fountain atrium to get there. Otherwise, it’s a drive clear across town in maddening traffic.

Most doctors won’t even draw blood in their office anymore. They won’t go near urine and they’ll never set eyes on any of your x-rays. The lab folks get to have all that fun. So, like … what are they teaching in med-school these days anyway?

Who Tells Who What’s Wrong?

My final rant is the diagnosis. Can anyone tell me, for the love of all the pretty flowers in spring, why we have to self-diagnose? Isn’t that supposed to be some small part of what the exorbitant fee is all about?

Who hasn’t called a doctor’s office and been asked by the slow-witted phone secretary “What’s the problem?” It’s fine to offer symptoms, (though I feel symptoms would be best offered to the man who gets the money), but when they grill you to the point of telling them your potassium level and your white cell count, it gives me reason to pause.

I’ve tried giving standard responses ~ “I’m sick” “I don’t feel well” ~ but no, they want more. It should be crystal clear that if I’m eager to make an appointment with the man who is going to get a third of my paycheck at the end of my ten minute visit, I’m sick. Apparently, this never quite works its way into their brains. I have to first diagnose myself to death before they deem me worthy. Well pardon my prescription Latin but “Fuckeus thatium.”

When I go to the doctor, I want him to tell me what’s wrong… point me to the fix and assure me that it’ll be better in no time. THAT is what I’m paying him for. THAT is what he went to school to do. No more, no less. If he can’t fix it, he should be able to tell me who can. If nobody can, maybe he could suggest a reasonable funeral director. I’m not paying for attitude, and he doesn’t need to scold, embarrass, or warn me in nasty tones.

After all, that’s what we have mothers, traffic cops and priests for.

July 22, 2005

It Was a Dirty Job But "Somebody" Had To Do It

Every now and then I am reminded of one of my former jobs. Usually, such memories are fun and lighthearted. Sometimes, I find myself wondering how I ever landed such a position in the first place, and why on earth there was still a need for it.

Pull up a rock and I’ll explain in my typically verbose style.

One of the job titles I have tucked in my pocket is “content inspector.” A more flippant way to put it might be “porn checker.”

About four years ago, I worked for a large, nation-wide mail order photo processing lab. We were the second largest in the food chain of film processing at that time. Thousands of rolls of undeveloped film passed through our lab each week, and anyone in this business can tell you that these photos aren’t just handled by noisy machinery.

Aside from checking each set for color, tone and clarity ~ one of the lab’s functions was to red-flag anything that you wouldn’t pass around the dinner table at grandma’s house on Sunday.

Anything worthy of a red flag came to my desk for further inspection. I was the lab’s only porn inspector. Oh lucky me.

So why did we have to inspect naughty pictures? Because we were in the mail-order business and it’s a felony to pass pornographic materials through the U.S. Postal Service. The unprocessed film could come to us without breaking a law, but it could not be processed and returned. Understand that there were a million guidelines I had to follow in order to determine what could and couldn’t pass through.

I’m not suggesting that playful photos of Susie Headlights taken by Izint E. Hung would be reported or shredded. Indeed, after careful inspection (for signs of illegal age, unwilling restraint, etc.) such images could be tucked back into their paper wallet and shipped back to the creative couple.

Sounds like a way cool job, eh? Not so cool at all when you consider the rest of the job. I’ll try to be as tactful as possible with this stomach churning topic.

Imagine this scenario. You come into work in the morning, sit at your desk, crank up the computer, sip your tea and open paper wallets filled with images of beastiality, battered children, child porn, or … on the lighter side though still not my favorite breakfast viewing material ~ vegetable sex. Yes, you read that correctly.

It takes time and patience to sort out the photos that are playful and innocent ~ the one taken by Aunt Rosie with an hiney shot of little Johnnie running down the hallway after his bath, and those not so playful ~ the one with a way-too-young naked girl being held clearly against her wishes by a way-too-old naked man. Sometimes the facial expression is a giveaway ~ other times not so much. Inspecting the entire roll helps in determining whether or not a scenario was merely played out or whether there was an actual “situation” taking place.

