Random Thoughts From My Random Head

Grouchy people are the worst. They’re responsible for a lot of the suckage in this world and I think they should be quarantined until they can learn to be awesome like the rest of us. We could rope off one of the lesser-used states and just send all the grouchy people there to live. I’m thinking North Dakota, maybe. I mean, are we really using North Dakota? We could rename it Get Over Yourselfville, or Get Off Of My Grasstown, and the grouchy residents could snarl and harrumph at each other to their hearts’ content, leaving the rest of us to the business of making the world a better place.

You know who else should be quarantined? Slow movers. People who amble leisurely across the road while traffic sits at a standstill waiting for them to make the far curb. People who take up the whole grocery aisle or the entire sidewalk and just inch along like glaciers, taking in all of the sights as though they’ve never seen anything as wondrous and all-engrossing as a box of prunes or a dress in a shop window. I’m not talking about the handicapped or the elderly; I have endless patience for them. I’m talking about people with too much time and too little purpose, and the whole aisle for Pete’s sake. Put a nickel in it, Toots. The rest of us have things to do.

Slow drivers are the worst. I tend to think of speed limits as just polite suggestions anyway. I’m not an “enjoy the journey” kind of person. I hate to drive. I want to get in the car and just teleport to where I’m going. Could somebody please make this a thing? On my way home yesterday, while still on base, I got stuck behind an SUV that was creeping along at 5 KM an hour. The speed limit was 40, and this guy was doing 5. Five. What kind of passive-aggressive douchecanoe drives 5 in a 40? What was he afraid of? Tearing a hole in the space-time continuum? Falling off the edge of the planet? I was nearly weeping with frustration by the time I got to a place where I could pass him. I am not nearly Zen enough for this kind of crap. I want to get home.

Random thoughts:

I spend way too much time on Pinterest and Foodgawker. In case you don’t have time for such things, here are the latest food bandwagons, food I see everywhere online, but just don’t get:

Smoothies. Very trendy, and a complete mystery to me. I love to chew. I love to chew things that fill up the pizza-shaped cavern in my soul. And I don’t believe in drinking my calories unless there’s alcohol involved. I guess technically you could call a Bloody Mary a smoothie, in which case I take it all back and you can count me directly in on the smoothie craze.

Kale. Kale is the new black. It’s big in smoothies, and soups and salads and actually everywhere. You can’t escape kale. It’s in every nook and cranny of the internet, infiltrating recipes like a bitter, burlap-textured virus. Superfood. Superawesome. Woot. **jazzhands** So tired of the subject of kale. Handy Protip: kale is also a sandblaster for your colon. Just in case, yanno, you ever need that kind of information.

Paleo. The Paleo Diet is where you only eat what the cavemen ate (never mind that the cavemen went—hello—extinct). So you can eat, for instance, a mastodon and a bushel of crab apples, but you can’t eat any grains because those wacky cavehumans didn’t farm. People on the Paleo bandwagon expend enormous effort adapting recipes to comply with the Paleo guidelines. Paleo Chocolate Cherry Muffins. No idea how they make those without grains or eggs or sugar. Sorcery, probably. Paleo Blueberry-Cheesecake Ice Cream, surely a favorite of our cavecesters. Paleo Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon. Just like Australopithecus ate.

I also don’t get the craze for:

Salted caramel everything. Sure, it tastes divine, like the tears of angels or the innocence of small children, but you can’t turn a corner in the Internet these days without someone flinging caramel sauce and sea salt on you. Enough already.

Cupcakes. I don’t want a palm-sized piece of cake. Don’t fence me in like that, bro. I want the whole cake and a fork and the freedom to go at it until I hate myself.

Poached eggs on top of salads. What is that even about? Poached eggs go on toast, duh. With a small lake of butter. And hot sauce, if you’re from Texas.

Quinoa. Quinoa in everydamnthing. Go away, quinoa, I’m sick of reading about how wonderful you are. If you were in grade school you’d be the tattletale hall monitor and I would never speak to you, even if the school was on fire.

