Sunday, August 26, 2012

Killing the Pain or Tourettes?

I like reading articles about studies that produce statistics. Statistics that don’t mean anything, or how to apply the findings to your own experiences.  When this happens, I am forced to come up with a few of my own worthless findings. I wonder if anyone has made a study of those who are fascinated by studies?

I read an article the other day about the discovery of a natural painkiller. Swearing. Really. Swear words can actually produce an opiate effect. It seems a professor of a prominent UK University discovered that students could plunge their hands in buckets of ice water and keep them there longer if they swore. Turns out it was an average of 31 seconds longer.  He also found that the more his subjects swore in everyday life, the less strong the pain relief effect was for them.

This made me wonder again, how much swearing is too much? What if we are actually allotted a certain amount of swear words when we come into the world? Do different swear words produce more opiates than others? Who keeps track of how many times we utter a profanity? Does the Thalamus keep a tally or are they just recorded in the Akashic records? Are swear words more potent when used around other people or while you are alone?

When I get up in the middle of the night to go to the kitchen and I whack my toe on one of the end tables in the living room, I generally use the same nine curse words delivered through clenched teeth. What if I change the order or add new ones to see if I am happier with the results? What if curse words in different languages are more powerful than English swear words?

More study was needed. I asked my husband to be my subject. He reluctantly agreed. He’s such a good sport. The bucket of ice water didn’t produce enough pain because he is hot blooded so he didn’t feel the need to use an obscenity. He just wiggled his fingers and smiled. Another test perhaps. I tapped him on top of the head with my Cuisinart waffle maker.  He instantly felt the urge to curse. Only one four letter word though. When he came to, I asked him if it helped to swear. He just gave me a snotty look. 

I was only able to perform one more test because he was close to escaping from the duct tape I had wrapped around his ankles and wrists. I had to make this one count and apologized profusely just before I used a Truemark slingshot to shoot his foot. Don’t worry, I didn’t use glass or steel ball bearings, nothing like that. I love my husband. I used an unshelled walnut.  This produced an array of naughty words in English, Spanish, Italian and I think it may have been Farci, but I won’t swear to it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Some People call it Culture. I call it Sore Throat

I went to my doctor last week to be treated for a chronic sore throat. He said he would need a specimen which by the way was obtained by sticking a three foot long Q-tip into my mouth and swiping the back wall of my throat. Yeacck! My gag reflex was in good working order.

Now he would grow a culture and let me know what was found in order to prescribe the proper antibiotic. As I left his office, I imagined a glob of fuzzy throat bacteria growing in a petri dish, dining off some gelatin-like protein substance. Eew.

He called yesterday, and I found that this was not the case at all. He began describing a fascinating abundance of cultural features that had emerged from my test.

The uppermost region of the dish offered everything you might think of for a relaxing and enjoyable vacation. Sunshine, white beaches, clear water and warm climate. Just adjacent to that was a colony that offered cheap handmade articles such as crochet works, knitwear, pottery, wood-carvings and paintings. A little further down were imperial palaces, gardens and temples. A river flowed through it which led to magnificent views of rock formations and forests and into a teeming metropolis with exceptional architecture and pulsating with life. The crowning glory of the dish was a gigantic metropolis chock full of activity, tall buildings and an endless sea of lights.

I was speechless. To think, all this was taking place from a minuscule daub of my phlegm placed in a petrie dish just a few days ago.

“This is miraculous!”, I said. “Who can we report this to? World Magazine? Newsweek? Time? Maybe U.S. News and World Report?”

There was a long silence before he answered. “We can’t report it to anyone.”

“Why not?” I whined. “I’ll bet the Enquirer would pay thousands for a story like this.”

“Well,” he began. “I offered the dish a stimulus package to encourage growth but inflation accelerated above comfort levels. This caused residents to pass laws regarding global food prices and create policies on subsidies and price caps. This in turn contributed to about ten percent of unemployment.”

