Ear Fullness

Ear fullness is a common complaint among Meniere’s sufferers. It is one of the key indicators of Meniere’s along with a specific kind of hearing loss and vertigo attacks. What it feels like is hard to describe.

If you have ever flown in a plane or gone up in a tall building, climbed a mountain or gone down to the seashore from a high elevation, you have likely had a feeling of pressure inside your head. A pressure that is directly behind the ear canal. Frequent travelers know the feeling and what to do about it. Pulling on an earlobe, working the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) by shifting the jaw back and forth until the ear pops, chewing gum, etc. There are many ways to get the canals behind your ear, the eustachian tubes, to clear so that the pressure in the inner ear becomes equal to the pressure on the outside of your ear and the discomfort goes away.

Ear fullness is like that, but not like that. Imagine that kind of discomfort elevated to a level of pain that is very hard to ignore, and then imagine that you can’t get the pain that feels like it is right behind your eardrum to go away no matter how hard you chew gum, work your jaw, etc. This pain goes on for days, sometimes for weeks.

You can’t get the pain to go away, the pressure to equalize, because the pain doesn’t come from a pressure imbalance behind the eardrum. It comes from the fluid-filled chambers of the inner ear itself, the cochlea, and the fluid imbalance that produces all the other symptoms of Meniere’s disease.

The first time the ear fullness presented itself, I sat in the shower for an hour or more trying to make what I thought was a plugged eustachian tube clear itself. Instead I induced a multi-day vertigo spell by rupturing one of the vessels in the cochlea of my left ear. As you can probably imagine, I don’t recommend that form of treatment.

The next time ear fullness presented itself a few years later, I had to resist the temptation to gouge the ear out with a sharp implement. I understandably didn’t want to look like Vincent Van Gogh, who might very well have suffered from a similar affliction. I had access to a sauna at the time and I spent far too many hours sitting in it just hoping that the pain would ease off. Ease off just a little.

The pressure never did ease off. The sauna did do wonders for clearing my sinuses, though.

There is no known way to reduce this pressure in the ear. It is possible that early treatment with intratympanic injections of steroids can reduce the pressure and prevent hearing loss in a newly affected ear, but it is not a universally successful treatment, and it carries potential hazards that make it an undesirable treatment for routine incidents of pain. Hazards like permanent deafness and severe instances of vertigo.

Because I thought that what I was suffering from was allergies, I experimented with various allergy drugs trying to find the right balance of treatment that would produce the best effect with the least side effects. What I settled on was Pseudoephedrine and Guaifenesin which I took pretty routinely every six hours for months at a time. I took those two drugs for about twenty years or so every Spring and every Fall.

With a nod to the concerns of my cardiologist I have forgone continuing the use of Pseudoephedrine unless I simply can’t breath through my sinuses at night. However, I still take Guaifenesin when the ear fullness rears it’s ugly head. I don’t know if the soothing of the pain is placebo, or if the Guaifenesin is somehow helping the fluid in my ear to balance out. I don’t know, and I don’t care. I feel better after taking it and that is good enough for me in the end.

Dinked

He’s right on my ass. I can’t even see his front plate. I think, “I need to get out of his way.” So I turn right and there is an appalling scraping sound from the passenger side of the car. The Wife cringes visibly.

I pull over and step out to survey the damage. Yep. It’s a dink alright. First dink on this car. Now I’m pissed. Why is it always parking lots that I can’t find my way around in? The Wife says “you need to learn to stop letting other people pressure you into doing things” and promptly motions for me to move back out into traffic. The Wife can be an iron sometimes.

This takes me all the way back. Back to the driver’s education instructor who forced me to drive at highway speeds by putting his foot on the accelerator and pressing it until we were weaving all over the road at 60 miles an hour. All he had to say was “keep it between the lines.” That was my first moment of sheer driving terror.

Then there was my first auto accident. I had my learner’s permit. I drove Mom up to Village foods and parked badly next to a nice tan Oldsmobile. Mom said “I’ll leave you here but don’t move the car without me. I’ll be right back.”

No sooner had Mom gone into the store than the woman who owned the Olds came out and surveyed my parking job. “You have to move so I can leave” she tells me.

I repeat what Mom said “I can’t move till my Mom comes back.” When she insists I have to move or she can’t leave I further explain “I only have a learner’s permit. I can’t drive without an adult in the car.” She becomes outraged at that point. Red in the face, hollerin’ and screamin’ like I had insulted her cat or something.

“You will move that car right now young man!”

So I put the car in gear, turned the wheel and promptly gouged a crease in her Olds that probably looked a lot like the one that sank the Titanic. Then she started crying and ran into the store to call the police. Mom came out at about that point and gaped at me.

“I told you not to move! I said I would be right back, and here I am! Why did you move?” and she started crying. Then I started crying. I never could stand to watch her cry.