The lab wasn’t a prudish outfit. They simply had to stay within the legal boundaries, or be put out of business. Tasteful nudity was fine. Touching or otherwise “interacting” was not. Brutality was never fine; animal or human (I’ve seen both types of photos). Photos revealing any type of underage sexual posing were never fine.

My job, after inspecting full roll content of any questionable shots, and determining that a law or ten may have been broken, was to call in the U.S. Postal Inspectors … (a.k.a. the Feds). Upon their arrival to our office, we’d sit in a conference room and fine-tooth the photos going over every detail of every background and foreground in each shot. Sometimes, I was wrong. I misjudged. But the general rule of thumb at our lab was “if in doubt, call.”

If the Federal Inspectors deemed the photos unlawful, they would carry through by sending undercover agents to the location of the sender; even to Alaska if need be. These agents would show up under the guise of “brown truck” delivery drivers, with photos in hand. (“Good morning Mr. Jackass, you’ve been busted.”)

I had never been summonsed to court, but my predecessor had been. She had to fly to Washington D.C. for a child molestation trial. She had to testify that we received the unprocessed films along with a check signed by the criminal.

So much more can be said of this job … there were some completely hilarious photos of people in their 80s posing for one another in their birthday suits, complete with wine goblets in hand, or sporting Frederick’s of Hollywood style attire; comical pictures of women and men who had no business being naked alone in a dark room let alone proudly displaying themselves on picnic benches or at beach clubs; and of course, we had what my predecessor dubbed, “the vegetable of the month club.” I swear ~ I’m sure I haven’t but I could almost bet I’ve seen it all.

One of the most embarrassing situations I found myself in was trying to explain why a couple awaiting their wedding photos mistakenly received three wallets of Romping Ruthie & Gorgeous George out sailing and “modeling” for each other on the deep blue sea.

The wedding photos eventually made their way to the newly married couple and everyone was pleased in the long run, but it was an uncomfortable situation, to say the least.

The thing that slays me the most is that in this day and age of modern image technology (cripes, even with Polaroid for that matter) with digital cameras and such ... why would anyone still submit their films for processing via mail order? It’s just escapes me.

Some folks clearly like to be “seen” by as many eyeballs as possible … but others were completely dumbfounded when I’d call them to say that I could not return their photos. Quite often I’d hear, “You mean people SEE those photos? I thought they were all machine processed.”

My response was usually a simple, “Guess again…” (Sometimes, I wanted to add “pencil boy” … but I always refrained).
One of the reasons I began to reminisce about jobs-gone-by is that I have recently submitted my letter of resignation. I’ve been climbing uphill with one leg long enough at my job and it’s time for a much needed break. The decision didn't come easily for me. I’ve been inundated with work, training and work-related stressors lately, which may help explain my lack of posting, visiting and commenting. Soon enough, I’ll be back in full swing (whatever that is) and hopefully you’ll see more of my Hagness making the typical rounds. In the meantime, thanks a ton for continuing to read my words and for sharing in my favorite pastime.

July 15, 2005

You're a Dedicated Blogger If ...

1. While driving in your car, you keep one eye on the road while the other eye watches out for posting-fodder along the way.

2. Your vacation checklist includes the following item: “Post a ‘going on vacation’ blog before leaving.” If you’re really hopeless, it might also include “check blog to see if anyone wished me well” further down the list.

3. You’re suddenly glad you had that root canal (insert: blazing sunburn, fender bender, broken leg or heart attack) in ’96 because you were running low on post ideas.

4. You find yourself saying things like “Aw, look at the cute little tree blog …I mean FROG” or “Last night I slept like a blog … I mean LOG.”

5. Your purse or backpack is filled with the following items: pens, notebook, mini voice recorder and digital camera; if you’re lucky enough, a laptop is tucked beneath your arm. You're hopeless if you're only going to the grocery store!

