Open wide…

Life is full of ironies. When I was a young careerist just starting out you, I barely had two hours of vacation time to rub together. What I did have were almost limitless invitations to go places, do things, and generally raise hell while I was young and stupid. Since I never seemed to have the vacation time, I took a pass on most of those opportunities and hoped against hope that I wouldn’t get sick and need to burn off any of my limited reserve of days off.

Now, after a a decade or so of experience, I’m sitting on a pretty respectable war chest of paid time off. What I seem to be lacking are the invitations to raise hell and be stupid. While that’s probably for the best, there’s something disheartening about taking the vast majority of days off over the course of the year to do things like having bloodwork done and going to the dentist. I’m sure this is not how 25-year-old-Jeff planned to spend his days off when he was 35, but there you have it.

Sure, it’s a four day weekend, but I’ll be spending a big part of the first day with my mouth hanging wide open letting complete strangers poke, prod, drill, and fill. If I can manage not to spend the afternoon drooling all over myself, I’ll consider it a victory.

What I Did on My Furlough Day (Part 3 of 11)

Someone furloughed shouldn’t be working as hard as I am. I got up at 6:30 this morning (Hush, that is sleeping in for people who normally wake up around 5:00), drank a pot of coffee, emailed my usual anti-furlough rant to the members of the Maryland Congressional delegation. I thought about calling them out on Facebook and Twitter, but thought better of it since I was on a schedule. I was on a schedule because I had my six month check up with the ol’ sawbones this morning. Ironically, I picked this doctor at least in part because his practice is not far from the office so it would be easy to slip out and back for appointments. Being Furlough Friday, of course, I believe I have discovered a flaw in what was an otherwise logical arrangement. And, please, don’t get me started on their rescheduling the appointment from yesterday to today with about 18 hours notice.

I could turn this into a long story, but I won’t. As usual the doc is annoyed that my blood pressure is good, blood sugar is well within tolerance, and the acid reflux has been gone now for well over a year without meds. They pulled blood in the hopes of finding something wrong, but I have no reason to expect it will come back as anything but “normal” as it always has in the past. So it was a typical visit – lose weight, less meat, nothing over 10g of sugar.

OK, look, doc. At some point we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about not just health, but also quality of life. Maybe if I eat nothing but tofu, almond milk, and salad with no dressing for the rest of my days I’ll live to be 106… but I’m not sure 71 years without steak, pizza, craft beer, or blue cheese dressing is a world I wish to inhabit. Sure, I’d be alive, but I’m not sure I’d really be living.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Lip syncing. If I were to make an eight hour recording of me sitting at the keyboard banging away at what I’m sure is some very important memo or PowerPoint briefing, and then push the play button on that recording every morning when I sat down at my desk and claim that I’m working, it’s fair to say that my boss would call me an idiot and tell me to get back to work. My argument that the performance was recorded “live to tape” probably wouldn’t be sufficient to convince him that a recording was a good enough substitute to actually doing the work live and in person. Not being a professional audio engineer, I don’t know whether Beyonce performed live, live to tape, or whatever. I’m not sure I really care all that much, but it strikes me that if your occupation is “singer,” it’s probably a good idea to show up and, you know, actually sing.

2. Dress codes. On days when the temperature falls below, say, 20 degrees, I think office dress code requirements should automatically be relaxed to allow for jeans, boots of sufficient size to account for wool socks, flannel shirts, and possibly hats with ear flaps. I don’t exactly know who came up with the idea that a shirt and tie equate to professional conduct, but I think it’s safe to say that can get just as many memos written while wearing Levis and Doc Martens as I can while wearing slacks and wingtips. I’ve managed to slowly ease out of wearing a tie, but sadly, my struggle for greater clothing equality against oppressive government rules continues unabated.

3. Medical science. I’ve got my next regular check up with my favorite should-have-been-a-Prussian-Field-Marshal general practitioner tomorrow. This will be the first of two visits this year where he tells me to exercise more, eat less, stop having fun, and that way maybe I’ll live a long and boring life. That’s fine. It’s his job and he seems to be good at it. Hopkins tends not to hire people that aren’t good at it, which is one of the reasons I’m willing to drive so far out of my way for a basic checkup. Still, what I really need him, and the broader medical community to do is come up with a pill or procedure that fixes whatever damage I manage to inflict on my body without needing to change my lifestyle and habits in any meaningful way. God knows I don’t have a death wish, but I’m not sure a world without perfectly grilled steak, penne pasta with vodka sauce, and the humble potato in its many pleasing forms is worth living in… and let’s not even get started on how many more productive and entertaining things I could do if it weren’t for spending time on a bike to nowhere every evening. Science just needs to get off its hump and come up with a way to keep us from getting dead with a minimal amount of effort from the patient.

