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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy Holidays from UPS

In October of 2014, United Parcel Service unveiled its UPS Access Point program. An access point is, allegedly, a network of retail establishments with convenient hours, staffed by UPS-employee-trained, um, professionals who know how to give you a package or accept a package for shipping.

Initially it was started in urban areas to help curb rising thefts of packages left on doorsteps. Given what I went through last week—that’s right, Christmas week—I think I’ll trust future packages with the thieves. If only I had that option.

So the Tuesday before Christmas, a UPS driver stuck a pre-printed label on my door, saying a package was left at 4101 (street name deleted).

Be aware that I wasn’t expecting a package, but Other Bill thought it might be a sweatshirt he ordered but wasn’t expecting that soon. This was the first time UPS didn’t just leave the package hidden in the bushes next to my front door, which has always worked out just fine. But apparently our address has been Access Pointed.

So Wednesday I went to this UPS Access Point at 4101 (street name deleted). It was a sushi bar. I wasn’t about to go into a sushi bar and ask if they had a package for me. It was just too ridiculous to believe. So I got back in the car and started to go home and noticed that there was a second business at 4101 (street name deleted) in the same plaza. I’m not kidding. Same address, different business. It was a pharmacy. But there was a tiny US Postal Service sign on the door of the pharmacy, so I was less embarrassed asking a postal employee if they had my UPS package than I would a busboy or fish cutter, so I went in.

Not wanting to interrupt a somewhat lengthy conversation by the two allegedly-trained-by-UPS-employees, I patiently stood there waiting while they discussed the Christmas shopping they still had to do. They rattled off lists of recipients and what they were getting, sizes they wore, possible prices or deals they could get on the stuff. You know: critical information employees must spew out in order to keep a customer waiting. One of them must have heard my teeth grinding, so she took my door sticker and shuffled off to the little package closet where the not-ready-for-home-delivery packages were.

The lady picked up each package, dusted it off, and went over each package with a magnifying glass and a lice comb. “What’s the name?” She asked for the third time.  I told her Other Bill’s last name and mine.

Heavy packages, light packages, small packages, large packages, envelopes of varying sizes, plastic pouches: each was examined with unnerving scrutiny. She brought out several different packages and handed them to me, asking if they were mine. Well, none had our names on them or our address, so I guessed they weren’t.

“Sometimes they put a sticker on them that covers the name,” she said, although none of the ones she gave me had the name or address hidden.

Finally, about fifteen minutes later, she concluded, “I don’t think it’s here.”

“Well it should be here,” I said. “They left the sticker on my door yesterday, so it should have been delivered here yesterday afternoon.”

She shrugged. “I dunno,” she said.

“Is there a number I can call?” I asked.

“I dunno.”

Really? An allegedly trained-by-UPS-employees employee, and she didn’t even give me the 800-PICK-UPS number that I already knew.

Gnashing my teeth still, I left the ambiguous address, drove home and called UPS.

Let me tell you something about 1-800-PICK-UPS. You can’t speak to a human unless you have a tracking number, and if you have a tracking number, they give you the pre-recorded status of your package, which I already knew was wrong. I desperately wanted to speak to a human.

“I’m sorry,” the recording said, “you need to enter your tracking number.” I pressed zero.

“I’m sorry,” she said again, “I didn’t quite get that. Please say your tracking number.”

“I don’t have it,” I tried.

“I’m sorry, I still didn’t get that. Please enter your tracking number.”

“AGENT!” I screamed.

“I can get you to an agent, but first, please say your tracking number.”

“FUCK YOU!” I barked, and then, I kid you not, the clouds parted, the sun shone through my front window, and a miracle occurred. I was actually transferred to an agent.

“Due to unusually large holiday call volume, you may experience extended wait times. Your call will be answered in nine minutes.”

Great, that should be time enough for the Valium to kick in, I thought, swallowing a pill.

Finally a human came on. I gave her my tracking number, and she told me the package was on the truck and would be delivered to my door by five o’clock. I immediately regretted not saving the Valium for a more difficult situation. She also told me to sign the back of the door sticker and put it back on the door. Although I planned to be home all night and would eagerly be there to assassinate the UPS driver, I did what she said.