Here’s a fun drinking game you can play alone at home (or at work. I don’t judge): Sit down at the computer with the adult beverage of your choice and pull up www.foodgawker.com . Scroll through the food thumbnails. Every time you see one of the things I just listed, do a shot. Double shot if any of the foods are hailed as “vegan,” “dairy-free,” or “gluten-free.”

You’ll be trashed in fifteen minutes.

You probably shouldn’t really try that, just like you shouldn’t be grouchy, or take up the whole aisle, or drive like you died last Thursday. Be awesome. Don’t drink at work. Move like you’ve got a purpose.

That’s it, kids. That’s all I got.

My Higher Self Is a Drunken Waitress Named Shirley

Author’s Note: You haven’t walked a fine literary line until you try to write a blog post about spirituality that is comprehensible to both your evangelical, Jesus-y loved ones and your neo-pagan, shamanistic, barefoot friends. For one thing, it’s like trying to write in two different languages at once. In the same way that people with a New Age or an alternative spiritual bent don’t walk around saying “praise the Lord, brother!” Christians don’t generally use words like chakra or vibrational frequency or Kundalini. Also, you don’t want your Christian peeps to fear for your soul, so you can’t address things like tarot cards, trance channeling, or how you want to smoke DMT before you die. You also don’t want your more eclectic spiritual circle to think you’re a sellout. (I tried to think of a list of verboten topics here but I failed. There is literally nothing too weird to discuss with that crowd).

I’ve done my best here. Whether I succeed in making either group laugh is still up in the air.

I spent the first three decades of life immersed in traditional Christianity. First I was a Fundamentalist, but then I became an Evangelical because they had better music. And eventually I converted to a New Age philosophy because I really liked incense and wearing feathers in my hair. Actually, there was a lot more to it than that, quite a bit of which required therapy, but that’s a story for another day.

I’m not a very good New Ager. My Higher Self is a drunken waitress named Shirley. My animal totem is a very small rubber duck. I also suspect that my spirit guides are unemployable in the rest of the universe. At intergalactic cocktail parties, when asked what they do for a living, my spirit guides just shuffle their feet and mumble about volunteer work with the spiritually handicapped.

I’ve mentioned (read it here!) that my conscience is a Syrian cabdriver named Leo. Leo is only in charge of driving the guilt train though: making me feel terrible when I eat junk, or overdraw my bank account, or don’t call my mother. Shirley, on the other hand, has the unenviable task of helping me to spiritually ascend. And by “ascend” I mean she’d be happy if I’d just stop peeking at the clock when I meditate.

Shirley (who has a red beehive hairdo and smacks her gum while she pours my metaphysical coffee) is full of advice about my spiritual health. “You shuddeneat bacon,” she slurs, slopping coffee on my arm. “It’s a low-vibration food.”

“You tied one on again last night, didn’t you, Shirley?” I ask, crunching bacon with my mouth open, just to annoy her. “Some Higher Self you are. My friend Becky’s Higher Self is teaching her to access her Akashic Records: past life regression. But all I can get out of you is a lot of hungover nagging.”

She sways a little, and fixes a beady eye on me. “I know you’ve been throwing your plastic bottles in the trash and not recycling them. It’s like you’re from Texas or something.”

“I AM from Texas! How do you not even know that?”

She hiccups loudly. “I’m gonna tell your drum circle on you. Mother Earth killer.”

Shirley plays dirty pool. “Fine,” I say, pushing the bacon away. “I won’t eat bacon if you won’t tattle on me.”

She is not done with me. “Have you been smoking again? You’ve been smoking at work, haven’t you! Breath is spirit you know. Only low-frequency people smoke cigarettes.” She waves the coffeepot at me threateningly.

“I do not smoke!” I am outraged. “I stopped smoking ages ago. Quit being so judgmental.”

“Then why is your crown chakra so small?” she demands. “You have a crown chakra like a Pentecostal.”

We go around like this for a long time. I’m used to it. I know I’ve won when Shirley has to take an aspirin and go lie down on another plane somewhere. The silence of her absence is the perfect time to meditate.

I reach for the bacon.

