Monthly Archives: July 2014

Lessons from the waiting room

My father’s SPECT scan (single-photon emission computerized tomography) was scheduled for 7:30 in the morning. We rushed to get to the hospital on time only to find out that the Nuclear Medicine department hadn’t seen the order yet and therefore didn’t have the radioisotope they needed for the scan. The technician said he could have it delivered by noon if we wanted to wait. It was a difficult decision. Dad had one other test scheduled for that morning. The additional down time would make the wait just long enough to be seriously aggravating, and just short enough to make a round-trip home seem like too much work. Our assistant, Nana, my dad and I opted for the aggravation.

We found an empty waiting room to hunker down in. Before long we were joined by a couple who appeared to be roughly my age and a younger man in his twenties. The young man tapped on his phone and the couple chatted. I gathered, through shameless eavesdropping, that the couple’s daughter was the patient and she was pregnant. I couldn’t deduce, however, what specific problem had brought them to the hospital. None of them seemed unduly upset so I assumed it was not a big deal and resigned myself to playing games on my iPhone to pass the time.

After a bit, the young man left and then the older man. A nurse came in, looking for someone else, and the woman said, “Is there any news on my daughter?” The nurse said she’d check. She returned a few minutes later, while the woman was still alone, and said, “They took out her appendix and the baby is fine.” The woman, who had been the picture of equanimity, burst into great big, wracking sobs. The tension exploded out of her. Her face got bright red and she sobbed into her hands. This was in response to the most wonderful news she could have hoped for. The force of her raw emotion made me want to run over and comfort her. While I debated the appropriateness of that move, the men returned and provided all the hugs she needed.

When I was a little girl, I would sometimes go with my dad to the hospital on Sunday mornings when he did his rounds. (The nurses would exclaim, “You’re Doctor Mintz’s little girl!” like I was someone special. I loved the attention and it made me proud of my dad.) One time, he parked me in a waiting room for a bit. There was another little girl in there with a man. I don’t know what the relationship was, but he was telling her something in a quiet voice, to which she responded, wailing, “But who will take care of her money?” Even though I have no memory of anything else that was said, I’ve always known that the man was telling her that her mother had died.

As I child, I was confused and distressed by that little girl’s response. As an adult, I understand that emotional responses don’t always look or sound the way we might expect them to. But to this day, I am bothered by the fact that whoever that man was, he didn’t sweep that little girl up in a great big hug.


Apples vs. Humanity

If you’ve raised kids in the last twenty or so years, or were grandparents to said kids, then you’ve probably played Apples to Apples. If not, here’s how it works. There are two sets of cards, green ones with an adjective on them, and red ones with nouns. Each player draws a set of red cards for their hand. A green card is picked at random and then each player puts down a matching red card. The player controlling that hand chooses the best match. A random sample from the “junior” version of the game that I have on my bookcase looks like this:

Green card: cozy

Red cards: water guns, the library, cheese sandwich, getting a haircut

If I was playing with a child, and it was my turn to judge, I’d go with the library. If I was playing with a bunch of tipsy, fun-seeking adults, and we were aiming for deliberate irony, I’d probably choose water guns.

Cards Against Humanity is the X-rated version of Apples to Apples. The play is the same, only instead of adjectives the black cards have a fill-in-the-blank phrase or sentence and the white cards sport a mix of nouns, adjectives, complete sentences, and other bits of grammar I can’t name. The only way to play Cards Against Humanity is ironically. Anyone expecting otherwise will be quickly disappointed, and possibly enraged. A sample from the creators’ website:

Black card: I never truly understood _____________ until I encountered _____________.

White cards (2 required for above sample): The Big Bang Theory, Bill Nye the Science Guy

The mere concept of Applebees, the morbidly obese

An M16 rifle, actually getting shot

A bitch slap, the four arms of Vishnu

Depression, drinking alone

Quivering jowls, Dick Cheney

That was kind of fun, right? You can picture playing that with your folks can’t you? Well, not so fast. Here are samples of other white cards you might have in your hand: fisting, fiery poops, double penetration, anal beads, coat-hanger abortions. Many of the cards are more-than-politically-incorrect, lots of them are gross, a ton of them are sex-themed and some I don’t even understand (mostly from that last category). Still want to play with Mom? My daughter did, and we had, if not a good, at least an okay, time.

The fact is, I thought Cards Against Humanity was pretty funny and I’d be happy to play again—with like-minded peers. As outspoken and filter-free as I am, I still can’t quite picture playing this with my in-laws. But then, I’m pretty sure my in-laws and I were not the intended audience for this game. I picture the creators as young, hip, social-media-savvy kids in their twenties, dressed in black, who created the game for their peers. I was vaguely familiar with the name when I was invited to play, but had no idea what it was about. My daughter, on the other hand, had played the game before. I don’t think she was the intended audience either, but she’s a lot closer to the target than I am.

The Cards Against Humanity website bills it as, “A party game for horrible people.” Judging by how well it has sold, there are a lot of us out there.


Poison or purring?

Cats don’t drool. That’s one of the reasons that cat lovers are not dog lovers. If a cat drools it is usually a sign that they are sick. You can read all about ptyalism (excessive drooling) in cats at PetMD. In short, it can be caused by a tooth or gum problem, or something harder to diagnose, a metabolic or gastro-intestinal disorder. Or, it could be the result of accidental poisoning. Harper, our not-quite-one-year old tortoiseshell, has been drooling.

It’s hard to say just how long Harper has been drooling, because it took me a while to realize that was what was happening. The first time a drop appeared on my arm while I was holding her I looked around wondering where it had come from. The next time I assumed her coat was wet; she likes to play in our shower after it’s been used. The penny dropped when I noticed several damp spots on my shirt after a prolonged cuddling session. So if cats don’t normally drool, what was going on?

For several months, Harper has been pulling pink insulation out of the ceiling in the basement. The embodiment of the curious cat, she’s been quite thorough in her exploration, and destruction, of the perimeter of the ceiling. The long term plan is to cover the exposed insulation. In the meantime, we try to make it harder for her, but she outfoxes us. She doesn’t eat the insulation, but it’s reasonable to assume that she licks fiberglass and who-knows-what-else off her paws. Her pursuit of insulation has been going on much longer than her drooling, however, so we don’t think it’s the cause.

Recently, she had been gleefully attacking the dried eucalyptus display in the downstairs bathroom. When bits of it appeared elsewhere in the house, we did a quick Internet search and discovered that eucalyptus is poisonous to cats. We threw it out and hoped we’d discovered the drool-inducing culprit. It’s been a couple of weeks, and Harper is still drooling.

Earlier, I said that drooling is usually a sign that a cat is sick—but not always. According to WebMD, a few cats will also drool when they are purring and very relaxed. So maybe we haven’t poisoned Harper after all! I started to check her chin when she wasn’t sitting on me to see if her drooling was indeed associated with purring. Below is a picture of her lying in one of her favorite spots. Despite a tiny bit of tongue protruding, there is no evidence of drooling.

harper reclining

To put the above picture in context, and give equal time to Scout, here’s another photo:

h and s for blog2

Despite this new-found evidence, I am not entirely convinced that Harper has happiness-induced drooling, so at the first sign of any other symptom I will whisk her off to the vet. And if it turns out that she is one of those rare cats who drool while purring, so be it. I’m willing to put up with a little dampness to have such a beautiful kitty favor me with her affection.