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Rant #301
(published October 26, 2006)
The Slow Drain
by Heather Siegel
Your visit is over, said Dr. Green. I have to go treat some sick people. He smiled. I winced. And I never went back to see him again. That is not my idea of a sense of humor.

Doctors may be people, too, but they sure are a funny lot. National statistics support that Bones was more popular than Spock or Kirk. I spend a lot of time in doctor's waiting rooms. I may not know a lot about docs but I sure know something about magazines.

Do you know a lot about your doctors' personal lives? They sure know about your insides and yet it is hard to even figure out what their first names are. Not that many mothers could have all named their children with that funny first name. I suspect, though, that if your first name is David, you have a better chance to grow up to be a doctor. Alan and Gregory seem to be good choices, too. I have two doctors named Bradley but I think they are the exception to my rule.

My doctors' lives are a mess. One sits in jail for killing his wife and one lies in his grave because he did not have one. One had his license suspended. One left an extra sponge in a patient. One surgeon advised me to avoid surgery after he had had back surgery himself. These guys and gals lead driven lives. As I anticipate my 25th surgery next week, I am tempted to think about these people in whom I have put my life into their hands—literally and figuratively.

But then again, if I were to count the number of bosses I have had or the number of landladies that I have had over the same 30-year period, I might come up with an equally impressive number of contacts. It seems to me that all my life, people have been telling me what to do. And I have the scars to prove it.

It would be great if I ever could have led an independent life instead of what I perceive to be a slow drain. You know how the water leaves the sink or the tub if there is a slow drain. It sort of sits there taking up space and not going anywhere. Staring at the water does not make it move any faster. You can see the soap scum leaving a wet ring as the mobile mass slowly sinks away, one bubble at a time.

The times I woke in the morning and the times I went to sleep at night were always dictated by my relationship with a boss. When I ate lunch and when I went to the can were all subjects in which I had no say-so. I could shove it in and shovel it out, but I had no control over the contents. And I hated it.

Home offered little solace. On what the bosses paid, I was lucky to afford a 400 square foot studio apartment in a well-run slum. I never had a house of my own but I was able to survive without roommates—male or female. I worked, I showered, I slept, I commuted, and I started the process again. One of my Readers called my stories a diatribe and he is sadly correct. In 30 years of working and living alone, my happiest moments that I can recollect were my afternoon naps.

First, I would take my afternoon walk around 4 pm and go down to the GNC and buy a Dannon Coffee Yogurt. Then, on the subway ride home, I would put my purse between my legs or use it as a pillow. I left late enough to grab a window seat and as the train pulled out of the station, I fell into a deep sleep. I travelled to the end of the line and usually was quick enough to gather up my stuff and stagger off. Once I woke up in a cold, dark, and empty car. The conductor was none too happy when I pulled the emergency cord. I was not planning on sending this car out until the morning, he bellowed at me over the intercom. He made me sit in that eerie situation for 30 minutes, to punish me, before he sent the car back to the station. It was the best time of my life.

And perhaps the saddest. Isolated, alone, and scared, and probably feeling more alive than at any times when the lights were turned on. And speaking of lights, the lights are very bright in the Surgical Suite. It is cold and scary in those places, too. I am surrounded by masked people in their blues and their whites, jabbing me with needles and shaving my private parts. I always said to the guy pushing the gurney: I wish I had more time.

So, when the over-worked janitor won't fix my dishwasher or change my window screen, I really do feel like screaming. I am always locked in these no-win situations where others always have control over me. The best times are in the morning when I do my constitutionals. It is the only time I really feel that I am relieved of the bullshit.

I live and sleep with my paperwork. I remember what my grandfather, Samuel Siegel, may he rest in peace, told me: The older you get, the more paperwork you will have.

I never throw anything out and this habit comes back to bite me on the ass. I have made a personal commitment that at the beginning of the month, when I begin a new reading file, that I will review and dispose of an old one. So, tonight, when I started the new August 2006 folder, I started throwing out the papers in the September 1999 folder. I was utterly amazed at how my life had not changed.

There was a car payment check and a rent check. Sure, the checks were to different banks and to different landlords now but the process was the same. There was a community newsletter from the landlady, copies of income statements, and miscellaneous complaint letters, but they were all the same. I was low income with high expenses then. The credit balances may have shifted but so do the fault lines. How much movement was there really?

There are people all over the world who would crave the normalcy of my lifestyle. Countries ravaged by earthquakes, floods, war, invasion, starvation, amputation, annihilation, and corruption. How can a single woman who has not been beaten to a pulp by a jealous boyfriend complain? How, indeed.

This Saturday, Charlene is coming over to participate in CATS BIRTHDAY. August 5 is the day that I arbitrarily dedicated in memory to all my cats, past and present. We will sing songs and play with the cat toys. I will then guide her through the unit so she knows where the wet and the dry food are located. The kitty litter pan is lined and I have containers of the stuff set up in portion control sizes. If the cats are taken care of, I can enter into this next phase of my life with a calm and clean conscience.

EKGs, blood tests, previous records, medication history, and second and third opinions have eaten up the conscious portions of my life this past week. I feel constrained because I want to move and make changes and all I can think about is how I will be tied down to a hospital bed.

I have warned everybody not to stick tubes up my nose but being a surgical candidate is the ultimate in giving up control over your life.

I was leaving the clinic yesterday and got into the elevator with another couple. She had her arm in a sling and her husband was courteous enough to ask me where I was going. Why, the same place you are going, I said with a straight face. The hotel bar on the Lido deck. It was just a joke but it shook the elevator with laughter. Probably the best medicine for all of us.

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