Being Social…With Somebody Else’s Money

I don’t care if many Americans think they’ll wind up living in Putin’s garage if they accept socialized medical care; I thank God for the fact that it’s available to me, here in Ontario.  My medical Odyssey to restore normal sight in my left eye continues.  At a suggestion from BrainRants, I’ve been reading the biography of the sci-fi author, Robert Heinlein.  Bob was never a healthy guy, and a couple of times in his life he had some serious medical problems.  One time he was unable to work for over six months.  With the fact that he had a very intelligent, well educated and highly trained wife, and also that he could market, albeit at reduced rates, material he had written before he fell ill, he was able to survive the crisis.  Somebody like me, with a grade twelve education, only hands-on training and a disabled wife would wind up out of our mortgaged house, living on a hot air vent in front of a restaurant and eating out of the dumpster in the back.

Of course I never get to see the bills for the service I’ve received, and will receive, but I’ll bet I could buy a car, or a good chunk of my house with what’s been spent, just to eliminate non-causes.  The Ontario government used to pay for an eye exam every year.  I was born in 1944, to a father who was released from the Armed Forces for medical reasons, so I’m 2 to 22 years ahead of the Baby Boomers, who are aging even as we speak.  An eye exam every year to prevent expensive consequences would seem to be a good idea, but the politicians decided that every two years would be enough.  Several years ago I went in for my bi-annual check-up and the doctor found a thickening on the right retina.  Once we found that, I get to go back at the doctors direction.  For a couple of years it was every six months.  He’s had me taking some vitamins with an extra chemical which is supposed to prevent or slow further growth.  Seems to be working!  Then I dropped back to a yearly check-up.

When the problem with the left eye showed up, my visit was covered as part of an ongoing preventive maintenance program.  Add to that minor fee, a visit to an emergency ward and a CAT-scan  Then I got to visit an Ophthalmologist, and later that week, a technician in her office, who administered a field of vision test.  I went to my GP for a light physical and a requisition for blood and urine testing.  She justified her existence by giving me a prescription for a silver-based cream for a slight burn I got New Years Day.  Huge tube I won’t go through in five years, but it’s got two repeats.  I got to see a Neurologist the other day.  I was his first appointment at 8:00 A.M.  “Come in a half-hour early to fill in forms.”  We finished that by ten to eight.  He wandered in at 8:02 and saw me about 8:25.  Nice guy, he eliminated the obvious stuff by hand in twenty minutes, but then came more tests.

I have worked in metal-working plants, but not for many years.  Could it be a piece of metal in my eye?  Probably not, but he wanted me to have a cranial MRI, and if there were metal in the eye, an MRI could cause further damage.  Off I went with, what I thought was just a requisition for a facial X-ray, but which apparently included the MRI.  His office is in a building adjoining the hospital.  It is possible to get from him to the X-ray lab without going outside but, as he said, it’s like a rabbits warren.  If you don’t know your way through you could easily get lost.  The wife and I wended our merry way around and in, and down to X-ray, only to meet him coming back, after giving some ASAP instructions about my care.  I got to have two mug-shots, one this way, one that way.  These were X-rays, so, unless you can identify me by my dental records, they’re useless.

Then I was told to go on down the hall to MRI and fill in information forms for them for when they were supposed to call with an appointment date in a couple of days.  While we were working on the forms, a female tech came out a couple of times to the waiting room and called for Bob Jones(?).  No response. A minute or two later she came back out and called my name and gathered up the form we had filled in, quickly checked it over and asked if I wanted to have my MRI done right that moment.  Since Bob Jones hadn’t shown up, I could have his spot.  The instruction sheet says you have to lie motionless for an hour, but the tech said that it’s more like a half-hour, especially since we were only checking my head.  I wondered about my artificial shoulder.  It’s a cobalt ball and a titanium shank.  The cobalt is definitely non-magnetic, but the titanium shank sets off airport and bar screeners.  She said not to worry, I SHOULD be OK.  Her great confidence soothed me.  They give you a chicken-button for things like claustrophobia.  If I had any problems, all I had to do was push it.  Stick ear-plugs in and spend 30 minutes in a torpedo tube, listening to a varied series of loud noises.  At least that’s done with.

