Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Mammogram

Yesterday morning I had my annual mammogram. For some reason I thought my appointment was for 8:00. However, the receptionist at the clinic happily informed me that I was there 1 1/2 hours early for my 9:30 appointment, but they'd try and work me into the schedule.

Passing time in a waiting room is like watching water boil. The magazines in the clinic were old (Princess Di's funeral was on the cover of one of them.) The TV was on some educational channel. There were no naughty children getting yelled at by their parents. No fun at all.

Tick-tock-tick-tock. The minutes dragged by.

When the x-ray tech called me in I shouted 'YAY!" - meaning my wait is over. She commented that it is very unusual for a patient to shout "Yay" when called into the mammogram room.

So I undressed from the waist up and put on the lovely shirt and entered the torture chamber. For those of you who have never had a mammogram, be prepared to lose every ounce of dignity. You stand at various angles in front of a robotic machine with a mouth that closes hungrily onto your boob. It's the tech's job to make sure that the machine gets the biggest bite possible, from every imaginable angle.

It starts easily enough. 'Let's place your breast on this shelf', the tech will instruct. If only I could unscrew them and place them on the shelf. The tech could turn them around, flip them upside down and get the perfect X-rays. Unfortunately, my body is connected to that breast so I have to go along for the ride.

After you 'place your breast on the shelf' the robot closes its mouth and compresses your breast into what looks like a piece of boneless chicken breast . (I wonder if chicken mammograms are part of the Tyson process). I marvel at how compact my breast has become- 1 inch?

After the 'head on' bite they take angled versions, which involve moves straight out of a pilates class (minus the soothing music.) And when they finally get you in the machine's mouth at the perfect angle they make you freeze until the X-ray is done.

I asked the tech if she ever does mammograms on men and she said yes. I made a comment about how the fact that men are flat is probably a challenge, but OH NO! Size is not a challenge that tech. She can get any sized breast into that monster's mouth.

But what is a problem is chest hair. She told me about one man who just kept sliding out of the mammogram's mouth because of his hairy chest. "Thanks for that image," I said. So much for stopping for breakfast after the mammogram.

When I was finally done I thanked her and went back into the changing room.

But I had one last thought. I knocked on the door and when the tech answered I said, "Thanks for squeezing me in."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Campground Facilities

I used to love camping. (That’s past-tense.) I loved most everything about camping: putting up the tent, making the campfire, cooking hot-dogs, and sleeping outside. What I did not enjoy were the campground bathroom facilities.

Of course, there are several tiers of campgrounds. The rustic campgrounds' bathroom facilities are located behind bushes and require squatting. Male readers may not be able to relate to this, but aiming while squatting can be particularly challenging and potentially messy. Then there's the wiping. What to use? Leaves? If you do, remember the oh-so-important poem by Robert Frost called 'A Leak in the Woods':
Leaves of Three. Let them be.

One step up from rustic campgrounds are campgrounds with outhouses. Although I have on desperate occasions been forced to utilize these 'rooms', I will never be able to do so again after having seen the move Slumdog Millionaire.

The better campgrounds have indoor facilities with showers. For those of you who have never experienced such campground shower facilities, let me describe them. They are remarkably consistent from campground to campground.

There's usually a shower curtain to allow for privacy while the camper 'enjoys' his/her shower. However, the curtain covers approximately 57% of the shower opening.

If you're lucky, there will be a bench for you to place your clothes on while showering. However, usually the bench is just large enough to hold 1 bar of soap. But hey! It's just not camping if your clean clothes don't get wet while you're showering.

The water is typically 40-60 degrees 'warm' and you share the shower with plenty of large insects. (Since the facilities are the only light source in a campground at night, every bug within a 5 mile radius is drawn to your shower.) It's really not a problem...unless you happen to wash off your mosquito repellent.

Yes. I used to love camping. Then I discovered featherbeds...and room service....and direct TV....and wine....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day

I've had some tough jobs in my life. But none was worse than substitute teaching in a middle school. I did this for one very long year while I was an impoverished graduate student.

We're talking poor: 'Ramen Noodles for dinner' poor. I was so desperate for money I would not turn down any assignment. And although Math was my subject area, I would teach anything from home economics (imagine that) to band.

There was a 7th grade math class, the likes of which you've never seen. Picture Scut Farkas, the bully from 'A Christmas Story' (pictured above), Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson in the same class. Throw in some snotty, hormonal, 13-year old girls trying to hone their reputations as future 8th-grade anarchists. Add to that the fact that this was the last period of the day.

I never met the actual Math teacher (let's call her Miss Isosceles), but she sure was absent a lot. And her absences seemed to grow exponentially during the school year.

Word spread throughout the substitute teachers circles in Western New York about Miss Isosceles' Math class at Edward Town Junior High School. By the end of the 1st 10-week period, a suspicious substitute Math teacher shortage hit the school. (It only took one time subbing in the dreaded class, and the substitutes would conveniently be unavailable thereafter.)
Then they found me.

I cannot recall exactly what happened during those classes. Years of therapy have helped me repress the memories. But I do recall getting the phone calls...

Mrs. K: "Hi! This is Mrs. Kram calling from the middle school. Are you available to teach today?"
Me: "For what class?"
Mrs. K: "Math"
Me: In shaky voice: "Which Math class? "
Mrs. K: "Miss Isosceles class"
I begin to sniffle.
Mrs. K: "Excuse me, did you say you can come in?"
Me: Sniffling more. "I guess so" (between sobs)
Mrs. K: "I'll take that as a yes. Thank you." Not heard: "Sucker!"

But I made it through that year a stronger person. Years later I was working at Miller Brewing Company as a Market Research Analyst and the brewery workers went on strike. I was called to the plant, along with many of my co-workers to keep the beer production flowing.

I put on my hard hat and worked at the de-palletizer for 8-hours a day making sure the beer cans came off the pallet and lined up like little toy soldiers for their journey down the assembly line. I also worked 'bottle wash' where I had to wash labels off the bottles that were put on incorrectly 8-hours a day for 2 weeks. I even worked Beer Dump for several shifts.
My co-corporate-worker-scabbers had a very difficult time moving from their comfortable desk jobs to perform tedius, manual jobs in the brewery.
Not me. I survived substituting for Miss Isosceles classes. I knew there were far worse jobs.