I fell asleep early, after our workout, vegan pizza and salad, and a couple episodes of Ozark, so of course I woke up at an odd time tonight. I was just ambling down the hall in my Walmart sweatpants to get some ice and a fat lady on a cane came crashing out of her room who screamed, “GET CHAD! OH GOD! MY MOTHER — MY MOTHER!”
I was like, alrighty, but Chad wasn’t at the front desk, and it occurred to me I’d seen him exit the far door after placing some ‘caution: wet floor’ cones, so I came back to the room. I had no effing idea where my phone was. We just sort of sailed back in from the gym, laden with pizza etcetera, and I hadn’t looked at it or thought about it in hours. Nick was asleep, and the bugaboos were amazingly uninterested in whatever the wailing down the hall was. I found my phone, and went back out in the hall while 911 dispatch picked up.
Right at the same time, Chad appeared at the door closest to me and I pointed to room 116. “That lady’s mom is having a medical issue, I believe.” He went in and I followed, still on the phone with dispatch. The ol’ gal was on her back on the bed, eyes open but not blinking, breathing once but in a rigid way, every maybe six seconds, and Chad checked her pulse, which was weak. I told 911 I knew CPR but it didn’t seem indicated, and the dispatcher said EMS was in route. Chad turned ol’ gal slightly sIlightly to her right side and a bunch of what I thought was blood spilled out of her mouth. Turns out it was very dark brown liquid but not blood. The daughter, who physically appeared in much, much worse shape than her mother, had a difficult time focusing on questions I was trying to answer for dispatch, like the mother’s age (86 but looked older) etc. She was just yelling, as a strategy, and pounding her cane on the floor.
Chad was a rockstar, opening ol’ gal’s airway as best he could, getting the dark brown gunk on his hand which I could tell he didn’t like, etc. I remained hardly useful at all except as a phone-connected observer and reporter. In basically no time at all, a nice looking young cop entered the room, and I went out to the lobby to help direct in a few more. 911 let me go and I opted to just return to my own room.
Nick was stirring, asking what was going on, wrapped in his sheet like a half asleep Greek god (he always gets embarrassed when I describe him that way, but why would I stumble into a relationship with the handsomest man on earth and then mince words?) — I relayed the basics and he rubbed my back and asked if I was okay. “I’m definitely fine,” I said. The bugaboos were still entirely quiet and calm. The daughter-lady was still hollering, down the hall. I feel like, if your own health is that bad, you should prepare yourself to face medical emergencies, your own and those around you, with a higher degree of composure, but of course that’s an asshole thing to say. I’m just full of asshole thoughts lately, aren’t I.
I carried Buffy outside and put her down to pee, and then carried her back inside. I vaguely wanted to avoid, I don’t know, her becoming territorial about the now small community of EMS people gathered outside the room down the hall, but she could not have been less interested. Carrying her feels so good — she’s heavier than you would think, from her size. I felt grateful for the cops, talking quietly in the hall, and beamed them a little love. What a time to be a cop.
Anyway, that was the extent of my involvement and I thought, might as well get the day’s blog started. Nick is asleep again — it’s still not even 4am, after all that. Buffy climbed into my suitcase and passed out again. She’s the sleeping-est dog. Milo is attached to Nick, as usual, and only responsive to Nick’s emotions. I’d love to say Buffy is only responsive to my emotions, but that would be a dramatic overstatement.
I used to do delivery, maintenance, and minor repair on home medical equipment — mostly oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators, with a little dabbling in apnea monitors and bilirubin blankets — and I’ve been in a bunch of gross strangers’ gross homes, pursuant to that goal. The company I worked for did have the contract for AHCCCS healthcare (ie healthcare for poor people), which I’m sure informed my experience. What a job. People live like shit. Like, I wouldn’t voluntarily spend one single second in these spaces within which they live out their lives. Being poor has nothing to do with it. Being trashy and filthy has everything to do with it. I’m glad I’m not a first responder, and I’m glad I’m no longer crawling on my hands and knees through people’s walk-in closets, through literal waves of fast food trash wrappers and cigarette butts, to check the date on their oxygen concentrator service anymore, and having my hair smell like cigarette smoke for the rest of the work day til I can get home and shower, just from spending twenty minutes in their house.