“What does that mean?” I huffed. “You’re beginning to sound like CNN”.

“I can only do so much”, his voice filled with impatience. “Bailouts and grants were limited and I had to take into consideration the lack of side lanes, paved shoulders and uncontrolled development of roadsides causing low travel speeds, poor level of service and less long-distance traveling. Without transport services, the culture was doomed.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about dish collapse! Financial crisis! Debt! Predatory Lending! Conflict! Collapse of the housing bubble! Famine!  Systemic Crisis! Flood! Destruction!
“What does it all mean?” I was trembling with fear.

“It means I am calling your pharmacy to order you 500mg of Amoxicillin three times a day for ten days. Isn’t it nice to have a doctor with such a great sense of humor?”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Good to the Last Drop

Recently, The Associated Press reported that Australian doctors plugged a vodka drip into a poisoned Italian tourist after running out of medicinal alcohol. Not only is this a bizarre and striking image but, I had no idea that pure alcohol was used to treat any sort of condition aside from a nasty hangover.

The story stuck like Velcro to my mental sweater. It seems the undisclosed 24-year-old Italian, had ingested a large amount of ethylene glycol. Anyone knows that ethylene glycol is a clear, colorless, slightly sweet and syrupy (yum) liquid at room temperature. It can be used to make antifreeze, de-icing solutions, polyester compounds and photographic developing solutions, hydraulic brake fluids and inks used in stamp pads. It can also be turned into a vapor by shaking it briskly. For this, you would need a cocktail shaker.

The story described the treatment to prevent renal failure in detail, but never revealed how the man had ingested the substance. Was he drunk? Ill? Did he fall asleep under a leaky car? Was he suicidal? Blind? Cold? Stupid? Playing a practical joke on himself? What? Without more information it’s difficult to say. So, if only to ease my vexation for not being given the details, I decided to fill in the blanks myself.

Prudenzio, (Latin, meaning cautious) had studied the culture and history of Australia all of his life. He was particularly sympathetic to the Aboriginal people, who had been run off their land in the late 19th century by white Europeans. He had always dreamed of going to Australia to protest their plight. Following five years of working as an au pair for a mafia family in Naples, Prudenzio had finally saved enough money to carry out his vision.

After spending only three weeks among the Aborigines, Prudenzio was found at the bottom of a three-hundred-foot cliff, trapped near the car he had been using. Under multiple layers of gold chains, his naked chest sported hundreds of images of ink-stamped Crocodiles, presumed to make him appear to be more native-like. The polyester pants he was wearing were drenched in photographic developing solution. It seems, he had been side-swiped and the car careened off the edge of a cliff, rolled down several hundred feet to crash through the roof of a 24 hour photo shop.

Authorities learned that despite his many attempts, Prudenzio fell short of being able to perform the authentic dances of the Aborigines and had grown despondent. Traces of antifreeze were found at the corners of his mouth which would explain his erratic driving.

The Brisbane doctor said they quickly used all the available vials of 100 percent alcohol. The next best alternative would be vodka. Prudenzio was hooked up to a nasogastric tube and drip-fed about three standard drinks an hour for three days. The stuffed olives must have been excruciating.

Prudenzio made a successful recovery. The incident occurred several months ago, though the hospital just released the information on the case. I’m sure they wanted to make certain that the rehab treatment would prove to be successful as well.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Revenge of the Unsane

Recently, as I walked out of a well-known restaurant, I realized that I had left my favorite pair of sunglasses on the table. I quickly went back into the restaurant and rushed over to the table where I had been sitting. A busboy wearing a name tag that said, Chico, was clearing the dishes and wiping the table with a damp rag. I asked him in my best Spanish, “ha encontrado un par de gafas de sol sobre la mesa?” He turned, smiled and replied, “No, Ma’am.” 

For some reason, when anyone addresses me as Ma’am, it causes me extreme anxiety. All my joints suddenly ache, I see age spots before my eyes, my short-term memory is compromised, and I experience an intense urge to host a Botox party. Chico and I were off to a bad start.

