Don’t worry, I’ve got a neti pot for that

My brother is visiting from Boston, briefly, for a job interview out here. And seeing him in my bathroom, grooming himself in preparation for his interview, reminded me of a conversation we had over the last Christmas Holiday.

* * *

I walked in to the bathroom to encounter my brother trimming his nose hairs with the small scissors that normally live in The Brit’s bathroom drawer.

Me: [giggle]

Bro: What?

Me: I think ignorance is bliss on this one.

Bro: WHAT?

Me: Nothing! Don’t worry about it!!

Bro: It’s the scissors isn’t it?

Me: Yep.

Bro: Shit.

Me: Yeah…The Brit uses those for manscaping.

Bro: So…what you’re telling me…is that I’ve essentially just put The Brit’s dick in my nose?

Me: Pretty much.

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Local, organic, delicious, AND capable of adding an hour to each day?

Shit, I’ll take all the bunches you have left and I’ll be back to this farmers market again next week.

Come for a visit, I swear I won’t pee on you! (Can’t make any promises about my neighbors, though.)

So, you know how most households have a junk drawer?  Well, this household has a junk-guest bedroom/office; it’s basically a 10’ X 10’ space full of random crap PLUS two years worth of items that had just been set there for a second.  Stuff that then decided to pop itself some popcorn, pull up a chair, kick up its feet, and hunker down to watch all the back episodes of Friday Night Lights.  Whenever we host a dinner party, we just gather up all the unsightly crap from the front rooms of the house (ie: stacks of unopened mail, The Brit’s laptop bag, any coats we couldn’t be bothered to hang up), throw it in a corner of that room, and close the door.  All gone!  Kick ball change aaaand jazz hands!!  Heaven forbid anyone actually spend the night; in that case we send our guests in with a clean set of sheets, a description of what the queen-sized guest bed looked like when it was last spotted, and fingers crossed for good luck.

Apparently, this propensity for stacking and storing is not a new habit.  We used to do it at the house we lived in before this one, such that, when it came time to move, we had piles of crap sitting around and our only recourse was to put those piles, as is, into boxes and move them with us.  THOSE boxes, still unpacked, were in the guest bedroom/office/junk-room closet.  Which made that whole room kind of like a Russian nesting doll of crap…a matryoshka of random items, if you will.  One look inside that room and any sane person would have thought we lived by the old adage:  Never get involved in a land war in Asia, never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line, and never throw anything away.  I mean, shit, there might be something important in there and, furthermore, you never know when you’re going to need to cross-reference that scrapbook from 1992 (mine).  Or refer to that paystub from 2003 (mine).  Or…[wait for it]…zone out to the cassette-tape of Tim Wheater’s flute stylings (The Brit’s).

I walked in there the other day to mine for missing dishes and came to the cold, hard realization that we were one stuffed animal collection away from becoming the subject of a Dateline special on hoarders.  And since I haven’t started work yet, I made it my next home improvement project.  Little did I know it would lead to an archeological dig of mythical proportions…the sheer volume of things uncovered was appalling and probably met the criteria for consideration in the Guinness World Record.  Everything from the W-2 forms from my waitressing job in college to just about every patient list I ever printed out in my seven years of residency was in there, all mixed in with random and highly regrettable photographic evidence of some of the more ill-advised fashion decisions of my past.  So, there was a considerable need for some paper shredding is what I’m saying.

I shredded like a banshee, or at least how I imagine a banshee would if she were to engage in such a mundane task.  Before I knew it, I’d shredded my way into shallow papery grave.  Things started to go dark and quiet…peaceful; just like they all say it does right before the end.  But then I was overcome with the will to live (in other words, I got hungry) and clawed myself out by following the light from the window and the smell of carnitas from the taqueria behind our house.  After a snack break, I crammed all the paper shreddings into 5 full sized garbage bags and stacked them in the hallway for later composting.

After the paper was dealt with, I redirected my attention to purging the room of items that we were never likely to use but that someone else might enjoy.  Knick knacks, picture frames, clothes, movie posters, etc, etc, etc.

Now, I live in the kind of neighborhood where setting things outside the front door automatically means that it’s free to take.  True story:  The Brit and I were unloading stuff we’d bought from Costco one day and we’d used a huge package of toilet paper we’d just purchased to prop the front gate open to make the task easier.  We came outside to unload some more stuff from the trunk of the car to find a guy eyeing the toilet paper like it was a filet mignon in lobster sauce over a bed of sautéed spinach.  He bent down, presumably  to pick it up, when The Brit said, “uh…that’s ours.”   He looked at The Brit and said, cynically,  “I don’t believe you.”   A few more words were exchanged, a receipt (proof!) was brandished, and the gentleman was sent on his way.  We should have given him a roll for the road; he looked like he could use a quilted, double-plied wipe or two.