The new parents, to whom I delivered and rapped on the subject of apnea monitors and bili-blankets, were a better experience usually. There was one odd appointment, though — the new father was listening and interfacing with me in a normal way, and the new mother was just enraged. She hated him, she hated me, she hated the bili-blanket, she was sniping at everything I said. I was like, ‘So anyway if you have no further questions here’s your shit and I’mma head out’ lol. Yeah. That was odd.
That was many years and occupational identities ago. Kind of makes Jordan Peterson’s admonition to start your journey of taking responsibility in the world by making your bed seem a lot more pertinent. Whatever the circumstance, there are always some little things we can do to improve our lot, our immediate vicinity, and once we do those, we find more and more and more improvements, and pretty soon our immediate vicinity is one of the nicest places around. Or, alternately, hell on earth. That lady’s room down the hall — ugh. Did not wanna hang out in there. The smell.
I could be done with this blog but I’m having so much fun, and it’s the middle of the night, and Nick is snoring softly.
I think we avoid death and debility, or it makes us uncomfortable when we encounter it, because we think: this will happen to me. This is what it will look like. This rigor mortis lady stretched out, eyes wide shut, in room 116 at this $50 motel; fat, be-caned, elderly daughter screaming, brown shit spilling out of her mouth: this will be me. That’s what we fear.
I say, pshaw. Pshaw on, like, a number of levels. We’re so bad at recognizing our own circumstances, and other people’s circumstances, as being a uniquely individual creation. All the good, all the bad, all the particularity of it — the flavor of our lives, the ambiance of our presence. Even our death experience will be a creation of perfect inevitability — not the inevitability of our own mortality, I mean the inevitability of our own sensibilities. A lot of us choose to create that experience in a typical hospital setting, or as the result of a typical series of medical catastrophes to which we finally succumb, in a hospital or in room 116 or wherever. A lot of us choose to wear ugly shoes and hang tragic pictures on our walls, all our lives, too. Those pseudo-French pre-fab art everyone has in their kitchen, with like a dancing girl coming out of a wine bottle or some shit. How is that not related.
My mom chose uniquely, and against the current, her whole life, and her death was an entirely unique creation. EMS almost hauled my dad off to jail — why didn’t he take her to the hospital? Her corpse gave evidence of a long, losing fight against something. My dad answered honestly, “She didn’t want that, she wanted to be here. So I took care of her until she died. Then I called you guys.” EMS was like, “…Okay…”
I don’t know what my own death will look like, obviously, and I don’t think about it to any great extent. It will probably be the most Hannah-esque creation of them all, which hardly anyone will recognize and appreciate, since we don’t think death can be a choice on any level, let alone one with a sense of style. Maybe when I die, I’ll be like “Oh shit, not how I wanted to go out — I was wrong, I hate this.” Who knows. I just can’t spend years of my life crawling through people’s trash on my way to their oxygen concentrator, or trying to wrestle large oxygen cylinders up their porch steps while they remain immobilized in bed, 500+ pounds and actively eating ice cream out of the gallon *while* telling me where to put the 02, while their dog barks at me AND eats kibble out of an overturned bag, and think that we’re not creating our own destinies, decision by decision, on some level. My dad has big issues when I say shit like this, because — you know, his favorite phrase is “inshallah” — if God wills it.
Just peeked outside the room, and there’s an empty gurney by the door, a bunch of quiet people standing around in the hall, sounds of sobbing coming from the room, and absolutely no evidence of a scurry, so I’d say that ended poorly. Should I have done CPR? I’m always inclined not to, with breathing and a pulse and stuff that’s not blood coming from the mouth, but maybe I should have. The 911 dispatcher wasn’t inclined, either. Hm. I think it was just her time. Poor ol’ daughter. Someone else will check into that room and have no idea. It’s a pet friendly hotel with nice wood floors, so that’s something. I hope Chad’s okay. I didn’t even know that was his name — like, who just knows the night clerk’s name, offhand? Maybe they sort of lived here? I delivered lots of medical equipment to people who apparently lived in hotels. Not sure how that works.