I looked down and noticed a slight bulge in the pocket of Chico’s busboy jacket. My keen instincts told me that I would have to use a little finesse to win him over enough to give me back the sunglasses. I began using the few Spanish phrases I thought would gain his trust, que passo being one of them. He gave me a quirky expression. I did mistakenly use the word, aguebado for ambia, so instead of close friend, I think I called him an idiot. 

He turned to me, sighed, and in perfect English said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry but I haven’t found any sunglasses today.”  Involuntarily, my voice raised an octave. “I really need those sunglasses, they belong to my husband!” 
“You might want to ask the cashier to check lost and found.”

I stomped off toward the cashier thinking about how there hadn’t been enough time for someone to find and turn in a pair of sunglasses and just how much I detest thieves. The cashier didn’t seem to be any more helpful than Chico. She left me standing at the register as she seated what looked to be twenty members of a networking organization. I looked at my watch and tapped my keys on the counter to signal her that I was in a hurry then turned my attention to Chico. He had just finished clearing a second table and was carrying a tub of dirty dishes to the kitchen. I couldn’t keep from staring at the bulge in his pocket and how disappointed my husband would be when I told him Chico had stolen his sunglasses.

Before the cashier had completely returned to her station, I was already explaining that Chico sent me and she needed to check the items in lost and found.
“Ma’am, no one has turned in any articles today but you are welcome to check.” She brought up a box that was kept under the counter. There were pens, lipsticks, a black address book, a cell phone and a screwdriver.  I raked through the items and shook my head. I looked up and gave her a direct stare.
“What do you know about Chico?”
She frowned. “Excuse me, Ma’am?”
I felt my face flush. “Do you trust him?”
“He’s been working here about six months and we’ve never had a complaint.”
“Well, there’s always a first time. Do you know who his supervisor is?”
“Yes, of course, just a moment, Ma’am.”

My jaw ached from clenching my teeth. If I heard the word, Ma’am on more time, I was going to scream. A short, stocky, middle-aged bald manager appeared at the counter. “Hello, my name is Paul Davis. Can I help you, Ma’am?”
I ground my teeth to quash a scream. “Yes, you can. I believe you may have a toxic employee.”
“Excuse me?”
“Do any of your workers complain of feeling confused, angry, betrayed, anxious, fearful or filled with self-doubt? You may have heard of the book, Toxic People, most managers have.”
“I’m sorry Ma’am, we are not interested in hiring an outside EAP counselor.”
“I’m not selling EAP services. I’m talking about respectful behavior, personal responsibility, integrity and honesty among your workforce.”

Paul hesitated several moments before speaking. “I was told you want to make a complaint about one of our employees.”
“Yes, I do. I believe you have a thief in your midst and his name is Chico.”
“Chico? I don’t believe he would ever steal, he has been employed here for a few months and has earned my complete trust.”
“Maybe you should check his pockets! That is unless you wish to continue being co-dependent and become his benefactor, further allowing him to remain on his path of wrong doing. Erich Fromm, a well-known psychologist said that not just individuals, but whole workplaces, even whole societies may be lacking in sanity. It’s called, consensual validation. It’s a condition that is not exactly insane but not quite sane either. Is that what you want for Chico? Unsanity? Do you really think you are doing him a favor by protecting him? Is this whole world blind to dishonesty?” I spread my arms wide to emphasize my point. “When are we going to wake up and expose the ones who debilitate organizations? What happened to respectful behavior, integrity, honesty, communication and objectivity?” I was nearly panting from emotion.

“Ma’am, maybe if you told me what it is you suspect was stolen, I could help.”
“A very expensive pair of sunglasses, that’s what!”
He stared at me for a long moment. “Are the frames silver-green in color with a leather brow bar?”
“Yes! Did Chico have them on in the kitchen?” I stood on tip-toe trying to see into the kitchen.
“No Ma’am, you have them on your head.”