Month: January 2013

Things you wished your doctor to say

Why is it that whenever we visit our doctors, they never tell us good news? Back in the day, my aunt visited her doctor. She explained how she had eight kids, and she was always stressed. The doctor wrote out a prescription for cigarettes. That’s right, he told her to smoke, because everyone knows (in the 1960’s anyway) that smoking helps stress…doesn’t it?

I had a similar experience a few years back when my doctor (we shall call him that) noticed that my cholesterol was up, and after trying various types of medication and failing, he suggested that I drink a beer a day. He even wrote it on a prescription. I didn’t know whether to get the ‘script filled at the drugstore or the liquor store. The pharmacist on duty made a copy of the prescription and posted it on his wall. He also sent it in to some pharmacist magazine and won a prize for the worst prescription in Canada. Go figure. And where was my share of the prize? And where was my beer? He just laughed and refused to give me free beer.

So now, without further adieu, is my list of things that I wish my doctor would say to me on my next visit.

  1. Sir, it appears that your body is lacking bacon. Please eat as much fried bacon as you can before your next visit.
  2. That beer gut is looking good. Studies have shown that men with beer guts far outlive those with six pack abs.
  3. I think you are doing far too much exercise. Take it easy, sit back, and have a few now and then, its good for your heart to relieve stress, and I believe exercise is giving you stress.
  4. Don’t like veggies? French Fries are potatoes you know, and fried or baked, they are still healthy. While you are at it, throw some gravy over them, makes them digest better.
  5. Blood-work? No need, we have all that info on your file.
  6. Pee in a bottle? No worry, we have lots from your last visit.
  7. Work causing you stress? Here is a note for four days off work to recover. Make copies, isn’t your health worth it?
  8. Your blood pressure is up. Good news is that studies show that high blood pressure is a sign of a person in excellent shape. Go on, eat all the salty food you want, it will only make you healthy.
  9. Hamburgers and hot dogs are an excellent source of red meat. To ensure your ticker is working good, make sure you eat lots of the stuff.
  10. As stated above, this one actually happened to me: Since Lipitor and Crestor failed to help your cholesterol drop, try drinking a bottle of beer each day. Hell, have two or three. It is a widely known fact that people in France rarely have cholesterol problems because they drink wine with every meal. (It is also a widely known fact that the chief killer of French people is Cirrhosis of the liver…caused by too much alcohol)

There you have it, a list go ensure a relatively short life and many long boring visits to the local doctor.

 

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The power’s is out, lets watch TV

It is eight fifteen in the morning. Our kid has already gotten up, ate breakfast and gone to school. My lady is set to get up at eight thirty today, she only has to be to work for nine. I notice that the room is still dark, despite the fact that the light switch is in the off position. It is then that I notice that the oil furnace (which is driven by an electric fan and a mumbo jumbo of electric wires) is not working. Neither is our air exchanger. With no noise from the furnace, the air exchanger, our ten year old, etc, the house is so peaceful. That is, of course until I get up and my feet nearly stick to an ice cold floor.

You see, when our son left the house, he forgot to close the door. That means that whatever snow that was blowing around the step has now blown throughout our house. Add to that no heat, and you can imagine how cold it is here right now.

In a mad panic, my lady gets up, and without taking notice that the electricity is gone she jumps into the shower. Let it be known that we have an electric pump that feeds water from a well that is over two thousand feet from the house, and a hot water heater that is powered by electricity. Any water in the tank is now freezing cold and my lady now knows this.

The sheer shrill from her voice tells me that her shower will be fairly short, and the fact that she has now landed in the bed next to me SOAKING WET WITH COLD COLD WATER tells me that she has reacted to my hysterical laughing. Well my now absent hysterical laughing.

After the wet sheets are removed from the bed and new ones on, my lady does that thing with her hair (the thing that only takes a few minutes when SHE is in a hurry but an hour or more when I am in a hurry), throws on some nice clothes and is out the door.