Is anyone surprised that UPS did not show up with my package by five o’clock, or any time after that on Wednesday? Of course not. I don’t know why I even bothered to leave the outside light on until 7:00.

So Thursday, Christmas Eve, I was released from work early, and I got home and called PICKUPS, gave the recorded lady my tracking number, and she said, “Your package can be picked up at 4101 (street name deleted) today before seven PM.”

It was 2 PM, so I had time. Back in the car. Drove by the sushi bar to the second 4101 and walked to the back of the pharmacy to the Access Point, where the lights were off. The pharmacist said they had closed at 1 PM because it was Christmas Eve.

So, okay, no Christmas surprises for us, I figured. I contemplated calling UPS back, barking expletives to the recording again, waiting 10 minutes for a human and saying the same thing to her, but by this time there was no point. I’m sure the package, whatever it was, would be safe in the closet with the magnifying glasses and nit combs.

Friday was Christmas. Movie and Chinese food, so no one even thought of the elusive UPS package.

So Saturday I called 4101 to see if they were open, and Other Bill and I drove back over there. I let him go in and do the work, since I had failed twice. I sat in the car with my emotional-support-better-than-Valium dog. Ten minutes went by, and I knew Other Bill would not be coming out with a package. A while later he came out and said I should come in to help explain what I’d been told on the phone by UPS.

This time there was a different woman at the UPS Access Point Genius Bar. I told her that UPS told me that the package had been delivered there on Wednesday at 4:30, about an hour after I had been there the first time.

“Well sometimes they tell you it has been delivered when it really is still on the truck,” she said. And then she rambled on about a personal shipping experience she, even as a trained-by-UPS-employees employee, had had, but I didn’t comprehend it, because I was too busy hemorrhaging from my ears and eyes at this point, so I felt my way out of the store back to the calming nature of the dog, who stopped the bleeding with her tongue. Other Bill, the compassionate one, I’m sure said nice things and thanked the Genius Bar employee for her assistance.

Back at home, I once again summoned 1-800-PICK-UPS, but I was too embarrassed to say “fuck you” to the recorded lady in front of Other Bill, so I slurred mock tracking numbers over a period of several minutes until I was transferred to an agent with a five minute wait time.

By then I just wanted to know where the package was from so we could determine if it was the missing sweat shirt. “Of course,” said the agent, and in a minute she said, “Okay, this package was sent to Tina (last name deleted), shipped from—”

“Wait, hold on,” I interrupted. “You’re telling me after all the shit I’ve been through that this package is for my next door neighbor and the driver put the sticker on the wrong door?”

I didn’t hear her answer, and I probably said something worse than what got me to an agent in the first place on Wednesday, and then I hung up on her.

Today the sweatshirt arrived, and it was waiting on my doorstep in a US Postal Service Priority Mail box when I got home from work.  Unfortunately it was the wrong size, so we have to send it back.

I wonder which carrier I should use.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Chatty Catheter

Take away my microwave. Hell, take away my smart phone. Just leave me with Turner Classic movies and a video recording device.

Because there is a tropical storm thumbing its nose in the Atlantic this morning, I altered my schedule when I woke up. Normally I feed the dog, let her out, and get on with my day. But today I tuned in to The Weather Channel hoping to catch the latest Tropical Update. Instead I got Al Roper (who apparently has been super-sizing his Happy Meals again) babbling about climate change. After that, he cut to Local on the 8’s, which, is just Muzak with a map of today’s high temperatures across the country. They can squeeze a lady into a box the size of a credit card and have her give me turn-by-turn instructions from here to Walla Walla, but they can’t figure out how to cut to a local station to tell me if I should pack an umbrella today.

So after Nothing Local at 5:58, there were four minutes of unending commercials. And the dog was getting impatient. She was giving me that you’ve got one more minute and then you’ll be going for the mop look.  Normally I don’t watch commercials. I usually watch commercial-free Turner Classic Movies or skip through them because I pay a monthly fee to digitally record the shows I want to see.