HazMat and FEMA Death Camps (Cleaning Out the Work Fridge)

I’ve seen and done some pretty gross things in my life.

As a mother I’ve changed thousands of diapers. I’ve picked toddlers’ boogers with my bare fingers. Once, the family guinea pig died and we buried him in the backyard. Four days later the dog dug it up and trotted it around the property like a grim trophy. I retrieved it and reburied it while my traumatized daughter watched and wailed from the kitchen window. In the course of my career I’ve viewed crime scene photos that made me skip lunch. I’ve listened to strangers on the phone describe their bodily fluids and diseased flesh in horrific detail (including one guy who had, I promise, maggots in his eye). I’ve seen some things in this war, dude.

None of it prepared me for cleaning the work refrigerator tonight.

Don’t ask me what insanity possessed me to do it. The point is, I did it. And now I have to live with the memory forever.

Here is a partial list of what I found:

  • Fossilized chicken wings wadded in a ball of tin foil like a shameful, childhood secret
  • Three inches of clotted milk in a plastic bottle
  • Butter that had grown a carapace
  • Fourteen hardboiled eggs in various stages of decay
  • A tub of rice that had gained sentience
  • And countless colonies of single-celled organisms including, I am pretty sure, a SCOBY. (I had a fantastically gross picture of a SCOBY to insert here, but proving once again that the US Army is on the cutting edge of technology, the military computer I am on apparently does not “do” picture uploads. You’ll have to Google it.)

 

It was a full-blown HazMat incident, which we in the Fire Department take very seriously, and which I single-handedly and with great courage, mitigated. And me without my bunny suit. (See above comment re: pictures. Sorry you won’t get to see me in my HazMat bunny suit. It was black lace and low-cut, too.)

How many half-drunk bottles of green tea and Muscle Milk are too many in a fridge? How many cartons of pineapple yogurt do we amass before we say “enough already”? How many brown grapes and sodden oranges? And don’t get me started on the condiment packets.

OK, OK, if you insist.

If I was the boss of the world (hey, what a great idea!) I would have a Zero Tolerance policy toward just a few things. War, fundamentalism and oppression would top the list. And closer to the bottom would be the hoarding of condiment packets. Zero tolerance. No questions asked; firing squad offense.

Every workplace in the world has at least one Condiment Hoarder on staff. Condiment Hoarders are those loathsome people who squirrel away tubs of McDonalds dipping sauces, and take-out pouches of salad dressing; ketchup packets by the score (because they’re FREE!) and little paper packets of salt and pepper and sugar and powdered creamer. Soy sauce, duck sauce, lemon juice, honey. And god help us, the Holy Grail of all hoarded condiments, Taco Bell hot sauce packets.

In what world does anyone need to stockpile Taco Bell hot sauce? They shove it at you by the double handful every time you go through the drive-thru. Even Taco Bell doesn’t want the stuff lying around. If the staff doesn’t feel you have taken enough hot sauce they will run down the street behind you trying to chuck packets of it into your bag as you drive away. The world will literally never run out of Taco Bell hot sauce, not even if we try. Stop hoarding it; you need an intervention.

It’s as if Condiment Hoarders are afraid that the Antichrist is going to appear on the world stage at any minute and chuck us all into FEMA death camps, and the only thing between us and starvation will be whatever condiments we’ve managed to stuff into our cheek pouches beforehand. I’m no prophet but I’m going to go way out on a limb here and speculate that this is never going to happen. Nowhere in the Multiverse are you and your loved ones ever going to be reduced to crouching under a hut and sucking duck sauce and honey from plastic sleeves to meet your nutritional requirements. It’s not going to happen (though it might make good reality TV).

The fridge is clean and condiment-free now. I would like to recommend myself for a promotion and a raise and perhaps the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well.

I’ll settle for you jokers keeping it clean.

The Help-less Desk (in which I am eaten by bears)

OK, spoiler alert: I didn’t really get eaten by bears. What actually happened was that I spent thirty minutes on the phone with the Army’s Computer Help Desk which, as customer service experiences go, is less excruciating than being mauled by grizzlies in the Kodiak. But not by much. Given the opportunity again I’d take my chances with the bears. I swore a lot before it was all over.

