Hot Air: Through Gritted Teeth

A couple of things before I commence screeding*.

[ * New word, coined by me, from the root screed. ]

  1. In keeping with a practice that I occasionally adhere to, I’ve waited a few days before writing this in order to let both my body temperature and blood pressure return to something near normal. Otherwise, had I posted this, say, on Monday — when I really, really, really wanted to — I might have opened myself up to charges of terrorism, or at least defamation, although the legal definition of defamation requires the offending statement to be false and the tales of woe to follow are all true. Of course, the offended parties surely keep armies of lawyers on retainers so as to crush any criticisms that might embarrass them. Me? I’ve got a single attorney, a neighbor, who’s really good but has better things to do than get me out of scrapes due to my hot-headedness.
  2. Get out your micro-violins as the tales I’m about to relate pale in comparison to just about anybody else’s in these days of COVID Fever. Nevertheless, I was prepared to go to war over them as they accumulated over a two-day period.

Okay, that stuff out of the way, here we go. I’d been scheduled to get a COVID-19 test at a church up in Indy Sunday afternoon. It was part of the State of Indiana’s testing program. I’d been sent a postcard asking if I wanted to participate and I replied, well, yeah. I’m an at-risk patient on at least three levels: I’m in cancer remission; I was born with a congenitally malformed heart; and I’m an old. The state’s testing program picked me out at random as it’s trying to figure out where and how far this virus has infiltrated Indiana.


So, The Loved One and I packed the car with bottles of water and road snacks and hit SR 135, heading north to Nap Town. I was under the impression that the fastest route north, SR 37/I-69, had been blocked off for construction around Martinsville, necessitating our roundabout route. (I’ve since learned SR 37 remains wide open at this time.) We weren’t exactly running late but I’d timed it so that we’d make it to the Mount Sinai Evangelical Church on Lafayette Rd. on the north side of town just in time. Naturally, following Gov. Eric Holcomb’s announcement Friday that Indiana is embarking on a five-step program to reopen, much of the citizenry of this state took that to mean COVID Fever is done and gone, so far back in the rearview mirror it’s like Prohibition or the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. SR 135 was packed with drivers of the most Sunday variety, tootling along like so many Indiana motorists, driving as if any speed over 31 mph is tantamount to recklessness.

I mean, good for them that they could finally get out and enjoy some fresh air and see the sites but, jeez, people, wouldja get the hell out of my way? I gotta be somewhere sometime this month!

Eventually, the Sunday drivers peeled off one by one and so I was able to floor my hot rod, taking corners on two wheels and occasionally stopping so abruptly at red lights that TLO found herself scrunched in a ball wedged between the windshield and the dashboard. Her affection for me was waning with every screech of the tires but, I assured her, we were going to get to the church on time. Finally we got to Lafayette Road and, as we searched for the address, I noticed a cop car blocking the entrance to a parking lot up ahead. “That’s it,” TLO announced and we pulled up next to the squadrol. The lot was packed. The cop got out of his car and, his manner pleasant, informed us there’d be no more testing today.

Apparently, the place was inundated with Hoosiers looking to get tested. Who knows if people who hadn’t been scheduled to come to the church on this day had elbowed their way in or, like so many other COVID programs in this holy land, this one’s planners had eff-ed up, majorly.

We sat there for a moment — I don’t know precisely why; perhaps we were hoping the cop’d say, “Aw, that’s alright, you like like nice people, go on in.” He added with a smile, “Yep. No more today.” So we drove off.

Now, that was only mildly annoying. Perhaps even annoying is too strong a word. Standing alone, the whole incident would probably slip my mind in a day or two.

Ah, but the next day, Monday, I was scheduled for a CT scan prior to my regular visit with my oncologist next week. These CT scans cause me no end of stress in the weeks leading up to them. Acc’d’g to the latest research, people with my form of cancer have a 95 percent chance of getting through the five years after treatment without any tumors returning. Those are great odds, right?

Well, yeah, I’d take ’em were I holding a straight flush but that 1 in 20 chance I’d get malignant lymph nodes in my neck again looms huge in my nightmares. The nearer I get to my CT scan appointment, the more I’m dead certain they’ll find new olive pits around my throat. It’s only after the scan and after my oncologist gives me the all clear that I can breathe again.

I’d been sitting at my garage-office desk, clacking away at this very keyboard up until the last moment, hoping to distract myself from the worry and not having much success, when It came time to go to the imaging center. I dashed out to the hot rod and clicked my smartkey fob. Nothing. I clicked it again and again, bouncing from the lock to unlock icons like a madman. Still nothing. The fob’s little battery was dead. Neighbors no doubt heard my entire lexicon of obscenities, both alone and in creative combinations with each other. When it comes to cursing, I am truly a wordsmith.

