Monday, April 22, 2013

The Girl From Ipanema

You may recognize the first couple of lines of this Frank Sinatra song... 
Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.  And when she passes, each one she passes goes - ah.  
I realize that I have just settled my readers into two camps.  One found it impossible not to read this, even quietly in their head, without singing it.  The other group simply said, "eh?"  I am just old enough, I think, to be placed in the first group.  My mom is a big Sinatra fan, but I don't remember her blasting the Rat Pack leader's records on her Apple iHiFi that was the size of an over-sized bedroom dresser. (I figure everything in the future will be overrun by Apple, including the history I'll just start rewriting now)

No, it is much more likely that I heard the song at my grandparents house, or even on one of the many variety shows that we watched...on one of the three channels that came in clearly.  But where I first heard it is not really important.  What is important is that I had heard of it...and most of the teachers I worked with at the time had heard of it as well.  Let me explain.

We had a new principal at our school.  The first school I worked at was not lucky when it came to keeping principals.  I think the front office had five different occupants in my ten years at the school.  That meant that we, as a staff, were exposed to a lot of different personalities...and a lot of different strategies.  (Don't worry...this will not devolve into a "teachers only" sort of story.  I promise.)  Along with these new people, and new ideas, we also found a lot of new ways to start a meeting at the beginning of the year.  The Ice Breakers were in full force at those times.  

We had Lego pieces that had to be put together a certain way, without talking.  We had to go find people who had read the most, traveled the farthest, or went to the most summer trainings.  Once, we even had to all hold hands, tied in a knot, and try to "untie" without letting go of our grips.  It was a fun and exciting time.  (does sarcasm come across in print?)

The time I am writing about today involves a song, I bet you can guess what it is!  But that is not what we were told.  We were broken up into teams.  Each team was given an envelope with multiple slips of paper in them.  Each paper had a word or a punctuation mark on it.  Each team's job was to hand out a paper to every person, discover what the entire sentence said, and then stand in a line holding our papers so that everyone could read them.  I liked this one!  I am a wee bit competitive when it comes to intellectual things.  When it comes to physical challenges I usually just cry, "UNCLE" and then curl up in the fetal position.  The teams were set.  We had our envelopes.  GO!!  Frantically we were all given a piece of paper.  Everyone wanted to be the first.  Secretly I hoped I would be given the linchpin to the whole sentence.  You know, without me and my insight the team would just be flailing about calling out random verbs, and prepositional phrases.  There, of course, would be the clue of the capitalized word.  Too easy, beginning of the sentence...not for me.  I want the meat of it!  

I turned over my piece of paper...a dot.  WHAT!?!  That's it...a dot.  And it was the smallest piece of paper there was too!  Shouldn't they have handed them out according to height?  I was disappointed.  People with more interesting papers were very excited.  The person who had "Ipanema" was positively strutting!  That was it, the key to the whole thing...when the older members of our group saw that, it was all over but the rearranging.  They didn't need me to figure it out.  And I surely didn't need to be in the mix of everything since my lowly little dot was undoubtedly at the end of the sentence.  My fate was set.  I slowly meandered toward the end of the line and waited as they hashed out whether tall or lean came first.  Others worked on the middle portion to decide where the other punctuation card, a comma, went.  At least the comma had some controversy.  Moved from this place to that..."No!  After lovely."  "Are you sure it isn't after lean!"  I would, in subsequent years. have recurring dreams where I was that comma.  It would be a happier time.  
Ahhhhhh...but I digress.

The group, and its more seasoned members, had this.  I'm not sure if the other groups were as close as ours.  If they didn't have a giveaway word like "Ipanema" then they were in trouble.  And then I got noticed.   One of the teachers in our group looked over and noticed that I was just biding my time while I waited for the heart of the project to be done so I could slide onto the end and finish the sentence off.  She was into this action and wanted the bragging rights of being the first team.  When she noticed that I was off to the side, with my tiny piece of paper, she wondered if I was being a slacker.  I was obviously disengaged from the group at large... and relaxed.  No panic.  No sense of urgency.  Nothing.  