I got to work tonight to find that I couldn’t log on to my company email. No one could. Apparently my supervisor had addressed the problem via email, explaining the issue and its Very Simple Solution. But of course no one could get into their email to read her email, so… well, you see the difficulty.

I called the Help Desk. After all, they’re there to help, right? The poster on the bulletin board says so! Would the Army lie? The very name “Help Desk” is reassuring, evoking images of a warm, grandmotherly type in an apron, perhaps offering you a freshly baked pie and a back rub; maybe help on your income taxes, or folksy wisdom on housebreaking your dog.

The Help Desk person who answered my phone call was not warm, nor was he grandmotherly, nor even (possibly) human. He certainly wasn’t helpful. Even over the phone lines I could sense his contempt, his utter disdain for me—this puerile half-wit who had called to disturb him with something as trivial as an entire department being locked out of their email.

For the sake of convenience I’ll give him a nickname. Let’s call him… oh, let’s just randomly call him… Dick. (I have a late uncle and a dear friend, both named Dick; lovely men. This guy was a Dick of a different stripe).

Here’s how our conversation went:

Dick answers the phone with something that sounds like “Rrmph gumph shizzle flockstrap.”

“Hi,” I chirp, “is this the Help Desk?”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” He doesn’t so much speak as bark, sounding truculent and supremely Type-A.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you said when you answered.” I am all sweetness. “I’m calling because no one in our department can get into our email accounts. Can you help?”

“Why can’t you get into your email?” he is accusatory, as though I am doing this on purpose to wreck his life.

I’m a little taken aback by his manner, but hey, my mother raised me to be polite. I answer in my Nice Voice. “I don’t know why we can’t get in. I was sort of hoping you could tell me.”

“What are you doing wrong? You must be doing something wrong. It’s usually the user’s fault.”

I am already wondering how many years of therapy his children are going to need after being raised by a man who “helps” like this. “It’s not just me,” I explain, “it’s the entire department.”

There is a long, disbelieving pause. “Yeah, right. The entire department. Are you entering through the OWA?”

“I’m sorry; I don’t know what the OWA is. I’m using Explorer and typing in the usual address.”

He repeats himself very loudly and very slowly, as though I am either deaf, or not very bright. “The O… W… A! Are. You. Entering. Through. It?”

I’m losing my grip on courtesy. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. What the heck is the OWA?”

There is a heavy sigh, the aggressive clatter of computer keys, and some dark muttering. I think I hear the words ignorant slut, but I can’t be sure. “Oh, well I see the problem right here. The server doesn’t recognize you.”

I wait, but it seems that’s all he’s going to offer. “Um, can you tell me how to fix it?”

Dick actually snickers, as though this is the funniest thing he’s heard all night. “Well, if the server’s not recognizing you, it’s not recognizing you. You won’t be able to get into your email.”

I say the first of many silent swear words. “Is there a solution?”

“Oh yes,” he says. “The solution is that you’d need the server to start recognizing you.”

At this point I actually hold the receiver out from my ear and stare at it. I cannot believe I am having this conversation, or that I am at the mercy of this passive-aggressive asshole.

“How,” I say very deliberately, “might one go about getting the server to recognize oneself? Or one’s partner? Or anyone else in this department who is currently locked out of their email?”

“Well,” he says, and I can practically hear him smirking, “that’s the question, isn’t it?”

I won’t pain you with more. We went around like this for quite some time and I’m afraid at one point I may have called him a “condescending jackhole.” Or maybe I didn’t actually say it out loud. But I might have. Finally my partner got tired of listening to my Rain-Man-like responses. He picked up his phone, punched in some numbers, and within fifteen seconds had the problem resolved.

I hung up on Dick and logged in to my email. Then for the rest of my night I fantasized about feeding him to the bears.

A/N: Special thanks to my soapmaking friend Kendra Cote, who posted this for me when the “gubbmint” computers at work would not let me access WordPress.

