by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
Though I am regularly plagued by the shadow of anxiety it is a stretch to say that when I awoke this morning I knew it was going to be a rough day. Even calling it rough is perhaps a stretch. Maybe “disconcerting” is a better portrayal. Nothing of consequence happened but the events were nonetheless unsettling. I had no premonition of what was to transpire but I didn’t exactly spring from the lair. Nor by contrast was there anything especially alluring in the offing which might have contributed a buoyancy to the day’s unrolling proceedings.
The parade of events which I am about to describe kept me confined to the apartment all day. Granted it was cloudy and rain was in the forecast. Though I don’t believe it actually rained the skies were gloomy and that was enough to nurture the possibility. Plus I welcomed the opportunity to abstain from cycling just to give my inelastic limbs a rest. For the past four years (since I retired) I have bicycled almost every day for between 5 – 10 miles per day on average, sometimes more; and I am awakening to the realization that this repeated exercise in the same position may be causing my persistent back strain. In any event – aside from the putative medical concerns – the lack of sunshine trumped any inclination I had to withdraw from my cave.
I began the day by stripping my bed and taking the bed clothes down the hallway to the laundry room for washing, including the duvet (which is only made of synthetic feathers even though the envelope of sheets is surprisingly tolerable considering the thing only cost about $60). After my shower I tossed the bath towel, face cloth and bath mat into the laundry tub as well. This ceremonial purge was the start of my day and it was a good start in my opinion. But it wasn’t long before my opinion changed. One’s private avocations seldom bear upon the indiscriminate affairs of the Universe.
The first calamity – well, an event not so much calamitous as discomfiting – was my weight. Every morning – even before I take my arthritis pill, baby Aspirin and Coversyl (whatever that is) with a sip of water – I weigh myself on an electronic scale we bought at Target. I take the precaution of first removing my night clothes (and not drinking anything as already mentioned). I seek to afford myself the most slender reading possible. Today my weight was 206.4 pounds which is up from the long-time low of 204.8 pounds a couple of days ago. Clearly those California figs last night did me in! Sugar! That’s all they are, sugar in disguise! Their only possible redemption is that they are fibrous which everyone knows is supposed to promote regularity; and there is strength to the recommendation (just saying). Meanwhile it is my weight which is moving – and in the wrong direction! Though you’d imagine that that threat would have discouraged me from doing so, I further compounded the dilemma after my customary orange and protein breakfast by tucking into the raw walnuts (very good too I might add, moist). Clearly an inexplicable stress was perturbing me! I recalled what Marg Campbell said years ago when she walked into the bakery: “When I’m happy“, she said, “I eat. When I’m sad, I eat. If anything ever happened to Don (her husband) I’d put on so much weight, I’d be so goddamn happy!” The point is, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that pushes one to the frontier in these delicate matters.
Anyway the weight gain is not irreversible. But it was a bad start if you know what I mean, discouraging. I calculate the measure of my day by degrees. As with most things in life it’s the little things that count. After a lifetime of encountering perpetual unanticipated bumps in the road I daily hope to avoid the ruinous repetition. Besides which I can’t remember the last time I had Key Lime pie or peanut butter on an English muffin. I mean, really, what does it take! Geez!
I failed to mention that early this morning before I got up my iPhone (which I keep on the night table beside my bed) went “ping”. There was an email from a surgeon’s office in Canada telling me that the in order to obtain the medical records I requested I had to contact the Medical Records office at such-and-such a telephone number. It annoyed me that the surgeon’s clerk didn’t have the foresight to forward my original email to the Medical Records office. So I called Medical Records and naturally was treated to the usual circular bureaucracy; namely, that I would have to have either my family physician or the other surgeon (from whom I am seeking a second opinion in Florida) send a fax requesting the documents. And, no, Medical Records couldn’t possibly use email to send me a form which I might fill out and return by email (I cannot fathom how the signature on a scanned email differs materially from one on a fax). I told the clerk I didn’t have a fax (even though we have a printer and scanner which I would have thought in this modern era was sufficient but apparently not). Neither did it matter that my family physician can be difficult to contact nor that the second surgeon is located over an hour’s drive from here. Finally it annoys me beyond belief that I have no dominion over my personal records. As a former lawyer who has completed transactions for clients I would never have imagined insisting that someone other than my client must request a copy of their own transactional reports!
As much as I might prefer to style the evolution of my life as the calculated unfolding of design and ambition, I am but a barque upon the rolling sea, sometimes buffeting and bobbing like a cork. My progress is not that of a behemoth tanker cutting through the servient waters of fortune; mine is a rollicking bung on the sea subject to the overpowering winds and swells of fate.