So I learned that apparently there is a biiiiiiiiiiig market in the country for catheters. I don’t know why. I don’t want to know why. Just thinking about a catheter makes parts of me pucker and my stomach do a little flip.

I don’t want to see them, either, but there they were, in plain sight. If you call a toll free number, you can get a free catheter sampler pack, including the ever-so-popular pocket catheter. What does that do? Drain the coins out of your pants?

Apparently there are many different catheters to choose from.  “Hundreds of choices” according to the website I visited (and left an everlasting historical imprint on my work computer for my superiors to wince at). But in the commercial, words like “pre-lubricated,” “no-drips, no mess,” “reduces UTI’s” and “reduces friction and pain” send my nausea level to the puking point. For Chrissake, I just want to see if I need to lower my storm shutters! Have a little dignity, Weather Channel!

You know, Other Bill has to have medicine shot into his eye every eight weeks. Yes, a hypodermic syringe stabbed right into the white of his eye. If traffic is bad, it can take us over two hours to get to the doctor who performs this procedure. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do it at home? Let’s do a commercial for that.

Attention Ocular Melanoma and Macular Degeneration patients! Now you can get your Avastin injection supplies delivered directly to your home at no cost to you! We’ll automatically bill your insurance company or Medicare! Call this toll-free number now to receive your free syringe sample pack, including the popular ten-penny needle! Less trauma! Less bleeding! Fewer Infections! Less screaming!

Let’s see how much puckering occurs across America when that airs.

Why are we forced to face the gross realities of life on commercial TV? You never saw commercials for vaginal dryness in the 50’s. Can’t we please go back to that? I guess it all started with commercials for Preparation H and “feminine protection.” Half of us menstruated, and a third of us suffered some symptoms of hemorrhoids, so let’s get bleeding orifices out of the closet and onto the dinner table where we could engage them in a gleeful discussion. Say it loud: We ooze and we’re proud!

And don’t think for a minute that you can alleviate the gross-out factor by animating it. I can gag just as hard watching the slimy green snotwads in a Mucinex commercial or those horrific creatures in the Lamisil commercials that rip off a big toenail and start boring down underneath it.
Remember this?

It appeared at the end credits of TV shows up until 1983. It was a way for networks to voluntarily abide by a code of decency that lasted from the fifties until the National Association of Broadcasters was sued and made to end it all. Okay, call it censorship. But it would be nice if we had something like this for commercials.

I’ll be glad when the day comes when we all have internet access and we can all get information voluntarily through a search engine. That way those who want exclusive deals on douche bags and enemas can look for them privately without disturbing the rest of us in the family room.

My stomach and puckering parts will be much happier then.


Remember that old Black Flag Roach Motel commercial with the tag line: “Roaches check in but they don’t check out”? And do you recall the Eagles’ Hotel California line: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”?

Sticking with this theme, a woman in South Africa named Sonnet Ellers invented a female condom that was supposed to discourage rapists at the 2010 World Cup, which apparently is a hotbed of rape for riled-up, partying straight men.

The condom is designed with sharp, inward-pointing spikes that are harmless to the penis upon insertion, but will dig into and shred the penis upon withdrawal. Think of Chinese finger traps but  much more damagomg. After its claws dig into you and you walk away screaming with it stuck to your manhood, the condom can only be removed surgically, which would allegedly encourage a suspicious ER doctor to report the patient to the authorities.

I will never again return a rental car and drive over those tire-shredding spikes that warn you with the “Do not back up! Severe tire damage will result!” signs without wincing a bit.

Ms. Ellers’ plan was to distribute thousands of these devices to women during the World Cup event, provided she got production-funding donations. reports that there is no evidence that this ever happened. Maybe her GoFundMe account didn’t receive a lot of support. Certainly not from male World Cup, so to speak, attendees that year.

The device is called the Rape aXe.

