Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ode To The Merry

Oh, she's important. No doubt. I'm not being facetious.

Meaningful, special, important. To me.

She reached out when I needed someone to do so; when I was misunderstood, primarily by myself. When I was struggling to understand what was happening to me. When I knew my mind was broken somehow, and didn't know how to fix it. I mean, how can you think, imagine, or do anything mentally to alleviate a mental illness? If you have a loose screw, would you try to tighten it with a broken screwdriver?

Unfortunately, many do. We don't know any better. Probably the worst thing to do if you're suffering from depression is to retreat into your mind, or try to focus, or try to fix it on your own. Accepting help can make the biggest difference.

So she asked if I was okay. Approached me when I was least interested, least interesting. And that was the action which led to an important friendship.

As I fought to acquaint myself with my diagnosis, numerous medications, various doctors and specialists, and a sickening assortment of insurance carriers, not to mention the abyss that is American Health Care today... she and I would get together and talk. And although it was me who needed it more, initially, I think over time we've helped each other.

When I went into work this morning, I knew she wouldn't be there; still, I wasn't prepared for the emotions. I mean, she just retired, right? It's not like I'll never see her again. But when the commotion of my co-employees arriving created a din that was impossible to ignore, and I traded "mourning's" with most of them (although I think they spell it differently than I do), I began to experience the sense of loss. Exacerbated immediately by insensitive maneuvering of furniture (loudly), the daily stupidity, and all of the things that aren't surprising that I should eventually get used to, but for some reason I just can't develop that protective coating... And then the comment about me losing my best friend.

Protective thought rockets were immediately launched. I must have stared a hole right through the guy. What an idiot! None of the words coming to mind are worth repeating, nor were they appropriate for saying, at least if I wanted to stay true to a constructive mindset. For some reason, I did at the time, so I just nodded.

But I had swerved off course and didn't even know it. Too much change all at once... none of the change that I keep trying to affect... When did this all go so awry?

I shouldn't have asked my supervisor about anything. I should have just given him the attention he deserves-- that he desires. But my curious mind (multiple meanings to that phrase) just wouldn't leave well enough alone. So he got under my skin with his inability to do his job, and the even more annoying ability of his to get away with it.

I drove angrily out to my route, felt my blood pressure rise as I witnessed several aggressive drivers jockeying for life-endangering but minute-shaving spaces in the traffic flow... felt my stomach churning with sickness as the negative thoughts gained momentum and made me dizzy and nauseous...

Ah, life is good.

A simple, sarcastic statement. Made me smile. So I tensed it into place, and made the decision to be happy. And be happy in the face of it all. Get In Yer Face Happy.

I issued a smiling "Morning!" to each person as I walked by them at the Light Rail Station, receiving mixed responses, if any. I was feeling hysterical. Manic. Out of balance. Two-faced.

But I just kept on. Smiling. Walking. Working.

Gave it a shot. And when the intestinal fortitude is set, the only thing that can override it is, well, the intestine.

I had a couple "sessions" purging nastiness from my body and decided to go home and go to bed. I slept about four hours, and logged eons of subconscious spelunking. And I felt a bit better.

So this exercise in remembrance and recounting has many purposes (most of them self-serving), but the one of the highest priority and import is the homage to the happy.

Thanks, merriment. May we meet again soon. And stick around awhile, next time, will ya? I got lots to talk about.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dog Days of Summer

Today I should have stayed in bed.

It started out that way; I slept through my alarm and woke up twenty minutes after seven. I had been dreaming about working overtime at night, reading utility meters in the dark. Had to call my boss and explain that I'd be in as soon as I was able, but I was still half asleep. So far, no disciplinary action... but that doesn't mean it's not coming.