I still have to go back and see the Neurologist at least once more.  If none of these tests find anything, I will have to do the spinal tap thing.  If it shows nothing, we’re back to reaction from the flu.  He said, if that were the case, he had some medication that he could give me that should ease the inflammation.  I think the Neurologist is now the primary caregiver on this case.  I might not have to go back to the “eye-doctor”.  I am so glad that I don’t have to pay, personally, for all this care.  It comes from the taxes that I, and everyone else, pay.

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Bear With Me

If any of you read the name of my blogsite and expect something like Ward Cleaver’s den, or Father Knows Best den, (just dated myself again.) forget it!  No comfy sweaters with leather elbow patches here.  This den belongs to a grumpy old bear who is roused occasionally by folks doin’ stupid stuff.  Then I shamble out and growl and wave a front paw to show my displeasure.  “You damned kids get off my lawn!”

I thought when I started this, that I might be like BrainRants, but I soon realised that I idled at a much lower R.P.M.  Perhaps it’s the extra 25 years of immunity and experience.  I’ve come to realize that continuous ranting doesn’t accomplish that much.  It’s like Charlie Brown used to say, “It’s like peeing yourself in a brown suit.  It gives you a nice warm feeling, but nobody notices.”  Not that Rants, or anyone else should stop ranting.  The world CAN be changed, slowly, a bit at a time, but, any single rant, no matter how loud, can do little against the inertia of billions of unthinking, uncaring fools.  It’s like two elephants having sex.  There’s a lot of noise and dust raised, but nothing actually happens for a long time.  It takes a Ghandi or a Martin Luther King or a Winston Churchill, and even they had to fight against strong currents.

I was heartened to see the thousands of Occupy participants, and in so many cities.  They are still few, compared to “the Establishment”, and they are/were fragmented and un-led, but I hope that some of the more astute politicians and businessmen see the writing on the wall.  They are the canary in the coal mine.  The tipping point is still far off.  It’s not quite time to storm the Bastille, shouting, “Off with their heads.”, but, it was a warning, so keep ranting.

Be nice to your fellow man.  Go a little out of your way to make his/her life a little better, a little easier.  Oh, I’m not talking to the small, select group who actually read my stuff when I get around to doling out a bit more unexciting pap.  I’m talking to the huge, imaginary readership I wish I had.  In a production seminar, the instructor stressed the importance of “ready for the next user”.  This applies whether it’s the next guy on a production line, or the next person you meet (or, perhaps never see) at a supermarket.  Rants and I have both recently posted about the importance of THINKING.  Think about who will be affected by anything you do.

Supermarkets and parking lots seem to be where I witness most of the, Man’s Inhumanity to Man, that I see.  That’s probably because that’s where large groups of people inter-react with each other in a concentrated space, usually badly, inconsiderately, selfishly.  The driving and parking of some (most?) people, both inside and outside, just drives me berserk.  Both my wife and my daughter are semi-handicapped.  We rate one of those blue and white wheelchair cards for the windshield, so handicapped parking spaces are important to me.  If I’m alone or with my son, we never use them, even though I’ve got the magic key.  He and I can walk in from the back if we have to.

Shopping carts and what to do with them after you’ve loaded the groceries into your car.  DON’T stick them in the handicapped parking spot!!!  Really!  People do that!  Back when I was working, I had a week of three to eleven shift.  I got up one morning and rode my motorcycle down to the nearest plaza.  I got off the bike and was divesting myself of helmet, gloves and jacket.  As I stood there doing this, a smartly dressed young woman near the end of the row loaded some stuff into the back of a hatchback and pushed the empty cart across to the next row and shoved it into a handicapped spot.  Not across the top of the spot, or up the side of it so that a handicapped person might still be able to get into it, but smack-dab in the middle of it.  As she walked back to her car, I yelled at her, “Hey! don’t leave it there.  That’s a handicap spot.  Put it in the cart corral where it belongs.”  The corral was three spaces towards me.  “I’m busy.” she replied, and kept walking.

