Monday, January 28, 2013

Old Folks at Home

I have a new job.

Well, not a totally new job; I'm still at the library, but I'm back downtown again, down in the basement, just like the creepy uncle the family doesn't talk about. I work with blind and deaf people, most of whom are old.

Old people seem to like me. Kids, too. I'm not exactly sure why. On one of my site visits last week a woman said, "That was a nice young man" as I left. I am 42.
Substitute Bart with a middle-aged man, and you have a picture of my job.

I do a lot of outreach - going out to senior centers (sort of like day care for old people), retirement homes, and health fairs talking about the services YOU'RE PAYING FOR WITH YOUR TAX DOLLARS.

The senior centers and retirement homes are a mixed lot - sometimes they're sort of depressing, sometimes I can't wait to turn old and get in there. The last senior center I visited had a wide-screen TV and Wii, along with a dog park and vegetable garden. I was ready to sign up. Some are less fancy, but all of them have something interesting; one had a huge bird cage, some have pretty awesome aquariums, and they all have TVs. I don't know how they decide what gets played, but the stereotypes are true - they do watch "Matlock."

But not as much as "The Price is Right," which is almost always on when I show up.

And yes, they really do love their Bingo. I usually go on right after a game, while they're all excited. I was going to try to sneak as many photos of Bingo games or paraphernalia I could get away with and start a Tumblr. Then I thought that would be too much work, so the thought passed.
The stereotypes are true.

I haven't had any bad experiences yet, even if the field of old people isn't as organized as you might think. A couple of months ago I showed up a few minutes early to my appointment and had the following conversation with an activities director:

"Hi, I have an appointment at 11."

"Oh. I didn't think you'd show up today."

"Yeah, well...wait, why not?"

"A lot of people break appointments after they're added on the calendar which upsets the residents, and I assumed you wouldn't show up, so I took them to the gym already."

Not only do I get to talk to old people, I have a regular radio show for the blind (unfortunately, you need a special radio to get it, so it's not like my friends can listen to me or anything) and have been thrown uncomfortably on public access television. I am dominating free old people media!

The job has eased my mind a bit about getting old. For years I've been terrified of it, mostly because I've done a terrible job of planning for the future and have no family, so I had visions of being stuck in the cheapie retirement home where disinterested nurses would ignore me. "But...I was on blind people radio and wrote funny stuff on the internet," I'd mumble, as they plugged into their ibrain to sext their significant others.

That still freaks me out but it's not as big a concern. There's a whole network of people and services out there, and there's still a chance that I'll hit the big money jackpot somehow so I can live out my golden years in the style in which I deserve.

I also think occasionally about that clip that made the rounds on Facebook a while back. Old people with dementia were played music from their youth. Once they heard the music, they started talking and responding, even if they had been non-communicative for months.

Of course, that's fairly easy now, today's old people only had one song growing up, Glenn Miller's "In the Mood." Just like how Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" was the official song of the Vietnam war.

So years from now, some well meaning social worker will queue up "Life is a Highway" or "2 Legit 2 Quit" for me, waiting for my dramatic turnaround, when all I do is retreat deeper into my cranky, uncommunicative shell.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

When I think of all the space in my brain filled with useless knowledge that could have been filled with math or physics or some way to make money, I blame TV and movies. And my friends.

Like everyone else, I get songs stuck in my head. I'll also get words or phrases stuck in there, some of which make their way into this blog. So when you read a rambling, nonsensical epic here that doesn't so much end as just run out of steam at the end, there's a very good chance I was compelled to construct a story around a phrase or sentence that kept bouncing around inside my head.

"Too Close for Comfort" was a TV show that ran in the '80s. Ted Knight was a cartoonist who...I think he had two daughters that he, I don't know, got all crazy if they dated or something. There was also a guy Monroe who lived with them. I don't really remember watching that show.