I Was a DoD Beauty Queen

 

A few weeks ago I went home to the US for leave. Months in the desert had left me looking pretty rough and I decided I needed some work. This was a mistake, folks. A terrible, terrible mistake. The Department of Defense doubtless does many things well, but beauty is not one of them.

There’s background, of course. There always is.

When I turned forty my older friend Kim took me out to lunch. Over oyster po’boys she leaned forward, cut her eyes around the restaurant like she was about to slip me an 8-ball of cocaine, and hissed “have you gotten the… you know… hair on your face problem yet?”

I was seriously freaked out. Because, I mean, hair on my face? What was she talking about? Was this what I had to look forward to in the second half of life? Why had no one ever warned me? Because believe me, I did not sign up for that, and if I suddenly started sprouting whiskers then someone at Universe Headquarters was going to get an earful until the problem was resolved.

In the three years since then I’ve definitely developed some peach fuzz on my cheeks. It’s not a lot, but I’m starting to look like a thirteen year-old boy. A thirteen year-old boy with crows’ feet. I decided to have my face waxed. You can’t be too careful: today’s peach fuzz is tomorrows’s mutton chops.

I’d been assigned to tiny Camp Buehring for a month before I flew home. I had no access to civilization during that time. There’s nothing around Camp Buehring but sand. Sand and camels as far as the eye can see. It looks like Mars only with camels.

Camp Buehring has a PX the size of a convenience store, a Taco Bell, a KFC and a Panda (because nothing says “Army Strong” like a diet of sodium, fat, and highly processed chemicals). There’s not much else on the base but there is, surprisingly, a spa. I made an appointment for a wax, a haircut, and a pedicure.

At the spa I was assigned a “personal attendant” who was going to take care of all my beauty needs. She was a Pacific Islander, and spoke almost no English. She was also over six feet tall and looked and talked a lot like Andre the Giant. In my mind I christened her “Igor.”

Image this person wants to rip burning wax from your soft flesh

Igor led me to a cubicle and pushed me onto a table for my facial wax. Igor liked to talk to herself. She began spreading hot wax all over my face while crooning to herself “HOT paste… HOT paste… HOTTTT paaaaaste…” She dripped some wax on my shirt, and she dripped some wax in my hair, and then she laid cloth strips over my face, yelled ”Cruciatus!” and ripped it all off. It hurt about as badly as you’d expect it to hurt when someone rips all your facial hair out by the roots.

Next, Igor led me to the hair portion of the salon. She didn’t wash my hair, which is understandable because this is the desert and water is at a premium. But she also didn’t comb my hair, which was windblown and tangled and now full of hardened facial wax.

What she did do was to plaster my bangs down with water, take a pair of scissors, and whack them all off in one swift movement, about an inch above my eyebrows.

I stared at myself in the mirror, transfixed with horror. “My bangs!”

Igor nodded, clearly pleased with herself. “I make purty.” And throughout the rest of the ordeal she crooned to herself “I make purty. I make purrrrty! I make PURRRTY!”

She shuffled around me, wheezing and making random scissors-stabs at my dry, tangled head. Halfway through it I threw up my figurative hands and started to laugh. I mean why not? You can’t make this stuff up. The damage was already done. And, as my sister pointed out to me later, a bad haircut lasts six weeks. A bad haircut story lasts forever.

When Igor was done hacking and sawing at my head she took a round brush and a blowdryer and did this with it:

Image the librarian glasses come free with every haircut

I’m not kidding, that is really how my hair looked when she was done. And when I looked in the mirror I saw that my face was reacting to the wax job by doing this:

Image I’m not really blond but if I were I’d look happier about it

I looked like Captain Kangaroo with cystic acne.

Igor walked me back to the lobby. And when I made my entrance every jaw in the place dropped. Silence descended. Magazines fell from hands. There were a few audible gasps. Someone muttered “dear God.” Proudly, Igor marched me to the pedicure station.

You know how a regular spa pedicure involves a massaging chair and calf-deep tubs of bubbling, scented water? Well, a desert pedicure is different. A desert pedicure is a folding chair, a broken Homemedics foot bath containing a liter of tepid water, and a bottle of Betadine solution.