While she got busy, getting into her car, starting it and getting her seatbelt on, I got busy with the cart.  I quickly grabbed it and walked it straight at the back of her car.  I turned it sideways and walked back and leaned on my bike.  She came slithering out of her car with her Medusa face on.  If looks could kill, I’d have been a puddle on the parking lot.  I smiled, looked at my watch and said, “I don’t have to be to work till three.”  You know, she wasn’t as busy as she thought she was.  She had the time to take that cart and put it where it belonged, out of everybody else’s way.  On her way back to her car for the second time, I noticed, hanging from her neck, a beautiful 3 to 4 inch silver crucifix with jewels.  I’ll expound on “good Christians doing only good deeds” in a later post.

I always try to make the life of the person “next in production” behind me a little easier.  Sometimes I can offer a bit more, sometimes a bit less, but it is always a pleasant surprise to see how, even a little consideration for others can evoke such happy reactions.

Ah, I See…Or Maybe not!

I’ve always taken my own good health for granted.  The poor wife has so many little medical problems.  A doctor at the clinic said to her one day, “You’ve got a lot of things wrong with you!  Nothing that will kill you, but a lot of small stuff.”  She has fibromyalgia.  It makes her sore and tired, and makes exercising difficult.  She has arthritis, especially in the knees, which makes exercising difficult.  She gets bladder inflammations, which means we can’t go over to the hot pool for low impact exercise….are you beginning so see a pattern here?  Extra weight gained puts pressure on the knees, which causes less exercise, which causes depression, which causes weight gain, and around and around we go.

My daughter is also semi-handicapped and I drive her to out-of-town specialists and treatment clinics.  At 67, though, I WAS in amazingly good shape, good genes, good diet and a physical job.  I didn’t get sick.  All that changed late in November.  I got The Flu!  There was the Christmas/New Years preparation stuff to get through, but, I’m retired, I could afford to take some time off for an unexpected illness.  Weeks passed, and I slowly recovered.  At one point, for a couple of days, if I extended myself too much physically, I would feel as if I were passing out.  I would grey-out, starting from the outer edge of my left eye, and proceeding till I had narrow tunnel-vision in the right.  If I stopped and sat, or leaned over, and took a couple of deep breaths, it would go away, in reverse, always with the left eye the last to clear.

I finally got to the point where I felt that I was back to normal, except…  I was driving one day and I looked at a snowbank,and there seemed to be a yellowish/green spotlight, about a foot in diameter, shining on it.  When I got home, I realized that my left eye had that circular spot in the vision where everything was blurry.  I tried to read the digital clock on the stove, and found that there was a small blind spot in the center of it.  What to do?  What to do?  It didn’t occur to me to go to Emergency, because it didn’t feel like an emergency.  My Optometrist was closed till after New Years, so I waited till then to phone.

As BrainRants commented the other day, hurry up and wait.  No pain, no actual blindness, the best they could do was a Feb. 2 appointment, but they put me at the top of the cancellation list.  On Monday, Jan. 10 they called to say they had a spot at 3:45 on Tue., Jan. 11, which, of course, I took eagerly.  The Optometrist scanned the inside of my left eye and found leakage, like a little blister.  No wonder I had this blurry spot.  Suddenly this was a priority!  By now it’s after 5:00 P.M.  Go to the Emergency ward at the local hospital which has the better Opthalmalogical equipment and wait five or six hours for them to confirm his opinion and call an Opthalmologist.  Either she would come back to the hospital, if it were serious enough, or put me on her ASAP to-see list.

Only one person in front of me in admitting, and it still took almost three hours for a nurse/practitioner to check my eyes.  Sure enough, it’s serious enough to DO something about.  Do I have a brain tumor or something else in my head causing pressure and leakage, or is this just a continuing effect of a nasty case of flu?  I got to go to Nuclear Medicine (sounds scary by itself) and have a CAT-scan of my head done.  The on-duty radiologist took just enough time to come back and say no anomalies, that my son had to make the decision to leave for work an hour early, because we still have the car, and he will have to go to work and come home in the morning, by bus.