So I took to the streets, with my trusty tools of the trade: my "Utilicorder," aka "handheld," a "calculator on steroids" of sorts, it contains customer information, addresses, utility meter locations, dog warnings, and also retains the meter readings that I, as a meter reader, input into it. Other tools include a monocular, for "over the fence" reads at-a-distance; a flashlight for assistance in dealing with darkness (when I'm unable to reflect the sun off of the screen of my handheld to illuminate the meter); a sunhat (required during summer); a spray bottle filled with water (mostly used for cleaning the face of water meters, but sometimes used to keep annoying, yapping little dogs at bay); lots of keys (to access backyards and meter boxes); and a metal "stick," which has several uses. It is mostly used in procuring water meter readings (opening cover lids, clearing spider webs/dirt from meter, etc.) but can also extend one's reach over gates and fences to unlatch and open gates and meter box doors when needed. It can also be used in defending oneself when under attack of an aggressive beast.

Not that that ever happens.

Very often, anyway.

So today, I should have stayed in bed. Because I nearly lost a body part to the gnashing teeth of a wild beast.

I was in a yard I am very familiar with-- the door on this particular customer's electric meter box has been broken for several years; there used to be several chickens in the yard; and the next customer's electric meter box is close enough to the fence between the yards that last month, when I was unable to open the gate because of a combination lock, I was able to reach over with my water meter stick, poke it through the gap between the side of the box and its door, pop the door open and get the reading. Remembering this, and not noticing any differences in my notes from my handheld, I decided to try and attempt this maneuver again.

I began to reach over the fence, and instantly heard aggressive, ravenous barking. I stepped back from the fence in time to see a pit bull jumping and climbing the fence. It had both of its front arms on top of the fence, and looked to be pulling itself up to climb over the fence, presumably to eat me. So I plunked it on top of its head with my trusty metal stick, and it fell back off of the fence.

It was at this point that I decided that I would not be getting a read for this particular house this month.

Unfortunately for me, I was not done with my encounter with "Cujo."

After leaving the neighbor's yard, I stopped to make sure that I latched the gate behind me. Upon doing so, I heard something fall to the ground. Looking down, I saw a combination lock now sitting below the gate next door, and that gate, the only thing between me and a violent, unpleasant, disagreement with this present version of the rabid Old Yeller, drifted slowly ajar.

I leaped for the gate and grabbed at splinters on its front surface, knowing that gripping it over the top would surely separate myself from a number of my fingers. There was no handle to assist me; and even though I was able to grip the side of one of the boards with my fingertips, and pulled the gate closed, it would not latch. I tried using the hook at the end of my stick to pull at the top of the gate harder. Still no latch. And still plenty of attention and barking and gnashing on the other side.

I poked my stick through the gap in the gate, trying to encourage Wolfen to move back so I could latch the gate. Try as I might, I couldn't get the right angle with my stick to assist the stubborn latch to do its job correctly.

So I flipped the stick around in my hand, hoping that the heavier, "diamond" shaped handle would allow me the edge I needed to cage this ravaging lion. I eased the stick over the top of the gate, now holding the single rod just above its hook. And just when I was about to swing it towards the latch...

Jaws clamped down on the handle of my stick and ripped it from my hand. The hook scraped my thumb as it slid out of my hand and crashed to the walk on the other side of the gate.

I exclaimed a number of choice words, filled with anger, frustration, and tinted with fear. Perhaps it was this utterance, combined with the sound of the metal stick striking the cement, that cast a spell on the wolverine that sent him retreating into the back yard; I don't know. I opened the gate and stared down the walk at "it," looking for clues. Was it all a bluff? Had I gained the upper hand? Should I attempt to get a reading?

I bent at the knees, still retaining eye contact with "Precious," and felt around for my stick. Once in hand, I again stood, and calibrated scenarios.

"Not worth it", I thought, as I closed the gate and latched it by hand, still staring down the dog.

Gate secured, I turned and walked back to the sidewalk at the street, and read the water meter, choosing to forgo this battle to live another day.

Should've stayed in bed.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's Not Teen Spirit

The newest grocery store in town is going through an extensive remodel.


The Safeway that was planned as part of the commercial development in the Rivermark project (which is kind of like Santa Clara's "Santana Row," in a much lower tax bracket) is going through what an employee described to me as "A Lifestyle Change."