I am left with a cold house and no electricity. I attempt to check in to several weather websites, but of course the internet is run by electricity so that won’t work so stupid me checks the weather station on the television. Of course that doesn’t work either. Then I grab the cordless and try to call the local radio station. Of course the cordless doesn’t work. Surprisingly, the crappy Samsung cellphone I have does work, and it rings just as I am trying to turn on the bathroom light so that I can take a piss.

Apparently the worst storm that has ever hit the island has hit the east coast. The Holyrood (yes, we have a Holyrood, but not a Hollywood unless you are Asian and Hollywood sounds like Holyrood) power station went down in the storm and the geniuses who work at the Newfoundland power station figure that they simply hook one not working system to a system that IS working and servicing over 75,000 people and Boom, no service island wide.

So now no electricity island wide. In moments my lady is back home because although someone was trying to call her and inform her that there was no work today due to the power outage, they couldn’t get in touch with us because our electricity was out and we didn’t have any phones that weren’t cordless. So she is now back home. We go to the only warm place in the house…the bed. We weren’t alone though. Apparently our teacup Pomeranian and our Heinz 51 find that the floors aren’t warm enough for them so they decide to join us in the nice warm bed as well. That sounds like a good enough plan until our Heinz 51 (named this due to the many different breeds that created him) decides that his stomach cannot digest whatever crap he ate outside and he upchucks on the pillow over my head. I am not allowed to choke him…I am not allowed to choke him…(the mantra in my head keeps repeating this but I subconsciously argue with it, eventually losing the battle and cleaning the stuff up (without water of course because we don’t have any)).

When that is all over, we hear our son come home; Again he leaves the door open (I know he wasn’t born on a raft, but I bet he would be  very comfortable on one), I yell for him to close it, he does, and heads for the bathroom. “Don’t flush the toilet, we have no water!” I holler, so he hears me, and he replies “But I have to poop!” Of course he does. Everyone knows that there is a correlation between the toilet not working and my child’s bowels. (The single worst part of having no electricity is having no water. The single worst part of having no water is not being able to flush that toilet. As far as drinking water, one could substitute many things such as milk, water, juice, or on mornings like this, Whiskey!) Of course we all know what comes next…FLUSH! followed by an ‘I forgot’.

Our kid now proceeds to his playroom where he is surrounded with electric goodness. The first thing we hear is “TED, my TV won’t work”, then we hear “How can I play video games without the TV?” Then we hear “I can’t see in the bathroom (apparently the lack of flushing water has made him need to pee, and without light in the bathroom he fears he will miss the toilet) “Make sure you sit on the toilet, so you don’t miss” is an instruction from his mom. “What? Sit like a girl, no way” he replies. I know there is pee on the floor.

After an hour of cramped warmth, we are graced with the whirring of the air exchanger, the sound of the toilet filling up, the glow from every light in the house coming on immediately due to our son’s inability to turn a light off, and the phone. GOD! Why do neighbors call you and ask really stupid questions like “Do you have electricity? I do” when they know that you have electricity because you just answered the cordless phone that they called you on.

My lady heads to work, my son is once again playing his video games, and I can get supper ready. What else can be better than this you ask?

All this has led me to ask myself how I became so reliant on electricity in the first place. Up until I was ten years old, my family did without any sort of electricity or other convenience. We didn’t even have running water. As time changed, so did our lifestyle. When I was ten, my parents upgraded our home heating system to a wood range. For heat we depended on a wood stove. This same wood stove had an oven, so all cooking was done using the wood stove. Behind the wood stove was a wood powered hot water heater. With that we had hot water as long as our ancient water system brought water to the house. We depended on Kerosene lamps for light, and our entertainment was either comic books or listening to mom read classic novels to dad. When we were home from school, we took to the hills with our toboggans and Krazy Karpets and our mini-skis; or we hit the nearest pond with our skates, and played hockey. We didn’t resort to complaining how we couldn’t play video games (particularity due to the fact that they weren’t invented yet) or how we were bored. Even when the weather wasn’t fit to go outside, we stayed inside and played board games or wrestled around the room until mom caught us. We are so dependent on electricity.