The Opthalmologist agreed to see me at 9:00 A.M. the next day  She found inflammation in both optic nerves and the leakage in the left eye.  It’s PROBABLY just a left-over from the flu.  It SHOULD go away by itself or with the help of some medication, but, we’d like to be sure it’s not from another cause.  I got a cross-referral to a neurologist.  His office will call with their earliest appointment.  This is Spinal  Tap.  He’ll use the horse needle to take fluid from my lower back and check the pressure.  I also had to call my own doctor to go in for blood-pressure check and a prescription sheet for blood work at the clinic to check for diabetes, cholesterol etc.  I just did that a couple of months ago.  I wonder if those results are current enough?

The ten-day forecast is, Doctors!, Doctors! and more Doctors!  Tuesday morning I drove the wife 15 miles to the next city for a visit with a weight-loss specialist.  Late Tuesday afternoon I saw my Optometrist.  He looked fuzzy.  I spent five hours Tuesday night in an Emergency ward.  Wednesday morning I visited the Opthalmologist.  Thursday afternoon we drive back to the weight doctor for a half hour of physio and home exercise sheets, and then an appointment with the dietician.  Friday morning I go back to the (I’m going to write “eye doctor”, ’cause Opthalmologist takes too long to type and I’m not sure I’m spelling it correctly.  I have to be sure to run the spell check on this before I post it.) for a field test, which checks what the range of sight is in both eyes.  Friday afternoon I go to my doctor for a physical and clinic sheet.  Monday I drive my wife an hour down the big highway to her Rheumatolgist.  Tuesday I drive my daughter an hour up the big highway for pain maintenance medication IV treatment.  Wednesday the wife and I go to our massage therapist/osteopath, and sometime soon, I’m going to have to fit in blood work at the clinic, and an appointment with that Neurologist, when he calls.

I can’t even blame any or all of this on getting old, but let’s face it, **it happens when you do.  I look back to when I had to drag my sorry ass to work, as the good old days.  I’m optimistic that this will all pass with no serious lasting effects.  Already this vision thing is cutting down on my reading, doing crosswords and computer time.  I don’t think they make Braille keyboards.

Think Ahead, or Behind, or at All, But Think!

My son occasionally goes to a site called The Darwin Awards.  It’s an ongoing collection of stories about geniouses (usually male and under 25), who remove themselves from the gene pool by doing….I was going to say SPECTACULARLY stupid things, but sometimes it’s as simple as, Look Both Ways Before You Cross The Street.  It doesn’t include trying to dive into the family pool from the roof of the bungalow, and missing by just enough to break both legs, just below the knee, on the edge of the pool, because, your buddies will pull you out before you drown.  Then you just get to spend the rest of a great summer in a pair of twin casts.

The son points out that stupidity carries the death penalty.  We both agree that it is not invoked nearly often enough.  If it were, shows like Jackass wouldn’t exist.  I’ve said previously that I don’t really have a problem with stupidity, but with people who have shown that they can think, but simply don’t and won’t.  I’d like to introduce you to the smartest dumb guy, or the dumbest smart guy, that I’ve met in my entire life.  He happens to be American, but I’m sure some of his white trash relatives live in Canada.

Let me set the scene.  This was long ago, shortly after the Earth cooled and the last of the dinosaurs had died in skateboard accidents.  I got up early on the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend and walked 4 blocks west and eight blocks south, to my older, married sister’s house, which was located just off the highway where it entered my home town.  She had a couple of little chores she hadn’t nagged managed to get her husband to do.  My mother sent along a couple of items, and my sister had a couple of things she wanted taken back with me.  Everything done except the final delivery, I was walking back home just in time for lunch.  I was walking along the sidewalk beside the highway, and was about a hundred feet from the intersection with the main street, where I would turn east, when a car slowly passed me at just better than my walking speed.  It pulled over tight to the curb, just at the beginning of the right turn lane and the passenger window rolled down.

