Sunday, November 24, 2013

Just another little irritating thing

Near the top of my list of irritating things these days are those tiny plastic stickers found on fruit that you buy at the grocery store.  There is nothing new about this; these stickers have been around for years.  I try my best to use fewer plastic bags that are clogging up the oceans and landfills but, then, right before my eyes on almost every single banana, tomato, and apple I buy at the grocery is that stupid, shiny plastic sticker, which always appears as if it is laughing at me when I attempt to remove it without damaging the soft skin of a ripe piece of fruit.

Who can remember what those codes mean anyway?  Does the 4-digit code signify organic or is that the 5-digit code?  Does a code beginning with an “8” mean that the product was genetically modified?  Apparently an “8” is supposed to mean GMO but the fruit is often not labeled as such.  If we must have these stickers, can’t the codes just be something like “S”, which means Safe, and “NS”, which means Not Safe, and “NSu”, which means Not Sure?  You know, it is like the weather report with temperature and wind chill factor.  Don’t give me all that Ms. Weatherperson.  Just say, “Wear a jacket”, or “A T-shirt will be fine today”.

In addition, management and I throw all of our kitchen waste into our compost pile in the garden, but those plastic stickers do not decompose.  A year later, I can still read the word “Costa Rica” on an old sticker that inadvertently got past me, and is lying carefree in the garden.  They’re ugly and unsightly; simply put, they diminish the Zen that resides in my vegetable garden space.  And because I can’t stand to leave them in the compost pile, I am compelled to pick them out of that mess whenever I discover one.

So, what to do?  There is nothing to be done if you buy your produce at a grocery store instead of a farmer’s market (sticker-free) except to meticulously peel off each and every one of those damn things.  Buy the fruit, bring it home, PEEL, and then wash and store.  Then, the next time you bring fruit home, rinse and repeat.

(For a nice article that explains exactly what the codes on these stickers mean, click here.  Also, they are now considered an environmental problem.) 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The surgery that almost wasn’t

About 10 days ago I was scheduled for minor surgery that involved opening up my abdomen.  I had never had this kind of invasive procedure done to me before, so I was rightfully apprehensive. My surgeon, who I will call Dr. B, was a man I had met only once, when I had my diagnosis in his office the week before.  He was a young, good-looking guy with a pleasant personality and a sense of humor.  His fingernails were of normal length, indicating that he was not a nervous nail-biter.  He didn’t shift his weight from side to side as he talked, and he looked me straight in the eyes when he explained what was wrong with me and how he could fix it.  And, he didn’t have that habit of raising his intonation at the end of every sentence making it sound like a question (“The infection rate in such a procedure is about 2%?)  So far, so good.  He passed the DrTom’s Do I Trust This Guy To Open Me Up interview.  We scheduled the surgery.
 On the day in question, Management and I went to the hospital where I was admitted, and then quickly led to the prep room.  I undressed completely, put on the blue paper gown they provided, and settled onto the stretcher.  The nurse, who was obviously trying to make me feel calm with her almost-too-jovial demeanor, asked me many questions about allergies, medicines taken, and medical history.  She took my vital signs and threaded an IV line into the back of my hand, which promptly spurted blood all over that side of my bed.   I could tell she was not that experienced in all this, so I found myself trying to reassure her that she did a fine job of inserting the IV, I didn’t feel a thing, isn’t it great that I have large veins, etc.  In general, I overcompensated by appearing passive and bored with what she was doing, as if to indicate that I had abdominal surgery two or three times a day.  It is curious how we sometimes pretend to ignore potential danger in the hope that by not noticing the reality of the situation, that very reality will change for the better.

Within 30 minutes, I was all set to go.  I had prepared myself psychologically as best I could.  After all, I had lived a pretty happy life for 66 years, and if this was going to be the end of it all, I hadn’t done so badly.  As I ran through my list of rationalizations for a worst-case scenario, I realized the time was passing and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable on the gurney.  I began counting the drops of saline plopping into the line leading to my hand.  I obsessed about the coffee I was not allowed to have that morning.  I began dreading the 3-week recovery period after surgery when I was supposed to “take it easy”.

Three hours later, the head nurse of the unit and her assistant flung back the curtain to my cubicle, and entered my bedside space.  Dr. B has been detained by the surgery scheduled just before mine.  He was already two hours late in finishing, and he could be another 2-3 hours.  There had been an unexpected complication.  Do I wish to wait it out, with no guarantee he would ever get to me that day, or reschedule for another day?  Management and I discussed it a bit.  Dr. B might be tired after his first surgery, and then he works on me.  And I’m not going to go an entire day without coffee.  And I just couldn’t count saline drops any longer.  Nope.  We will reschedule for the following week.

During that evening’s Happy Hour, Management and I discussed the day’s events and the pros and cons of our decision.  One observation we made was that people generally spend more time doing some due diligence on the attorney they choose or their auto mechanic than they do the physician who will be administering their health care.  In my case, I needed some surgery, so my personal physician referred me to Dr. B, whom I had never met or heard of.  I accepted the recommendation unquestioningly.  Management, who was an E.R. nurse for years and then a real estate agent, always pointed out to me how people were much more sensitive about their money than their health care.  They readily gave up their body to perfect strangers for repair in the E.R., but always knew better than their real estate agent about all matters financial associated with the sale or purchase of a house.  They got angry about the latter, but almost never uttered a thought on the former.  Do what you must with my body, but never impugn my checkbook!

A week later I returned to the hospital and repeated the entire procedure again.  This time, Dr. B appeared on time, ready for action.  He had now had another week of  practice in the operating room since we almost met, and that couldn't hurt.  And I had now lived 66 years plus another week, so what the heck.  As the anesthesiologist pushed my gurney through the hallways with Versed (that most wonderful drug of colonoscopy fame) now coursing through my veins, I wondered if I could remain cognizant until I reached the O.R.  I wanted to size-up Dr. B one last time.  But I could not remain alert and, therefore, I did not get to conduct a final appraisal of that somewhat good-looking man with a nice sense of humor who was standing there with a scalpel in his hand.  As the O.R. nurse had told me earlier, "Let's rock 'n' roll".