Cave Paintings

It was not the lunch break that I intended to  have. I work in  a secure and controlled office. We have to swipe our i.d. badge to enter the room, the use of mobile devices from Kindles to Cell Phones are prohibited and the internet is locked down on all our computers. No, I do not deal with national security issues nor do I perform any specialized scientific experiments. It’s just that we deal with the human resources files for employees of a certain state and that state has been stung enough by the theft of its employees identities in the past that it now takes the protection of those assets very seriously. The result is that we  work in something akin to a bubble and our only knowledge of the outside world is via our intranet connection which only informs us of  deadlines for enrolling in benefits and which manager from our corporate headquarters across the pond just got promoted. This does make our lunch periods as a time when we get reconnected to the world outside our cubicles. I had just sat down to a lovely plate of pasta salad and chicken salad sandwich at a small neighborhood cafe, when the outside world caught up with me. I was not prepared to deal with what the  had been happening  since 9:40 a.m. Nobody was.

It has been nearly 10 hours since that horrific event in Newtown, Connecticut and I am no more prepared to deal with it now than I was the moment the event came into my consciousness. The past day has been an uncontrollable torrent of thoughts, emotions and opinions and every new bit of information that I am exposed to seems only to confuse and baffle me more. I feel the need to some how make some sense of what I am thinking, not out of some sense of egotism that I have some bit of wisdom that I can bestow upon the world but rather I feel the need to try to wrap my brain around this event for the sole protection of my own sanity. We are all like those ancient cave dwellers who, when faced with a hostile world that contained danger in every shadow and death waiting at their threshold, put pigment to cave well in an attempt to explain how they survived. I stand before my empty space of wall with by finger dipped in color and find myself ill equipped to communicate. After all, how do you depict an unfathomable sense of loss.

Newtown, Connecticut lies 1,012 miles from where I now sit at my dining room table and yet it feels like it is right next door. Is it just me or does, when one of these horrible events take place, the distance from your location to the scene of the tragedy seem to in no way insulate you from the feeling that it is in your back yard? I have never been to Connecticut but as the events of the day were relayed to me by various news outlets, I saw in my minds eye every overturned desk and the look of terror in every child’s face. Slowly, I began to realize that the school I was seeing was not the Sandy Hook Elementary of Newtown, CT but rather I was seeing the elementary school that my children once attended and the campuses that they now inhabit. The look of terror was not of some faceless stranger but rather it belonged to  the kids who are part of my life. I think that is why the distance is of no consolation because every parent, every teacher, every older brother and every interested adult knows that despite their insistence in our kids safety when they leave us, we are always on the precipice of danger from some unfeeling and unstoppable mad man. I say this not to strike fear in my own heart although that emotion is one that I have been constantly dealing with since this event took place. Instead, it makes me feel that we all have to find a way to deal with this, to try to understand “the why” and “the how” and to vow for the” never again”.

There is a certain fraternity among those of us who have been blessed to have children. We realize that it is not by  our own merits that we were able to be called mom and dad. There are far more honorable people than myself that, although desperate to have kids of their own, are prevented from having kids through the conspiracies of biology. This feeling among parents that to a small extent we have won a sort of procreation lottery leads us to spend every waking hour trying to keep our kids safe and feeling loved. We skip sleep, give up our last dollar, invite their friends including the ones we don’t like to parties and we change our whole schedules to accommodate their every need in the hope that they will one day understand how much they mean to us. I personally am as committed to my kids as I can humanly be and know that most parents are as well and it is this mutual appreciation of our role in our kids and their friends’ lives that gives us something in common with all other parents. It also makes the loss that other parents experience to be so hard to take. Whether it was due to a tragic auto accident or the slipping away after a long illness, there is no way that a parent can hear of the passing of a child and not feel that gut wrenching, paralyzing fear that someday I may have to feel the same. This feeling was visited twenty-fold upon us yesterday. I heard some parents of very small children hypothesize that younger parents would hurt more at hearing of the Newtown event because their kids are the same age as the victims and they hold a common feeling of the loss of the possible future these kids could have had. I  feel that the sense of loss is just as profound among those of us who have kids that have passed the age of the victims for we know in concrete terms the joy of every day since that age that our kids have given us. I will suggest that all parents feel loss today and we all have deepest sympathies for the nightmare that those parents a thousand miles away are experiencing. For all the events that those parents will never get to share again, I feel saddest about one that seems so trivial, picking up the kids from school.