Anyway, I also live in the kind of neighborhood where every corner is The People’s Urinal.  So, I figured I’d set all of our extra, unneeded crap outside our front gate and it would either get peed on or taken.  Or both.  Sure enough, within minutes, the contents of the cardboard box I’d set out were as stripped as a carcass left out on the salty pans of Namibia.

I love my neighborhood.   Just think:  right about now, someone, somewhere in my barrio is rocking out to Tim Wheater while someone else is hanging up a urine-soaked Chicago movie poster on their wall.  And I can finally see my guest bedroom floor!  Win win!!

Actually, do you carry anything in business casual?

In the very least, I’d settle for some pine nuts that don’t require the procurement of a sugar daddy and the fulfillment of regrettable sexual favors.

If you kill or maim anyone seriously, though, you just get the heritage lamp WITHOUT the seal

My Standard Chair was delivered yesterday.  It’s a gift each surgical resident gets from the university as recognition for the seven years of dedicated service towards improving the lives of others while astonishingly sleep deprived.

It’s as if, after seven years spent on my feet for 80 hours a week, my university is saying to me, “NOW you can have a seat.”

I love that the website promises “generations of delighted recipients.”  I don’t know about my future offspring but I’m certainly delighted at the chance to finally sit down.  When I have children, I’ll be sure to instill in them an earnest and deep-seated (zing!) appreciation for taking a load off.

I take that back, the last line was the one for the bathroom & trust me when I say there was AT LEAST a liter in there.

So, because getting a misdemeanor is generally frowned upon by the medical board and my mother, I went to the DMV almost immediately after landing back in SF to deal with this driver’s license renewal business.  I drove myself simply because I wanted to see precisely how hard I could slap Fate across the face before she bitch-slapped me back.  For a good portion of the drive, there was a police car two vehicles behind me but since pedestrians refrained from flailing onto my hood melodramatically and one way traffic decided to flow in the same direction I was traveling, I avoided getting pulled over.  One can’t always depend on such favorable driving conditions!

Now, I was going in without an appointment, which I know is inadvisable.  Also, I was about five days out from the use of my straightening iron and my epidermis was sloughing off in large, flaky sheets after the same number of days spent under the Maui sun.  I like to call it my Braised Tina Turner Look.  So, as far as bargaining chips went, I wasn’t going to be able to use my looks.  I’d have to be charming.  A trying task when one is molting.

I walked in and was immediately relegated to a line 15 people deep.  That line was to determine which line I would stand in after that.  This was to be an exercise in patience and urinary bladder capacitance.  Free tip:  don’t drink coffee before going to the DMV without an appointment.

When I got to the front of that first line, I was greeted by a DMV employee sitting behind a desk.  Truth be told, to say I was “greeted” would be generous; there was an incomprehensible grunt projected in my general direction.  Put that together with the fact that she possessed two eyeballs and did appear to twitch on occasion and she scored about a 7 on the Glascow Coma Scale.   In a trauma setting, that would mean certain intubation.

“I need to renew my li…”

Impatiently, as if I was imposing on all of the important looking out the windows she was meant to be doing, “Fill out this form and wait in that line over there.”   She pointed limply to her right; this raised her GCS considerably.  At least she didn’t need to be intubated, I hadn’t brought my doctor bag with me.  Probably because I don’t have one.

So I filled out the form, waited in line #2 and, once at the front of THAT line, was given a number.  The number allowed me to enjoy a seat while I waited for MUCH longer.  I took the only open seat, wedged between a woman who was breastfeeding her baby and a man who, every once in a while, would mumble loud enough for the DMV staff to appreciate that “this is bullshit.”  Unclear whether he was referring to the prolonged waiting process or the fact that he wasn’t the one getting breastfed.  This led me to conclude that I should indeed put together a doctor bag and outfit it with a few spare foley catheters and a faux silicone breast.  You never know when you’re going to need to drain a full bladder or pacify a fully grown miscreant.

During the two hours I spent waiting, I permitted myself to get lost in the DMV literature which was printed, for my convenience, in Russian.  I don’t read or speak Russian, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s pretty intuitive, especially if you use the pictures in the manual as benchmarks:

I’m pretty sure the take-home message on this one is:  She’s older than earth’s creation, missing the majority of her mental faculties, and most certainly shouldn’t be driving.  Neither should you if you’re this old.

Learning point to be gleaned from this one:  We don’t recommend sleeping while operating a vehicle.  But, hey, as long as you don’t get caught, no harm done!

I was totally going to nail the written exam.

My bladder counted the minutes and, finally, when I’d convinced myself that bladder perforation was going to be my only foreseeable way out of there, my number got called.  I was to present myself and what was left of my scaling flesh to Desk #21.  There, I was asked for my old license.  The woman behind Desk #21 looked at it, looked at me, looked at it again.  “You know this is over a year expired, right?”  She said that with the tone that she probably reserves only for those who’ve looked Potential Misdemeanor dead in the eyes and laughed:  Respect.

