Dr. Kevorkian and the Miracle of Coffee

Patron Saint of Patience

Patron Saint of Patience

Sometimes you get so close to something you can feel the heat of it.

Like the aroma of coffee warming your nose before the cup ever touches your lips.

I’ve had this health issue thingy for over a year now. So as not to channel my Mama (who expertly lists each and every crick, ache & ooze of her own & those in our extended family, like she’s a hybrid living phonebook/family tree/Ailment Field Guide), I’ll keep it vague. Perhaps you’ve noticed I’m pretty candid at times. (I get that from Mama, for sure.) But, I also have it in me to engage my hush-hush & discretion genes when needed.

Unnamed health issue. Riding on a wave of not-so-good, then okay again. Doctors, meds, co-pays. A specialist. Surgery.

Thursday at midnight, I enter the land of no-food-or-drink-or-you’ll-turn-into-a-pumpkin. Which is to say: NO COFFEE ON THE EARLIEST MORNING IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD WHEN I NEED IT MOST. Java-less Friday dawns. Dread oozes over me as my chauffeur parks the chariot outside the Surgery Center.

Check-in. Consent form signage. Butt naked, then re-styled in surgical couture: graphic muu-muu with this season’s signature slit up the back, a powder-blue cap obviously offering a nod to little Toadstool from Super Mario Brothers, and a pair of grippy-bottom booties—the medical world’s Louboutin.

The second hand of the institutional clock circles like a slow, methodical vulture. The surgeon’s running a half hour late to the fashion show. (And you know what it’s like when you have to wait for things as important as Friday quitting time, to hear back on a full request, to go under the scalpel—agony.) So, decked in my trendy garb, I do what I always do when nervous, happy, pissed, scared, or basically anything other than sad; I joke. My chauffeur plays editorial photographer with his iPhone as I smize & nail risqué poses in my designer clothes. I cause the nurse to chuckle as she enters top-secret jargon into her sci-fi computerator. Nurse #2 (who resembles a young Roseanne Barr) giggles as she inserts the ouchy IV. Anesthesiologist is already jovial (probably hitting a mild sedative), so I surreptitiously prestidigitate, casting a spell to further augment his sunny disposition.

Dr. Sleptthefuckin finally darkens the doorway. Funny bone: amputated.

Questions. Expectations. With nurse #1 carrying my IV bag, my entourage and I own the red carpet (i.e. white linoleum) and sashay to the operating room. Sharp things glisten under the harsh light of the paparazzi flashes. Or maybe that’s just the weapons-grade surgical lighting bouncing off the stark white walls and stainless steel.

I’m horizontal. Action. White-coated bumblebees buzz all around me. I want to close my eyes. So bad. I want to just block it all out. This isn’t fun any more. In that moment, I think, No. Keep your eyes open. Suck it all in, read the visuals like tea leaves, focus on description. Scribble notes in your head so you can fictionalize this experience in a novel someday. 

Electric sensors latch on to my back and chest, cuffs squeeze both legs and one arm, a crab claw clamps down on my finger, sunny-anesthesia-man twists a little plastic knob, my arms get strapped to wings jutting from each side of the table. Dr. Kevorkian palpates the soft skin he’s about to slice wide open. His hands are neither cold nor hot, but they’re definitely not just right. I can barely even feel them.

He grimaces. His unibrow furrows. He pushes with so much force it hurts. He looks at me, mumbles some words that may or may not be proper English.

A complication?

A miracle?

For reasons: the surgery can’t proceed. Not today.

In the recovery room, I cry.

Not because I wanted the surgery, but because I wanted the unknown over and done with. So much build up, months of worrying & wondering, crackling nerves, a coffee-less morning, pokes & pricks, a resolute part of me whispering It will be over soon. Rest well, Lucas. Rest well.

Sometimes you get so close to something you can feel the heat of it. An orchiectomy. A request from a writing contest. A blessed email asking for the full. A surprise phone call and an agent offering your book—you—representation. An editor at a major house whispering yes, blowing the steam over her coffee cup. Just a few more sales to shimmy on to the bestseller list.

Like the way things oh-too-often happen in the writerly world, my health issue and I are back to waiting, to see what comes. It’s a limbo-esque place to exist—fret with hand-wringing, impatience, and the nervous shits. But also: hope. That things are okay for now, and there’s a chance a miracle has happened. That one stage of the waiting may be over. That chauffeurs who take provocative pictures, and nurses who look like Roseanne, will be there supporting you no matter what comes.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, coffee is always there. Even on those most dreaded of java-free mornings, it smiles—warm and comforting—just on the other side of the wait. I’m savoring the heat of it right now. But, Patron Saint of Comedic Coping help me, I’m ready to take a sip.