Her part had already been assigned, she was in place, she caught my eye and asked, "What about your paper?"  
I said three simple words...and she dropped to her knees and pounded the carpet of the school's library over and over laughing hysterically.  Needless to say, that halted our progress a bit.  We were still far and away the odds on favorite for this activity (Ipanema...sheesh...they may as well have not cut the paper into pieces) but I had rendered another teacher, a member of our team, out of commission due to laughter.  I didn't mean to.  I was just bored and I wasn't part of the action intellectually so I was going to be part of the action humorectually (it's a word, you can look it up.  But it may be hyphenated.)  I am happy to report that she regained control, we fell into place, and we won the competition handily...though one of our members was wiping laughter tears from her eyes.

And now I suppose I should tell you those three words.  When she asked me what was on my card I simply turned it around, showed her my dot, and said, "I'm not pregnant."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Um, Yeah! A LOT!

I don't suppose there's anyone on the planet but that last lone Slovenian farmer (without Facebook) who hasn't heard about my ear problem, but I have been chastised for not writing in a here it is.  (For the record, I do know that the world does not revolve around me and there are people who don't have me favorited on Facebook...I don't know why, but I suppose it if you'll excuse me I need to go record the last track for my album "I am the world")

It has been so long now that I cannot remember the exact dates or time frame but I have been fighting a pretty serious ear infection for some time now.  Well even that isn't accurate.  The infection has been gone for a while but the results are lingering on, and on, and on, and on...

I sound like I am a bugler for the infantry when I blow my nose.  It scares my family.  It startles strangers.  It makes my students laugh.  I've just always been exuberant when it comes to using a kleenex.  Then it happened.  I blew my nose, in the classroom, and my ear clogged.  No big deal.  It's done that before.  It will clear in a while...I thought.  About a week later, after it hadn't cleared and my tinnitus (constant ear ringing) had turned the volume up to elementary school fire alarm level, I called the doctor.  (At this point in the story I would like credit for initiating a call to the doctor.  Me, not Sylvia, Me.)  I have a fairly high tolerance for pain (not nearly as much as my dad...but I do OK) so to get me to go in is a big deal.  The good news is that they were able to see me right away.  The bad news is that by the time I finally call the doctor, I have decided that it is something bad and they should treat it with the urgency of the season finale episode of House!    The doctor thought, "This guy is a wimp and he has a boo boo...nose spray...go home."

Sylvia was not pleased.  I thought I would give it a try...and went to work the next day.  (Sylvia was not pleased about that either)  In the middle of teaching my little kiddos the calendar, first thing in the morning, my ear became uncomfortable.  A little while later it was painful.  Within the hour it hurt so bad I was nauseous.  And just before recess it was excruciating!  Just as the pain orchestra was reaching its crescendo I heard a weird noise, felt the pressure in my ear increase significantly, and then an unbelievably sharp pain that almost made me yell out in front of a room full of five year olds.  And Then !!!!  Without all of the gory details, I will just say that I could tell that I was going to either need to hold a kleenex to my ear, or have to research how to get blood out of my shirt.  I called the office, told them that I was going to have to leave work in the middle of the day (for the first time ever) because I couldn't function like this (and I have been hurt bad enough where I drove to the emergency room after I got off of work...but never left the kids).

Here we get into a little more good news/bad news.  I called the doctor on the way home, told them that I had developed a painful (and messy) turn of events, and asked to see the ear/nose/throat specialist.  The bad news, I couldn't do that because I didn't see a doctor  The doctor I saw yesterday didn't think that my ear being plugged and infected warranted antibiotics or a trip to the specialist.  I had to go to a general doc pay to see her.  Here's where the good news is (pay's small) The doc looked in my ear for approximately two seconds and declared, "You need to see the specialist!" (ya think!?!) So off I go to see the specialist right before he was to supposed to go to lunch.  (remember becomes important)  And I paid to see him as well.