That was the first and last time I drove on my parent’s insurance. From that point forward I paid the usurious insurance fees that the Texas State legislature allows auto insurers to charged young men under the age of 25, and I paid that rate until I turned 25.

As I’m sitting here thinking about what insurance has cost me over the subsequent forty years, I start thinking about the dollar figure attached to my driving record in the form of the number of incidents that I’ve had over the same number of years. Doing some comparative arithmetic, I’m not sure if it is the insurance companies or the accidents that are winning.

I mean, there was that first one with the Oldsmobile. The next one was in the 1970 Challenger that Dad bought for me in 1979. Me and a guy played footsie at a green light, me going straight and him turning left, neither of us sure who was going to go until we smacked into each other. My brother did a somersault in the backseat. The Challenger never had seat belts. If it did have seat belts when it came off the assembly line, the previous owner took them out when he put in the purple and white shag carpeting on the floor.

She was a beauty that Challenger. Slant six. Metallic purple paint with a white fake leather roof. White leather interior. That scoop-shaped front end that looks like it has severed heads written all over its future. She didn’t look too good after I rolled her a few months later, though. I should have got those brakes fixed before taking her on those Kansas dirt roads. Turn here, oops, into the ditch and onto her roof. I think she ended life as parts for other cars. I just know Dad was as pissed as I had ever seen him, and I had to buy the next car myself. From him.

She was also a beauty. Burnt orange 1972 Chevelle. Black leather interior. She was hot. I mean, really hot in those 110° Texas summer. You rolled the windows down before you got in the car. Someone sideswiped her and ran off a few days after I bought her. A few scratches was all that incident left. Never even told the insurance company about that one.

Then there was that time a girl smoked her tires off in reverse and smashed the back of her Mom’s station wagon into the front of that Chevelle. The front bumper on the Chevelle was pointed, and it rode up into the back of her car like the prow of a ship slicing through water. I was never able to put a front plate on that car again because of that accident. The plate holder was the only thing damaged on my car. The station wagon’s back gate was trashed. Nothing a few thousand dollar wouldn’t fix.

The girl cried and cried when we pulled over. I told her not to worry. “Just go home and explain it to your Mom. It’ll be okay.” I was probably lying. She thanked me for not calling the cops. It was the first time someone begged me not to call the cops, but it wasn’t the last.

The Chevelle ended her time on the road on Halloween night, 1981. I should have snuck into the theater with my cruising buddies that night but I hate horror films and so refused to go with them. Instead I went out and skirted past an orange light about two blocks away from the theater. On the other side of the light was a guy tooling around with six people in his pickup truck, and he had just gotten plastered with water balloons, a time-honored Halloween tradition. He decided right then, as I was coming at him through the light, that he would pull a U-turn and chase the offenders back across town. He never made it.

I tried to swerve, but I was going to fast. He never saw me. Luckily there was only one injury, not counting the knees that I punched through my dashboard and never reported. Should have reported. Some girl in the passenger seat of the truck hit her head on the glovebox handle and got a concussion. They blamed the wreck on me and not the guy making an illegal U-turn because he claimed he was only going to pull into the parking loot across the street. The parking lot didn’t happen to have an opening where he was turning though. The judge ignored that fact when he made his decision.

The Chevelle was totaled and sat on the driveway of our rental house until the day we moved out. I bought a junker off of someone in the neighborhood, I think it was one of the regulars at Mom’s bar. I really can’t remember. 1970 Pontiac Executive. A four-door behemoth we called the Tank. It just needed to be painted green instead of gold and have stars painted on the side and it would have looked just like a tank.

It came to us pre-dinked, and it’s the only car up to that point that I owned that I didn’t wreck. Instead I beat the dents it already had back out with a hammer and I salvaged parts out of the junk yard next door to make the headlights point the right direction. I drove it for years before I handed it off to my sisters.

I bought a 1974 Vega next, the last car I bought from my father. It was not hot, but it was fun to drive. Fun to drive until the engine crapped out. I was on a roll. Two cars, no wrecks! Then I bought the Pinto. 1974 lime green Pinto. I got stoned one night and spray-painted it camouflage. When I mentioned this fact to strangers they’d always remember seeing that car. I guess the camouflage didn’t work. I stripped out all the interior except for the seats and then drove it that way for years. I was rear-ended twice in that Pinto. It never exploded, thank the lucky stars. It died because the U-joint in the drive train was compressed by the last rear-ender, and that caused the joint to fail.

I had met the Wife by that point. We sold that Pinto for fifty bucks to a salvage yard, and we promptly went out and ate fifty dollars worth of Chinese food. The best Pinto we ever ate.

