Monday, February 23, 2009

Good night nurse

Before Friday, February 13, 2009, I'm sure the last time I was nude in front of several women was on the day I was born. February 13 was the day after my cancerous prostate was removed, and I was in a very low state. According to my surgeon, he did the operation in such a way as to minimize both pain and blood loss, so I should be able to go home on Friday.

What actually happened was I had more blood loss than expected, and by Friday morning my blood pressure was dangerously low. It had been low enough during the night that the nurse called my doctor at 2:00 AM to tell them her concerns. He came in at 7:30 the next morning, dressed in a workout outfit, to look at my incision, tell me there had been internal bleeding, mostly into my butt. After a few more words he left, and the nurse got me out of bed. I needed to go to the bathroom and the orders were, after every toilet call there would be a shower; the incision was close to where there are a lot of Bad Bacteria. (I loved the way they emphasized that phrase, just like my mother used to emphasize "Bad Companions," when describing my friends.)

I don't want to unnecessarily gross anyone out, but in the bathroom I exploded in a volcano of fluids. The nurse, whose name was Chris, got me off the commode and out of my gown so I could take a shower. I was standing and then suddenly I wasn't. I heard a voice, "Wake up! Wake up!" and the unmistakable feeling of my face being slapped. Chris could not lift me off the floor and immediately the nurse assistant, Matilda, moved in to help. My wife ran down the hall to the nurses' station, but there were no nurses. There were two doctors talking and as my wife explained the problem they avoided looking at her and kept talking. She asked again. No help there. She found an orderly. By the time she got back I was in a shower room, nude, with three women. Chris was yelling, "Keep your eyes open!" because my lids had a tendency to droop. If they closed I'd be out again. Why she let me take a shower on my own I'm not sure, but she allowed me to go into the stall and close the door and clean myself off.

I stayed awake with Chris on the other side of the shower door yelling, "Are you OK? Are you staying awake?"

A few minutes later, back in a hospital gown, hooked back up to various IV's, in my bed, I was aware of activity around me. It'd been nearly 24 hours since my surgery, and I was still drugged, still out of it. Through the haze I could see Matilda with a mop and bucket heading for the bathroom. She gave me a dirty look. After a few more minutes a young Asian nurse came into the room. "How it goin', Matilla?" she asked. I was alert enough to notice her mispronunciation of Matilda's name, which made me think of Attila. Ha-ha. Attila the nurse. "It OK in bathroom, Matilla?" she asked. "OK," said "Matilla," in a very broad German accent. "It's just poop und blood." Another dirty look in my direction.

JUST poop und blood? No, no, was MY poop und blood. I went mercifully back to sleep, but this time in the bed and not on the cold floor.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

I was watching TV commercials when a football game broke out

Sunday night we celebrated the annual Super Bowl ritual in America.

We sat down with friends, relatives, cases of beer or other alcohol, plenty of food, then gorged ourselves while watching a bunch of new commercials. Oh yeah, somewhere in there was a football game.

I'm not what would be considered a football fan, although I usually catch parts of a few games during the season, and if the teams playing in the Super Bowl are interesting to me then I might catch part of the game. The commercials I don't care about. What I can't understand is groups of people watching the event just to see the commercials. Jeez, folks, we're inundated with commercials, at least a quarter of every hour of television viewing is made up of people pitching products at us. And you go out of your way to watch them?

Of the commercials I saw this year I can't really think of any that I thought were especially clever or well made, despite some advertising pundits on the 10:00 o'clock news pronouncing which ones were flops and which were hits. So what? If Coke spends millions making a catchy commercial and pays $3M to play it on the Super Bowl does it make me more prone to go out and buy a case of Coke? Hell no. That's me. I am seriously jaded by advertising. But I'm not the typical consumer advertisers are trying to reach. The scary thing is, for many consumers, advertising is how they find out what useless products they want to spend their money on.

Thirty-five years ago I worked with an advertising man who had worked in television when it first came on the air in Salt Lake City, in the late 1940s. He worked for KUTA radio, which started KUTV, Channel 2, still a powerful station in our area. He told me stories of the earliest days of TV. Speaking of commercials, he had been to a local company called Southeast Furniture to sell them television time. The owner of Southeast Furniture was a prominent local businessman, Horace Sorenson. Horace didn't want anything to do with the fancy new medium of television. Newspaper ads and word of mouth worked just fine with him. Rod was authorized to make an offer: He would run a couple of spots for free on their evening movie (no network TV at that time ran programs after a certain point, so locals had their own programming after 9:00 PM.)

Horace said he had some ugly green chairs he'd never been able to sell. Rod brought a photographer in who took pictures of the chairs, Rod wrote some copy, and the commercial appeared a couple of times around 11:00 o'clock that night. The next day people came into the furniture asking for those chairs they'd seen on TV, and Horace sold all he had in stock. After that he advertised on TV.

Advertisers spend billions of dollars to influence us to buy. They might be advertising hamburgers, prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction, or new cars...but they're really still just ugly green chairs.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Congratulations, Pittsburgh. I was rooting for you all along. And I liked the Bruce Springsteen halftime show.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Eaten by ants!

I'm sitting here thinking about my mortality. Having cancer will do that for you.

When I was a kid, nine-years-old or so, a bunch of us kids would get together and talk about stuff that nine-year-olds talk about. I remember one subject stuck in my mind. One of the kids said, "The Indians would take a cowboy, bury him up to his neck in the desert by an ant hill, then pour honey on him and the ants would eat his head!" I also heard various other versions of this tale, taking place in South America, or the Congo. I remember thinking how awful it would be to get eaten alive by ants.

Well, I still think it's pretty awful, although getting eaten by cancer probably ranks a close second.

I found some pictures of guys getting eaten by ants. The two magazine covers are from the great book, Men's Adventure Magazines, published by Taschen Books, and the comic book cover, above, is from Heritage auctions.

Apparently I wasn't the only person who thought that getting eaten by ants was a pretty bad way to go, if the motif has been repeated over the years in various forms of popular culture. We're attracted to things that oddly enough, also repel us.