So now the power has been restored. Thank heavens we live on the west coast of the island. St John’s has been hit with one of the worst winter storm in recent years, and a few hours without electricity is nothing compared to the hardships that many people are facing just a few hundred kms away.

As for me, I am now on my way out the door. I plan to visit the local Walmart and pick up a few things..namely a battery powered AM/FM radio, a wind up clock for the bedroom, and a few tanks of propane for the camp stove. Add to this a stop at the hardware store for some buckets that I can later fill with water and place next to the toilet. According to local news, the electricity we are now enjoying is only temporary, and will eventually go out again later today so that they can repair the system. Some Fun!

Shingles and my mom

My mom began the new year in a quite painful manner.

A few nights ago, she began to feel intense abdominal pain. The pain was so bad that dad rushed her to the hospital, in fear that she was taking a heart attack. Our medical services here on the island are so poor that she had to wait six hours before being examined. If it was a heart attack, she would have died in the waiting room. When she finally got to see the doctor, he was very rude and totally hard to understand. The doctor was an east indian who had little concern for my mom. The nurse who worked with him had to translate for him, and he told my mother that she was wasting his time because all she had was a pulled muscle. He attempted to prescribe VERY strong pain killers, but my mom told him that she would not take those tablets, and would deal with the pain herself. My mom is a very strong woman.

Over the next few days, mom suffered from the pain, and upon examining herself in the mirror, she discovered a very painful rash developing where the pain was. She realized that she had the same painful rash her mother had many years ago, a rash linked to chicken pox, Shingles.

Upon realizing this, she once again visited the doctor to see if her diagnosis was correct. This time she waited seven hours in the waiting room, and finally got to see a doctor. This time the doctor was again from east india, but this time he seemed more courteous than the last ‘doctor’. He said that she was correct and that it was indeed shingles. Mom asked if there was anything he could do for her, and he prescribed some medication (these guys prescribe narcotics at the drop of a hat). When she asked about the medication, he said it was very strong and would help with the pain. She instructed the doctor that her son was a pharmacist, and that she would check with him first. At that, the doctor tore up the prescription and wrote her one for a medication designed particularly for shingles. When she asked if she was contagious, he said he didn’t know, and left the room. Talk about professionalism!

She is home now, the rash has since moved around her body, a painful band of red swollen skin. The medication helps a little, as does the Tylenol that she takes every four hours. There is no cure for Shingles, only time. The research she did online told her that once a person has chicken pox, they are open to contracting Shingles. Apparently if a person who has not had chicken pox in their lives can contract the disease, but if they never had the disease, then they wont catch Shingles from another person. Strange disease that can now be controlled in small children. There is a vaccination available for kids under ten. For now I sincerely hope my mom a quick recovery, I hate seeing her like this.

What a pack of snow!

I dropped into my oldest uncle’s home today for a chat. Uncle Mike is 88 years old, and has more than one story to tell. Mike is the youngest in my grandfather’s family, and the last one to survive.

When I got there, I exclaimed at how much snow had fallen in the last little while. “What a pack of snow we got out there!” I yelled loudly. Uncle Mike’s hearing isn’t what it used to be. (neither is mine, but I have hearing aids, he doesn’t)

“Thas nothing!” he said. “When I was a kid, we had snow banks the height of the house!” he said.

He is right. I can even remember those days, and I am only 49. I remember mom warning us not to be walking along the tops of the snow banks touching the bottom power line. I remember when I was 17 and had my first car. I blew the motor in January and needed to replace the engine. Luckily I had bought a scrap car back in November and parked it in Dad’s driveway. Unluckily, Dad had a hundred foot driveway and the car was at the other end, covered with snow. The two of us shoveled the entire driveway by hand, with each an iron shovel. (they never had those lightweight plastic jobbies back then)

It took us five days to dig out the driveway. We worked so hard that when we finished, it was as if a long tunnel was created from the road to the old car. People commented on our work, and even a campaigning politician dropped by to have his picture taken in the tunnel. He won, but that’s another story.

