The Red Shirt Diaries #18

I’m back from coffee with the Silver Fox, our normal Thursday/Friday ritual, where I announced undramatically that I thought I had colon cancer.  It’s a legit back-of-mind concern as I enter the year of the colonoscopy, but The Fox downplayed my announcement.

Oddly, cancer came up again later when I mentioned my stomach had been a little wonky since our beer date last night.  We were at our favorite watering hole, The Big Legrowlski, enjoying a new IPA option from our collective favorite brewery, Barley Brown.  It was an unfiltered IPA called Feast From the Yeast, or something thereabouts.

Anywho, that yeast was doing a number on me.  In addition to feeling tipsy after just a few sips, my stomach just began feeling fluttery as I quaffed.  Not a general flutter, a focused flutter, which is what made it weird.  

Of course, I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying a second pint!

But when I told The Fox about my 14 hour strong stomach flutter, he put me at ease by diagnosing me with pancreatic cancer.  It’s like we were playing hypochondriac poker.

Fortunately, the acid from the two cups of coffee pretty much killed – and then escorted out – whatever it was that was funking up my gut.

Instead of thinking about how cancer or heart disease will probably be my ultimate undoing, I thought I would share another of my less-likely-lethal ends while I sat here uncomfortably on my couch with Mistress Myrtle, who is in an uncharacteristically cuddly mood.

Sacha once corrected my comment about one of my irrational fears by telling me that all fears are irrational.  I disagree, I think my fear of heights and falling a distance is a healthy fear.  Darwin would be proud.

My fear of sharks is irrational.

Fully.

It’s not that I’m a frequent diver off the Australian Great Barrier Reef or South African Coast or even off Hawaii…then, perhaps, a fear of sharks would be quasi-reasonable.

I’m afraid of a shark attack in any body of water.

Ocean.

River.

Swimming pool.

Jacuzzi.

Bathtub.

Irrational.

I blame the Jaws movies.  Well, watching them at an impressionable age, at least.

Seriously, how cute is this?

So, after seeing those films, I became aware of a reluctance to put my head underwater in a swimming pool.  It was a discomfort that remained a fairly stagnant dis-ease as I rarely swam.

However, after Sacha left me and I came out of my post-breakup funk and dipped my toe back into the dating pool, I met this guy who called himself frigginfantastic online and we went on a few dates.  He lived on Hayden Island here in Portland and invited me to go kayaking with him on the Columbia River.

I went.

It was cool.

And disgusting.

Sitting in a kayak, you’re only a few inches from the filth that floats atop the river’s surface.  Discarded styrofoam from a decade ago, plastic, that gross foam and natural debris like twigs and leaves all combing to create a stinky, frothy, disgusting barrier that is quite un-see-through-able.

That lack of visibility awakened my fear of being caught off guard and general vulnerability.  I vascilated mentally between being grabbed by Jason from Friday the 13th and pulled under or just being attacked by a shark.

This was not too long after a news story of a confused shark swimming upriver, so…y’know, top of mind.

Not too long after this, The Fox and I became friends.  We took a trip to his family beach house about a year after meeting and spent a night there as well as at his ex-wife’s house about an hour inland.  I remember standing on the bluff at the beach, watching the surfers bob idly on their boards, waiting for a rideable wave.  Their feet dangling off their boards into the water…I shudder just thinking about it, a shark grabbing their lower leg.

When we got to Sallory’s place the next night, I was confronted by a more tangible challenge to this runaway fear of mine: a drink in the hot tub.  

At night.

The view of the night sky in this rural part of Oregon was awe-inspiring.  Leaning my head back against the side of the tub allowed me to enjoy the celestial view while also completely freaking out about my entire body being underwater and a potential target.  Mentally, I envisioned being bitten in half by a mammoth great white, legs and shoulders being all that was left, bobbing in the hot, frothy, bloody hot tub waters.