Inspired by Laundry

I’ve been on the job hunt frontier of late.

Hundreds of want ads, dozens of applications & resumees, a few suit & tie interviews, two offers declined, and one accepted. Four days into the accepted position, I landed an interview for a much better position: more inline with my skill sets, $5 more an hour, benefits, bonuses, some thrilling challenges. A second interview followed. And then a job offer.

So I resigned from Position 1 and migrated to Position 2.

It was a wise move.

But a scary one.

Having been self-employed & out of the corporate world for 3 1/2 years, it has been interesting to climb back into that environment. And, with the pair of recent experiences, I can’t help but compare & contrast them. Basically, they are two completely different animals. One trait that makes them seem like separate species living on distant planets from one another is the initial Training program.

Position 1: Super-structured. Classroom setting. Dedicated company Trainer. Detailed. Pre-planned & laid out syllabus-style. Learning Objectives, Skill Activities, Software Navigation, Knowledge Assessments. Graded tests. A 9-week program with the end goal of preparing me for the nuances of Position 1. Continued on-the-spot support and guidance once on the job.

Then there’s Position 2’s training…

Position 2: Stream-of-consciousness, learn as you go method. One-on-one Mentor (of sorts) passing the torch. Hands-on, dive in, sink or swim, give it a try education. Mentor is mainly performing a massive, mental infodump of years of specific knowledge stored inside his head. Take notes along the way and try to keep up. Actual, complicated tasks being done in real-time as a means of learning. A compressed training program of undetermined length (estimated at 4-6 weeks), after which Mentor’s mantle will be firmly cast upon my shoulders and I will take full, 100% unaided responsibility for Position 2.

The Position 1 training was very systematic and thorough, yet felt quite like I was part of a Cold War propaganda & brainwashing program. On the other hand, the Position 2 training is very haphazard & freeform, yet a better fit for me. Since the end goal isn’t to follow a prescribed program–but to absorb and understand the information–I get to tailor the direction, speed, and depth of the knowledge transmission.

And this will ultimately ensure I know what the hell I’m doing once Mentor shoves me out of the nest and then flies away for good.

Today, my friend Kate posted detail of her weekly laundry rituals.
Until this exact moment, as I’m typing this, I had no idea Kate’s post would influence mine. But, now, I find myself wanting to draw a laundry analogy. [Weird. But thanks for the subliminal push, Kate???]

While self-employed, I wore whatever the heck I wanted. My clothes depended on the tasks for the day.
– Workshop: Junky, paint & stain spattered jeans, a holey flannel, and coffee
– Marketing, Ebay & other computer work: Pajamas and coffee
– Antique show or booth setup: Fancy clothes, highly polished shoes, a genuine smile, and coffee

Now, I dress like a good, conscientious Office Manager should. That means business casual. Ironing. And, of course, coffee.

But, here’s the thing about laundry. Eventually, I will need to have all the tasks of Position 2 ironed, perfectly draped over wooden hangers, and organized by color for easy selection when the time comes. But, for now, I’m in the crumpled up, heaped in strangled piles, starting to sort phase. I’m fishing out the whites from the jumbled midst of the darks. Next, I’ll divide up the fancy clothes from the work clothes and stage them in their respective loads. They’ll go into the washer as a wadded mess, and come out clean. Then folded & put away, or ironed to a crisp, professional state.

In Position 2, a load of whites is in the spin cycle while I’m still sorting the dark dirties. But guess what? There’s no brainwashing going on. No tests are being graded. Instead, my progress is being assessed by my actual ability to complete the required tasks with critical thinking and a true understanding of their interconnectedness.

And I’m nowhere near overwhelmed by the amount of laundry & ironing left to do. I know it will get done. And I’ll look all schnazzy & prepared when fully thrust into my new role.

And did I mention that FREE company-provided coffee flows all day? Yeah, it does. So, obviously, my outfit is complete. I suspect that the haphazard nature of the training is all a ruse. Any company that would provide free coffee for its employees obviously has a firm grasp on what it takes to ensure those employees are well-prepared for their day. Position 1 had a coffee vending machine. Like $1.25 a cup or something. Right…

Regardless of the training or pay rate or any other factor, the IMPORTANCE OF COFFEE POLICY proves I made the right decision.

Now, off to do some real laundry. These damn clothes aren’t going to wash or iron themselves.

INVISIBLE INK: I go into posting mode with a basic concept of what I want to say. But, as the words flow, their destination often changes. They switch back, hurl in another direction, and surprise me with what they have in mind. This post had two other working titles before the current one. “Clunky vs Nimble” and then “Efficient & Cold vs Unwieldy Yet Right”. The concept was going to be more focused on a specific, daunting challenge I have in Position 2. Alas, the words veered from that end. But, look for that rambling in a future post.