There is no evidence that I can find that the device is available now for sale, but if you go hunting for one on the web, you can find a lot of blood-thirsty Lorena Bobbitt wannabes who find the device as desirable as the most popular, hard-to-find Christmas gift that every child wants. It’s the Teddy Ruxpin/Beany Baby/Tickle Me Elmo/Cabbage Patch Kid of the contraception community. Without receiving an answer, Estelle Davis of Oakland comments, “Is the Rape-Axe available for purchase in the United States?” Similarly, “Christina” in Pennsylvania questions, “I too would like to know if Rape Axe is available for purchase in the United States.”  This, no doubt, has given Pennsylvania women named Christina a tough time getting dates.

Granted, I think that rapists certainly deserve something like this Medieval Surprise. If it were up to me, their punishment would to be as physically and emotionally scarred as their victims. But if I were a woman, I’d certainly have some safety concerns about walking around wearing razor wire in my vagina. I would be worried about something disintegrating and having the whole thing backfire on me.

Maybe the device isn’t for sale, but some women are managing to get their, uh, hands on them. Recently I was told that on a Spanish TV channel’s court show, a man was suing a woman for damages he received after having consensual sex with a woman who “forgot” she was wearing that cheese grater inside of her. I have a couple of questions about that. First, how long was that thing in there, and how do you forget that your vagina is armed and dangerous?

And secondly, is it really worth $5000 to go on TV and let the world know you got your pecker caught in a Veg-o-Matic?

I think not.

"The" Teddy

When I was in kindergarten, there was a kid named Teddy who lived in a great big house. His family had a lot of money, and Teddy was quite outspoken. He wasn’t good at sharing, and he snapped at anyone who encroached his surroundings or tried to play with his many things.

That year around Christmastime, the Ideal Toy Company came out with the “It” toy of year. He was a mechanical plastic basset hound that came with its own leash. When you pulled on the leash, all these gears would start grinding, and Gaylord’s battery-operated four legs would start moving, so the dog could actually walk with you. Not very fast, mind you, but you could crawl right beside him. Gaylord also had a magnet hidden in his snout. When you walked him to his steel bone, it would attach to his snout, and it looked like the plastic pup could fetch and carry his own bone in his mouth. Gaylord could even walk backwards. He was totally cool.

Everyone wanted Gaylord. Even I, a cat person, wanted Gaylord. It was like having your very own robot. Gaylord, however, was out of most families’ budgets for toys. And I suppose most parents thought: let’s get him a real dog, or he already has a dog.

So right after Christmas break, our little school van pulled up to Teddy’s mansion, and out pops Teddy with his shiny new Gaylord in tow. At a snail’s pace, they proceeded to the van as we all lined up at the windows to see the actual “It” toy crawling in all his glory. Teddy beamed with pride and ignored the bus driver’s call to “pick up the dog and get on the bus. He was like the new Miss America parading down the runway. Look at me! Look at us! Look at what I have!

Finally, the bus driver got sick of this grandstanding and got out of the bus. Before she could reach Teddy though, he snatched up his pet dog, slipped past the driver and into the van.

“Nobody touches this dog! He’s MY GAYLORD!” He warned us. And the rest of the day, he guarded Gaylord as if he was the president, not letting anyone get near his prized plastic hound. No one was allowed to pull Gaylord’s leash or to walk with him or even get near him. “GET YOUR OWN!” Teddy would yell at anyone approaching his perimeter. Gaylord made this one-day appearance solely to make us jealous and was the star at show and tell that day, although by the time show and tell came around, we had already been shown and told more than we wanted.

Everyone was pretty sore about that Gaylord day. We tried not to show our envy, but Teddy already knew the truth. Teddy never seemed to mind that people hated him, or at the very least, had ill will toward him. He seemed to be happy in his assumption about himself that because he had more he was better and always right.

Teddy was always the attention seeker and a showoff. He picked fights with people and then blamed them for “starting it.” He cried when he didn’t get his way and bullied little girls, using words we’d never heard before. He got in trouble sometimes for interrupting the teacher to voice his opinion, and since all of us at kindergarten were given swimming lessons, Teddy was the first to show off that at age five he had already learned to do a back flip off the side of the pool. The owner of the school warned him, after the first back flip, never to do it again, and he was even paddled for disobeying that order and made to leave the pool and get dressed before swim time was over. He didn’t care. No one else could do a back flip. He never realized that it wasn’t that we couldn’t; it’s just that we wouldn’t.