I felt the same discomfort last year sitting in my gym’s jacuzzi.  Because I’m obviously deranged.

The apex of this personal terror came during a vacation with Rib.  We’d rented a yurt on an island in the San Juans.  He was all jazzed about renting sea kayaks and paddling out to a nearby island, oblivious to his own mortality like only a 26 year old can be.

Irrational fear of sharks plus kayaking in legit Orca territory equals fuck me.  My heart was pounding so hard the entire time that I’m quite surprised that I didn’t end up with fractured actual ribs.

But, survive, I did.  Fear:  confronted.

Speaking of actual fractures, this was a couple of years before I fractured my tibia running.  The first occurrence.  My doctor decreed that I was retired from running and suggested a less stressful form of exercise, like swimming.

Yeah…no.

The Red Shirt Diaries #18

The Red Shirt Diaries: #17

My dinner last night included a found bottle of Pinot from Patricia Green Cellars.

Let’s call it a Continental Dinner in honor of a fallen Oregon winemaker.

Literally fallen, incidentally, which made her early death hit home with me even a tisch more.  She was discovered dead in her remote cabin and early CoD is thought to be from injuries sustained after falling down.

Finding the bottle was serendipitous.

My fear of falling down alone came to the front of my mind about 15 years ago when a co-worker sustained injuries that kept her off work and on light duty after falling in her bathtub.

My grandmother died after spending several days stuck between her commode and shower.  There’s no way to class that shituation up, so laugh, cry…your choice.  Even though she was found alive, the damage was done for her.

As if I needed to somehow have this fear hit closer to home, then there’s Myrtle…aka: the worlds most dangerous feline.

Twice, she has already tripped me.  The first time was a near miss…my temple having passed within millimeters of the corner of my hallway table on its way to landing on my face.

The second occurrence…well, I was ready for her.  Somehow, I managed to fall backward after tripping over her, twisting midair and landing on my front – now half-fake – tooth.

Mistress Myrtle has taken her game to a more ninja level than her previous two stealth attacks.  She’s not too strictly attach to the trip, willing to settle for a slip…as long as itvresults in a fall, it seems.

To that end, she’s taken to peeing in my shower over the last six months.

As her captive caretaker, I know she started forsaking her box after a UTI, associating the box with pain.  That makes me feel sad for her, poor lil kitty.

Until I run the shower and almost slip on the slimy reconstituted cat pee she left there.  Lemme tell ya, people think of cat per as an odor.  

Not always so, Jabroni.

If I miss it because it’s not stinky, there’s quite a next level dance off in my shower as I struggle to not die naked and wet in my shower after falling.

Don’t worry…I know Myrtle will be there to make that ignominious death so much worse by eating my lips, fingertips and any other soft tissues she can get too.

<shudder>

So, if the evitable happens, please know that  my wake must include Culture Club’s I’ll Tumble For Ya and as many other falling down references as possible.

The Red Shirt Diaries: #17

I’m A Hypochondriac…

Kinda.

It’s hypochondria, but in a cute way.  For my own amusement, really.  It’s like a non-fatal version of The Red Shirt Diaries.  Just a little mental entertainment.

Am I secretly an only child?  Someone who grew up as part of a brood shouldn’t really have developed this idiosyncratic inner realm of self-sufficient entertainment.

Maybe I imagined my siblings as part of this rich (now semi) private head-world I retreat to.  Do you think my parents just play along with it?

“Humor him.  He might be dangerous.” – The Parentals

More likely, this is all the fault of the prophet Bill Murray and HBO.  One too many viewings of What About Bob during my delayed onset formative years.

Too much hair in my sink?  Alopecia. 

Stiff neck?  Cancer, obviously.  This is actually happening right now.

Gastric distress?  Norovirus.  No way that it could be too much garlic in last nights dinner…

But at the same time, those self-diagnoses have created some interesting ironic moments in my doctors office.