It was at about that time that I bought my first new car. 1987 Cavalier. Gold, just like the Executive. I didn’t hold that against it. I financed that car for 5k and considered it a steal at that, even though it didn’t have air conditioning. That car ate a tree stump on the driver’s side front fender. I backed into a bollard in a convenience store parking lot once or twice. Who’s counting? I hauled the sailboat around with that poor little four-cylindered car for years. Luckily it was a pretty dinky sailboat. Fast in the water, though.

We were rear-ended by a truck when we first moved to Austin. That guy also begged us not to go to the police, and then he crawfished on paying us. We ran across his truck in a parking lot a few months later and we took pictures of the paint from our car that was all over his bumper. When we confronted him with the photos, he paid us the money right on the spot. That’s about the only time justice has been done in my presence, automotive-wise.

We got our first Saturn wagon not too long after that. Another gold car. We needed air conditioning in Austin. The first time we were caught in traffic with a baby in the backseat squalling in 100° temperatures, we knew we needed air conditioning. My father-in-law paid cash for the car. I’d never seen that before. That car didn’t live very long, either.

There was a couple from Denver who were touring the sites off of route 29 in the Hill Country. They were stopped at a stop sign. The husband, who had his hands on the wheel, wanted to turn left. So he started to turn left. His wife, side-seat driving, insisted he go right. So they stopped in front of oncoming traffic to argue about which direction they should go. They never got to finish that argument.

It is a handy rule of thumb to remember that the car goes where the person with the wheel in their hand steers it. It doesn’t go where the passenger wants it to go, and it doesn’t go where those in the peanut gallery behind the driver want it to go. It goes where the driver tells it to go. Maybe agree on a route before you start driving? There’s a thought.

When he stopped in front of me, I couldn’t believe it. There was an eighteen wheeler beside me on the inside lane and cars behind me. There was no way any of us were going to miss that guy’s car. I remember his eyes as he saw us coming. Whites all around. I couldn’t miss him, but I could try not to kill him, so I swerved towards the back of his car and impacted on the rear axle and not center-punch his door at sixty-five miles an hour. Small mercies.

He spun around from the force of the impact on the rear of his car, and the other vehicles managed to avoid him. We hit the center median of the side road he left, and then flew over the lanes he should have been in if he wanted to argue safely, impacting and bouncing over the three foot embankment on the far side of the crossroad. That’s where we left the front bumper of our car. Planted on that dirt embankment. At some point between the first impact and the last, the Wife asks in a plaintive voice “can we please stop hitting things?” I was too busy to answer.

When we were finally able to move, after the powdery fog from the expanded air bags had finally started to settle, we both managed to get out of the car to survey the wreckage. Much more than a dink, this accident. The two plastic front fenders were sticking out a ridiculous distance past what was now the front of the car. Our poor new Saturn wouldn’t be going anywhere aside from the wrecking yard after that.

The Wife got out her laptop that she had carefully packaged against just such an eventuality as the one we had just gone through, and started taking down insurance information from the people whose lives we had just spared. She turned to me after a few minutes and asked me “should I be able to feel my fingers right now?” We put her in the ambulance a few minutes later.

The one time you will ever be happy to see a cop will be the time he shows up to pick up the pieces of a wreck like this one. I could have hugged the guy when I saw him. He drove me to the regional hospital where they had taken the Wife, and we hitched a ride back to town with friends from our fan group who lived out that way.

That was the worst wreck I’d been in up to that point, and it was pretty much the last one, too. I gave up driving as the bad idea I had always thought it was, and I let the Mario Andretti wannabe that I married drive instead. She’s better at it anyway. She’s only wrecked one car, and that one was entirely not her fault. It’s also another story. She can tell it if she likes some other time.

I gave up driving until this summer. Nearly twenty years accident-free, and now I’m back to driving. I’m back to driving because the doctor’s won’t let you drive if you’ve recently had open-heart surgery. The Andretti-ette has been dragged from the car against her will because her chest might collapse in the event of an accident. I think she’d be safer if she was driving. Now I’ve got to go find some rubbing compound and some touch-up paint and see if I can make the new dink in our car appear to go away.

I hate driving. It’s taken me years to realize this fact. I’ve always hated driving. I love cars but I hate driving. The cars have always been worth ten times what I would be comfortable risking on any given day, and risk is what every single outing in a car is all about. Every single long-distance trip in a car was a test of nerve, a right of passage, a moment of transition. Before each trip, I would lovingly bath the car inside and out and anoint it with oils so that the gods of the roadway would bless the venture out into unknown danger. Nearly every long distance trip has gone by without a hitch. Every one except that one with our first Saturn.

It’s the little stuff that gets you. Parking lots. Entering and exiting your own driveway. You know them too well, you aren’t on your guard; and whack, another dink to polish out. It’s the way the car crumples, I guess.