6. a) When someone comes to your home, you proudly break out the mixed photo albums, but when it comes to uploading an image of yourself on your blog, you painstakingly rummage through 250 pictures in order to choose only the best of the best for your post.

6.b) You hesitate and change your mind five times before uploading a photo of yourself. You’re hopeless if you photoshop it first, covering the grey or cropping 10 unwanted pounds.

7. You resent the fact that the media labels you as being self-absorbed because you blog. What pisses you off the most is that you know it’s at least partly true, but it doesn’t really matter.

8. Your real life friends beg you not to use some embarrassing moment of theirs as a post topic.

9. You’ve just created a masterpiece on a hot news topic, but before you publish it, you read three other masterpieces on the same topic ~ all outshining your own by a long shot. You begrudgingly delete your work of art.

10. You go to add a brilliant comment on somebody's post only to find that someone already said exactly the same thing. You end up typing “Great post” and leaving it at that out of frustration.

11. First thing in the morning, you turn on the computer and open your blog site before making your coffee. If you’re really hopeless, you do so before you use the small room (toilet).

12. You’re thrilled to see six comments on your freshly posted blog, only to discover Blogger went whacko during the night and posted triple comments. If you’re really hopeless, you swear out loud over this.

13. You look over and see your dog holding his crotch because you haven’t let him out for five hours while you were totally absorbed in blog-hopping.

14. The family comes to know the back of your head better than your face as you sit at the computer night after night trying to get your blog template “just right.”

15. You sit at your desk and computer for hours on end at home, writing a post about how horrible it is to be tethered to your desk and computer at work all day. (NOTE: at work you got paid for it, while blogging, you did not; at work, you stopped for lunch, while blogging, you did not)

16. Sometimes while on vacation, you used to get a little homesick; now you get blog-sick (as in blogdrawal).

17. Your dreams used to include winning the lottery, clocking your obnoxious next door neighbor, and living in a castle with a Lexus parked outside. Now they include winning the lottery and attracting better than 20 readers per post.

18. You sense a great loss when a fellow-blogger hasn’t posted in two weeks time ~ or worse, when they quit blogging altogether. You can’t stand not knowing what’s wrong, and you’ve never even met them or seen their face.

19. You beat yourself up all evening because while driving home from work you came up with a brilliant post topic and half-wrote it, mentally ~ you get into the house and can’t recall it for all the tea in England.

20. You hesitate for ten full seconds before clicking “publish post” because it’s a topic that might offend someone ~ who, more than likely, won’t be reading your post anyway.

21. You post a bitch-fest about your job, only to discover that someone at work has been reading your stuff. They threaten to have you fired, so you rush home and immediately go to Monster.com (job search site) rather than deleting your post. You’re really hopeless if it's no contest.

22. You lie awake at night trying to decide in which order you will attack your blogroll the next morning, making sure not to skip anyone and hoping they’ll understand if it takes you several days to catch up. You’re really hopeless if you’ve got your blogroll memorized ~ in alphabetical order!

23. It’s a struggle to decide if you will share your Blogger URL with the extended family … you must first spend three full days reviewing your older posts to be sure none of them include insults about Uncle Vinny or Cousin Pete.

24. In a desperate attempt to keep up with other bloggers, you start posting “reruns” you published several months ago.

25. You start to notice a “spread” on your bottom from sitting in your favorite blog chair (read computer chair) but it’s all good because you’ve skipped many meals for the sake of posting, reading and commenting. You’re really hopeless if you figure somehow it will even itself out.

July 09, 2005

Lobster Tale

I don’t workout much ~ at least not in the traditional sense of the word. This is evident in the clear outline of cookie and candy shapes that bulge from inside my tummy in plain view. There are reasons why I steer clear of gyms and volley ball courts, only one of which I will discuss today.

About a year or so ago, I woke up one morning and decided to follow in Ed’s footsteps and regain some semblance of shape to my waistline. To put things in perspective, Ed had dropped fifty pounds in the healthiest way possible. He started to drink a lot of water, ordered a stationary bike and treadmill for our home, and basically eliminated all food items from his diet. He has managed to keep this weight off for nearly two years now, having completely rearranged his lifestyle. I marvel at him ~ truly I do. Not just because he lost fifty pounds, but because he lost fifty pounds and has kept it off this long living with the likes of sweets-addicted me.