I say interesting, he says, “Stop googling symptoms and just come into the office”.

I don’t know why he’s such a killjoy.

Well, maybe one or two for instances come to mind…

Like the time I had self-diagnosed with shin splints.  I’d been increasing my running after making myself single again in an attempt to rid myself of the dreaded Relationship Body.  Somewhere in there, my mind decided I was at that age where I needed to dip my toe into the realm of Extreme Sports, as people do as they age.  Nothing crazy like the Iditarod…just the Seattle Marathon.  

Having been (note the tense…foreshadowing!) a lifelong runner, I just decided to gradually lengthen the duration of my runs.  Some training plan, eh?  It was that increased training intensity that led me to attribute my lower leg pain to shin splints.

Power through, bucko…just a few weeks left and then you can back off.

Or, y’know, mention it to your totally self-absorbed doctor during your annual check up.  I hadn’t planned on it, I was just so caught off guard when he asked me about me during my appointment that it just sort of came out.

Like premature ejaculation.

Literally, since he followed up with, “How long has this been going on?”

“About a month…maybe six weeks?  But I just assume it’s normal with the extra training.” AKA: it happens to everyone.

And just like that awkward sexual encounter, my running life was over.

“Call this guy and make an appointment.  And for gods sake, stop running.”

Me:  

Him:  You fractured your tibia.  You’re retired from running.  Find some other way to exercise.

Me:  <puts gun in mouth>

But I’ve written about that struggle in other blogs.  Go find it if you’re that curious.  

Then there was that time that I’d followed orders and not googled my symptoms.  Just meandered across the intersection and into the office.  

It’s really great when you live diagonally across the street from your doctors office.

I mean, no reason for google.  It was just a cold I couldn’t shake.  But it was terrible:  headaches, snot, fever.

“Do you have allergies?”, he asks like he doesn’t have my entire medical history right in front of him.

“What, are you playing solitaire on that thing?!?  You’ve been seeing me for almost a decade!  Of course I don’t have allergies.” I get cranky when I’m sick.

Crankier.

He goes on to make his case, trying to sell me on his theory.

I’m sitting there, shaking my head and thinking I got that doctor that finished last in his class.

Desperate for relief, I ask – for the sake of argument – what the treatment would be for allergies.  Maybe there would be some benefit even from the wrong medicine.

Him:  I’ve already sent some prescriptions to your pharmacy.

Smug bastard.

Turns out, I have allergies.

So, maybe he wasn’t the worst student in his med school class.

That doesn’t mean that that pain in my knee wouldn’t be better served by my insurance company approving knee replacement as an elective surgery.  Acupuncture is working just fine at reducing the pain and increasing functionality, but, c’mon…it’s just delaying what is obviously the inevitable.

To a recreational hypochondriac, anyway.

I’m A Hypochondriac…

The Red Shirt Diaries #16

What?!?

Back to back posts on the same day?

Within the same theme?!?

What next?  Liberals and Conservatives coexisting?

Next stop: anarchy.

The fact of the matter is that I just finished a 12 hour day and need something to focus on for my MAX ride home from the airport so that I don’t fall asleep and end up in Hillsboro.

Again.

Ergo, the MAX Blog Challenge hashtag.

But also, after my 5 am to 5 pm shift today, I’m feeling pretty jazzed because I got a shit ton of stuff accomplished today.

Not everything, by any means.

But, a shit ton.

Not bad for my work week’s Wednesday, eh?

Well, I should say, the first Wednesday of this particular work week since I’m in a friggin’ six day stretch.

If I survive tomorrow, aka: Second Wednesday.

You see, my boss has been on vacation the last ten or so days.  I took the initiative – in my spare time, trust me – to do some Spring cleaning.  I’d say it’s 70/30 whether he kills me or praises my initiative when he returns tomorrow.

He’s not the quickest to embrace change, you see.

Also, he’s a pack rat.