One day during free swim I wandered into the deep end and looked down at the drain. There was someone down there, but they weren’t moving. He had black hair like Teddy. I called out to the school owner that someone was stuck down on the drain.

What happened after that was a blur. A man dived down to the bottom of the pool, and someone else yelled, “Everyone get out of the pool NOW” I watched adults jerk kids out of the pool by their arms. I saw the diver rise out of the water with unconscious Teddy, and I remember an ambulance coming and taking him off.

Later we learned that someone had seen Teddy do a back flip again, and apparently he banged his noggin on the side of the pool and was knocked unconscious and sank down to the bottom of the pool. No one talked about karma back then, but I don’t think I was the only one who thought he had it coming.

Teddy lived to tell about both the incident and all the presents he had gotten while he was in the hospital.

I think sometime afterward we got lectured again to remind us that back diving and “sailor diving” (where you dive into the pool head first with no arms over your head) were strictly prohibited, and that anyone caught doing that would lose their pool privileges for the remainder of the year.

There was no reward for the kid who discovered the little brat lying on the bottom of the pool. No thank-you letter from Teddy’s parents, certainly no Gaylord reward. We kind of just went about our business, continuing to hate Teddy for being rich, arrogant and a show-off.

I never knew what happened to Teddy. He probably grew up and went to private school and became successful and as rich as his parents. I scoured Google and Facebook without success to find him.

But when I was watching the Republican debate last week and saw Donald Trump shrugging, making faces, blaming others, calling people names and insisting the world revolved around him, I thought: Teddy. This is what Teddy turned into.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to Die and Make the News

Recently a five-year-old girl was killed when a large sturgeon jumped out of the Suwanee River and landed on top of her in the boat she was riding in. Tragic, indeed, to die so young and in such a bizarre way.

But frankly, I think sudden, unexpected, and quick death is the best way to go. Everyone wants to die in their sleep, but too often that is preceded by prolonged pain and suffering. Although sudden death is probably the worst case scenario for the friends and families of the victim, I’d sure choose it over, say, months or years of chemo, throwing up, wasting away, enduring pain, shitting myself and prolonged anguish every day. Here are some choice methods for quick deaths that have taken place, so keep these in mind should you be diagnosed with cancer of a major organ. I’m not suggesting you take a dive into a wood chipper, mind you. There are other ways.

Spring Forward, Fall Back. Three Palestinian suicide bombers died an hour before their planned demise and took no other victims, because the bombs had been set to go off by someone else on daylight savings time, and the bombers already switched their watches to standard time.

Isadora Duncan Wannabe/Safety Line Death. In Seattle, Jackson Roos was riding a zip line in his back yard when the safety line caught on his helmet and choked him to death.

When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go. A man who couldn’t hold it any longer and went between subway cars in New York City to take a dump and died after falling onto the tracks and was crushed by speeding subway cars.

Isadora Duncan Wannabe II and III. A burka-wearing Muslim woman in Sydney was strangled when her scarf wrapped around the axle of the go-kart she was speeding around in and strangled her. In Turkey, another was beheaded doing the same thing.

Unsafe Sex. A man in the Ukraine had both legs severed, and his girlfriend was killed after being run over by a train while having sex on the tracks.

Where’s the Beef? In Brazil, a man sleeping next to his wife died of internal injuries after a 3,000 pound cow fell through his corrugated roof. The wife and cow were unharmed.

Leave it to Beaver. Attempting to take a selfie with a beaver, a Belarus man was killed when the beaver bit him, severing an artery in his leg.

I Did it for the Snake. In order to win a pet ball python, a 32-year-old Florida (where else?) man died after winning a cockroach-eating contest in 2012.

Wile E. Coyote Wannabe. A woman in England survived a 100-foot fall after a flock of sheep charged her and the motorcycle she was riding. The woman survived the fall but was struck and killed by the bike. She then held up a sign that read, “Ouch!”