He declared that I had ruptured my eardrum and that I would need to have the procedure that little kids get to get tubes in their ears.  And then he started rummaging in a drawer while I laid on the table in his office.  I am not exaggerating when I say that it sounded like he was looking for the missing shrimp fork at the bottom of a disorganized box of silverware.

I ventured, "Do we do that procedure here?"
"Is it going to hurt?" (I asked simply because Jake had to have tubes when he was a little guy.  It was an ordeal.  They knocked him out.  He was down for a few days.  Let's see what the doc says about the pain.)
"Um, Yeah!  A LOT!" and then he kind of chuckled as he muttered something like, "I'll teach you to keep me away from MY corned beef sandwich!  It's lunch time dagnabbit!"

The nurse came in, he asked her to find the shrimp fork, and while she went digging the doc came over to me and said, "I'm going to give you some numbing medicine."
"It stings and burns a lot."
"Did you know it was my lunch time Mr. Garrett?"
"What was that?"

The rest of the procedure went something like this.  Dab, Sting, burn, sting, burn Burn BURN!!  (I'll never understand how, if I can feel it burning, it is "numb."  Is it like when my dad would offer to make my foot feel better by hitting me on the head?  Diversion?)

And then the shrimp fork.  I would like to point out, again, that I can put up with a lot...but the reason I started into the doc was because the pain was he was going to make it worse!?  He went in, cackling wildly about hunger pangs, and almost made me pass out.  The room spun, I dug my fingers into the plastic coated mattress, I lifted my legs and bent my knees, I tried to walk down the table using my butt cheeks, I tried really hard not to cry.  The doc had the nerve to say, "Just breathe naturally."  He put the shrimp fork down and said, "This next part is going to be uncomfortable."  (The NEXT PART!?!)  What he failed to mention was that the device he was getting had been used to extract information from uncooperative terrorists, spies, and drug dealers when waterboarding proved ineffective.  It had been banned by everyone, everywhere, and Hitler had been quoted as saying, "It was built to scare one was supposed to actually use it! (shudder)"  My doc picked his up on ebay.

He used his new toy to try to clear my inner ear.  The pain was incredible.  The sound was unbelievable.  And the thought of what this vacuum tube was doing was unbearable.  He kept stopping and asking if that was better?  No.  Back in.  Now?  No.  More.  After about three hours (well maybe five minutes) he declared...we are not going to be able to do this now...I have to be put on antibiotics and try again in a few days.  WHAT!?!  Apparently I, and my tolerance, had worked up an uncommon infection that was just going to have to work itself out and I would be known as, "The guy with the cotton ball in his ear" for the next couple weeks.  When I did go back in a few days he decided to actually put the tube in the ear (I didn't get knocked out, a gown, or even a lollipop)  I decided that next time I would schedule my ruptured eardrum to not coincide with his lunch.  Even after a few days of medicine the ear had not improved at all.  More medicine.  More drops.  More ringing.  My tongue tasted like sheet metal (don't ask how I know what that tastes like) More Cotton.  Less hearing.  Crap.

It has now been a few weeks since that all happened.  I can now hear things in my ear...the other ear is a different story now.  The ringing is still as bad as ever in the ruptured ear, but since the 'bad' ear started clearing up, the 'good' ear has been acting weird.  If I hear any kind of low rumbling noise it is like I am being punished.  The pain in my 'good' ear in response to the bass in church, a car's stereo, even a passing truck, is disconcerting and causing people to wonder if I forgot which ear was bad since I now cover the other one!  Good thing I have several appointments to see the doc on Monday.  He wants to check my hearing and then go in to see what is happening with all of these side effects.  Don't worry, I made all of the appointments in the morning and, just in case, I'm bringing him a roast beef sandwich...and a shrimp fork!