Every parent has had to perform this feat at least once in their lives. The traffic is hellacious, disorganized and generally it involves sitting in a steaming car for what seems like an eternity waiting for some school official to walkie talkie your kid’s release to your car. When the kids finally finishes saying good bye to every classmate in the school district and opens your car door, it happens. In that moment between the whump of a backpack hitting the back seat and your first question about how their day was, you feel it. In that moment of silence, you know on a subconscious level that they are safe. Those last 8 hours since they left your presence has passed without harm, you relax just a little bit in knowing that once again you can be with them and talk to them and tell them that you love them. The greatest tragedy about that Friday morning at Sandy Hook School is that for twenty sets of parents, that moment is gone forever.

As hard as dealing with my own thoughts about this tragedy have been, the act of trying to understand why it happened and how to make sure this is the last time we have to mourn innocent victims of a senseless crime is nearly impossible. Clearly, we need to address the culture we live in. The pandemic of mental illness and its striking at the heart of our youth has to be addressed. We need to remove the stigma of talking about mental illness like it is some family secret and deal with the reality of what it is, a diagnosable, treatable medical condition that deserves the same attention as any other medical condition. Where are the colored ribbons? Where are the charity walks? They don’t exist because we continue to believe that it is weakness to talk about how we feel and we spend everyday saying things like ,” I am fine” and “Oh he’s o.k.He just has the blues today”. The common thread among too many of these shooters is that they have had conditions that were not diagnosed and/or undertreated. I know we can’t bring back those who have suffered at the hands of the mentally ill but perhaps if we can start as a society dealing with mental illness in a mature and scientific way then who knows how many lives we can save?

I have to admit that I not exactly feeling calm and pensive this morning. No, the emotions that we all have been feeling lead us to probably think most logically when dealing with this any other tragedy. This is definitely true of myself because the emotion I feel more than sadness is that of anger. This has pissed me off to no end. I am mad at the shooter for taking young lives. I am mad at my politicians who claim that we can’t talk about the root causes of these issues because the timing is inopportune. Most of all I am angry at the American culture that bemoans this tragedy but refuses to honestly address it and in just a few days will add it to the  laundry list of historical events that we should have learned a lesson from but didn’t. This is not about guns.

This is about boys and guns. I am a hypocrite. I have spent my life teaching my son that violence is not the answer, the lives of others really matter and to turn the other cheek. I have also allowed him to play video games that  feature firearms and the use of those to kill digital representations of human beings. He has a Nerf arsenal of guns and other spongy weapons. I even got him a b.b. gun last Christmas. Now, my son is a peace loving boy. He would never hurt anyone and even when faced with a bully at school, took the intimidation as opposed to striking out in anger. But I am only fooling myself if I don’t realize that the prevalence of guns as entertainment in his life doesn’t cause him at least some sense of moral confusion. Now I have to do my job as a parent and find a way to temper those confusions with guidance. I am not going to make some empty promise of him never playing anything violent  again because I do believe some of it serves as an outlet for the aggression that otherwise would be internalized to himself or unleashed on others. What I am going to do is explain to him the difference between the fantasy and reality of violence. I am going to stay  in the room  with him when he plays and if I determine that it has become too much, I am going to turn it off. Basically I am going to do the job that parents are supposed to do. Most of all I am going to talk to him about how he should treat other people and the value of all life.

The common thread that runs through every mass shooting is the same, some male and a gun. The preponderance of young males with firearms has reached epidemic proportions and its not just a mass shooting at a school that should make us realize it. Just in my medium sized city this week we have had at least one gun incident every day and whether this is a shooting over a drug deal gone bad or at the hands of a madman in CT, the fact is that this has got to stop.  We have got to stop wringing our hands at the mall shooting at  Clackamas Town center and then forget about the gun violence that goes on every other day in the shadows. How many women must be killed at the hands of their abusive husbands?  How many kids must be shot playing with their parents guns? How many teenagers must be shot at gas stations because their music was too loud before we start to honestly address the problem? This is about more than guns. Its about guns in American. Switzerland trails only the U.S. in gun ownership but has a gun crime rate that is so low that its is statistically untraceable. So it has to be about more than guns but that doesn’t mean its about less.