Death by Pharrell Williams. 32-year-old, overjoyed non-seatbelt-wearing, car-selfie posting Courtney Sanford, not paying attention to her driving, wrote on Facebook from her car, “The happy song makes me so HAPPY!” seconds before plowing head-on into a recycling truck.

Going Up, Doctor? A physician, after boarding an elevator at a Texas hospital, was decapitated when his head got caught between elevator doors, and the car of the elevator ascended. Third floor: fabrics, notions, kitchenware, and torsos.

Is it True Blondes Have More Fun? While driving in England, a hairdresser was incinerated after hair bleach chemicals leaked out, forming a flammable gas. The woman then lit a cigarette.

Wile E. Coyote Wannabe II. James Heselden, the owner of the Segway Company, died after driving a Segway off a cliff in Yorkshire, England.

Bazooka Joe. A Ukrainian student had his face blown off after dipping a piece of gum into an explosive compound.

Death by Office Supply. You know those pneumatic lifts that raise and lower your desk chair at work? Once one exploded and sent metal chunks deep into the rectum of its Chinese victim, who bled to death. Sit down, make yourself comfortable.

What Kind of Proof? While testing a bullet-proof vest, a Denver man died after being stabbed through the vest into the heart by his uncle.

Look Out for that Windmill, Too.  A child was electrocuted while trying to retrieve golf pall at a miniature golf park from a small pond. An electric pump had malfunctioned.

There Once Was a Dog With a Bone.  A Limerick, Ireland woman died from an allergic reaction to the semen of a dog she just had sex with. It’s always nice when someone dies doing something they love.

Shit Happens. While attempting to repair a septic tank he’d entered, a Russian man drowned after inhaling its toxic fumes. Not to be outdone, his wife also fainted after inhaling the toxic gas, fell in and drowned. I hope the mortician charged extra.

On the Upside, He Stayed Fresh for Days Afterward. A 50 year old man from Surrey England, perished from autoerotic asphyxiation after wrapping himself in three rolls of plastic wrap.

Lucky Strike. A North Carolina man set himself on fire after accidentally drinking gasoline from a jar and then lighting a cigarette.

Where’s My Tip? A 67-year-old Texas man died of cardiac arrest while receiving a lap dance at a strip club.

Third Time’s a Charm. In 1995 after failing to kill himself with a shotgun blast first to the chest and then to the neck, an Austrailian man finally succeeded by aiming closer to his heart. What a trooper.

Wedgie from Hell. A 33-year-old man pulled the back of his stepfather’s underpants over his head. The elastic was so tight against his throat that he died of asphyxiation.

Death by Method Acting. Lee Halpin, a 27-year old documentary filmmaker on homelessness died of hypothermia while immersing himself in the lifestyle of his subjects in Newcastle, England.

Chicken Soup for the Soul. In 2012, a nursing home patient in Rio was killed when a nursing technician accidently hooked up her feeding tube to her IV. Her veins were then filled with soup. Must have been tough getting that matzo ball into those arteries.

Worse than Sturgeon. In Bolivia a drunken teenager committed suicide by jumping out of his canoe into a known piranha-infested river.

Worse than Piranha. And of course there was the case of 28-year-old Texan Tommie Woodward, who, ignoring the pleas of knowing people and a “No Swimming—Alligators!” sign, declared, “Fuck that alligator,” took a dive off a dock and was dragged down and ripped apart by the eleven-foot gator who was quietly hiding under the dock, waiting for him.

So after considering things a bit, maybe a little long-term suffering wouldn’t be such a bad thing. A little Demerol or morphine could make things a lot more tolerable. I’d like to go out the way dogs die when you put them down. One shot to make you unconscious, followed by an injection to stop the heart. Simple. Painless. And no underwear band to pry off from around your neck.

Source: and others


Ya know, I’m all for inclusiveness, but recently I got an e-mail that made me want to boycott gay pride day forever.

Which is not to say that I don’t already do that. I haven’t been to a pride day celebration in over a decade. Pride day used to be fun and silly and a good reason to dress up funny and paint your face. Then the corporate world got wind of it and discovered we were willing to spend money—a lot of money—when we were feeling proud. Now pride day is not a lot different than a shopping spree at a Westfield mall, without the benefit of air conditioning.

