Category Archives: socially awkward

The time I sounded like Darth Vader

I’ve always wondered why Darth Vader sounds like he has emphysema. I realize he was burned in a fire and everything, but with the technology that was available in the world of Star Wars, I don’t understand why he sounds like a scuba diver who can’t conserve their air. After yesterday, when I went to a consult and training to use my new CPAP, I’m convinced Darth Vader must have just had sleep apnea.

My CPAP instructor, Garth*, had some surprising insight. During his college years, he worked part time at a movie theater in Portland, Oregon. This theater just happened to be playing the longest continuous run of Star Wars in North America, so he knew the movie better than the textbooks he studied while monitoring the projector. After all other US theaters had retired their Star Wars run, people began to travel from all over the country just to visit this theater. One evening, Garth noticed a middle-aged, short, slightly pudgy man trying to remain incognito in the back of the theater. Garth approached him and whispered, “You’re George Lucas, aren’t you?” “Yes,” he said, “but don’t tell anyone.” So Garth then balanced his fan boy dreams with keeping his squeaky, star-struck voice to a whisper. As it turns out, Darth Vader’s helmet acted as a respirator for his severely burned lungs. In the 1970s, the idea of a quiet respirator wasn’t really a priority. A device that could prolong life was already fascinating enough. Despite the advanced technology in Star Wars, the audience still needed to understand the severity of Darth Vader’s condition, and a noisy respirator was the best way to convey this message. Who knew that my visit to a sleep medicine clinic would yield such fascinating insight? This is what happens when the Seattle Freeze melts.

May the 4th be with you all…once the day arrives.

*name has been changed

The time pens were phallic

I have a tumultuous relationship with sleep, almost as if my body is holding a grudge. Perhaps long ago, sleep deeply offended my body and now I am involuntarily punishing it. Sleep must jump through hoops to finally find me. The sandman is stopped at the figurative gates around my fatigued fortress until every demand is met: 1) no lights, 2) no noise, 3) no wrinkled sheets, 4) no shoulder pain … 576) no hunger or thirst, 577) an absolutely empty bladder, 578) no crumbs in the bed… I think you get the idea. So when my doctor suggested visiting a sleep clinic, I decided it was worth a shot.

It’s important to note that I am not a morning person, so of course I took an early appointment before work. Apparently the noise I made when my alarm went off sounded a bit like a hippo giving birth. I was slightly more awake, though still sluggish, when my venti vanilla latte and I arrived at the sleep clinic. When I sat down in front of the woman who would be checking me in, I noticed a basket full of pens with fake flowers glued to them. Despite the fact that flower pens are about as plentiful as Starbucks stores in Seattle, the container was still labeled “pens.” Except that it wasn’t. Some cheeky asshole had added an ‘I’ in a very convenient place. Maybe it was my tired state, or maybe the sandman mixed something in with my sleeping dust, but I found this far too funny. Like burst out laughing and snort funny. Then, in a voice far louder than I intended, I blurted, “you know your pen cup says penis, right?” The poor check-in woman starred at me with wide-eyes and proceeded to turn several shades of red. With evident dread, she picked up the pen cup and peeked at the sign. She sat silently for a moment, and then in a squeaky mutter told me she would be right back. She stepped into the back and let out a bellowing laugh. I was pretty impressed that she held it together long enough to retreat into an employee area. I was called back shortly after and didn’t get a chance to say much else. On my way out after the appointment, she held up the cup with the new label she created. It said, “flower pen.” No ‘S’. Perhaps grammatically incorrect but far safer. I gave her a smirk and a thumbs up.

For the record, the sleep doc found a couple things she could treat, so hopefully I can soon lower the drawbridge and welcome sleep without so many barriers. I can just picture myself now, waiting to greet sleep with open arms. As he approaches, I get to say, “Enter Sandman!”

The time I was an 8-year-old

I envy people born on February 29th. I’m not old enough to start lying about my age in the traditional way, but my sense of humor is still in the single digits. I love poop. And farts. And making fart noises. Oh and whoopee cushions too! If I were born on February 29th, I wouldn’t be lying when I said I’ve only had 8 birthdays. I think I must be giving off some sort of smelly, brown aura, because complete strangers like to talk to me about feces. So do my friends, but they already know how well received the subject will be.