Back then we went everywhere on ski-doo (back then, all makes of snowmobile were referred to as ‘ski-doos’) and there was always plenty of snow for sliding, snowmobiling, and snowball fighting. (the three ‘S’ of winter)

When we got a winter storm, we got a winter storm. None of those ‘snow squalls’ we get these days. We always managed 5 or 6 snow days where we couldn’t make it to school. These days a kid is lucky to get even one.

Every kid had a toboggan or at least a Krazy Karpet. We used to spend hours on the steepest hills, ones so steep and long that we climbed the hill for fifteen minutes for a two minute slide down the slope. These days kids very seldom slide, partially due to the fact that there isn’t as much snow as in the old days, and partially due to the fact that kids those days are damn lazy. I seen a few kids on a hill the other day. They would slide down the hill, and wait at the bottom until someone brought them to the top with a ski-doo. Damn that’s lazy. Where is the fun and exercise in that? No wonder our kids are so fat those days. (Oh Oh, Now I am beginning to sound like my uncle!)

 

The most misused words in the English Language: Customer Support

This Christmas my lady ordered from ToysRUs.ca. She ordered a child’s tablet called a Kurio. This little device promised all sorts of things, including a parent managed web experience for a child. The thing actually did what it promised….for ten minutes, then it died.

I figured the battery had run down, but the battery monitor said 55% just prior to shut down. Still, I plugged in the AC adapter, and in minutes the device powered back on. This time I left it plugged in and tried one of the games. Cut the rope is a small game that my kid loves. I got to the second level (five minutes) and it shut down again. I quickly checked the ToysRUs.ca website and I was pleased to find that any defective merchandise would be dealt with efficiently.

Apparently there are two definitions of the word ‘Efficient’. When I called the ‘customer service’ department, I was told that a repair slip was to be emailed to me overnight and all I would have to do is contact Puralator and everything would be taken care of. The agent was quick to hang up, not providing any reference number.

That was Thursday afternoon. Today is Monday and I still never received an email from ToysRUs.ca. I called back early this morning, and was told that they were not going to service my device, I would have to return it to the store, even though we bought the tablet online. When I called the store, they said that they could not help me. I called customer service once again, this time I spoke to a foreign speaking lady who I could not understand. I asked for another agent due to the language barrier, and they quickly transferred me to a woman whose name was Charlene, and who had the voice of a man. She was very quick and impatient.

Charlene instructed me that I didn’t read the fine print on the website. When she pointed it out to me, I had to use a magnifying glass to read that ToysRUs.ca does not warranty electronic equipment purchased online. When I asked who would help me, she was without a clue. I asked if I could speak to a supervisor, and she said that she would put in for a service call.

The ‘manager’ called me later that day. He was very ignorant and without feelings. “We cannot help you sir” he said. When I asked what I was supposed to do, he told me to contact the manufacturer. I know from working at Radio Shack years ago that most shops do offer at least a 30 day warranty, but today I discovered that it is buyer beware when dealing with online orders to ToysRUs.ca.

The guy was like talking to a damn computer. “Sir, we cannot help you any further. it is up to you to contact the manufacturer! We can do nothing to help you!” I argued but it was no use. At the end of the call, the bastard had the nerve to ask if there was anything else he could do to help me. I bet he needs a hearing aid from the yell I let go.

I later visited the Kurio website. I left an email in the FAQ department, and I was surprised to receive a response in minutes. A very helpful agent took my information, emailed me an appropriate form, and instructions on returning the device. They promised a new replacement, and advised that I keep my defective tablet until the new one arrives. Although the agent was from India or Pakistan, she was very courteous and helpful.

I will never again shop at ToysRUs.ca. I urge anyone considering ordering from this company to read this post first.

The Will and The Well

Yesterday the holding tank for our Artesian well began making strange noises, and eventually the pump stopped working. Back in 2001, after years of grief with an old reservoir that ended with the river that fed the reservoir drying up, members of our community were forced to purchase wells to provide water to their homes.