I’m going to be asked something, I thought,  probably directions, so I eased over towards the car.  I tend to notice things which many other people don’t, often strange or out-of-place things.  That wasn’t difficult with this car.  I remind the reader that this was Labor Day Saturday.  It was a lovely little Ford Mustang, with Mom and Dad in the front, and two tweens, one male, one female and about two hundred pounds of luggage in the tiny little back seat.  These kids didn’t look like they’d been able to move a muscle, even to take a deep breath, since the doors were closed.  The car had a Michigan plate, and, what brought it out of The Twilight Zone, was the fact that it had four sets of skis and poles strapped to the trunk carrier.  Oh, oh!

Sure enough, Mom leans back as far as she can and Deputy Dawg, the driver leans over to the window and smiles and asks, Where’s the snow?  Yeah,  didn’t see that one coming.  I’m in temporary meltdown; what do you answer to that?  I pointed on up the highway and said, You’re heading North.  He nodded and said Yeah?  I said, The highway turns to the east as you leave town, but if you keep heading North for about 1500 miles, I think they have snow up there.  But where are we going to ski?  I don’t know if they want cross-country or downhill.  If they follow the highway to the east about a hundred miles, some nice little hills poke themselves up.  Some of them even have ski runs on them, but they don’t have any more snow than we do here.

Now I’m curious as to just how this circus got to my town, so I asked, where ya from?  Michigan!  No! Really Bob?  And you even have a car with a Michigan plate on it.  Where exactly in Michigan?  Bay City, is the happy answer.  If I walked the remaining 50 feet to the corner, turned left, and pointed west down main street, and across Lake Huron, where tourists are still swimming and boating, I could almost see Bay City.  It might be a bit further south, but not much.  The two communities are on the tips of a large V.

In an attempt to place an understanding of the relative geography into his head I asked, how did you get here?  My birthday was in about three weeks.  I’m still only 14.  I felt that I should go very carefully about teaching a middle-aged man about social responsibility and world situations.  We drove down to Detroit, crossed over to Windsor, and drove up here, he replied.  So, you drove south and then turned around and drove the same distance north, why would you expect snow?  Well, this is Canada, isn’t it?  Ya got me there, Sparky, this definitely is Canada.  How could I have been so silly?

Wait a minute!  You said you drove to Detroit and crossed over?  Yeah, why?  Why didn’t you cross the border at Port Huron, into Sarnia?  Where???  Dear Lord, he can’t read a map either.  Sarnia/Port Huron sit just at the bottom of Lake Huron.  It’s at least another hour and a half to drive all the way to Detroit, and then when you get on the Canadian side, you have to go way out around the belly of Lake St. Clair for a two hour ride to get back to  where you already were.  He’s caused himself four hours of wasted gas and driving time with two kids crammed in the back.

I just had to know what kind of a guy did all this.  What do you do for a living?  I’m a Production Engineer!  And he’s edumacated.  A college man, maybe university.  A real school gave him a real piece of paper to prove it.  Ignoring the strange little kink that would put him on the road on Labor Day, looking for snow, even if he had showed up at New Years, he dragged his wife and kids hundreds of miles with no more firm address in mind than Skiing, Canada.  He didn’t know where to go.  He didn’t call or write ahead to book accomodations.  Some folks are like that; it’s an adventure, we’ll sleep in the car.  MOST of them survive.  At least he didn’t kill the wife or kids.  Fifty-five years later I still shake my head.  I don’t know where/if they stayed for the weekend, or what they did with ski outfits but no swimsuits.  Iz not my problem, man.

Canadians and Americans: Similar Differences

Whewww….finally back to blogging.  Two weeks of flu, followed by a week and  a  half  of  Christmas/New  Years/shopping/wrapping/baking/cooking/ visitors/cleaning.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be, because they are ADHD-driven, but I am still impressed by those among my favorite bloggers who managed to pump out a post a day or better.

I will have to make an appointment with my Optometrist soon.  What I took at first as merely a symptom of the flu continues to linger.  I fear I may have blown an artery in the retina of my left eye.  I now have an ongoing circular area in my vision, not a blind spot, but the other day when I looked at a snowbank, there was a yellowish circle on it.   I have normal-for-me low blood pressure, so maybe there’s another cause, hopefully treatable.  Enough about me, why are Canadians and Americans the same, only different?