This is not about the Second Amendment. It is also not about the government kicking in doors and confiscating hunting rifles. We need to get to a stage in our politics where we can actually talk about guns in our society in a way that is measured and reasonable. Why must it be all or nothing? Can’t we address the reality of the world we live in, even if it doesn’t jive with whatever catchy little slogan our political allies like to hide behind? I am sorry but guns do kill people. There are bad people in the world and they are going to use whatever means is at their disposal to harm other human beings. We should require that they have to extend a little more effort than walking up to the sporting goods counter at Wal-mart. I understand there is a role for guns in society but we have to realize that the proliferation of guns has less to do with constitutional rights and more to do with the profitability of gun companies. Glock’s profit margins are 68% per firearm, not a bad margin. I am not saying that gun companies should be run out of town on a rail, but that we have to be honest about some of the factors that encourage gun ownership by many who frankly are not the most responsible. We also have to eliminate both sides of the extremes. A gunless culture would not guarantee a world without violence and neither would a society where every citizen is packing heat. We have to find some reasonable middle ground between Nazi Germany’s example and that of Dodge City.

The ultimate solution would be a society that values all human life and would pass those values along to its children. Since we seem to be far from accomplishing that perhaps we should limit, not outlaw, some of the weapons that make the taking of that life so efficient. This is the point where usually the N.R.A point of view will be expressed that it is only the armed general population that keeps our country from being run by tyrants. I find it odd that an organization that puts such stock in the Second Amendment simultaneously puts such little belief in the remainder of our Constitution and its provisions that are in place to prevent such tyranny. There are two problems with this view of guns as the only way to keep the oligarchs from marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. The first is that even if this argument had merit it is vacated by the fact that the majority of its advocates seem to be more obsessed with whether two homosexuals can get married and the religion of our current president than they do with making our nation a better place. The second is just basic military theory. Do you really think that a military that possesses nuclear submarines and F-22 fighters is really deterred by a collection of hunting rifles? The true fact is that true, reasonable and consistently applied gun laws may not cure all ills but it may just help save a few lives and isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Well, it appears my space on the cave wall is nearly full and although the thoughts I express are only my own, they have allowed me to start to get a handle on the events of a Friday I am not soon to forget.  My hope is for healing to those affected by this event…. and those affected are all of us.


Resume for your consideration

 You have to keep your options open. Although I have a stable job with a multinational corporation, I continue to peruse the job market in my quest to find an even better position than the one I currently hold. The problem is that as soon as soon as I see an employment listing, the position is filled before I have a chance to apply for it. I guess it’s true that the greatest ingredient to success is timing. It seems that there has to be a way to get ahead of the job search system. I have an idea. I think the answer is to apply for a job before the general public ever knows that it is available. There are two ways to do this.

The first, and far more morbid, way is to just cruise the obituaries with the thought that every name that is listed is one more job opportunity. However, there are a few problems with that system. First of all, for some unknown reason, the numbers of elderly people who are now deceased are greater than those of any other demographic group and the elderly tend not to have the most covetous jobs. Even worse, most of them don’t even work. Oh yes, they have some great excuses like, ”I am 90” and “I just retired six months ago after working double shifts for 53 years in a coal mine”, but to me it just sounds like they are being lazy. The worst of it is that those employed at all  work only as greeters at Wal-Mart. I am sorry but having to sling shopping carts at the dazzling human specimens that frequent Wal-Mart does not sound very appealing. An addition flaw in trying to follow the Grim Reaper into a career change is that showing up at funerals and asking the surviving family members if the deceased had a good dental plan or got holidays off leads to more confrontations than I feel comfortable with.

The other means of obtaining employment in a position that you desire is to find a job that, although currently occupied, would be a perfect fit for you. All that remains is to make the case as to why you would be the ideal person to do the job better than it is being done.  I have been looking at the various occupations around and think that I found the one that I want. The job requires a limited work schedule, a lot of fringe benefits and best of all, the current job holder has been there so long that he is not doing the job as well as someone new would. That is why I am submitting my application of the position of…….Santa Claus.

First, let’s look at why I am a natural fit to fill the position:

SCHEDULE. Let’s face the facts. Santa actually only really works one day per year. If you ask any of my former managers, they will assure you that only working one day per year is something I am accustomed to.

CHILDREN. Similar to the soon to be ex-Mr. Claus, I tolerate other people’s children once every 365 days as well.

SLEIGH DRIVING. I have been involved in the transportation of various goods throughout my professional career. And if I can maneuver a 25 foot beverage truck with bad brakes through the cobblestone streets of downtown Saint Augustine while drinking a coffee and talking on the cell phone, then landing a sleigh on a roof is really no big deal.