I’m not the apex of organization.  The Filipina Fox…she’s the poster child for organization.  If she walked into our shared office…yeah, she’d rather fly full speed into a black hole than spend a full minute in our office.

I’m coming up on a year of working in this environment that is equal parts chaos and clutter.

So, it’s time.

And it’s not that The Boss is on vacation, it’s that – really – I am productivity-wise on fire this week.  Might as well strike while the iron is hot, eh?

I’m averaging personally processing three garment racks worth of apparel each day.  I average a garment rack’s sales value to be around $2500, so that’s something.  Plus, in addition to eliminating some backlog in our apparel processing, we have inventory in a few weeks…getting this stuff hung will be way easier than trying to inventory it in boxes and on pallets.

Speaking of pallets, I broke down four pallets today, too.  Three personally, one I had an alley-oop on, as someone else off loaded the pallet and I put it away.

Those accomplishments alone would make me feel like I earned my sore back – er – paycheck this week.  However, in addition to my normal daily store support and HR duties and those two achievements I’ve also been onboarding a new junior manager.  He’s doing great so far and his attitude is just the can-do shot in the arm our environment needs!

This week – his second – didn’t require as much 1-on-1 time (shut up, Diezel) as his first week, but we probably spent a good six hours together.  That’s 15% of a 40 hour work week.

So, for whatever reason, on top of all that great stuff, I decide to clean my rat’s nest of an office.

I felt like both sides of Indiana Jones’ persona:

Carefully excavating the top layers in my archaeological dig to preserve anything of value below,

and;

Heroically overcoming seemingly overwhelming odds to complete my mission.

Aside from the uncertainty of The Boss’ reaction, I’ve also had to face the present danger of navigating the motivation behind the praise of Capt Can’t.

He seems to have enjoyed encouraging my efforts and reassuring me that they’ve tried to organize around The Boss before, but then telling me it always ends up the same.

Hearing that, my gut says this

But my innate optimism and grumpy old man-ness says this

And if The Boss hates it and goes postal…at least I didn’t die on a pile of retail debris.

But in addition to my 70/30 chances he’ll either hate or love it, I’d say that if he hates it that there’s a 50/50 chance he has a stroke from the shock.

So, tomorrow oughta be pretty exciting!

If we both survive and he does hate it – if I did fall into a trap laid by Capt Can’t – there’s only three more work days until my vacation.

Or my last day…wudyagunnado?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s my hump day.  And you can believe that tomorrow – on Second Wednesday – I’m gonna double my pleasure!

Yeah, right.  I’m gonna go make dinner and then fall asleep on the couch.

The Red Shirt Diaries #16

The Red Shirt Diaries #15

Dressed to Kill Edition

Maybe it’s just walking through Old Town too early, too many times…recently on my way to work instead of on my way home.

Maybe it’s that sometime late Friday or early Saturday, there was another stabbing in Old Town.  Same building, one block off my route.

Maybe it’s that Old Town pretty much seems to be a quarter owned by Central City Concern.  Don’t get me wrong, it has done great things with the cheap properties it bought back before the turn of the century.  Before the Pearl really took off.  Now they are sitting on a fortune in real estate.  They provide housing for low income people.  They provide a place for people to bounce after drug or alcohol counseling.  

They do a lot more than that, too.  Trust me.

Unfortunately, they draw the crazies into Old Town and the Pearl, too.

Equally unfortunate is that for all the housing they have, they are usually at overflow status.

So…there’s a good population of Urban Campers in my neck of the woods.

I’m ok with the folks who are sleeping one off in the park blocks.  I’m ok with the pan handlers.  

I’m really ok with the colorful folks – like the one I nicknamed the Mayor of Old Town.  He really deserves his own blog post.  I like my work days that begin at 6 am, I usually see him heading to the not-yet-open John’s Diner.  Cafe?  I dunno.  It’s one or the other.  He chills on the stoop until they open for the day and then goes in for breakfast.

