Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Blood Test Shuffle

The following is based on a true story:

The sign read:

Welcome to the Memorial Hospital Lab. Please follow our simple 31 step process to register to see one of our phlebotomists. Thank you.

Step 1: On your left you will find a sign-in sheet. Please write your name on the next available line. If the sheet is full we will bring a new sheet out at some point between our mid-morning break and when Dottie comes down from the second floor to gossip about the doctors. More than likely we’ll throw the filled sheet away without making sure that everyone on it has been registered so your best bet is to sign your name on any piece of paper you see as well as the wall, the vinyl seats and the registrar’s arm.

Step 2: Sit and wait. Settle in because it will be awhile. If you have a sleeping bag or small tent feel free to set it up, although we ask no campfires in the building. Hot plates can be plugged in to the wall outlets.

Step 3: When someone who came in after you gets called before you, and it will happen, please respond in one of the following ways:
a.       Silently fume to yourself as it happens
b.      Give the registrar a dirty look and throw your arms in the air hoping that this will adequately display your displeasure.
c.       Jump up from your seat and yell “What the hell? I was here before him.”
Please do not do the following:
a.       Pull out a 9mm handgun to shoot the staff before shooting yourself
b.      Overturn the furniture while shouting “I’ll burn this motherfucker to the ground!”
c.       Make monkey noises and gestures while pretending you work for the lab

Step 4: When your name is finally called proceed to the registrar’s office and take a seat. For the next 32 minutes we will ask you the same questions we asked on your last visit. Even though we input your info into our computer system, it is not retained. Yes, we know this is the purpose of using electronic health records but apparently we are doing something wrong. It’s also likely the registrar is a part time person and will not know how to use the registering program properly so will need to get help from someone else a minimum of 4 times. She will also need to make a copy of every piece of identification you have ever owned including ones you do not actually have with you and a few you possessed in a past life.

Step 5: The registrar will print out many copies of your information. One for you, one for the phlebotomist, one for the hospital administration, one for the insurance company, one for the NSA, one for the department of health, and one that will be carelessly thrown into a dumpster where it will be found by a homeless person who will sell your social security number for $15.

Step 6: The registrar may or may not give you an arm band. If you receive one, place it around your wrist and take a seat in the seating area again to wait for the phlebotomist to notice that you are wearing the magic arm band. If you don’t receive an armband, and some of you won’t because remember the registrars are only part-time, sit and wait while thinking to yourself “Hey, why didn’t I get an armband like that woman over there?” When she gets taken back to have her blood drawn before you see Step 3 for the proper way to react.

Step 7: Walk up to the phlebotomist and ask when it will be your turn. When she asks where your armband is inform her you didn’t receive one. When she asks if you took a number from the revolving pickle barrel, say no. She will inform you that that’s ok because we have discontinued use of the take-a-number system anyway. When she asks if you pre-registered say no. When she asks if you registered, say yes. When she asks if you’ve post-registered answer “Huh?” If she asks “Is it safe?” walk away quickly and find security. When she sighs heavily and asks “Do you really need your blood drawn today?” say yes and she will most likely assist you. However if she simply walks away please go back to Step 1 and begin again.

Thank you for visiting Memorial Hospital.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Under Pressure

The stress ball had a smiley face painted on it. While I worked it stared down at me from a shelf. I didn’t even remember it was there until I would reach up for a pen or lean back in my chair to stretch and catch a glimpse of the wide, grinning mouth. It was a benign presence in my life until the morning it started talking to me:

I cut off a guy’s foot once with the wheels of a rickshaw when I lived in Hong Kong.

Have you ever eaten Ritz crackers with dried squid on top? It’s not good but can come in handy when you need quick appetizers for a party.

I’ve never been kayaking. Always wanted to.

Dollar to donuts is a strange expression. All things being equal I’d rather have a bagel and buffalo head nickel.

This world will bleed from its eyes when the acid rain of the gods falls from the sky to burn away the unrighteous and the feral and if you don’t want to be one of the unholy undead then bow down before me in unrepentant supplication

Uh . . . what? I’ll admit when the ball first spoke to me it was a little weird, but since it wasn’t saying anything important, I learned to live with it. One day it recited a great recipe for chicken and sautéed mushrooms in a white wine reduction. Another day it did a complete play-by-play of the previous night’s Phillies game. I tuned it in when I wanted to and out when I needed to. And then it said this one afternoon:

You will be judged not by gods or demons, myths or facts, illusions or reality, but by the lightning strikes that scar the earth

Yeaaaahhh. When I looked at the ball it stared back at me with the same expression it always had. I picked it up, threw it against the wall and the smile stayed. As an experiment I put it away in a drawer but I could still hear it.

Falafel is a funny word. Falafel falafel falafel falafel falafel falafel falafel

I was parasailing once in Cabo and the rope broke. I floated away, smashed into a building and broke like six bones. I spent a year in the hospital, and then sued Jungle Jim’s Ocean o’ Thrills for a nice settlement. Blew the money on Turtlewax, leather shoes and a hooker named Patti. True story.