Pride day used to be entertainment, outdoor dancing and learning about organizations that assisted the gay and lesbian community. Now you go to pride day, and you have cell phone companies dragging you to their booths with Vaudeville hooks while they scream in your ear like circus barkers. Banks offer you vapid incentives to open accounts or apply for credit cards, and you have to run from insurance salesmen.

Anyway, about that e-mail. Today I got an invitation to go to gang up with a bunch of folks at the Los Angeles pride day. I don’t know how I got on their mailing list, because I’ve only been to Los Angeles once. I saw the Hollywood sign and got stuck in abysmal traffic, which to me met all the requirements of the Los Angeles Experience, and I don’t feel the need to go back. And anyone can tell you that if I’m in a city that is within spittin’ distance to a Disney park, as Los Angeles is to Anaheim, I’m out on the next bus.

Anyway, about that e-mail. It told me to come join my LGBTQQIAAP sisters and brothers for pride day.

The what? How do you even pronounce that? I came skidding to a halt at that ridiculous acronym. I had no idea what it was, so I had to Google it.  The Urban Dictionary solved the mystery.

We used to be simple folk. We used to be the gay community. Then the lesbians wanted their separate piece of the pie, so to speak, and we became the gay and lesbian community, and that’s how the outside world referred to us. It was brief, and everyone knew what it meant. Then, for whatever reason—inclusiveness, I guess— we became the LGBT community. And a long time after that, someone put a Q on it.

By this time I didn’t even bother to find out what the Q was for. Turns out it wasn’t Queer, but Questioning, which sounds more like a group of Jeopardy! contestants. Without asking anyone, I guessed that these people were questioning their sexual orientation. But then, what’s the difference between Questioning and Bisexual? Once you “identify” (a word I’m really starting to hate) as bisexual, I guess you are no longer questioning. You’re just greedy. Basically you’re saying if you can find any human who’ll have sex with you, male or female, then you’ll go ahead and try them out. So why aren’t they called trysexuals?

Anyway, I was wrong about that, because Questioning people are not questioning their sexual orientation. They are questioning their gender. Alrighty then. Got it.

So now we have two Q’s now: one for Queer, one for Questioning. I was called queer too many times as a kid to find that necessary, so I am removing it from the acronym. So now we’re down to just 8 letters.

The other letters:

I is for Intersex, boys and girls. We no longer use the term hermaphrodites. Intersex people have the genitals of both sexes. I have enough trouble locating the one I have, so I’m pretty happy not having other components in the inventory that I wouldn’t know how to care for. Next!

A is for Asexual, and A is for Allies, who are straight people. Get out of here, straight people. Thanks for your support, but you have you own category! Asexual people can be straight as well. You guys beat it, too. Go back to your all-night video games and programming jobs.

And lastly, there’s P for Pansexual, who are people who enjoy copulating with Revere Ware.

I have a friend who used to host a Gay Shame party on every pride day, and I am beginning to warm up to that idea. Can we just stop it with the acronyms already? I think it’s gotten way out of hand, and no one is going to remember all the letters unless they write them down on their hand to use later. 

At least give us something that spells something. I’d like something catchy and easy to remember, although not necessarily short. I vote for Sexually Other Without Having Acronyms that are Tedious, or SO WHAT. I hereby declare us the SO WHAT community.

I look forward to and will probably eagerly attend next year’s SO WHAT parade.

And if I decide not to attend, well, so what?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Whispering About Cancer

Back in the days before pink ribbons, relays for life, and awareness movements, “cancer” was something people whispered about.

I remember people using their hand to form the letter “C” when whispers could be heard by small bystanders. I think more often than not cancer was whispered instead of spoken because people didn’t want to “upset the children.” There were also euphemisms. “He’s has been sick for a long time,” was often code for “He’s going to die from cancer.”

By all means, raising awareness about cancer has helped promote early detection for common cancers like breast and prostate cancers, so I am not advocating going back to the days of cancer, but I think that sometimes being kept in the dark about some aspects of cancer can be a good thing.