I’ll work on that.  For now…back to my point.

Maybe it’s just that I watched too many scary movies when I was a kid.  

That’s where I encountered Dressed to Kill.

This – along with the movie(s) Psycho – were enough to give me a lifelong noise sensitivity during shower time.  Much to my parents’ unknown delight, this was the cause of my 20 minute showers becoming significantly quicker…more of a down to the basics endeavor.

Conversely, this movie had an unknown – or at least unregistered, I knew on some level – effect on me.

Fear of elevators.

I don’t know why…

Oddly, I’ve got it turned around in my mind.  I expect to walk into en elevator and see a slasher in waiting, versus being on an elevator and having one board on a different floor.

Regardless, neither option is optimal for my ongoing survival.

So, yeah…that little combination does a good number on my sense of well being when I’m walking through Old Town on the way to MAX at 3:45 or 4:45 am.

I blame cable.

I’m just grateful this movie didn’t give me any significant fear of men in drag, because then living on the edge of Old Town would be impossible!

Spoiler: the killer is Michael Fucking Caine dressed as a woman.  Pretty good cover, eh?

The Red Shirt Diaries #15

The Red Shirt Diaries #13

Apoc-eclipse Edition.

Regardless of your curiosity and enthusiasm, this is happening.

How does this fit into The Red Shirt Diaries – given that it’s really just a tongue in cheek monologue about my potential demise?

Well, a variety of ways, depending on your beliefs surrounding apocalypses and the opportunity for either mystical or man-made mayhem.

I can dispatch with the mystical variety pretty quickly…since I’ve been known to be brief never, you can feel free to be skeptical.

I guess if you run into your doppelgänger during an eclipse, you’re supposed to resist the temptation to fight them.

Now, I have no idea where this piece of advice originates or why it assumes my instinct would be to fight my doppelgänger, but let’s be honest here:  does it really seem likely that either of us would win a physical confrontation?

No.  No, it does not.

One of the other things I’ve heard is that animals will behave strangely during the eclipse.  Specifically, I’ve been warned not to respond to talking dogs.  Luckily for me, I just left all of my family dogs in Sunriver yesterday so that I could be at work at the airport during the eclipse, leaving me safe from canine kind as well as the Supreme Overlord of the Earth, Mistress Myrtle.

AKA:  The Most Disturbing Feline In the World

But just to be safe, I think I’ll steer clear of the airport’s Pet Relief Area.

Speaking of vacation…my family planned its vacation in Sunriver last year and just happened to do a Monday-Monday trip to – get this – avoid the vacation traffic that comes standard with all Summer Sundays.

Yeah, that’s Monday, August 14th through Monday, August 21st.

The eclipse is on August 21st.

Sunriver is close enough to totality that I could spit on it…and I’m not a particularly accomplished spitter.

Fretting that my family would be stuck in traffic with the anticipated hundreds of thousands of eclipse watchers – and possibly their dopplegangers – I chose to leave on Saturday versus Monday and risk being late to or unprepared forwork Tuesday.

Not to worry, my boss expected me back on Sunday.  It’s nice to be needed.

Making margaritas of the situation, my family extended their stay until Thursday.

Ah, retired life!

But, since I mentioned vacation in the path of totality, let’s delve into a more likely death scenario:  Fatality in Totality.

Obviously, I’ve already cheated death by flying home in a puddle jumper and evading totality – see TRSD 14 – but it’s still on my mind because I really can’t wrap my mind around 100,000 people surviving a weekend in a town that is normally populated with a measly 6,000 souls.

Or 12,000 soles, assuming a zero amputation rate.  Aw, hell…I’m using round numbers anyway.

Seriously, Capt Can’t has trouble anticipating bottled water needs for our five stores at PDX and its 25,000 daily travelers…and he does this every week and has 11 years experience.  How can we reasonably expect a literal small business in a small town to figure out the bottled water needs for an assumed number of people for an uncertain duration of stay during a once in a lifetime occurrence?