And so, on that fateful decision day, I popped open a bottled water (just cause it sounds healthier than the free, tap version) and instead of having pancakes doused in butter and syrup, I decided to get with the program by heading downstairs to the family room and attack the exercise equipment.

From years of dancing many moons ago, I knew enough to warm up first, stretch those lazy muscles and wake them up a bit before I began my workout. One of the cats had followed me downstairs and was already staring at me as if to say, “You have GOT to be kidding me … this oughta be good.” He parked himself in front of the bike and I swear, he let loose a chuckle. Still, I stretched and breathed and did all the right things to prepare my body for the inevitable assault.

I had carefully picked out some classic rock music, strapped on my headphones, steadied myself and took one last easy breath before boarding the bicycle. I was ready, baby!

I was mentally singing along with Clapton and wishing so much I could show off my cool air-guitar licks, but I somehow managed to keep my hands in place on the bike. Ten minutes into my little program and I was still able to breathe. I was completely impressed with myself and feeling quite fine.

Then I noticed the cat.

He was up and staring at something just behind me on the floor and in his full attack mode. His eyes looked almost glazed over as he positioned himself in the “down-low” that he does so well … I hesitated to look behind me, but I knew I must.

Right smack in the middle of “Three O’Clock Blues” I slowly turned my head and looked downward toward the floor fully expecting an ant or maybe a moth. Instead … this is what I saw …

Now, call me crazy but this “thing” does NOT belong in my house… not on a Monday, a Tuesday or EVER.

My reaction? I did the mature thing and shrieked at the top of my lungs, “OH … MY … SWEET … GOD! ED…. HELP ME!”

In one fell swoop, I was off the bike and at the stairs clear across the room without ever touching my feet to the floor. My heart raced like a worked hemi and I was covered in sweat.

The poor man ran to my aid from two flights up and was yelling “What happened, what happened?” I caught my breath and shouted again, “IT’S A LOBSTER AND IT'S COMING AFTER ME!”

The look on Ed's face as he rounded the corner was priceless … “A What?”

Remember, if you will, I’m a city woman. I hadn’t seen a crayfish, especially such an intrusive one, in my entire life. Not up close and alive! Even Ed admitted this was a pretty good sized crayfish. The thing had to be about six inches long, claw to tail.

What pissed me off the most was that it just had no right being in my house. None. He belonged out back in the pond with the other nasty looking fresh-water buggers.

With Ed downstairs now looking for something to scoop it up with, I felt safe enough to get a closer look at this monstrosity. Clinging to his bicep for dear life, I said to Ed, “You’re going to kill it right?”

Ed, being an environmentally conscious individual, just gave me the eyes-up-to-God look that I’ve come to know so well. He proceeded to carefully lift it onto a piece of cardboard and place it gently into the grass out back. We surmised from the balls of lint on its head and claws that it came in through a small hole near our dryer vent in the laundry room, and it must have been living (and growing) there for quite some time. Oh joy.

The only good that came out of this was that I had found yet another excuse not to workout. You just never know what’s going to crawl up behind you. If not for the silly cat, I could have been attacked and killed. (not “killed” as in the crayfish bit my head off or anything, just “killed” as in … had he gotten any closer to me I might have stroked out)

I suppose I probably burned more calories flying across the room in my little adrenaline rush than I would have, had I pedaled all the way through the entire CD.

Nah… I don’t workout much these days ~ at least not in the traditional sense. Instead I do many little power burns in the name of panic and horror. (Then I stroll off and eat a cookie)

July 02, 2005

Simple Solutions

I’m not sure I quite understand what all the commotion in the news is about sometimes. It’s not like I’m heartless, or that I don’t give a hoot about people getting hurt, falling ill or dying … I really do give a hoot. It’s just that some of the horrors that befall humanity are simply avoidable. I’d rather spend my worry-tokens on more worthy causes.