Pain God

Someone that I was chatting with used the phrase pain god to describe the supreme deity that dealt out his pain to him. I was not sure whether to laugh or cry at the phrase pain god. That god? That God you can prove exists, unlike all the other gods people talk about and believe in.

There was this time I was arrested:

I was out late, it was a busy night, the inspection sticker was a year out of date and the cop thought I was giving him sass when he flagged me down. It was two Austin bicycle cops in their ridiculous spandex outfits talking to two or three other cops that they’d just quelled a riot with, just standing on the side of the road. It’s dark, it’s just after midnight on a Friday in downtown Austin.

The Austin Film Festival is going on all over the city. These police were hyped up on adrenaline because of the riot they just broke up and the massive traffic snarls from the city-wide event. One cop spots the out of date sticker as he is scanning vehicles, joking about breaking heads with his buddies. He pulls out his flashlight, walks over to were I’m sitting in traffic and proceeds to harass me about the sticker.

It’s a rural Texas tradition to ignore your state inspection sticker. Who cares? Only the state cares, and rural Texas sneers at Austin and state government in general. Texas government has to enforce the safety laws they enact, and they did this by creating an inspection sticker that you had to jump through separate hoops to get in addition to the hoops you jump through to get your state tags.

When you are driving around on your own ranch or in the small towns that dot the wide expanse of Texas, you never see state actors that can give you crap about the sticker on your windshield. You just see local cops that you probably know by name, and they give you a warning and you go get your stupid sticker that doesn’t take into account the quality of the roads (or lack of roads) that you drive on in your daily life.

Then you move to the big city and suddenly being a scofflaw like everyone else out in the countryside is a problem that could cost you your life. The harassing police officer and three of his buddies pulled me out of the car and proceeded to sit on my back while they cuffed my hands. Then they arrested me and hauled me off to the drunk tank to spend some quality time negotiating with my Pain God.

Piriformis Syndrome causes me to be in constant pain while sitting; and being yanked out of my car and sat on aggravated that little problem. Have you ever seen a drunk tank at a city or county lockup? The one in Austin has concrete floors and baby-blue colored foam benches facing a TV covered in mesh that obscures the screen. The volume is so low on the TV that it is an annoying almost-audible whisper, not unlike the whispering among your fellow prisoners in the drunk tank.

You have to sit there until they process you and you can be released. Sometimes the sitting lasts for days. Sitting, not standing, not moving around at all. Without moving except to go in to the provided toilet room, also painted baby blue like the other walls in the tank. A baby blue that was probably calming some twenty or so years ago when the walls were painted, long before the accumulated puke and other bodily fluids mottled the color into something approaching a childhood nightmare. The toilet was a room that you’d rather not go into in the first place.

So I sat there. I sat unmoving in that one place for about 14 hours, in excruciating pain the entire time I was there. No one in authority was even the slightest bit interested in my pain or helping me with it. In extremis, I decided to take a crash course on meditating. I would meditate on the qualia of my pain all through those long hours of torture.

Staring at the floor through my tented fingers, elbows braced on knees, I contemplated the pain. I didn’t drink anything, didn’t use the restroom. I couldn’t have used the restroom even if I had needed to go desperately. It would have taken a catheter to get any body fluids out of me, I was that paranoid of being ambushed. Of being watched. I just sat and focused on the pain. I traced it up my leg to my lower back and then I became one with the agony. I inflicted my pain and endured my pain and I was my pain.

When The Wife figured out I had been arrested… As I mention in the linked article, I was where I was with a car in the state that one was in because I needed to pick her up and would never have been downtown in the first place without her need to be rescued. She was never rescued because the police decided she didn’t need rescuing. It was more important to punish the scofflaw for his out of date inspection sticker.

That one phone call thing? It’s complete bullshit in most of Texas. You can call if you’re calling a landline. If you’re calling a cellphone you have to give the private contractor that provides phone service to the jail a credit card number to charge for the call, and you better have that number memorized because you don’t have your wallet in jail to get access to the card itself. If you’ve done that homework ahead of time, you can call. If you haven’t done that homework you don’t get to make your one phone call.

So when The Wife finally got home and found I wasn’t there, when she figured out that my cellphone still working meant I probably wasn’t dead in a ditch somewhere. When she remembered that there had been a riot downtown that night and wondered if I had been caught up in that, she came down to the jail and rescued me before I died of renal failure. That is, she came to rescue me after she had gotten a ride back downtown to get her car the next day, there being no way to get anywhere or do anything until morning the next day.

I think I was probably more glad to see her that morning than I had ever been before or since. So yeah. I’ve met the Pain God. I was him for a day. I would prefer not to be him again.

if you are not worthy of trust as police, as leaders, as the press, then you must be held to account by those whose confidence you have betrayed.

Stonekettle

Warning Signs of Vertigo?

Doc diagnosed me with cervical vertigo

I had to look up Cervical Vertigo. I didn’t find an article I liked until I went looking on the VeDA website. I like the tone of that article. In all my time of suffering, even with my long history of vehicular accidents, no one even mentioned that neck posture could be a cause of my symptoms.

I was surprised by this finding. More surprised than you might be reading this here. I tend to think I have everything that I read about. The Wife says this makes me a hypochondriac, I think this means that I’m an empathetic person. I’m going to stick with my assessment of the situation.

The questioner went on to ask about warning signs of oncoming vertigo. That is an interesting question, in and of itself. There aren’t always warning signs. Sometimes you turn your head the wrong way to fast. Sometimes you look out the side window of the car and the sympathetic parts of your brain wiring turn that motion into rotational vertigo. Sometimes watching a movie can set it off:

Sometimes there are warning signs. Visual migraines, or a change in perception of the light around me is one I’ve started noticing lately. A change in tinnitus pitch or intensity almost always signals something more severe is in the wings. I almost always take something when I notice this. Being proactive in treatment is how you avoid a full-blown attack. Historically I would notice a taste in the mouth. A metallic or saccharine flavor. If I noticed that I would also take something, generally something more dramatic than the Guaifenesin that I would take for changes in my tinnitus. Something like Xanax, which I try not to take too often. It is too habit forming to indulge in needlessly.

In the end, paying attention to what your body is telling you is the only way to be on top of your symptoms and preventing the worst of them. I wish all of you luck in your own treatment regimens.

reddit

When Squirrels Attack

It was two days before Christmas. December 23, 2020. The Wife went out to run errands like she does pretty much every day. I can’t convince her to stay home, not even with contagion everywhere around us. Nope, she has to go out and do things or her day is wasted. I’m awake, which is unusual for me this early in the day. We had been out early the day before, which meant I slept early the night before, and it was going to be awhile before I could slouch my way back into sleeping well into the afternoon and pretending to be annoyed about it.

She called me from the road. “There is something wrong with the car. There are lights on all over the dash and the transmission isn’t shifting properly. I think I better bring it back home.”

I told her to be careful and then I poured myself a cup of hot tea and stood inside the front door waiting for the car to reappear over the hill in front of the house.

When it finally did reappear it was definitely limping and she barely managed to get the car up the driveway. I motioned for her to pop the hood and it only took a few minutes of inspection to reveal what the problem was. The wiring harness was visibly chewed right at the point where it plugged into the engine manifold.

We had experienced a version of this problem before. A few years previously the Daughter had left the Leaf out on the back driveway and something had gotten into the engine compartment and made a nest right behind the driver’s side headlight. She just thought the headlight was out and bought a replacement bulb, but when we opened the hood and looked at where the wires went into the back of the headlight, there were no wires. There was only a nest made of some kind of chewed fabric that we couldn’t identify but hoped wasn’t also from inside the vehicle, and the stubs of wires sticking up out of the the place where they merged with the rest of the wiring harness.

I had never heard of creatures nesting in cars before, but when we took the Leaf to be estimated and fixed, the mechanic said “Oh, yeah. We see that pretty regularly.” Little did we know that we were leaving the new Nissan Versa to be vandalized by the same rodent that had struck the Leaf the day before. We parked the other car in the same spot on the driveway, and while we were gone the saboteur came back, and, apparently mistaking one vehicle for another vehicle parked in the same place, proceeded to make an identical nest in the same place in the Versa.

We must have interrupted her, because the nest wasn’t finished when we checked why that car’s headlight was also out. The Versa was still under warranty at the time, so we played stupid and just took the car in complaining about the headlight, and we let them fix the wiring that the rodent had chewed in that car, without ever asking about who was paying for it. As it turned out, they paid for it. We made a point of never parking cars on that driveway again. We instead parked on the front driveway, since this lot has the rare attribute of two curb cuts and driveways onto the property. We parked on the front driveway because it was more open and less prone to rodent traffic.

Or so we thought.

As we stood there looking at the damaged wiring harness, I knew that we were facing the same enemy. The varmint had struck again, crippling our mobility and probably costing us thousands of dollars.

I called the insurance company. Two days before Christmas, in the time of COVID, meant that I didn’t get a live person for quite awhile. When I did they were less than helpful about the problem. I had already logged onto our insurer’s website to try and start the claims process, but neither avenue was giving me the options that I wanted. Finally I just called Nissan and had them come tow the vehicle to the dealer’s shop so that Nissan could get started estimating the damage while I took the necessary time to argue with my insurer.

The Wife hitched a ride to a car rental place and secured replacement transportation. We were going to be without a vehicle for quite some time. I don’t think we understood how long, but we knew we wouldn’t be getting the Versa back until well after New Years. We’d be lucky to even get the car inspected and an estimate on repairs before New Years Day.

As it turns out, I never saw that Nissan Versa again. When Nissan finally got us an estimate for the repair, the price stated was more than what the car was worth. My insurance company insisted they could get the repair done for less money, and then fumbled about for weeks trying to find a place that would give them a lower figure, only managing to find a shop in their network that was hamstrung by deals with Nissan that required them to duplicate estimates that Nissan shops offer.

The price to replace both damaged harnesses was about $14,000.00. This was only slightly less than the car cost when it rolled off the dealership lot, straight off the delivery truck with 24 miles on the odometer. Mind you, they would have had to pull the drive assembly to replace one of the harnesses, which required a full shop and several days work to complete, but that just tells me the car was worth a lot more than they charged me to drive it off the lot in the first place. If the two harnesses installed was $14,000.oo, how much were the seats worth? 50¢? The body must have only been worth $100. What an unmitigated crock of shit! Is what I thought.

It is entirely possible that every car on the market in the United States is rolling rodent buffet in waiting. The manufacturers have to roll out these new harnesses for years after the cars are delivered:

Some believe the culprit could be modern car wiring or, more specifically, the soy-based insulation used to wrap it. This insulation can be an irresistible treat for rats, mice, squirrels, and even rabbits. The issue has become so widespread that several class-action lawsuits have been levied at automakers, with some of the highest-profile cases involving Honda and Toyota.

caranddriver.com
I miss this car.

So here we are. Versa totaled. Totaled because of squirrels. Driving a rental car. Looking for another car to replace the car that we both thought would be the last gasoline vehicle we would purchase, just two years after we purchased it. This is not how we normally change vehicles. Normally, we buy a car and it stays with us like a member of the family. We grow old together, gain scars together, etcetera. Our cars stay with us for at least a decade, generally. The green Saturn wagon we special ordered has been the only other car we’ve owned that we didn’t hang onto until the bitter end, and we traded that one in for a bigger Saturn sedan that we hung onto until there wasn’t an automotive brand called Saturn anymore.

This hurt. It hurt financially, because the car had depreciated by over half its value since we had bought it, and that came out of our almost empty pockets. It hurt physically, a gaping hole in our lives in the form of a car we had just come to accept as a replacement for the Rav4 that had eaten it’s own transmission two years previously (another car that we drove for nearly a decade. It’s even in a movie) now taken from us by a squirrel. A SQUIRREL for fucks sake! Not a deer or a cow or some unavoidably tragic accident involving an 18 wheeler and a greased roadway. A fucking rodent the size of a football killed our car.

How do I know how big it was? Because The Wife found the bitch. Under the hood of the rental car. In a McDonald’s parking lot. The Wife was just driving along, getting her morning cup of iced tea, and the dash lights started flashing again just like in the Versa before it died. So she jumped out, popped the hood, and the squirrel and The Wife stared at each other in surprise.

The squirrel decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat. The Wife said “Oh no you don’t” and grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and flung it as far as she could make it fly. Which was about the distance between the McDonald’s and the neighboring auto repair shop. Which is where the squirrel landed. In the towing yard of an auto repair shop.

She had taken the wire-eating monster away from it’s morning snack, and flung it square into the middle of a smorgasbord of automotive harnesses. Which is probably where it still is to this day. Eating wiring harnesses to its heart’s content. Unless the mechanics found it. I personally hope they did. The pelt would make a nice hat, I bet.

The Wife nonchalantly whistled her way onto the rental company’s nearest yard and pretended to not know why the dash lights were all flashing red on her rental car’s dashboard. “Can I have another car, please?” and proceeded on her quest to find and buy a replacement vehicle. One that would now probably be safe from wire-eating varmints, unless there were two of them near the house. The other one was not coming back over the distance she had taken it.

We ended up at First Texas Honda where we bought a used Honda Fit in February, almost two months after having the Versa chewed to death on our own driveway. The insurer paid for the rental, at least. It’s too bad we didn’t have insurance that replaced the car. We fixed that this time. Having a car destroyed like that, costing us about $10k in the process, with no visible sign of harm, seems almost unreal. But that is what happens when squirrels attack.

Postscript

I scare the Honda Fit. It doesn’t like the way I drive. No one likes the way I drive. It talks back to me. Flashing me messages. Sounding alarms. pulling on the wheel or activating the brakes. Slow down! Not so close! Brake. Brake! BRAKE! It’s worse than a side seat driver. It keeps yelling at me when I straighten curves out too. Lane departure is now a thing I read pretty regularly on the dashboard. I’m beginning to realize how bad a driver I am.

Ever since The Wife went in for her open heart surgery, I have been forced back into my role as a driver. I don’t really mind driving her to and from her appointments (really honey, I don’t) It is just that driving drains all my attention and mental energy, leaving me with almost nothing to utilize for other things during the day. This is part of the reason why I haven’t written anything for several weeks. This article took months to complete. It wasn’t the wife’s fault. No really. I needed the separation time from the events described here. I’m finally not as pissed about loosing $10k. I think.

The Bypass

The phone buzzes with a notification. “Chest is open. She is on pump now. Everything progressing normally.” The Wife is undergoing open heart surgery. I sit in the waiting room alone, mercifully mask free because of this.

I remember the first time I heard open heart surgery used as a phrase. My grandfather had undergone a quintuple bypass back in the seventies. The surgeons had marveled at the complexity and his near-miraculous survival at the time.

The doctors and nurses now refer to these kinds of procedures as routine. “We do them all the time.” My heart doesn’t know this, refuses to accept that the opening of that beloved chest could be anything less than a near imminent death event. My all too active imagination can paint the scene in Technicolor for me, if I allow it.

I don’t allow it. I don’t want to see, to think of her that way. A piece of meat on the cutting table. Instead I will fill my head with classical music and meditate on the reunion we will have in a few short hours. No other outcome will be entertained no matter how many times those ravens of doubt perch over my mental doorways. I will see her again. We will embrace and she will chide me for being a silly sentimental old man.

That is the picture I will paint in my head instead of those other nightmares. Time enough for the nightmares afterwards.

Featured image: NucleusMedicalMedia

Postscript

The cardiologist remarked that he had never heard of a fever-induced trip to the emergency room being used as a detection method for cardiological issues, but we had known about the heart valve deformity for years by that point. The fact that she would need surgery at some point in the future has been a known quantity since the day we started regularly going to the cardiologist, at least twenty years ago. It was her blue fingers that freaked me out that night. Her fingers had never been that color before.

She was diagnosed with an ESBL infection in addition to the heart valve blockage. They didn’t even know for certain that she had the infection, it was just on the plate that they used to culture bacterial growth, to try to see what was causing the fever. She got the special antibiotic drugs anyway, and the nurses had to gown up for the entire time she was at the hospital. Visitors and guests were expected to gown up as well. This earned her a private room later in her stay, so she wasn’t going to complain about the extra drugs she had to take.

I insisted that they run tests to determine if she was still infected with the antibiotic resistant strain of e-coli before they released her, and the tests came up negative. That was all I was worried about. I didn’t want her to be released only to have the fever recur and me have to take her back to the ER a second time. Her attending physician didn’t think it was the ESBL causing the fever anyway, she thought it was a allergic reaction to a Botox outpatient treatment done the day before. That is the most likely culprit in this little medical drama, the antagonist that triggered open heart surgery for the Wife.

She starts outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation next week. Ah, I remember those days fondly:

The Wife has complained repeatedly that her renewed heart beats too fast. When she airs her complaints, I quietly thank her cardiologist for making sure her heart continued to beat regardless of pace. I would have missed her presence, her voice, if he hadn’t. It would have been difficult to find a reason to go on without her heart beating next to mine. Hopefully that predicament has been postponed for another twenty years. Here’s hoping we both make it to our fiftieth anniversary.

Friday July 30, 2021 – She got up and got her pills today all on her own. She’s been home for a week and relied upon me for everything until today. The Wife is coming back to herself. It is a good sign.

Control

You are not in control

This is not news. I have never been allowed the delusion of control. Even my own hands defy my control, putting lines on paper wherever their whimsy takes them. Inanimate objects seem to argue with my attempts to put them where I want them.

Control is something to be dreamed about, not something that can be realized. I rarely even bother to dream of it.

Pinterest Image Spam

My Pinterest account hovers on the verge of abandonment. I do need someplace online to catalog the images I’m fond of now that Flickr wants to charge me to keep more than a thousand images online. Poor Flickr, Another victim of the downfall of Yahoo! Like Tumblr, I abandoned my Flickr account rather than submit to the authority of Verizon.

Instagram is much easier for sharing my own images and I use it routinely for sharing images I create on my phone. If you want to test it’s usefulness, try getting a photo into Instagram from a Windows desktop. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

…Are you back yet?

Yeah, that’s right. You can’t load photos if you don’t have a camera attached to the computer. So much for Instagram’s usefulness to me at home, although it does at least attempt to address the fact that you can’t author images without a camera. If the platform has a camera though, any image you have on the device can be used, even if you don’t author it.

Don’t do a Google image search and then save images directly to your Pinboards. Pinterest stupidly just sends you back to Google when you try to reverse lookup your image, and it doesn’t highlight the image you clicked on as being the result you saved to the board in the first place. Pinterest is almost completely useless as an image catalog that is easily accessible. If you want to save images to Pinterest that you found through an image search, you have to go to the page the image comes from and then save the image to Pinterest directly. You’ll have to do that anyway the next time you think you might want to use that image for something.