Sitting quietly…

Today I’m learning a hard lesson in sitting quietly. As good as you think I’d be at it, truth is I’m not good at it at all. In fact after about 12 hours of it, I’m pretty much at a loss for what else one can do when sitting around is pretty much the only thing to do. So far I read, wrote, read some more, did some editing, drank a pot of coffee, talked to the dogs, watched the Republican convention and hurricane coverage on television, yelled at the television, read through major newspaper websites from two continents, heated a bowl of soup, and the plopped back down in my chair so I could put my foot up. This is not the life of leisure I dreamed of.

I suppose the good news is that I didn’t break the damned ankle when it twisted. The bad news, according to the shopping center doctor I saw last night, is that I “sprained the hell out of it.” Im pretty sure that’s some kind of complicated medical term for this is going to hurt like a mother for the next couple of days. I like to think that it’ll be settled down enough tomorrow to do something more than sit here twiddling my thumbs, but if my last gimping trip to the kitchen for more water is any indication, I’m not overly optimistic. I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it, I guess. In the meantime, if anyone needs me, I’ll be sitting here quietly. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, there’s a good chance I’ll have beaten myself unconscious will my laptop just to have something different to do.


Medical science isn’t likely to find a bigger cheerleader than me… most of the time. When the chips are down, I can almost always count on them to come up with some chemical concoction the in some way improves my quality of life. Except this week, of course. I’m not in any way disputing the official medical diagnosis of “it looks like you have some fluid behind your eardrum,” but I am, however, disputing the “keep doing what you’re doing and give it another week” advice. It’s not like I’m in there asking for uppers, downers, or even leeches. All I’m asking for is something better than the standard little red pill that I’ve been taking every time I get sick since I was a kid. After two weeks, I don’t think asking for something with a little more horsepower is an unreasonable kind of thing.

Medical science? Meh. Quackery. You failed me. Next time, I’ll just got to Walgreens, buy them out of NyQuil, and sleep til I’m better.

A little unwell…

Some people go to work when their sick to prove some kind of warped sense of dedication to their employer. I’ve never really been one of those people. Hanging out the office, sneezing, wheezing, hacking, and generally spreading my ick all over the place never seemed like a particularly good idea to me. It almost feels downright irresponsible when you think about how many other people you could end up sharing your joy with in the course of a couple of hours. Under most normal circumstances I try not to be that guy, but it was unavoidable today. Even I feel a little guilty about pulling the sick leave card after being off for a week and a half. Since what I’ve got is probably not catching at this point, the better part of valor seemed to be in sucking it up and getting on with work.

My coworkers, however, were not particularly charmed by my nose-blowing, loogie hocking, and insipid mouth breathing. “Ummm… Do you think you should be here?” was more or less the question of the day. I’m pretty sure that translates into “get the hell outta here before you contaminate the whole place.” I appreciate their concern. Really. Believe me when I say if I weren’t just coming off a week’s vacation and my doctor weren’t closer to the office than to the house, I wouldn’t be here at all today. Those two factors conspire to make it worthwhile being miserable here at work for a few hours on the off chance that I can get in and see someone for some meds that might make some of this congestion go away.

As it turns out, ironically, my doctor was home sick today (like I should have been) and I got the pleasure of seeing his temporary replacement… Who appeared to be a high school sophomore wearing his father’s lab coat. Junior had a particularly difficult time understanding that the usual over the counter decongestants aren’t really putting a dent into whatever surly cold bug has taken up residence in my head. I really wasn’t asking for a cure for the common cold, just something to dry things up a bit. Apparently no such thing exists… Which means I’m left to my own devices in combining different colors until I strike on something that does the trick.