Image in the desert we call this “beauty juice”

I can’t even talk about it. My toes were still stained brown when I got off the plane 3 days later. I’m just glad I didn’t opt for the Brazilian wax.

I’m back in the desert now, and nearly back to normal. I have peach fuzz on my cheeks and bangs in my eyes.

Feel free to share your own bad beauty sessions in the comment section. I’d like to know I’m not alone out here.

Kulinary Kuwait

I have a confession to make. It’s not pretty, and I hope you will find it in your hearts not to judge me too harshly.

I love hummus.

Wait, that’s not the confession. That’s just background.

I really do love hummus. I love it so much that I think everyone else on the planet should love it too. I’m practically evangelistic about it. Occasionally I’ll run across some provincial soul who actually still does not know what hummus is. I confess that I’m tempted to sneer at that person. I am. I’m sorry, but hummus is important. Also, if you’re trying to describe hummus to a friend? Don’t call it “Middle Eastern bean dip.” Have some respect, man.

Anyway, my confession: Yesterday I bought hummus in a can. With a pop-top lid. And today I ate it. It was, as you may have guessed, pretty awful. It smelled like Spam and tasted like—well, like bean dip. In my defense, I only did it because the supermarket deli stopped making the fresh stuff and by the time I found this out I’d been daydreaming about it all day until it was practically a medical emergency.

Let me state for the record that eating canned hummus felt like the culinary equivalent of a high-school dropout huffing canned air in the handicapped stall of the Wal-Mart bathroom. It was definitely a low point for me, and one I hope never to repeat.

Why would a supermarket deli stop making hummus? In the Middle East? Doesn’t that sound illegal or something? Well if it’s not, it should be.

You know what else should be illegal? The prepared foods this supermarket sells. The population of Kuwait has been bitten by the “American food” bug. Every corner of every street has a cluster of American restaurants sprouting from it like cholesterol-saturated fungi on a trans-fat log: Mcdonalds. Smashburger. Chili’s. Applebees. But they don’t do from-scratch American food very well here at all. Oh no. Not. At. All.

The prepared “American” foods in the Sultan Center look like the pictures from a 1975 edition of a Junior League cookbook. Stroganoffs with canned peas. Tuna salad in hollowed-out “tomah-toe” halves. Macaroni and pimientos swimming in runny white dressing. And something mysteriously called “Mayonnaise Salad” in which there is a single, identifiable ingredient: Corn. (There are other things in it, but I have no idea what they might be. I’m certainly not going to taste it and find out.)

Food is just different here. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just a new experience. I like new experiences as long as, you know, organ meats are not involved. In Kuwait you can buy an entire, raw goat (with or without the head) from a display in a shop window. I don’t know many Americans who would even know what to do with a whole goat. There are entire supermarket display cases full of different mammals’ milks. Black cheeses, gray cheeses. Camel-milk ice cream. Unpronounceable vegetables with tentacles. And don’t get me started on the lunch meats.

I ate a kebab in an Iranian restaurant here that was clearly A) not beef and B) not any other kind of meat I’ve ever eaten in my life. It felt like chewy Styrofoam packing peanuts in my mouth. No matter how much I chewed it, it just kept springing back to its original shape between my teeth. I finally gave up and spit it out. It’s not that I have a weak stomach. I just know when I’m beaten.

I mostly love ethnic food, but I’m not as brave as one woman I know who tells me she’s picked things out of curries in her travels that are unrecognizable. She just shrugs, licks off the sauce, and eats them anyway. I want to be that free-spirited, but there’s no denying that I’d enjoy the culinary adventure more if I were twenty years younger.

Kuwaitis eat camel meat at weddings. It’s very expensive, and I’m dying to try it. It probably tastes like chicken because… well, doesn’t everything?

Right now, though, I’d settle for a good tub of hummus.

Hit Me Again, Ditchdoctor!

We do a lot of rotating shift work here in the desert and sometimes I get so exhausted that my judgment suffers. Recently, in a flash of insanity that I can only blame on serious sleep deprivation I conceived the idea of boosting my energy with a series of vitamin B12 shots.  