Back into the house to beg TLO to drive me to the center; hopefully, she wouldn’t be involved with a Zoom meeting or anything at the moment. TLO instead dug out her own copy on my smartkey fob and said, “Here, take this.”

I sprinted out (well…, I hobbled out, thanks to my two bone-on-bone hip sockets that’ll be replaced this year) and jumped into the Prius and sped off. Now my nerves were protruding from my skin like whiskers. I wondered — nay, fretted — had I drunk enough water so the technician can find the median cubital vein in the crook of my arm? Finding that vein is always problematic in my case. The CT scan calls for a radioactive glucose solution to be injected into my bloodstream, the idea being tumors are greedy little bastards and they’ll suck up glucose before any other structure will get some and the radioactive stuff carried along with the simple sugar will show up hot on the scan image. That’s how they find new tumors.

Okay, so I drink water like crazy before I’m due to get pricked, thereby upping my blood pressure and, it is to be hoped, bulging my median cubital vein. Dear god, I don’t want to get poked and prodded and stuck like a pig by a technician blindly probing for the vein. And, for chrissakes, please, please, please don’t let there be any new tumors. I dunno if I could take another round of chemoradiation. I lost 80 pounds the last time I went through it! And who’s ready to guarantee this round will work as well as the first round did?

I was holding on to the steering wheel so tightly it felt as though I was bending it out of shape. I squealed into the imaging center lot and made my way for the door. The door normally slides open as someone appraoches but, thanks to COVID Fever protocols, it was disabled. A sign posted to it instructed me to wait until someone opened the door by hand. It took a few minutes for someone to get there, my nerves jangling all the more as I waited. Finally, a woman in scrubs pushed the door open and told me to sit at a table that’d been set up in the vestibule. She walked me through all the COVID-related questions that have become so de rigueur all over the place these days and then said “Okay, when was your appointment?”

I told her and, using her pen as a pointer, she scrolled down her printed schedule, looking for me. Then she scrolled down it again. She asked: “What did you say your last name was?”

I repeated it and she scrolled down a third time. “Spell it for me.” I did. She scrolled again.

“Who was your doctor?” Now she scrolled a fifth time.

She stood up and went off behind the reception window. When she came back, she said, “You’re scheduled for May 20th.”

“Um, no. I was scheduled for today. Your office called me and gave me that appointment.”

Back to behind the reception window where she made a quick phone call. When she returned, she said, “You’re right. You were scheduled for today. But it’s been changed. It’s now May 20th.”


I looked at her and she looked at me.

Finally, I said, “My appointment is for today. It’s for right now.”

“Yes, I’m sorry. But it’s been changed.”

“But I’m here,” I said, after rejecting three or four more juicy epithet-laden retorts.

“Well, we’d try to squeeze you in but there’s no wiggle room today.”

Silence, again.

I looked at her and she looked at me. Again.

Calmly (on the outside; on the inside, I was rumbling), I said, “That would be your problem. I’m here, as instructed, and I think you should make this happen.”

“We can’t,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

Silence. We looked at each other. She stood and offered me a printout she’d made of my new appointment time. I did not take it. I stood and started walking out.

“Don’t you want this?”

“No. You keep it.”

The woman looked at me as if I’d profoundly disappointed her. I don’t know if I pounded my feet as I walked but I wouldn’t be surprised if I did.

“You have a nice day, sir,” she said, fairly sarcastically, as if I were the unreasonable one.

When I got into the car, I phoned The Loved One and unloaded. TLO had the good grace to understand I was ranting against an unfair world and not her. After a few minutes I felt as though I were breathing normally again, and drove off.

Now I face the prospect of another few weeks of worrying about new tumors.

As I said earlier, these frustrations are no more important or severe than anybody else’s. But they’re mine and now, aired and exposed, they seem as nothing compared to how they felt Monday at about 11:00 am.

And so it goes as we cope with these COVID Fever days.

Buyer Beware

Tune in this afternoon at 5:30 for Big Talk with this week’s guest, Eric Brown, co-owner of Caveat Emptor, the long-standing used, rare, and collectible book shop on the east side of courthouse square in downtown Bloomington.

Eric Brown

Caveat Emptor next year will celebrate its 50th year in business. The place was opened in 1971 by Janis (pronounced YAH-niss) Starcs, an émigré from Latvia who, I believe, was a refugee from the Holocaust as a little boy. Starcs ran Caveat for some 45 years until he decided he was getting too old to handle it and downtown rents were becoming…, well, absurd. In March 2016 Starcs announced he would be closing the store. Eric’s wife Katy caught wind of the news and telephoned her husband who was away on a business trip to let him know. What Eric said next was half joke, half serious.

To find out the rest of the story, tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM, today at 5:30pm. Or come back here tomorrow for the podcast link.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB.

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