Can’t stay away…

After what seems like an excessive amount of scanning, poking, prodding, and stressing, my faith in the marvel that is modern medical science, is somewhat less than complete. The good news is that there are no obvious signs of things that could cause me to suddenly drop dead. The bad news is that whatever it is that’s causing my head to occasionally explode remains as a diagnosis of “uhhh… we’re not really sure, but here’s some heavy duty pain meds to take in case it comes back.” Now I’m as big a believer in better living through chemistry as anyone around, I think It’d still rather know what it is than what it isn’t. Since that outcome is apparently a bridge too far, I’ll follow my other tried and true solution and try ignoring the problem until it goes away on its own.

… And now back to your regularly scheduled blogging hiatus.

Wrong again…

Every time I get the brilliant idea to take a brief respite from writing, something happens that nudges me back here. Some of that is just my nature as an e-attention whore and the rest is that writing things down tends to help my give my thoughts a little bit of structure. So instead of a Christmas hiatus, here we are again.

Since I’m now working on day three of this headache, I think it’s fair to finally have to start giving it some serious consideration. The good news is that the initial period of feeling like someone shattered the back of my skull with a baseball bat is over. The bad news is that the searing pain has given way to an apparently semi-permanent dull ache running from behind my left eye around my head and down my neck. Loading up on aspirin dulls it a bit and the doc was nice enough to give me a prescription for Oxy to use if the worst of it comes back. Still, though that doesn’t tell me much about where it came from in the first place. In the absence of actual answers, I’m all in favor of better living through chemistry.

Doc seemed happy enough that there was no neurological issues yesterday, but the MRI should give us a read on whether something is lurking around waiting for the opportunity to strike. I suppose aneurysm is a possibility, but then again the MRIs are a great excuse to jack up the bill too so every one wins. Except the guy who didn’t realize he was claustrophobic until they jammed him into the machine. The brain is a marvelous thing… My abject fear of dropping dead from a blood vesel exploding in my head apparently overrides my newly discovered abject fear of confined spaces. Even fear is a matter of priorities, I guess.

So until I hear otherwise this morning, I’ll be sitting here with my OCD running through all the possibilities that Google can come up with. If I come at it logically I know if there were any critical issues, they’d have me strapped hospital bed right now. Being a pessimist, though, my tendency to plan for the worst isn’t particularly helpful this morning. Getting my answers on someone else’s schedule just isn’t working for me.

Things I like (today)…

1. My doctor’s office. They send prescriptions directly to the pharmacy so all I have to do is get in line and pay. Less waiting makes me happy.

2. Fisherman’s Friend. Best throat lozenge ever. It tastes like a cross between licorice, a menthol cigarette, and poop, but works better than anything I’ve ever tried at soothing a scratchy throat.

3. Health insurance. $20 co-pay for the visit and $20 co-pay for giant antibiotic pills. Plus $2 in gas. Starting to feel less like a warm steaming pile cost $42 out of pocket.

4. WaWa. Your $6 salad is big enough that I actually feel like I ate something at lunch time. Plus you give me a hardboiled egg. That’s a classy touch for a gas station.

5. Meeting a suspense with time to spare and without being badgered to make a million minor changes at the last minute. That’s called productivity right there. Get some.


My throat is ripped, and sadly not in the good way that things get when you spend too much time doing P90X. Perhaps I should say my throat is shredded. Swallowing is tough. Talking mainly makes me wait to cry, so yeah, if you’re trying to reach me on the phone, don’t bother, because there’s no way in hell I’m willingly putting myself through the torture of trying to have a conversation. We’re on day two of this little treat and unless something changes in short order, working tomorrow could be out of the question… which is kind of unfortunate because almost everyone else is out of the office attending a boondoggle…er… I mean “conference”, in Tampa. Maybe I’ll go in anyway. It should at least be quiet and it’s only a 10 minute drive to the doctor’s office from there. My treatment plan of honey tea, ibuprofen, and salt water gargle doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, so day three seems like a reasonable time to seek professional guidance. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not sure I can deal with too many more nights of waking up two or three times needing to gargle and pop another handfull of pills. The up side is I think I’ve now actually seen four or five episodes of Brooke Knows Best. That’s always fun.

Other than the whole throat being torn apart thing and not getting quite enough sleep the last two nights, I don’t actually feel bad. Thank the gods for small mercies, I suppose. It’s safe to say that I’ll be pulling up an e-book and a comfortable spot on the couch and spending most of the day watching trash television. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday.