Friday, August 07, 2020

Reason 429,313 Why I Could Never Be a Doctor (and not just because I don't really like people)

International traveller among Niagara’s eight new COVID-19 cases 

Patient X languished in his hospital bed, sweaty, feverish, miserable.  

Dr. Gnaukweirst entered the room.

“Doc, you gotta help me!”  Patient X said.  “I feel like I’m dying!”

“Your tests have come back,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said.  “I’m afraid it’s not good news.”

“What is it, Doc?  What have I got?”

“You have COVID-19,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said.

“Oh my God,” Patient X lamented.  “But that’s impossible!”

“That’s always how it seems,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said. “But it is a certainty.  We’ve run several tests.  You have COVID-19.”

“But it’s impossible!  I’ve done everything right!  I check Facebook every five minutes.  I read and upload memes.  I take selfies.”

“Have you worn a mask when you go out of the house.  Have you practiced social distancing?”

Patient X mustered the strength to lean up on one elbow.  “Wear a mask?  And give away my freedoms?  Are you crazy?”  He fell back on his pillow.  Patient X would have then referenced Nazis and Jews, except he didn’t know enough about history to do so.  He had never heard of the Holocaust.

“And ‘social distancing’?”  Patient X said.  “Why would I do that if I don’t have COVID-19?”

“Except, you do.”

“But I didn’t!”

“You have it now,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said.  “Someone gave it to you.”

“Gave it to me?  That’s a conspiracy theory!  To make us wear masks!”

“Actually, it’s science.”

“I don’t know how that happened!”  Patient X moaned.

“We’re going to have to do contact tracing,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said.  “Have you been anywhere in public other than to grocery shop for bare essentials?”

“Been anywhere?”  Patient X said, mulling over the words.

“Yes, where there are other people.  We need to determine who you’ve been in contact with.”

“Well, I did get a really sweet deal on it trip to Europe three weeks ago.”


“Yeah, it’s that country across the ocean where they speak European and they pay for everything with U-ros.”

“You mean ‘Euros’?”


“So, you were out of the country.”

“Not for very long,” Patient said.  “Few weeks.”

“It didn’t dawn on you to maybe curtail travel outside of the country during a global pandemic?”

“And give away my freedoms?  No way!”

Dr. Gnaukweirst looked into the middle distance for a moment.  Here was yet another selfish, shortsighted miscreant who was too impatient to wait until the pandemic had passed in order to carry on with his life.  Whose actions, ironically enough, would prolong the pandemic that everyone was so weary of.

This is the specimen who has taken away my Chinese buffet, Dr. Gnaukweirst thought.  Who has made handshakes and hugs things of quaint old movies.  I'll never see Wayne Newton live, again, because of this son of a bitch.

“Come with me,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said.  “I have a special treatment for you.”

“What?”  Patient X moaned.  “I’m tired as hell and everything hurts!”

“Come on, you can do it,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said.  “I have exactly the thing for you.”

Patient X slowly, painfully shifted in his bed, eased his feet to the floor, wincing and gasping, squinting and muttering sweet self-pitying nothings to himself.  Dr. Gnaukweirst led him to the door.

Slowly -- ever so slowly -- they moved down the corridor.  Dr. Gnaukweirst led Patient X around a far corner to a disused hallway in the hospital.  At the end of it, there was an elevator.  As they approached, Patient X said, “Why are the elevator doors open, but no elevator there?”

“It’s not really an elevator,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said.  “There is a special prize in there for you.”

Patient X brightened slightly within his display of pain and discomfort.  “For me?”

“Just for you.”

As they got closer, Dr. Gnaukweirst stopped.  He coaxed Patient X to continue the final few feet.

“I don’t see anything,” Patient X said.  “Are you sure?  I should get back to my room.”  He moved to leave.

“There is a free iPhone in there for you,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said. 

Patient X’s face brightened.  “Are you kidding?  That’s great!”  He turned, wobbly, and moved toward the open elevator doors.  He looked into the darkened shaft.  “I don’t see anything.  Are you sure?”

“Oh, I’m sure,” Dr. Gnaukweirst said as he raised his right foot and placed it upon Patient X’s rump.  It felt good to do that.  Made him feel like Louis Armstrong when he first walked on the moon, and put one of his moon boots onto a moon rock and said, “I claim this planet in the name of Pink Floyd!”

Dr. Gnaukweirst launched Patient X into the open elevator shaft.  There was a momentary cry, but then it was gone.  Then, a distant thud, as Patient X landed on the pile of other COVIDiots and hypochondriacs Dr. Gnaukweirst had brought here.  One of the first to go in actually had an iPhone in her hand, so that hadn’t been a lie.

Dr. Gnaukweirst turned and went back to the ward and continued treating patients.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Donald Trump Photo-Op During Riots

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Forgotten Victims of COVID-19

As news media covers and world health experts combat the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a contingent of forgotten people who are left to suffer in silence and obscurity: the hypochondriacs.

"It's really hard," says Luc (not his real name).  "I'm usally in the ER two or three times a week because the tip of my nose is numb and I get headaches, and I just don't feel really good..."  He trails off, stares out the window of his rented room.  "But there's the fear."

It's a common thread among hypochondriacs -- fear of contracting an actual ailment by visiting the local hospital emergency room.  Under normal circumstances, it's a risk they are willing to take.  Since the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, many are rethinking their ER visit schedules.

"It's hard," says Giselle (not her real name).  "I feel really, really... strange.  You know?  In my hands, and then the sensation moves up into my neck.  Sometimes I have to blink my eyes a few times to get them clear."  Giselle dabs her eyes with a tissue.  "What am I supposed to do?"

Federal and provincial governments have asked citizens to self-isolate, and to practice "social distancing" when in public.  News stories about hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases abound, as do stories of medical staff running low or completely out of supplies, such as masks, gowns and gloves.  Hospitals are soliciting donations from the public.

In the rush to treat the ever rising tide of COVID-19 cases, a major constituency of the medical landscape has been shunted aside -- the hypochondriacs who ordinarily populate the nation's ER waiting rooms with minor coughs, non-specific-non-life-threatening aches and pains, general malaise, minor rashes, strange taste in the mouth, a click in the shoulder when it's moved in a particular way.  The list of imaginary ailments is as varied as the hypochondriacs themselves.

One of the unforeseen consequences of the public anxiety surrounding COVID-19 is that the nation's ERs are much less busy.

"People are stressed," says Roda (not her real name).  "I don't want to go into my local ER, tell them my hair hurts and then get a fatal disease like coronavitis!"  She dabs her eyes with a tissue.  "So, if I want to stay alive, I have to stay away from the hospital!  That's so sick!  That's so backwards!"

At the time of publication, there is no word of an aid package for the nation's hypochondriacs by the federal government.

"We're left to fend for ourselves," says Xander (not his real name).  "Nobody cares.  It's like we don't exist."

There is talk in certain communities, among local activists, of opening faux clinics staffed by actors and volunteers to service the hypochondriacs, but currently efforts are hampered by self-isolation and social distancing orders.

In this time of need, spare a thought for those who believe they are afflicted.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Headbands In A Time Of Pestilence

"Let's enjoy these aimless days while we can..." Don DeLillo White Noise

It's all in the headband. I own a stretchy NBA headband and a bland blue stretchy headband. On this night, I choose to tie around my head a length of material torn from an old concert shirt that doesn't fit anymore.

People are not neutral about headbands.  It's one of the few statements in modern life that cannot shrugged away.  Strangers in the mall have gone out of their way to tell me: "You know, people don't wear those anymore."

I wear them.  While exercising, of course, but also to the grocery store, watching my kids at karate class, swimming, cutting the grass, checking the communal mailbox. I even have a smart black headband that I wear with my suit to job interviews.

My morning was spent trying to transfer funds from my bank account to my microwave oven. The unhelpful bank person on the phone told me it was impossible because my microwave oven does not have an email address. It does.

Because the markets are chewing the genitals off of my investments.  They are not, precisely, investments.  I think of investments as stocks that have been researched and then purchased after long sober thought.  I'm involved in funds, entangled in plans -- a plan.  A plan whose genitals are being chewed off by the stock market.

They're coming. They're coming for the toilet paper.  I crouch in the bushes in front of my house, headband secured around my head.  My hands grip an old shillelagh my grandfather brought back from Ireland decades ago. This is new Airborne Toxic Event. The Corona Virus -- COVID-19, which makes it sound like a video game -- is something else in this place that suffers no floods, tornadoes, hurricanes or earthquakes.  The worst we suffer are hard rains, terse looks in traffic, squirrels eating our tulip.

It was the absence of toilet paper in the supermarket, that told me, Shit's flying.  In the past, I avoided making that purchase of household goods out of a childish embarrassment, the tacit public admission that I, too, use toilets. But the Panic inspired by the absence of toilet paper, the miles long empty shelf in the supermarket, had nothing to do with commodal works.

If they -- faceless, nameless, without conscience they -- have ransacked the toilet paper aisle, I thought.  What is next?

I use exercise to deal with stress. You can always tell how terrible I feel by how good I look.

This time of pestilence is causing everyone stress because it reminds us all that we are going to die, at some point.  That death will come like a thief in the night even if it comes in the form of a Honda during the day.

The virus is causing trouble not only by making people sick, it's challenging our distractions.  Professional sports are gone.  Public gatherings are finished.  Even going to bars and restaurants is against the public conscience.  We are left with 1970s-era distractions: TV, Internet, cell phones, board games... conversation...  No doubt, there are people beginning to think that death would be preferable.

One of my distractions is riding my stationary bike. Some friends say, "How can you do it, day after day?  You don't go anywhere."

And I wonder, How do you say if I don't go anywhere why am I always different when I get off the bike again?

I also hear: "You don't see people wearing headbands at the gym."

"People still work out at gyms?"  I said.

You are what you do for free. You are what you do when it cost you to do it. You're not a doctor, or a cab driver, or a landscaper. You're a stamp collector, hunter, or a ventriloquist. And when you do it while wearing a headband, you do it with verve.

My nightly vigil is nearly done.  I really feel like I've gotten to know myself while crouching in the bushes.  Who cares if I sleep away the day.  The toilet paper can keep itself safe in the sunlight.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Corona Virus Days - 1st Fiction of the 2020 Corona Virus Outbreak

Reddit "Shower Thought" 3/17/2020:
Due to the earth's rotation, it's orbit around the sun and the suns [sic] orbit in the galaxy, you are the only human who ever has, or ever will occupy your current location in the universe.
Corona Virus Date 0034 days:

Pod battened. Wife objects to my referring to house as "pod".  I apologize, but explain that science fiction times call for science fiction language.

Sixteenth angry tweet directed at Netflix has gone unanswered. Requesting they stream 60s and 70s era home movies made by their viewers.  No word.  They may be suffering.

Toilet paper toilet paper store: +2313 squares.

Progress of toilet paper shrine to Don Delillo is slow. Using far too much in its construction.  There are complaints, dissension.

Corona Virus Date 0037 days:

Idea for a story came while riding my stationary bike in the basement:
Family living in a house during Corona Virus outbreak (write what you know). One day, the hapless husband opens the fuse box for the first time since buying the house years ago. Finds it is not, in fact, a fuse box, but contains rolls and rolls of toilet paper in a cavernous gap in the wall. Corona Virus ravages society, family uses this found toilet paper due to shortages at the supermarket. It seems like regular toilet paper.  There is no indication who put the toilet paper in the fuse box gap, or how long it's been there. 
As the family uses the found TP, they gradually become smarter. How do they/gauge this? In the case of the hapless husband, small tasks around the house that once bedevilled and befuddled him are now simple fixes. He repairs the solid state television, going so far as breaking open the back of the set to access the electronics inside. Husband not only successfully repairs the television, he seamlessly repairs the back of it using his wife's curling iron and strands of her hair, which are the same graphite colour.
Corona Virus Date 0037 days:

Riding stationary bike in basement. Imagining I am pedaling across the ocean on a three foot wide track. Weather service indicates that I have one hour of clear weather before the wind whips up and the ocean swamps my track.

This technique gets my heart rate into that sweet zone.

Don't let me listen to anymore Don Delillo interviews on YouTube.

Corona Virus Date 0038 days:

Scolded eldest son for dismantling one of Don Delillo's wings on the shrine in order to wipe up after bathrooming.

Coronavirus Date 38.5 days:

Wife expelled me from pod, saying: "Get a hold of yourself."

Corona Virus Date 0038.75 days:

Returned to pod. Wife found Corona Virus journal. Objects to be referred to as "Wife" in narrative.

Corona Virus Date 0041 days:

The only benefit of civilization collapsing is that Netflix will be abandoned by its legal counsel and personal security.  I will make the journey to its headquarters in the Himalayas -- part spiritual journey and part customer complaint. "Why does Netflix Austria have so many more offerings than Netflix Canada????  Why so much British content?  I don't care about their Top 10 Conspiracies!!!"

Corona Virus Date 0045 days:

Despair. Cat demolished Don Delillo shrine.

Corona Virus Date 0045.25 days:

Where are our celebrities in this time of crisis? Why have they not mounted webcams in their homes and livestreamed their own self isolation? I would feel less isolated if I could watch such a thing. Also, no word of comfort, yet, from Don Delillo.  I imagine thousands of people gathered outside of his apartment in New York City, waiting, staving off despair.

Corona Virus Date 0045.75 days:

Why can't I find a secret trove of intelligence-generating toilet paper in my house?

Have dreamed for months of connecting my stationary bike to a generator. Tried today. Ruined wife's curling iron in the process. Looking for secret gap in house in which to hide it.

Corona Virus Date 0052 days:

At least I do not have to cut the grass.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Due to the time distortion wrought by the Corona Virus, all mentions of time in increments of days are in fact increments of hours.