TOYS.  The only other adult on the planet that knows more about toys than me is Josh Baskin ( for the uninformed that was the name of the Tom Hanks character in “Big”). Proof of this is that I am the only person over the age of 10 that still includes a new Hess truck on his Christmas wish list every year.

ELF MANAGEMENT. This should be the one area where my experience should be lacking but unfortunately everyplace I have ever worked at has been run by small petty people so working with actual elves would not be a new experience.

DIET. Cookies, hot chocolate, candy, candy canes, these are the items that Santa is said to consume. Or as I call them…..lunch.

It is not enough to just show that I could do the job as well as it is being done, I need to show how I can do it better. The truth is that with no real competition, the current Santa Claus has become complacent so it’s time to bring some innovation to the North Pole. Guess who has two thumbs and some ways to jazz up Christmas? THIS GUY!!

We need to begin with the basics. I love the nostalgia of the whole reindeer pulled sleigh idea but in this day and age some changes need to be made. A sleigh? In light of the reality of global warming having a vehicle only is useful for transportation across snow seems silly. I have an invention that we should introduce, it’s called the wheel. Actually I am in contract negotiations with the Volkswagen Corporation on designing a new sleigh. First of all, no one designs autos like the Germans and secondly I love the idea of the Christmas Eve trip involving an intercontinental game of Punch Buggy.

I like the idea of using unpaid slave labor to make the toys and will continue to use elves with a few alterations. Say goodbye to the miniature toy makers with the bells on their pointed toed shoes. I am replacing them with the elves from The Lord of The Rings. I would love to see a kid complain about a toy that was made by a race of Immortals with deadly accurate archery skills. Sorry little Johnny that you don’t like the fire truck you just unwrapped. Why don’t you go tell Legolas why it is not good enough, as soon as he is done killing that cave troll with his bare hands.

The suit needs some work as well. Bright red with fur-lined collar? What are we trying to do, give the P.E.T.A. people a heart attack? I say we go with some jeans and a hoodie in soft muted tones. I just think it is unsafe to wear any bright colors in any state that has a Stand Your Ground law on the books.

We need to talk about what the Santa gig is really all about, namely toys. This is the area where the current Santa is really slacking. His obsession with safety has meant the too many toys have been eliminated from the inventory. Has anybody seen the toys now available? They are about as exciting as a mayonnaise sandwich on white bread. It has gotten so bad that we now have board games based on iPhone apps that were based on board games. Somebody stop this ride, I want to get off. The obsession with safety has means all the toys are now nontoxic and non- fun. I think it’s time to bring back some good old-fashioned danger into Christmas morning. I am going to bring back every lead paint based, phosphorus leaking, and sharp edged toy that I can. People can boo hoo all they want about unsafe toys, I know that if it wasn’t for b.b. guns and micro machines poor little Kevin McAlister would never have been able to fend off the Wet Bandits. There is also the issue with creating lasting holiday memories. Sure, a kid may let the morning that he received a Nerf ball fade from his recollection but nobody forgets the trip to the E.R. that was a result of the ride in the go-cart with no seat belt. Like the saying goes,” Photos are fleeting but x-rays are forever.”

The other part of the job that I am uniquely qualified for is the process of designating a kid as naughty or nice. This is the job I was born to do. I spend the majority of my waking hours observing the actions of others and making arbitrary judgment based on what I see so determining the classification of whether some snotty nosed brat as naughty or nice is just too easy. I understand that just making these judgments based on nothing more than my own internal premonitions about a kid is probably somewhat unfair so I will have to codify a few ways to avoid the naughty list. Come to think of it, I can’t believe that we are still using the designation of naughty and nice to describe behaviors in 2012. Clearly we need to come up with new labels to identify positive and negative behavior.  I am going to now refer to the two lists as “Awesome” a.k.a. the nice list and “Sucks” will be the naughty list. It is rather simple to be on the Awesome list. A child and/or adult should treat people well, take care of their responsibilities, look out for your fellow man…. yada yada yada.

Appearance on the Sucks list requires me to lay out a few rules. Committing any of the following offenses will result in immediate inclusion on the Sucks list and let me just add that I hope you like coal.