Anyway, whenever the name "Monroe" came up in conversation in college, my friend Todd would give this exaggerated Ted Knight-esque "Monroooooooooooe" impression. Now, just about every time I see a Monroe Street (and every city has one), I have to do the same thing. Doesn't matter if I'm with someone in the car or not, if I see a Monroe Street or Monroe Avenue, I'll have to bust out with a "Monroooooooooooe."

I didn't really watch the show, but I'd imagine he's about a second away from saying "Monrooooe."

Same thing with Martin. If I see a Martin Street, or Martin's Drycleaners or whatever, I'll immediately get the theme from "Martin" on a loop in my head.

Hey, that's not as bad as I remembered. Go ahead and click on it and have it stick in your head the next time you hear the name Martin.

I have an Aunt Frances. I don't think she's an actual blood relative, but she's a great lady who acts like a relative. Still, every time I hear her name (or any Francis or Frances), my mind immediately fills in, "Why, just this morning Francis...FRANCIS!"

I've heard that having songs or phrases stuck in your head is a sign of schizophrenia, and I'd look that up, but I really don't want to know. I'm just sort of enjoying the ride right now and hoping all that stuff isn't true. I mean, I have enough to worry about right now, you know?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Taste the Floor

I was seven years old the first time I passed out. My sister and I had ear infections and the doctor examined her first. We were both in the room at the same time. I know that sounds strange, but it was the seventies. I'm surprised the doctor wasn't smoking at the time.

He stuck some gross machine in her ear and she started screaming. I started freaking out. Then, at least in the way I remember it, an Evil Dead like geyser of blood shot out her ear all over the office and I went from feeling scared and nervous to floaty and peaceful. It was sort of like I was being carried away on a pleasant little cloud. Then a nurse waved an ammonia pack under my nose and I was back in the House of Pain.

In the years to come I would pass out or come close in most of the doctors' offices I visited. The ammonia capsule would get waved under my nose to bring me back, and almost 90 percent of the time the nurse would tell me some lie like, "Oh, we have big construction workers and football players who faint as soon as I take the needle out" to make me feel better.

It wasn't always doctors that did it. Once I was sitting in a McDonald's with some high school friends. I took a big sip of Coke and thought, "Hey, that feels like it's caught in my throat." Before I could say anything, everyone's voices got all bass-y and echo-y, like my friends' conversation had been remixed by Lee Perry. Next thing I knew, I was floating back to Cloudland. I woke up confused with one of my shoes a few feet away. I wasn't sure how much time had passed.

Naturally, my friends thought I was just being an attention-seeking high school punk rocker, which honestly, was a pretty safe bet.

Sometimes I wouldn't even need needles or killer Coke bubbles. I once passed out at my desk after watching a particular gross film in health class. For the rest of the year the coach who taught the class swore I was on the dope.

Somehow I've gotten better; it's probably been over 20 years since I've passed out in a doctor's office. Actually, the last time I remember passing out I was sitting comfortably in my Gainesville apartment.

A friend called me with a problem. I don't remember the whole story, but he had started lifting weights and was having ....well, he was having male problems. Somehow this new weight lifting regime caused his balls to become swollen and painful. He was telling me how he had to walk down to the clinic and ....Hey. Someone was messing with the Earth's volume. Everything was going in and out and sounding all "whuhwhuhwhuhwuhwhuh." I was flying again.

I woke up sprawled across my mattress. I wasn't sure how long I had been out, but long enough that my friend had been asking if I was OK. I said I was and hung up.

A little known fact about passing out is that it's actually kind of pleasant afterwards. Your skin is all clammy and you're sort of light-headed, peaceful, and calm. Probably because all that adrenaline used for freaking out has been burned up. It generally lasts for about 20 minutes or so.

I walked down to the porch to get some air and try to figure out what had just happened. A couple of the guys from Less than Jake were on the porch. They thought I was on the dope, also. I didn't let that bother me. People were talking and drinking, as they usually were. I sat on the swing and stared out into the night, with my post-fainting calmness washing over me.

Then I probably bought some King Kobra and acted the fool.