My father went in with his brother Frank, and two more households, mine and my neighbor, and paid a well drilling company to drill a well that would feed water to four homes. Everyone chipped in to pay the bill, which totaled well over $15,000. The enormous cost came from the fact that the only suitable water source was over 100 feet in the ground.

Despite the cost, the water was very clean and very safe to drink. The guy who drilled the well said that the water was amongst the cleanest he had ever tested. After the well was dug, we had to hire a plumber (and you know how much plumbers charge) to install the pump and the large holding tank that would be set up in my uncle Frank’s basement. This was in 2001, and until now, we have not had an issue with the tank, the pump, or the well. Until yesterday that is.

The tank contains a rubber bladder that assists the water pump. The tank itself is only supposed to last ten years, so we were fairly lucky to get twelve years out of it. After running tests as instructed by the same plumber who installed the unit all those years ago, we were unable to get it working. We came to the conclusion that the bladder had busted. The price for a new tank was $500, which may not seem like much money, but please remember that this is just a week after Christmas, and our pockets were all fairly empty by now.

Today, my dad, my uncle Frank, and I, along with the plumber, who made a house call ($$$) worked together to get the thing working again. After two hours of hard work in a very confined space, it was fixed.

The well working should have been the highlight of the day, but there was something that happened in the basement that was far more special to me. My dad and his brother spoke. Not only did they speak, they also told stories of their parents and how stubborn and comical my grandfather was. They even spoke about Gram.

Let me explain. Two months ago, my grandmother died. Along with her passing, the will that my grandfather had done up was read. He named my (Bi-polar (no, Tri-polar) Aunt who causes trouble wherever she goes) Patsy as the executor of the will. Rather than obey the will of my grandfather, she and a few of her siblings (Frank included) decided to screw over the others and purchase the house at a price far below the value of the property, and repair the home, and eventually rent it out and pocket the profit. Immediately the 11 member family was split down the middle. My dad, who said that he didn’t mind if they got the house, he just didn’t like the underhanded manner of which it had been done.

Eventually everything was worked out (a long story and perhaps the topic of another post), but the family remained split.

My dad and his younger brother Frank were close since they were kids. Frank always looked up to his older brother, and dad always made it a point to include Frank in his life when he got the chance. I have a picture of my dad and Frank when they were just teens. The picture was taken back in ’57, and you could tell that they were close. While I grew up, dad and his brother always hung around with each other. They fished together, chatted every day, and even shared tools in their sheds and garages. Later they worked together in the pulp and paper industry. And then this.

Working on the well today was the first time the two of them talked since my grandmother passed away. At first they kept it pretty professional, and then one of them, I think it was dad, mentioned a few funny things my grandfather used to do. Things like starting his car off in second gear because he hated driving that damn manual transmission, and things like being stubborn (see, I get it honestly) over everything, and eventually even funny stories about my grandmother. In just a little while, the two of them were laughing and talking, and me? I sat and listened, totally enjoying every minute of it. I think I may have even shed a tear or two, but I never let them see me, they would have called me a sissy.

When my father came home, I could tell that he was relieved. “I am happy to have that fixed, now I can relax” he said. Mom smiled and said “Yes, thank heavens the water is flowing again.”. My dad looked over and said “I wasn’t talking about the water, I am glad to have my brother back again, I missed him.”

SightsnBytes

When we were kids, we used to play marbles. From the minute the snow melted in spring to the time the snow started falling again, we played marbles. The other day, I asked my 9 year old if he wanted some marbles, and he did not know what they were. What’s going on with kids these days?

The snow had finally melted from the school playground. Fortunately for us kids, the ground was now soft, and perfect for digging small holes. I remember digging with my hands, dirt gathering under my fingernails as I prepared the area for the first game of marbles of the year. There were several variations of the game, but my favorite one was ‘Potsies’ which consisted of a smooth flat runway with a hole about ten feet from the start line. The object of the game was to take turns shooting your marbles towards the…

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