I’ve taken these injections before – they make you feel like a different person. And you can buy syringes, needles and a really high grade of B12 over the counter here, so what’s not to love?

The problem, of course, is that I’ve taken these shots. As in, someone else has given them to me. Usually while I’m curled in the fetal position, making whimpering noises to myself. Still, somehow I got it into my head that I was going to be able to plunge a needle deep into the musculature of my own thigh and nonchalantly give myself a shot. Or rather, a lot of shots since, in my enthusiasm, I ran out to the nearest pharmacy and bought a 3-month supply. Go big or go home, is my motto.

In the midst of this streak of zealous medical independence a small detail slipped my mind: I’m so queasy about needles, flesh, and bodily functions that I’ve dropped out of nursing school not once, not twice, but three times in the last fifteen years. I always start out with lofty intentions: I’m going be a nurse! I’m going to save lives and wear cute scrubs and make a lot of money! (Not in that order.) I’m going to hold out hope to the dying and comfort to the suffering and, Florence Nightingale-like, single handedly reform any corner of the medical world that still needs reforming!

Then I’ll see a picture in a textbook of a bedsore, or an excised tumor, or I’ll read the words “seeping exudate” on a chart somewhere and before you know it I’m back on the streets begging McDonalds to let me flip burgers for them. I remember watching a woman give birth once, in real life. I’d already had four babies myself, so I was well acquainted with the process. And as the mother pushed her tender infant into the world, as a roomful of medical professionals around me sighed in raptures over the miracle of burgeoning new life, all I could think was – holy cow, that’s one disgusting, slimy mess

So it’s no surprise that I got cold feet at the last minute. I decided to get a paramedic (I work with several) to show me the ropes the first time around. 

“Easy peasy,” said Ditchdoctor Dan, the Sadistic Paramedic From Hell. “Look for your muscle landmarks first.” 

Landmarks? I thought he was trying to give me a geography lesson. 

“After you find your landmarks (???) just make a triangle with your fingers and slip the needle in. You won’t even feel it. Don’t go off too far to the side though, or you’ll hit a nerve and it’ll hurt so bad you’ll want to die.” 

nerve?? I could feel myself getting lightheaded. “I don’t think I want to take that chance,” I managed. 

“You could do it on your arm,” he mused, “though there’s always the chance the needle will bottom out and hit bone.” 

The room spun. I started to make weird, burbling noises in the back of my throat. 

Ditchdoctor Dan broke the ampoule of B12 and inserted the needle into the liquid. “Glass ampoules, huh? Wow, I hope these are filter-tipped needles. Don’t want to shoot any little slivers of glass into your veins.” He chortled as though this was the funniest idea he’d heard all week.

 “Can that really happen?” My voice sounded like a buzz saw in my own ears. 

Chortle, chortle. “Well, anything can happen. It doesn’t usually kill you the first time around though. You need quite a buildup of glass in your veins before –” But I didn’t hear the rest. Also, the next couple of hours are all a strange blur. 

I’m still committed to taking my B12 shots. Each week when I’m ready I get on the radio and order the nearest ambulance to report to Dispatch. Once the unwitting paramedics are inside my office I corner them. I thrust my bare arm under their noses, begging them to hit me up. I need a fix, man! C’mon, I need it bad! 

Today, for some reason, the whole office got into the spirit of the thing. People were lining up for B12 shots while I, desperate to get rid of my stash, handed ampoules and syringes around like candy. Ditchdoctor Dan looked a bit stunned at this sudden onslaught of clientele. Especially when one woman (let’s just call her Tillie Tourette) dropped her pants and demanded her shot in the hip. Of course in the spirit of medical discretion that particular procedure happened behind a closed door. But we all heard it. I don’t call her Tillie Tourette for nothing. 

And now I’m all amped up on vitamin B12. And so is the rest of the office. If anyone’s caught napping at their desk this week it won’t be my fault. 

Only one month’s supply left in my desk drawer. I might need something stronger than B12 to get through it.