  • ·         Saying “axe” when you mean “asked”
  • ·         Writing “a lot” as one word.
  • ·         Farting in an elevator.
  • ·         Not agreeing that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie.
  • ·         Using off brand Band Aids
  • ·         Having to appear on Maury more than once to find out who your Baby Daddy is.
  • ·         Not liking baseball/football
  • ·         Liking soccer
  • ·         Referring to a tomato as a fruit.
  • ·         Not using turn signals in a car
  • ·         Using hand signals on a moped.
  • ·         Riding a Vespa
  • ·         Turning your mobile phone’s speaker on in a grocery store.
  • ·         Posting intimate details about your life on Facebook and then publicly lamenting that you wish people would” just leave you alone”
  • ·         Asking everyone you meet to read your blog.
  • ·         Reading this blog
  • ·         Not knowing “who lives in a pineapple under the sea”
  • ·         Letting your kids watch Family Guy/American Dad/the WNBA/ the news.
  • ·         Complaining about the weather
  • ·         Blaming it on the a-a-a-lcohol.



So I guess that is how I will submit my application for Santa Claus. References available upon request.




Last minute gift ideas

Dear Santa,

I know, I know. It has been quite a while since I have written to you but I have been quite busy lately. I understand that you are not used to receiving letters from those of us who are over legal voting/drinking age but since I didn’t really have any kind of relationship with you until I was seventeen years old then I kind of figured that I had some unused years of eligibility left. Also, I presumed that since you are a magical elf that can manipulate the relationship of time and space that you could bend the rules for me and accept this letter. I was just going to deliver this in person to one of your duly appointed representatives at the mall but apparently they haven’t lifted that restraining order yet. However in my defense, I had just figured that if a five year old is going to run his mouth like that then he really out to be able to take a punch. I am just glad that the Taser marks have finally healed.

Well if you made it this far in the letter then I guess I should really get to the point. I would love to tell you how good I have been this year but I recall something about “he sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake” so I won’t waste your time with lies and deception. The truth is that although I have tried to be good, I have been fairly naughty this year. I have acted selfishly. I have gotten angry at the people I love. On occasions, I have drank too much and listened too little. I have not been patient with the faults of others nor those of myself. Most of all, I just haven’t made the positive difference in the world that I believe it is every human being’s obligation to make. There have been moments when I have been good but these just haven’t occurred frequently enough this year. Due to the fact that I find myself on the provisionally naughty list this year, I will not ask for the tangible gifts that I normally would request. I won’t ask for videogames. I won’t ask for some new great kitchen tool that would make me feel like a real cook. I won’t ask for the new Hess truck to add to my collection or a new Star Wars t-shirt, although I don’t think you can ever have too many. Even if I did ask for some physical gift I doubt you could find our house in order to deliver it. The tree is not yet up and the lights are not strung along the roofline. There is no inflatable snowman in the front yard and there is no lighted replica of you on the front porch. I would like to blame our tardiness in decoration on my recent illness or the financial struggles that our family, and many other families too, are experiencing.

But I must be honest, there is something more than that and that is why I need your help. So Santa, the only thing I need from you is ………………….Christmas. No, I don’t mean the actual date of December 25. The passage of time means that day will come and go as it always has. I also don’t mean the version of Christmas that is marketed and packaged as nothing more than an excuse for out-of-control consumerism so that what was once a holy day of celebration is nothing more than an excuse to buy more useless junk. No, the Christmas I am referring to is about something that that can’t be wrapped in a box nor stuffed in an envelope. In the words of Dr. Seuss, it is about “a little bit more”. This is the Christmas I need you to bring.

I want the Christmas that feels like a warm blanket at the end of a cold day.

I want the Christmas that I had the first year I was married as we sat in front of our scrawny tree and shared gifts that were the first ones we had ever had together.

I want the Christmas when my daughter was one and the time when she was mesmerized by the lights and ornaments on the tree not the presents beneath it.

I want the Christmas when my son got his first baseball. It was simple and he had no idea how much joy watching him play has given me.

I want the Christmas of family. I want the day where we get together and instead of convincing our selves why we are better than these other individuals, we share the love that keeps us together.

I want the Christmas of peace and reconciliation. I have seen to many families fall apart this year and I wish them the kindness of heart to put their differences aside and find a way to be kind and respectful to each other.

I want a Christmas of action. Please bring me a time when we can stop feeling bad about those suffering around us and start doing the things that are needed to make their lives better.

I want a Christmas of priorities. Each day we lose a little of the relationships we have with friends and families because we let the distractions of life steal the attention we should pay to the ones who matter to us.