The most use I’ve had for Pinterest is saving images that Windows has thrown at me as part of the Windows 10 logon screen, and I’ve wanted to track down exactly where the picture was taken. Bing, for its part, is nearly as useless as Pinterest as far as establishing authorship for any given image. This is one of those things that we as internet users really need to start addressing. Where do these images and ideas come from? Who is responsible for them? Who owns them? There is no collecting authority for image authorship, but there probably should be.

Pinterest is currently the bane of all image searches on Google, and this makes me question why I use it at all. Mostly I use it because I can’t afford to keep a copy of every single image I might want to reference later. I’ll either run out of hard drive space, or have so many files to sort through that I can’t find the image I want anyway. So I group them on Pinterest according to some loose heuristics and pretend that organization makes sense.

However, every time I go looking for an image from Bing or any other cool image platform (including Pinterest) I am inundated with useless Pinterest image results. Useless? Try right-clicking on this image and then clicking on one of the Pinterest results. Now find the image on that board. Go ahead, I’ll wait again.

Are you back yet? No? I didn’t think so.

Time’s up. Did you find the image or where it comes from? Now you know my pain. I was presented the image as this thumbnail on Pinterest:

I had to screenshot and then crop the central image because I couldn’t find the image in the 20k+ images on the author’s one board. Then I pasted it into a blank Chrome tab and did an image search appending this string:

-site:pinterest.*

To the search string. Magically, all the Pinterest results are removed from the results if you add that string. I then discovered that the image came from an etsy account and that the steampunk wrist band I was looking at was sold out. Oh, well. Cool image anyway. In replicating the exact search I had done moments ago, now I discover that some of the Pinterest results do take me to the exact image I want to see. This is doubly frustrating because I have wasted all the time it took to write this daily beef. Fuck you, Pinterest!

Opening Hazard

I’ve been taking part in illness tracking with outbreaksnearme.org since the Spring of 2020, when the Trumpist COVID debacle was in full swing. Ya’ll remember those days right? The hazy smoke-filled days as civilization fell? The zombies roaming the streets swarming the unwary?

There was no official testing to be had. No way to know who was sick and who wasn’t and no way to socialize without risking your own life. So we hunkered down without any government to been seen, no authority coming to the rescue, waiting for the chance to score some toilet paper from the remains of the local shopping center while covered in protective gear to keep the zombie plague at bay.

When outbreaksnearme.org started it called itself COVID near you but within a few months the organizers realized that they could use the more generalized data to track spreads of any infectious disease in the population. It also allowed people who just had symptoms to report themselves sick even when they didn’t know what it was.

A full year has passed since those hellish days of anarchy, with me always always responding “healthy” to the prompt:

COVID Near You is now Outbreaks Near Me! We now track flu too. Are you still healthy? Please answer Healthy or Sick. Reply STOP at any time to unsubscribe.

Today I finally had to respond with sick. The Wife has been out galivanting around town joyful at having escaped from the zombie apocalypse, mask-less and fancy-free for the first time in recent memory. While she was out having a good time she apparently picked up a bug. I, of course, caught it from her because that is what I do. I’m three days into it now, a nasty cough, aches and pains, and chest tightness that is triggering the Meniere’s symptoms. I’m having a joyful time.

It’s almost enough to make you miss 2020. Hunkered down in your hovel, hoping to score a clean corncob to wipe your ass with. Zombies scratching at the walls while you heat yourself next to the fire you made from the last chair in the house, boiling the leather upholstery for something to drink and chew on later. At least there was only one disease out there then. One disease that made you want to chew on the brains of your neighbors.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

Featured image: What I Learned About the Coronavirus World From Watching Zombie Flicks

Postscript

I’m not dead yet.

Monty Python – “Not Dead Yet” SceneAmazon

…although the lethargy spread out over nearly a week. I’m only getting back to my old habits now, three weeks later. Getting back to my old habits just in time for the Wife to be hospitalized with some other unrelated illness. Ah, the joys of normal life.

Departed Friends

For Earl

As I look back over my history on Facebook, it is your contributions that still make me laugh years later. Make me laugh or make me think that maybe you understood better than I did what it was I should be doing with my life. I wish you were here so that I could tell you; you made a difference, and I miss you.

I am slowly giving up my obsession with death. It is hard to accept that life goes on when it clearly ends suddenly and unexpectedly all around us everyday. Living in anticipation of dying is a boring way to live. I almost want my death to show up in a way that I hadn’t expected. My last thought being “well, I didn’t expect that.” Almost.

As my friends and family slowly drop away, leaving me walking forwards more and more alone, I begin to wonder at the journey itself as it continues. Why does it continue? Maybe I should be trying to enjoy it more? Making more of a difference myself? Time to get back to the writing. It is one of a very few things that I can still do. Can still do and might make a difference.