And would that small business want to?

It’s a big risk and logistical nightmare for a small business to assume.  This should literally be BYOEverything.

But last week – no, the week before – I was at lunch with my parents and mom mentioned seeing a story on the news about people renting semi trailers to park on the roadside, stock them with water and essentials and sell that shit right off the back of the trailer.

Those crafty bastards.

Of course, we assumed this would be strictly a cash endeavor…what could possibly go wrong?!?

And there you have the perfect storm for man made mayhem:  demand outstripping supply and a trailer – literally – full of money.

Goodbye, humanity.

Of course, by the time we were on the road, headed toward totality, we’d moved past that fear.

We realized that each of us having packeda case of wine – 24 bottles, total – that we (they, remember…I bailed out early like the corporate coward that I am) could fill our emptied wine bottles with water for the ride home.  This took care of recycling, hydration and waste disposal all in one if the historic traffic jam came to pass.

I wholeheartedly support my family’s decision to extend their stay versus risking getting stuck in 10-12 hours of traffic jam and potentially having to pee into a wine bottle in front of one another.

Our mutual reluctance to end up in that position proves we are related.

And ensures we’ll all live to see whatever the next overhyped once in a lifetime occurrence is!

In case you’re curious, by the way, we order about 13 pallets of water each week.  If I recall, a semi trailer holds 28 pallets.  So for 175,000 weekly travelers – 100% of whom do not shop at our stores, either, because they don’t have to sustain themselves like they’re trapped in a Mad Max movie – we order nearly half a semi of water.  

People camping outside in the peak of the Central Oregon High Desert?  Yeah, that’s gonna be some serious Thunderdome shit right there.

The Red Shirt Diaries #13

The Red Shirt Diaries #14

I’m waiting at Redmond Airport in Central Oregon for my flight home.  I’m flying home from my family vacation and was reflecting on my growing dis-ease with flying.  It seems the more flights I successfully complete, the more worried I get about becoming too cocky before boarding any subsequent flights.

My palms are actually clammy right meow.

I’m reminded of something I said to my sister when she invited me to go on a rafting trip with her and her family.

I told her that I didn’t want to die with a bunch of strangers.  Further, that I didn’t want to be the only one on the rafting trip to die because I was worried they would all judge me for being weak.  My exact words escape me, but it was something along the lines of, “It’s not like a plane crash, where I die with a bunch of strangers…because we ALL die in that scenario!”

Somehow, that makes it a smudge better, although still far from preferable.

Seriously, though…remember Western Airlines ad campaign from way back?

The Only Way to Fly!

I’m just pointing out that “fly” rhymes with…yeah.  So there.

Then again, as I rode with my parents over the twisty highways across the state at the outset of this too-short vacation, I reminded them of the same trip during my formative years that we witnessed a crashed car being recovered from a ravine.

They didn’t recall.

I did.

For some morbid reason, I took this picture on the drive over.

It’s steeper than it looks, but there’s really no shoulder.

To recap…can’t drive over to Oregon’s beautiful high desert without facing unlikely doom nor can I fly home without the same.  There’s really no pleasing my neuroses.

I had to pause and board my puddle jumper home.  The cute ground crew dude was a temporary distraction…until I realized he kinda held my fate in his hands.

It’s been a bumpy flight.  Hard to believe that I used to find puddle jumpers exhilarating.  

There was a flight I took from Houston to New Orleans for Mardi Gras about…lemme see, it had to be 27 years ago?  Yeah, we flew that bitch right through some crazy southern storm.  Rain, wind…the plane at one point experienced at least a sudden 10-15 foot drop during the flight.

People were barfing and holding their loved ones while I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Maybe my dis-ease with flying is just karmic retribution.

I’m putting the issue aside for now, I’ve just bounced down at PDX…safely on the ground, once again.

The Red Shirt Diaries #14