I want the Christmas of love. I want Jews and Muslims, Christians and Hindus, Devout religious fanatics and skeptical atheists to treat each other like the god they believe in, or don’t, wants them to.

Finally, I want a Merry Christmas. Not an empty platitude to mumble as you go about your day, but rather a true feeling of happiness that is based on the lives we have and not the things we own.

So dear Santa, please bring me the Christmas I need….because I know I am not the only one.

Touch me I’m sick

“I am trying to be ill.”- Rik, The People’s Poet


I was born with strong bones and a healthy heart. Being born as nine pound plus baby, I can honestly say that I was never weak, nor malnourished. And based on the rapidly growing pile of jeans in my closet that no longer fit and my rapidly diminishing view of my toes, I can say that this situation has continued to be the case. I am grateful that I was born with such a sturdy body. I thank the Lord that he gave me many gifts. He gave me an excellent sense of hearing, strong bones that have never been broken, a remarkably handsome face and awesome muscle tone. He also gave me the ability to completely delude myself as regards my face and physique. It is sometimes a burden to have been born so blessed. However, in an effort to even out the score and ultimately prevent me from ruling the word, the Good Lord is his infinite wisdom decided to give me one pair of organs that frankly just don’t work that good. No, not that pair of organs, you pervert. Based on the two young people that resemble me and spend a good portion of the time calling me Dad, while asking for me to give them money, I would say those organs work just fine thank you very much.

No, the organs I am referring to are ones that have a far more important job and are about as effective as the Jaguars offense, my lungs. I hate my lungs because frankly they work about as hard as a government employee on a Friday afternoon. There was a time when my lungs weren’t consistently letting me down but apparently the factory warrantee on those bad boys expired after 18 months. For those of you who have never known the joy of taking a deep breath and feeling like you are inhaling through a wet sponge, let me enlighten you in on the joys you have missed.

  • ·         You have missed the joys of being up at three in the morning because you can’t breathe and you and your occasionally nodding off mother get to enjoy some late night TV. However, if you think that late night television is bad now with your 300 channels and your 54” HDTV then imagine what it was like back in the early 80s when there was only 3 channels on…during primetime.
  • ·         You missed the joy of being accused of being a smartass by every teacher because you made the critical mistake a taking your usual desperate gasp for air at the same moment that your teacher mentioned her age and/or weight.
  • ·         You missed knowing more about how to conduct a chest x-ray than the Technicians that spend 24 credit hours learning to do it at community college.
  • ·         You also missed the secrets of children’s medicine: If it tastes good, it doesn’t work. If it tastes bad, it still won’t work. And if it tastes really, really bad then it won’t work but the doctor will recommend that you drink a bottle every fifteen minutes.

I don’t want to pretend that I was sick throughout my entire childhood; there were some considerable periods of time when I was completely healthy. The fact was that as long as I didn’t get a cold, I was fine. However, as soon as I felt the first twinges of a sore throat, I was like a man leaping from an airplane without a parachute. Oh sure things were okay right now but the reality is that conditions were only going to get worse. My mom did do her best to make my periods of sickness as tolerable as possible. When the times came when my coughs got really bad she would occasionally deviate from the doctor prescribed medicines and go with some home remedies and they were so great. My favorite was a combination of warm honey and whiskey. I am not sure if it helped my cough, but it sure made the cartoons I was watching far more entertaining. The only problem with home remedies is that once you tell someone that you are open to using them then suddenly everyone that you know is an amateur physician and has their own little known medical secret that will make you well. There is also a simultaneous contest to see whose home remedy can be the weirdest. My rural south Georgian (the state where sanity is on permanent holiday) grandmother always won the title hands down.  My personal favorite recommendation from her was ,in response to my case of pneumonia( another benefit of being sick as a kid is the ability to spell “pneumonia” without using spell-check) , that my Mom render up a large amount of possum fat and the bathe me in it and follow that with wrapping me up in newspaper. Wow, just like it said in the New England Journal of Medicine. I hope this explains my dual hatred of both the opossum and the printed newspaper. The only thing worse than people offering up home remedies, is when they recommend their own doctors. Once again, I truly appreciate that there are people in the world that care enough about me and my health to offer free advice but sometimes it still sounds weird. The conversation is always the same,” Oh, you have a bad case of __________. Well my doctor, DR. ____________ can cure that right up. Just make sure you tell him that I sent you.”