I paid the renewal fee.  And took a visual test; essentially proving to the DMV that I could, should the circumstance arise, see a small yeti 20 feet in front of my vehicle or, more likely, detect the vague, octagonal red shape of a stop sign.   Pass!  I was then told to wait in another line to have my picture taken.  Great.  My last license photo, thanks to a strange and inexplicable shadow, made me appear as though one could drive a small utility vehicle through my two front teeth.  Surely my Braised Tina Turner look wasn’t going to do me any favors to improve upon that.

I waited in the photo line.  When it was my turn I politely asked the photographer what Photoshop options were available and whether or not he would be able to do anything about my peeling nose or the size of my ass.  (I knew my ass wouldn’t be featured anywhere in the photo but, hey, two birds with one stone.)  He blinked at me, clearly bored, and shot the photo without warning.  It’s sure to be a winner.  The photographer pointed to yet another line, this one for the written test, and told me to wait in it.  Good thing I studied!

In that line, I found myself behind my previous seat-neighbor who turned to look at me and exclaimed, quite predictably at this point, “this is BULLSHIT.”  I thought about how badly I still needed to pee and how  I was going to look like a desquamating, cracked-out Tina Turner in-need-of-a-pit-stop for the next five to ten years on my license and I simply nodded in all-knowing, silent agreement.

I made it to the front of the line and was handed a test.  I had to answer 18 out of the 36 questions and I was only allowed to miss three. Considering the questions were at about this level of complexity:

If your cell phone rings while you are driving and you do not have a hands-free device, you should:

  1. Check the incoming number, and if it’s your mother, answer it.  She might need your help logging into her email.
  2. Put it on speaker and scream “OMG, I totally shouldn’t have answered the phone because I’m driving” into the speaker, regardless of who is calling.
  3. Let it go to voicemail

It was hardly rocket science.  (It wasn’t even rocket surgery.)  And, frankly, it restored my fear in my fellow drivers.  Seriously, if the DMV expects that little of us, essentially anyone with a 3rd grade education who meets the height/weight requirement and has the moral aptitude of a squirrel can drive.  Let’s take a road trip!

The sixth and final line in which I waited was the one in which I got my test score.  I missed one question.  That’s what I get for studying the Russian manual.  I was handed a temporary license and told I was free to go!  WTF?  Really?  No more lines?  By that time, I’d lost all sensation in my urethra and was prepared to push it to the limit…you know, risk life and bladder to see just how much unbelievable pain I could tolerate.  A testing of the corporeal limits, if you will, not unlike those athletes who bicycle race across America for days on end without any sleep.   Perhaps I could be a urinary savant and not even know it yet?

But, alas, I am no pee champion.  Just a regular girl who managed to escape a misdemeanor and who will pay better attention in the future to expiration dates.  And bladder signals.

Next up: lathering myself up with chum and free diving off the coast of the Bahamas

So, let it be stated here and now that when one goes from working an obscene number of hours each week to NOT, there’s only so much one can do to fill one’s time before one gets batshit crazy with listlessness.  Sure, there were stacks of mail to go through and an expired driver’s license in need of renewal (lest I get pulled over for my erratic, drunk-and-mad-with-glee-over-being-done-with-residency woman-driving and get handed a ticket and a lovely little misdemeanor!1) but that would be SENSIBLE.  And this was no time for sensibleness!!  Sensibleness = Boring!  THIS…this time between residency and starting The Real Job required something more distinguished, more exciting.  Like impromptu dancing in the streets!  So I did that.  But no one followed my lead and it didn’t turn out to be the local, independent Xanadu-reprisal experience I’d hoped it would be.  (And I thought San Francisco would have my back on this one!) So, next best thing:  a vacation!

This brought me to my next dilemma:  where to go!?  I wanted to go on a dive trip, because summer = diving.  So, Australia?  Thailand?  Cozumel?  Maui?  A toughy, because they all offer great diving opportunities and because I regard kangaroos, vagina ping-pong, Mexican fine dining, and getting lei’d all of equal caliber on The Enjoyment Scale.

This, as one of my friends put it, was quite The White Collar Problem.  Kind of like:  Shall I have the Black Sea Caviar or the Maine Lobster Risotto?  Shall I purchase the offensively expensive Louis Vuitton bag or settle for the absurdly priced Versace one?  I’d never had a white collar problem before but it seemed like a pretty good problem to have!  At least the vacation problem, which was a real dilemma.  As for the fictional ones, I’d go with the lobster risotto every time and I’d use the money it would cost to buy a Louis Vuitton bag to erect a small orphanage in a third world country.  And then I’d feed all the orphans lobster risotto.  I’m a foodie AND a giver, what can I say.