Anyway, yes, my dad is irritated when people think they have control over their lives, but he also is hardwired to follow his own inner guidance, so it’s kind of a moot point. If you have a sense of inner guidance (everyone does but we drown it out), then who cares if it’s God or destiny or just making your bed in the mornings. “Karma yoga” is another of his phrases — just doing the little bit of work in front of you, mindfully; what else is there. That lady dying makes me intensely interested in neatening up the hotel room, tomorrow.
Being frightened by others’ misfortune and simultaneously resentful of others’ fortune is a pinball way to live, isn’t it? I don’t fall prey easily to the former — I feel like I’m in a world full of people asking “how could this happen to me?” and I’m more commonly like, “how could this not happen to you?” The latter — being resentful of others’ fortune — is much more seductive, and I have to consciously meditation-bell myself out of it, on occasion. The odds are in my favor, since most people don’t have what I want, even if they have what everyone thinks everyone wants, ie tremendous wealth for instance.
I’ve had this idea for a short play, for some time, that I haven’t written because I doubt I actually have the skill for it. The play would be called “The Perfect Situation”, and it would consist only of dialogue: a small group of smart, interesting friends, sitting in someone’s living room and spitballing their ideas for what would be the perfect situation. I mean, there are so many imperfect ones, it’s almost impossible not to fantasize. Maybe one of the group would have experienced something recently, like being laid off or not approved for a car loan, something innocuous, to start the exploration.
The discussion would turn to what would make for an improved situation, for everyone, which would quickly approach themes we associate with biblical Heaven: eternal ease, unconditional love, steady connection, relief from the trials and tribulations of our own bodies and their various demands and problems.
The group would then realize that stagnation would quickly result from such an arrangement. People in heaven would grow bored — this is something I haven’t seen churches properly address, except for maybe Islam with its 13 virgins, or the Mormons, with their various planets and the whole polygamous family still around, or however that works. (I remember a girlfriend, back in the day, quipping relative to the 13 virgins: “Those guys know we’re reusable, right?”) It seems like the perfect situation could remain perfect, even in otherwise stagnation, if only we could carry our sexual and familial ties along with us. But as we all know, our sexual and familial ties represent the majority of our most hellish, as well as most heavenly, experiences on earth, so I’d pay good fucking money to see how that played out.
Anyway: the small group, in my play, would quickly agree that even a heavenly degree of stagnation would not, actually, remain the perfect situation, so they start brainstorming about how it could still be perfect, but with built-in challenges and puzzles. What if, for instance, we could live in heaven but forget, for a time, and have to define and develop our own characters within a state of temporary amnesia? What if we actually created a set of circumstances for ourselves, like a puzzle, prior to accepting our amnesia, knowing in advance those circumstances would advance our trajectory in some meaningful ways? What if we encountered others along our trajectory who, despite our temporary amnesia, we were still able to recognize as allies? Ooh — here’s a juicy part — what if we agreed, in advance, to even act as antagonists in one another’s lives, at times, in order to deepen certain aspects of moral compassion in all parties involved, either through synchrony or contrast? Long story short, they end up deciding that the perfect situation is, in fact, the situation they’re already in, with all its problems and ugliness, but mitigated by the understanding and agency they developed in the course of their hypothetical journey through construction of the ideal existential concept.
I could be really on board with it, myself, if we could just take animals out of the equation. If animals could just be un-harm-able, by us, I’d be down with the experiment. Let’s nuke each other, or create new Atlantis, or figure out flying cars, turn our dystopia utopian, or vice versa, or have another go at communism, or whatever — just leave animals out of it. But they’re still here, right? I wouldn’t want to live in a world without them. But they just like dematerialize when you try to hurt them, and re-materialize somewhere else.
Well, that’s a blog.