Now, this although noble, is just plain odd. It’s not like there is a vast difference in doctors in this day and age. I mean I always presumed that there were professional guidelines that all doctors have to meet. I don’t think I have ever seen a lottery scratch off ticket that says,” Match the number to your lucky number and win a medical practice.” So since they are pretty much equal I don’t think shopping around would do my health much good. Secondly, your relationship with your doctor is like your relationship with your preacher: First of all, once you have started the relationship you are too committed to leave and secondly you won’t know if you made the wrong choice until after you are dead. But, the truly odd part of the doctor recommendation is the “mention my name” part. What are you working for commission? Did your doctor promise to knock 25% off that kidney transplant if you brought him 15 new patients?  That’s not medical referral, that’s a pyramid scheme.  And just once I want to hear a doctor say, “Oh, you know Steve? Well in that case I am going to give you the “real” medicine because I have been giving everybody else Flintstones Chewables.”

Now while I do have much respect for anyone that would rack the kind of student loan debt that is necessary to become a doctor lately, I must admit that the general level of medicinal professionalism has started to suffer lately. It’s not the doctors’ fault, with growing malpractice insurance premiums, prescription drug abuse on the rise and the fact that every numbskull with an internet connection thinks they can do the job of diagnosing their ailments better than you can. It’s no wonder that the number of doctors is on the decrease. Although there are many fine doctors still practicing medicine, there are a few charlatans operating in the medical field. Have you fallen prey to one of these bad doctors? Here are a few tips to know for sure:

  • ·         Your doctor’s office is an El Camino with no wheels that’s parked in the alley behind the pawn shop.
  • ·         Check out the health of the fish in the waiting room aquarium. If he can’t keep a 93 cent goldfish from Wal-mart alive, then odds are against him curing a human being. A note to you non-aquarium keepers: Fish don’t sleep belly up.
  • ·         The Time magazine in the waiting room refers to the 1880s as   ”The Future”.
  • ·         The receptionist desk consists of just a series of pallets stacked on top of each other.
  • ·         When the nurse calls you to come on back, she adds,  ”if you dare”.
  • ·         The door stop in the hallway is a cooler that reads,   ”Live Human Organs”.
  • ·         The floor in the treatment room has a chalk body outline on it.
  • ·         The back of the doctor’s lab coat has Jiffy Lube on it.
  • ·         When you hand the doctor a vial of your blood, he asks “what’s that red stuff”.
  • ·         The x-ray machine is just an Etch-a-Sketch bolted to the wall.
  • ·         The doctor keeps referring to when he took his Hippopotamus Oath.
  • ·         The office gives you the option of paying with livestock.

Even if you have the good fortune to have selected a quality medical care provider, you will learn as I have that as bad as being sick as a kid was, being sick as an adult is even worse. When you were sick as a kid, Mom always gave me the best care. She let me keep my room a little messier than usual. She made me grilled cheese sandwiches and I got to drink root beer from a straw in my room, activities which were verboten when I was healthy.  She would bring me extra pillows if I wanted and was always trying to do the little things that made me feel better. To a kid suffering from pneumonia, these little things made all the difference in the world. Best of all, eventually I would fall asleep, and while a neighbor came over to watch me,  she would go to the store. It never failed that when I awoke there would be a new toy sitting on the pillow next to me. It may have been only a Matchbox Car, but that little gesture made all the difference to me. These memories made such an impact on me that I adopted my own  ”if you are sick you get a present” policy at my house. The kids love this so much that when we go visit a friend in the hospital I have to make sure they are not licking the doorknobs just to get something new. So as bad as I may have felt as a kid, the love that I received made it not seem so bad.

However, I know that being sick as an adult just plain sucks. There is no chance to stay home if you are sick, not in this economy. No one makes you grilled cheese. You just get to feel bad and yet still have to do all the things that you do when you are feeling well. No one brings you root beer with a straw in it and I haven’t seen a toy car on my bed yet. You also get to worry about how you are going to be able to get better before the deductible on your insurance resets and you have to shell out your Christmas money just to keep well enough to stay out of the hospital. It is sickening and depressing. I always make it worse for not letting anyone do things for me because I feel guilty for being sick. It all seems like just too much to handle. It was in the middle of my current bout with Bronchitis and self doubt that I fell asleep last night. Late in the night, I felt my wife put her hand on my back and checked the rattling in my lungs. It was just a little gesture but it made me happy that she cares enough about me to check on how I was doing, even late at night. It made all the difference in the world……………but I still would like some root beer.