America was settled largely by middle-class merchants and religious protesters.  From the beginning the average was weighted toward individuality.  When the good land and good weather eventually ran out,  Great Britain settled the northern half of the continent with the excess population of farmers and sheep-herders.  These were the order-obeying drones, accompanied by just enough second-and-third son lesser nobility to keep them in line and remit the taxes.  The United States revolted and fought its way to independence.  A hundred years later, Canada got hers by asking nicely.

Before globalization the two nations came from the same founding countries, but different social influences, both pre-existing and later experienced, have created two neighboring countries with the same language and ethnic heritage, but often interestingly different outlooks on the same situation.  America has drones, and Canada has free-thinkers, but the bell curves don’t come down in the same place.

The American population, over the years, has become polarized on just about every issue.  There are just Democrats and Republicans, and never the twain shall meet.  Even people who voted for the likes of Ralph Nader or H. Ross Perot couldn’t take them seriously.   The Canadian Parliament has a multi-party goulash, not quite as bad as the on-going Italian fiasco, including Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, a single Green Party rep. and the Bloc Quebecois party, whose publicly declared mission is to secede from Canada (and still we politely let them run, and sit in government) but whose real agenda is to get more money and political power by blackmail.

Two things happened recently which pointed out the divergent results to a common problem.  First, Coca-Cola offered a plan by which they would donate money to help save habitat for polar bears.  They would imprint special white-on-white cans, showing polar bears on a snow/ice background.  For every can sold, they would donate five cents.  In the US, it was like the Boston Tea Party all over again.  Bitch, bitch, bitch!  We don’t like it! Stop the campaign!  Give us back our red cans!  When they’re white, we can’t find the Coke on the shelf!  They look like Diet Coke!  They look like generic cola!  Even, it doesn’t taste the same!  Thousands of letters and emails convinced Coca-Cola US to terminate the campaign.  The same day I saw the announcement of the cancellation in the US, I was watching some Canadian TV and saw an ad which stated that the same scheme which had just been halted south of the border, was doing so well in Canada, that Coca-Cola.ca was expanding it by two million cans, probably to get rid of the ones they couldn’t sell in the States.

The other business announcement which had me shaking my head at American management in the Canadian market was one from McDonalds, which said that they intended to take away the coffee-selling crown from Canada’s own Tim Hortons donut and coffee shop chain.  Control of Tim’s was bought about ten years ago by Wendy’s, headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, an exurb of Columbus.  I never thought that the two were a good fit, but Wendy’s used it as an excuse to start putting up Tim Hortons in Ohio and Michigan.  That’s why Edward Scissorhands Hotspur can get a Tim’s across from The Greene in Dayton.  Wendy’s finally realized what I felt all along and sold control back to the Canadian corporation  On my last trip to Detroit I looked up Tim Hortons in the phone book and found TWO in the metro Detroit area.  Better than the time before when there was zero, but here in Canada, I could pass two Tim’s on the way to the community mailbox.  A recent news item in the paper listed a robbery at a Tim’s “on Victoria St.”  A quick mental review placed at least three along the ten mile stretch.  You have to be a bit more specific.  There are probably five to ten Tim Hortons for every McDonalds in Canada.  I sit in the middle of a half a million population zone.  After years of dithering because they only put up a shop for every two hundred thousand people, the American chain, Krispy Kreme built an outlet locally.  Just over a year later Tim Hortons built one, literally across the street.  Just another year later, the backup at the Tim’s drive-thru is out to the street, and the Krispy Kreme is gone and a family restaurant takes its place.

There is no serious competition for Tim’s from Second Cup or Country Style, both coffee/donut shops like Tim’s.  If you like tree-hugger pastries, there are a few Williams coffee pubs, and enough Canucks are rich/preppy enough to keep the occasional Starbucks going.  There’s one inside my favorite bookstore, but Canadians WANT their Timmy’s.  For the last five years, during the first week of December,  McDonalds has been giving away a free small coffee to anyone who come in and asks.  If you want a medium or large, the charge is, free, plus the difference for the size.  The lines at Tim’s haven’t gotten any shorter except when they open a new shop two blocks down the street.  I don’t think McDonalds stands a chance on this, but what do I know?  I’m not an American market researcher.