So extensive is this "lifestyle change" that a quarter of the parking lot was fenced off to house all the crates and pallets and boxes. Filled with "Lifestyle" I gather. So aggressive is this implementation, so "visionary" its scope, that the store must stay open for business in order to pay for it (or is it in order for customers to pay for it?) while contractors march through the aisles, knocking jars of pickles and tomato sauce off of shelves with their overloaded toolbelts.

It smells like "corporate." By that I mean, it seems like some group of folks who've never set foot in the store made a series of decisions which were dispatched to their underlings and instituted by their underlings who hired more underlings and lateralings and laborlings and scablings and the like to implement this ideological concept that until now only existed in the collective mind of the board of directors. Now the "boots on the ground" are trying to fit this corporate square peg into the round hole of reality. (Remind you of anything?)

So disruptive is this "Lifestyle" makeover that several additions to the customer experience have been required. Upon entering the store, there is now a bucket of hearing-protection earplugs, should you choose to retain your sense of sound for enjoying the forecasted shiny new (red?) lifestyle. The experience is similar to visiting an international airport periodically; things that assisted you in getting what you wanted and where you wanted to go-- signage, pathways, trusted technology-- are all in question, in flux, in transition. "Why is this way blocked off? Is there a clock in this place? What's the current international symbol for "produce?"

Perhaps it is a ploy to change the lifestyle of their clientele. I know I'm thinking twice about shopping there again.

The absurdity is magnified by the fact that the store was just completed and opened for business about five years ago. Five (5) years ago.

I'm thinking the lifestyle change that is most needed is one that's not happening. And it may be what's creating all this ruckus under the auspices of "lifestyle change."

Smells like corporate.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

May We End This Fairy Tale

Letter to the Editor sent earlier this evening.

The past few weeks have provided news of disturbing developments within the so-called "War on Terror." Not only have we identified significant leaks in our security systems (with the "dirty bomb" sting operation), we've now been told that Al Qaeda has recovered to its pre-September 11th strength.

More than five years since the declaration of this "war," Osama bin Laden, the suspected instigator and "poster child" image of our enemy, is still at large, and assumedly still training terrorists.

Meanwhile, our country continues to be mired in a horrible, festering conflict in Iraq. And our president continues to see only "progress" towards a "victory" that he fails to define.

It seems to me that Mr. bin Laden has done a much better job at training and building his forces than Mr. Bush et al has.

But not all of the blame lies with the current administration, or Congress, or the Media.

When We The People would sooner vote multiple times for a baseball player or an "idyllic" singer than vote in a governmental election, our gentle Democracy has fallen and broken.

And all the King's horses and all the King's men won't be putting it back together again any time soon.

That task must begin with the collective action of the American Citizenry.

A Yittle Someting... emphasis on something...

The hard boiled eggs she had placed in a bowl before putting in the fridge had evidently been slid to the rear of the shelf, near where the cold air entered, in the bustle of organizing the mathematics of daily meals and housing leftovers. So when she went to make egg salad, she found the eggs were not only hard boiled, but frozen solid.

As she brainstormed for a plan b for her lunch bag, she was struck by a string of peculiar thoughts.

Their origination sprouted from the frozen eggs. Did she have a moral imperative to let the eggs defrost naturally? Were there some ethical issues that she needed to ruminate upon before making egg salad?

She thought of the hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos at the heart of the stem-cell research/right to life ethical (and political) debate. They are all suspended in time, like little bouillion cubes filled with life potential. Would the morally responsible thing to do be to "value all life" and implant these "undesignated" embryos in an able bodied female in order to nurture the life potential? Or was it more ethical to honor the wishes of the "creators"-- the men and women who went through the procedure of invitro fertilization and were blessed with not only a child but several more "possible ice babies?" Whether their wish be to discard these extras like too much foam in one's beer, or sit idly by as the beer goes flat-- degrading naturally, without malice, yes, but with no attempts to assist, maximize, or nurture the realization of its potential?

And what of stem cell research? If these frozen "life potentials" can be utilized in research that could lead to great things which would alleviate human suffering and disability... Well, rather than ignoring such potential as it evaporates and eventually disappears...

She looked at the clock.

It would have to be Taco Bell today.