Because I had a few weeks at my disposal, I could literally go ANYWHERE.  At this realization, I laughed maniacally, heady with the power of it all.  And then I remembered that The Brit didn’t have any vacation time.  So if I wanted to be nice, I would choose a place that was close enough for him to meet me for the weekend.  Be nice?  Be mean?  Nice?  Mean?  Nice.  Fine, we’ll go to Maui.  Sighhhh.  The burdens of marriage, am I right ladies??

So.  We went to Maui!  I went for five days, and The Brit joined me for three of them.  And it was lovely.  Palm trees always equal happiness to me and there were plenty of them.  Our hotel was small and quaint, setting it apart from the high rises of Kahana or Wailea…and it had a small, private beach on which The Brit and I, starting on opposite ends, could run towards each other with arms outstretched, hair aglow with the light of the setting sun, in slow motion…just like in the movies.  I mean, if we’d WANTED to.  We totally would have had we not been preoccupied with the important business of eating the local pineapple and drinking all the local beer (aloha, coconut porter!) and diving with all the local fishies and turtles.

Which brings me to a couple of points I’d like to make about SCUBA diving.  Firstly, for as long as it is a sport that requires a wetsuit, the act of donning and doffing it will always result in comedy for me and those within ass-reach.  My behind is a well-described phenomenon and, let’s be frank, it just doesn’t obey the conventional laws of size and proportion.  You know how Hallmark has a special Mahogany Line of cards specifically targeted to meet the needs of the African American community?  Well, I think ScubaPro should create a similarly inspired line of wetsuits…to meet the needs of African Americans AND chicas latinas like me who are built like a sista.  Until then, I’ll just have to grease myself up like a pig at a county fair to squeeze myself into wetsuits made for the mere butt-depraved mortal.  It’s a good time.  Bring the fam.  And some popcorn. It could take a while.

Secondly, I’ve discovered that I’m way less of a scaredy cat that I was when I first started diving.  Astute readers and real-life friends will recall a certain perforating of a certain tympanic membrane which resulted a certain degree of anxiety about ever getting back in the water again.  The Brit’s solution to helping me overcome my fear of ear explosions?  Taking me to French Polynesia and throwing me in with the sharks.  Like, I’m not even kidding.  Fucking sharks.  Check it:

The dive master in FP told me that if you want sharks to maintain a distance from you then there were two things you could do:  continue blowing lots of bubbles (because REAL fish don’t blow bubbles and sharks prefer real fish to human ones with self-contained underwater breathing apparatuses (apparati?) for dorsal fins) and refrain from wearing bright colors.  Like yellow fucking flippers.  Sweet.   As far as I was concerned, folding myself up into a C-shape to blow bubbles AT my yellow flippers only served to cancel the benefit of one out with the disadvantage of the other, leaving me vulnerable to a life-threatening shark attack.  I was most certainly going to die. Fuck my ear drums!

Now, admittedly, what we saw in FP were only reef sharks.  Compared to the Tiger or Bull shark, the Reef shark is practically a vegetarian.  He eats like grass and plankton and shit.  And by shit I mean fish that are much smaller than my ass.  (And he probably really doesn’t eat grass or plankton.)  But still.  Fucking shark, nonetheless.

We saw sharks on every single dive we did in French Polynesia.  Every. Single. Dive.  I survived the ordeal with but a few flesh wounds (mostly from being attacked by the inanimate coral which quite rudely, on occasion, got in my way), an intact pair of ear drums, and a sense of pride that only the battle weary possess.  I may have shit my wetsuit2 but I made it out of, like, The Vietnam of shark encounters and lived to tell the story.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t Vietnam, but it was at least The Gulf Conflict.

So, when we were in Maui and we came across this little 3 foot long fella:

Other divers were like:  OMG, it’s a fucking shark!  I knew this, even underwater, because they were putting their hand up to their forehead to simulate a shark fin while opening their eyeballs really wide in abject fear; universal underwater sign for “OMG, it’s a fucking shark!”   While they were all busy soiling themselves, I was like:  Pssh!  Pfft!  Whatevs.  You don’t even KNOW what I’ve lived through.

1.Did you know it’s a misdemeanor to drive with an expired license?  I was recently quite surprised to find that mine expired in 09.  OH NINE.  WTF?
2. Ok, so I didn’t shit in it.  But I did pee in it.


Hark!

The madness featured here is mine and mine alone. It does not, in any way, reflect the madness of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family, or my colorful friends. The privacy of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family and colorful friends is sacred & deeply respected, so no names. All words Copyright © la cubana gringa, no method, just madness 2006-2010. All comments © their authors. Don't steal; it's not nice. (And my Grandfather knows people.)

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