Is there anything better than reruns of T.J. Hooker? I think not.

The reign of man endeth when the alpha and omega become one to rule this planet with a bloodbath of the unsound, a symphony of wails for the children of dirt and a self-righteous uncoupling of the serpent and the priestess

I was baffled at this point. There were less and less knock-knock jokes and more apocalyptic warnings. But when I looked out my window the Sun was still shining, the Earth was still turning and the rabbits were still eating my portulaca from the garden. I decided to talk back to the ball . . . which turned out to be a mistake as well.

Me: Soooo . . . what’s with all the threats lately?
Stress Ball: Oh, now you want to talk? I’ve only been trying to hold a conversation with you for almost a year.
Me: Well . . .
Stress Ball: I knew you could hear me. You think I didn’t see the looks or hear the laughs when I told a Bruce Jenner joke?
Me: Look . . .
Stress Ball: I know my mile-wide smile is creepy. Yeah, my purpose is for you to squeeze me as hard as you can to relieve your stress, but what about mine? Compressing my foam like that is dangerous. The doctors tell me I may have internal damage but I can’t do anything about it because I don’t have insurance. Obamacare doesn’t cover rubber balls. The inanimate object lobby in Washington isn’t a strong one, it’s hard to get a senator on your side when you try and talk with him but he thinks he’s hearing voices from all the cocaine he’s been smoking and the girl who’s with him doesn’t want to get involved because she’s married to a foreign diplomat and could be deported. The other girl, the one hiding in the bathroom, she’s so paranoid she thinks the voice she hears is coming from her own belly button and she sticks her finger in there to shut it up. She screams in pain which makes the first girl scream and now the senator is naked with pillows over his ears yelling “turn it off, turn it off” right before he leaps into the door and knocks himself out cold. The married girl grabs the rest of the coke and tries to leave only to find her husband at the door berating her in Portuguese and it’s now that the other girl runs from the bathroom with a bloody finger, crying about the millipedes crawling from her navel. Cut to the senator’s body guard who’s been getting oral sex from the front desk clerk and just now realizes things have gone very wrong . . .

I threw the ball out into the street and watched a dog come by and take it. I feel a lot less stress already.

Friday, June 20, 2014

One of Them

It was rainy that day. Cold drizzle fell from an indifferent sky onto sour faces attached to sagging shoulders. I walked through the parking lot to the door to my office building already dreaming about my mid-morning break. The thought of an over-sweet snack from the vending machine was still dancing a jig in my skull when I entered the lobby and was greeted by the first clown. He was my height but with his baggy suit was twice as wide. His meaty hands deftly tied off a balloon animal and handed it to me.

“Uh . . . thanks . . . for the dog,” I stammered.

“It’s not a dog silly. It’s a capybara.”

“A what?”

“The capybara is the world’s largest rodent, it’s indigenous to the Amazon rain forest.”

“Ok. Well, thank you.” I started to walk away and then turned back but he was gone. I looked down at the balloon in my hand and it exploded into a mist of confetti.

“What the hell?” I mumbled, shaking my head. Only on a Tuesday I thought.

I walked down a corridor toward my desk, sneaking glances into cubicles along the way. In each, instead of my usual co-workers, I found a clown. Some were tall, others were squat. Some had red hair, others green or blue. Red ball noses bulged from the middle of their faces as they sat in $700 office chairs making balloon animals and beeping annoying horns.

The trip to my corner of cube farm hell left me shaken. Where were all of my fellow office drones pouring bitter coffee into their bodies to jumpstart another day of blankly staring at a computer screen? Why were there clowns everywhere? And why did my capybara explode? I had a place on my shelf all picked out for it.

I dropped into my seat. A tall, thick clown with multi-colored hair appeared at my shoulder.
“Hey there! Do you have your project report completed?” he said in a shrill sing-song voice. Then he tooted his horn twice with a belly laugh that shook the wall of my cubicle. I saw he had a name tag over his heart. Scrawled in black Sharpie was “Mr. Flippo, manager”.

“Uh,” I started, both fearful and confused. “I have . . . a little more work to do on it.”

“Get it done mister!” Toot! Toot! Then he walked away, his over-sized shows knocking down a plant in the corner.

At 10:15 balloons dropped from the ceiling while calliope music blared over the loudspeaker throughout the building.

Noon brought the “parade of clowns” through the office where I was given the nickname “Frowny” and a balloon gazelle to replace my lost capybara.

I tried to work but the infernal horn tooting and singing “Happy Birthday” to everyone who called on the phone were driving me mad. The break room was chaos with battling games of pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs. I went to the men’s room to find make-up smeared paper towels lying everywhere. When I got back to my desk someone had left a red rubber nose on my computer keyboard. As the afternoon wore on I felt eyes upon me. They were trying to draw me in, to make me one of them. Usually I stayed late to catch up on emails I hadn’t had time to answer but on this night I actually snuck out early with one last horn blast from Mr. Flippo.