Up until a few weeks ago, we didn’t know that eye cancer existed. Or if we had heard about it, it never stuck. I’ve seen “Save the Ta-Tas” bumper stickers that oddly promote breast cancer awareness, but I don’t think anyone has one that reads, “Save the Peepers.”

Six in a million Americans get ocular melanoma. When Other Bill drew the short straw and was diagnosed with it, I questioned why these odds couldn’t be applied to his buying the right Powerball ticket instead of growing a malignant tumor on the back of his eye.

It was ten days from diagnosis to surgery, so we really didn’t have a lot of time to understand the ins and outs of the surgery or post-surgical care or long-term effects on his vision. We just wanted that tumor killed. In one day we saw five different doctors who rushed us through the battery of tests and briefed us about insurance and what was needed in order to get ready for the surgery.

I kind of slammed on the imaginary brakes when the ocular oncologist said he was going to sew a radioactive gold plaque to the back of Other Bill’s eyeball. This, of course would require, I assumed, a needle. “Needle” and “eyeball” belong in the same sentence as much as “machete-wielding” and “child care teacher” do. While my feet were on the brakes taking this in, I was trying not to think about how they were going to get to the back of his eyeball. Put it on a little lazy susan, perhaps?

Ordinarily I don’t do internet searches regarding health issues, because without any trouble you can convince yourself you have leprosy when in fact all you have is a gnat bite. But since we already had a worst-case-scenario diagnosis, curiosity got the best of me, and I turned to that digital Magic 8-ball known as Google, because I wanted to see what this radioactive seed-holding plaque thing looked like.

In a fraction of a second, up popped a picture, and frankly, the plaque looked like a bottle cap. Great, I thought. So for four days Other Bill would be hanging out in a hospital bed with a rusty Yoo-hoo crown sewn onto his eye with a piece of fishing line and a carpet needle.


Okay, that was all I wanted to see. I would spend the pre-op week with my eyes tightly shut and my fingers stuck in my ears while chanting “LA-LA-LA.” So if someone whispered “cancer” or “eye needle”, I wouldn’t hear it.

On the fifth day in the hospital, the ocular oncologist breezed into the room for 17 seconds, saying the surgery was successful, and that he would see us in two weeks to go over the results of the genetic testing.

We didn’t know what the genetic testing was for. Naturally I just figured it would tell us who fathered the tumor.

Once again, I stayed away from the 8-ball. Ignorance is bliss. And it’s a good thing, because it saved me worrying for two entire weeks. Ocular melanoma, I later learned, could be classified as a 1A, a 1B, or a 2. The 1A tumor has the least likelihood of metastasis, and a 2 is a significant chance of metastasis. Other Bill, being the middle child, was naturally a 1B.

I was already having horrific nightmares, so I was glad to know after two weeks that my ignorance saved a lot of stress and anxiety, which are everyday by-products of cancer. There is worst-case-scenario worrying, which I wrote the book on and will autograph if you buy a copy. There is insufferable waiting. There is hospital stress. That is finding the delicate balance between being a screaming, evil bastard who gets up in the face of the incompetent, semi-literate hospital staff  and talking kindly through gnashed teeth to ensure that there is no delay in getting your husband’s pain pills. Then there is the stress of waiting for post-op PET scan results which will tell you if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

We are six weeks post-op now. The PET scan was clear, and even though Other Bill is easily exhausted and is only working part-time, we are at the point now where we can almost dare to think about breathing easily.

But then at work the magic 8-ball is staring me in the face for 8 hours every day. “Ask me,” Google coaxes. “Ask me. I’ll find it for you. C’mon just type it in. Or speak to me if you’d prefer.”

Reluctantly I type in, “ocular melanoma radiation plaque surgery video.” I pause before hitting the Enter key. But then I think, “What the hell.”

And there it is. Needle and thread. Scissors cutting eye muscles. The big gold bottle cap. And this scared looking eye with black stitches hanging out of it, looking like the thing in “The Robot Spy,” the episode of Johnny Quest that gave me nightmares as a kid:


There’s just one thing I’d like to know. Is there a way to get Google to shut up? Or if not, can we get it to just whisper?