Because I still have a smidgeon of faith in my fellow man, I do believe I cannot be the only one who sees these truths. If I’m wrong, please let me know so I can duct tape my house and stay indoors for the remainder of my time.

Let’s take a look at the recent shark attacks in Florida. The first of these two horrific incidents took place when a young teenage boy was fishing, waist-high in the ocean, using live shrimp as bait. Some expert guy with a 70s Afro claimed it was the casting and reeling of said shrimp that attracted the shark in the first place, luring it closer and closer to the boy; in any case, the poor boy was viciously attacked.

The second incident involved a young girl swimming near a school of feeder fish. She was unaware, of course, and as claimed by an expert sporting a crap poor comb-over, was probably seen by the shark as competition, and was attacked and killed.

Pardon the insertion here, but have you ever noticed that all these self-proclaimed “experts” on TV have incredibly laughable hair? No, really. Keep an eye on this strange phenomenon, it’s quite true. It must be a requirement.

Anyway … while watching various eye-witness interviews throughout the day, I noticed people were surprised, agitated and downright frightened by these events. I do understand they are out of the ordinary and most traumatic ~ no doubt about it. But I get a little annoyed when I hear people saying things like “This is so scary, I mean, I have a two year old and I have to really worry about this now,” and “I don’t know what we’re going to do with the kids this summer now, I’m really afraid.” Perhaps “annoyed” isn’t the exact word… it’s more like “confused,” but in an annoyed way.

The thing is, there are some pretty obvious solutions to this dilemma.
I offer the following:
1. For starters, last time I looked, there was no law requiring us to place our two year olds (or any other age for that matter) into the ocean.
2. You can frequent any of the dozens of swimming pools open to the public OR you can enjoy the pool back at the hotel.
3. If you can’t come up with any form of entertainment for your children all summer except ocean swimming, you probably shouldn’t have bred.
4. Land sharks are extinct. They died along with the original Saturday Night Live Show back in the 70s; stay on solid ground and no one’s going to be attacked by a shark.

Of course there’s nothing quite like a swim in the ocean, sea sand mixing between your toes and waves tickling your back or rolling over your hot shoulders ~ and swim to your heart’s content if you aren’t worried to death over the off-chance of such an oddball attack. I’m not addressing the average beachgoer. I’m only addressing the folks who make such a dramatic statement as mentioned above. If it frightens you that much ~ simple solution ~ don’t do it.

Second to this is the bear attack. I’m mainly in reference to the most recent one in Alaska (what a surprise) where the two campers were attacked and killed in their tent, but you can use just about any of the bear attacks we’ve read about in the past 20 years or so; same rule of thumb.

Bears live in the deep woods. They’re wild. They forage to survive. They don’t care if you’re only on their turf to take pretty pictures or even if you’re there in the name of preserving their species. They don’t give a darn if you’re a nature lover or just a recluse. The number of years you’ve dedicated to studying their behavior doesn’t matter to them one iota. Pack up your camping gear, head out to the wilderness (incase you haven’t noticed, the word “wild” is part of wilderness), and pitch a canvas fortress (as if) … carefully store your food in Tupperware and load up your camera … be my guest, as long as you fully understand that you just might end up being lunch. It’s happened before, it will happen again, and again, and again, and again. It will.

Do I take any joy in these horrific stories? Not on your life. Hell, given the opportunity to be interviewed, I’d be the first one making statements like “I’m truly quite concerned about random bear attacks,” but you can bet your sweet bippy that I wouldn’t be lugging a backpack and bedroll while I’m saying it.

Simple solutions, people. If something scares the ever loving wits out of you, and that “something” is fairly territorial, just stay the hell out of its territory. If it just kinda gives you the creeps but you’re up for the challenge, go for it, by all means.

There are plenty of things in this life worthy of getting wrinkles or raising the blood pressure about; things that are completely unavoidable. It just slays me when people can’t distinguish these things from stuff like shark and bear attacks.