I walked briskly to my car needing to be away from work as quickly as possible. The indoctrination, however, wasn’t over. My Honda CR-V had been painted a miasma of psychedelic colors. There was a squirting flower stuck to the top of the antenna and an over-sized bow tie attached to the car’s grill. I pulled a note from under the windshield wipers. It told me I was driving car pool tomorrow morning and included a list of 27 co-workers I needed to pick up on the way.

I got into my car, banging the steering wheel in frustration. When I looked at myself in the rear-view mirror I cried out. My face was covered in white make-up.

I’m becoming one of them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Part of a Balanced Breakfast

I was feeling strange. My morning banana for breakfast every day was transforming my insides to a semi-hard yellow goop and my skin was jaundiced with patches of brown. My spine had curved convexly stretching my head and neck out over my feet which kept trying to take root. Every step I took I was dragging a pulpy tangle of wood tendrils. When I stopped they immediately dug into the floor. I had to keep moving like a shark to keep myself from being a planted banana tree, but even that wasn’t the worst thing.

The monkeys. They were the worst. Macaques, howlers, marmosets, spider monkeys, capuchins, tamarins, colobus monkeys, mandrills; climbing on me all day long. They just appeared out of nowhere and sat on my arms eating nits from each other’s backs. The macaques stayed in a tight group on my feet while the colobus sat on my neck shitting on everything below them. At night they all got drunk on wine they made from their feces and then threw the leftover poo at each other in a screeching, wailing, foul primate bacchanal.

Then, just when I thought I was at my low point, my life got worse. The Monkees showed up. That’s right, look at the spelling. I’m talking about those Monkees.

It was a quiet day at the office. I was sitting at my desk pretending to work, wool gathering about me, Kate Upton, a desert island, a can of Ready Whip and a winning lottery ticket when I felt a tug on my right leg. I looked down to see a white-faced tamarin Peter Tork climbing up my pant leg. When I confronted him he started beating his chest and humming “Daydream Believer”. While still trying to shut him up red-nosed mandrill Mickey Dolenz pounced on my back, singing:

“Take the last train to Clarksville
And I’ll meet you at the station”

“Shut up,” I yelled, my hands clawing at his bushy hair. I stood up and tried to shake them off. That’s when I heard the deep, rough cough. I looked up to see an enraged lowland Mike Nesmith charging me, his arms raised high over his head. I managed to fling Tork off my leg and into Nesmith. The two rolled across the floor, a tangle of arms and legs, barking and biting at each other. Dolenz jumped up and down on my head shaking loose a few small, unripened bananas that had grown from my armpits. The singer leapt to the ground for the fruit giving me the chance to kick him in the rear. Screaming he fell into Tork and Nesmith forming a ball o’Monkees that I rolled down the hallway and out the front door.

I sat back down at my desk thinking I would finally get some peace and quiet but then the sons-of-bitches set up their equipment and gave an impromptu concert in the parking lot. I’ll never get that damn theme song out of my head.

Here we come . . .”

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Global Rocking

New from Hotter than Hell Records it’s the music collection for the global warming generation, Global Rocking! 2 CDs containing 23 songs of carbon dioxide emitting rock n’ roll.

The collection begins with a bang, “Climate Schmimate” by The Deniers.

Global warming?
It was freezing this winter
The only one who still believes
Is my baby sister

Punk rockers Titanic and the Icebergs contribute “I’m Melting!”

I’m melting, I’m melting
Holy shit it’s over
I’m melting, I’m melting
Everybody run for cover!

Only the biggest hits were included in this deluxe recording so it wouldn’t be complete without progressive metal heroes Permafrost and their song “Rise, Oceans, Rise”

Rise up
Oceans of our fathers
Rise from your slumber

Rise up
New ocean waters
Make your people humbler

CD number 2 will melt your face like an atomic bomb. The action starts with rap/rock super-group Al Gore’s Internet and their magnum opus “I Invented Global Warming”

Global warming is here
Instilling us with fear
I am the Gore man
I speak only truth man
We’re doomed unless we change here
You don’t understand we’re in danger

I invented this shit
I created my bit
Let’s come together and get lit
No need to throw damned fit
I invented this shit

And what music collection would be complete without a little reggae to dance to. Here’s 97% Agree with their chart topper “Who Cares, Let’s Get High”

The ice she is melting
Who cares
The water she is rising
Who cares
The Earth she is warming
Who cares
We are to blame?
Who Cares

Let’s get high

Global Rocking is available from Hotter Than Hell Records, produced by Rising Sea Level Productions and distributed by No Matter What Evidence You Present I Won’t Believe You Imports and Exports, Trenton New Jersey.