“Behold now behemoth which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together. His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.”
It is one thing to tolerate the troughs and waves of life; it is quite another to be hit broadside. In any event as much as I detested the rude brush with the Canadian medical system I retreated as always to whatever cunning I possess in order to ply the waters of adversity. I emailed the Florida surgeon’s office to request that they contact the Canadian surgeon. By coincidence last week I had already completed a formal Medical Records Release which I presumed was sufficient to embrace this unforeseen hurdle. As off-putting as it is I summarized it by dismissing its significance. In the long run it would make no difference to me whether I had all the reports or not. My “condition” such as it is will persist notwithstanding any amount of paper. Aside from applying the usual metaphors for the vicissitudes of life I really believe part of my constant precariousness reflects the underlying Nomadic quality of my existence, moving between countries every six months, shrouding the arrangement with uncertainty. It contributes to vague unease. Yet on balance it is the vernacular we’ve adopted.
Sometime mid-morning I received a call from the spine doctor’s office in Florida. We were scheduled to meet with the surgeon next Monday but he has a “procedure” that day. So, after discussing various alternative dates we settled on the one day that I am already booked to attend a dentist’s office. I figured the spine guy out-ranked the dental hygienist. So I called the dentist’s office. You’d think I was calling to re-book a trip to the moon! The soonest they can see me is next February! Well, I suppose it could have been earlier but we’re already planning on being in Key West then so it’s going to have to wait until February. Once again, this isn’t the end of the world but I had been looking forward to having my teeth cleaned. Given the huge quantities of coffee I drink – and the deteriorating enamel polish on my old teeth – I regularly need to remove the creeping stains which surround my elongating choppers. I will say the Sonic toothbrush does help (and I only recently learned that it is the “sonic” feature – not the tiny bristles – which accomplish the real work of the cleaning so brushing in the normal sense is superfluous).
Then there was the telephone call from Bell Canada! Nothing succeeds to enflame my displeasure with hard-hearted business like an encounter with Bell Canada! Once again this month our account was contaminated by a petty charge which in my opinion is eclipsed by the service package we have. Because I have had to repeat my complaint to Bell Canada so regularly (virtually every month that we are in USA during the winter for the past three years) I have discovered a way to insinuate their offices which is less exasperating to me. As is so often the case in these circumstances the clerk who called me from Bell Canada was clearly intent upon brushing aside my complaint and talking over me whenever possible to punctuate the posture. Of course I would have nothing to do with it! Careful to avoid a complete lapse into the vernacular (which naturally would only afford the correspondent grounds to disconnect) I resorted to logic and language. To their credit many of these Bell Canada clerks (who would probably otherwise be unemployed university graduates) have an acceptable command of language (though frankly nothing to compete with practiced vocabulary). When the clerks sometimes make the mistake of weighing in upon legalities I am confident to triumph. Today for example the issue was that a charge had been levied for a text message. When I pointed out that on the Bell Canada website our “plan” states we have “Unlimited Can & US text” the clerk erroneously sought to import the “fine print” of the main contract which excludes certain third-party texts (such as Bank of Montreal in this case) not embraced by the usual phone-to-phone text message. This taradiddle did not however succeed. Like it or not, Bell Canada had chosen in its website summary to characterize the text plan as “unlimited”. Anyway you look at it, “unlimited” is unqualified whether by fine print or otherwise. If Bell Canada had wanted to qualify its coverage they need only have used the term “most” or “some” or any other word of qualification. But they can’t speak out of both sides of their mouth by using an unqualified term in one instance then purporting to import qualifications through footnotes and asterisks or whatever other device they might contrive to reverse the thrust of their blanket, public statement. In effect their assertion amounts to deliberate deceit. My thrust in spite of its probity seems to have been lost on the Bell Canada clerk. She certainly didn’t entertain any compensation beyond reversing the $2.25 charge. So much for 40 years of faithful retail commerce on my part!
It is the mark of accommodation and – perhaps I flatter myself to say so – wisdom that one must rise above these trifling impositions. What do they amount to – vanity, red tape, re-scheduling and big business! Seriously? Does any one of them really matter! It’s not as though I’ve gone down to complete defeat! Disconcerting, yes, but otherwise pshaw! When I stand back from these petty inconveniences and recall instead what is good about life, there is a hands-down winner – and it’s not Bell Canada! Meanwhile I’ve made my peace (though I confess not without a modicum of malignancy)