I was sitting at my work desk, not actually thinking about butt truffles, when I hear “don’t wipe back to front!” coming from the single-stall bathroom. That was followed by screams of protest and a couple thuds. While my curiosity and concern were battling for my brain’s attention, the younger of the two women emerged. She explained that her dear old mother had dementia and liked saving her dirty toilet paper. Five different soiled clumps of toilet paper had just been removed from various bodily nooks and crannies. My favorite was the armpit. I’m pretty sure that’s the most eventful thing that happened in the bathroom this entire month. That is, until the bathroom door opened again, revealing this pleasantly oblivious mom and her bare ass. Oh, and it turns out she missed a spot, which she announced to the entire waiting room. The bug-eyed, mortified, bright red daughter hastily shooed her mother back into the bathroom. There was silence…and then more yelling. And thuds. When the pair emerged, everyone had all of their clothes on. The daughter explained to the entire room, myself included, that her mother had been throwing a fit because she couldn’t keep her dirty toilet paper wad. “She just wanted a souvenir,” I said. The daughter snorted and relaxed a little bit. In that moment, we were both 8-year-olds.

The time I didn’t jaywalk

I really like it when naughty words come out of unexpected mouths. If I ever had the deafness required to own a macaw, I would teach it every swear word I know because its funny to hear that Polly wants a fucking cracker. However, There should really be a special place in hell for people who yell insults out car windows. Come to think of it, I don’t want to hear about what some pervert thinks of my ass-ets from a car window either. And no, that’s not an invitation to get out of the car!

It was an unusually sunny Seattle day, deep in the concrete jungle of First Hill, when I was the victim of this damning behavior. As I began crossing the street, I stepped approximately 3.67934 feet outside the white paint of the crosswalk. Apparently this act was so offensive to one Seattle driver that he shattered the ice on his Seattle freeze by yelling, “that’s jaywalking, you bitch!” I was tempted to throw my milkshake on the front of his car, but it was really yummy and I wanted to drink it. Instead, I did the unthinkable. I ignored him. Just flat out pretended my ears were considerably older than the rest of my body. Then I saw an elderly woman ambling towards me in the crosswalk. The indignant look she gave that squawking driver proved her ears were younger than mine were pretending to be. “Stupid fucker,” she mumbled, prompting me to giggle so hard I snorted a teeny bit of my milkshake. “Not you dear,” she assured me, and then kept walking. I wonder if she has a bird.

The time I joined another world

The tangled web of emotions that come with Dementia would put most spiders to shame. I’m terrified of spiders but not Dementia and I don’t know why. The idea of having such a debilitating and confusing disease really should scare me more than something smaller than my palm (in Seattle anyway). My years in patient care taught me how to be more comfortable with Dementia. Yes, I’ve seen a man break a toilet. I’ve seen a woman experience grief over her husband’s passing, over and over again, every time she remembered. But there is more to the disease. When the mood is right, talking with a dementia patient can be like entering another world. I’ve seen the joy on a soldiers face when he talked about seeing his wife again after the war. I’ve been instructed how to properly fold laundry by the owner of a laundromat. I’ve even chased a purple cat through a house the size of a small mall. I really did enjoy that cat. I like cats. Most important, I’ve met people where they are in their mind while keeping them safe in this world.

When an elderly couple and their son arrived at my office for an exam they seemed like any other loving family. The wife immediately complimented the flower arrangement in the lobby. Multiple times. I just figured she was in to gardening and told her I appreciated her thoughts. She then approached the holy grail known as our candy bowl. “I think I’ll have two,” she said with a mischievous smile. I told her to go for it, only to have her son interject and take the candy away. He explained that she has dementia and often forgets that she’s diabetic. Oops, my bad. I listened as she told her son more about how much she loved my flowers and how she kept meaning to get in to gardening again. Though he was aware her health wouldn’t allow this, he suggested they go buy some seeds later. I instantly liked the son as I saw the smile spread wide across her face. A few minutes after their exam started, the woman emerged and made a beeline to the bathroom. I thought nothing of it until her son peaked his head out to look for her. We found her in the bathroom scrubbing the toilet. “You don’t have to do that,” her son said in a rather amused tone, “work is over for the day.” She squeaked with child-like delight and zoomed back into the exam room with her husband. The son turned to me and said, “sometimes you just have to live in her world.” Yes indeed, good sir, you do!

The time someone else worried about elevators

Elevators and airplanes have a lot in common, mainly because they both involve cramming into tight spaces with strangers and hurling through space. Also, a malfunction with either one could mean certain death. Not that I’m being dramatic or anything. Contrary to what my rambling seems to indicate, I love elevators for saving me and my asthmatic lungs from climbing 8 flights of stairs every day. I’ve always thought of elevators as inoffensive since people can just choose not to use them. That is, until I met Mark and Steve (names have been changed).

Mark entered my office in a stressed-out state. Due to a building-wide remodel, remnants of unfinished construction assaulted the eyes with bare, bright white walls and the ears with clanging, banging, and crunching loud enough to wake the dead. Among the chaos was an elevator covered only by plywood and a “pardon our mess” sign. This seemed to be triggering for Mark. A few years back, he had purchased an office building with plans to set up his practice and rent the other offices. He just had to make it ADA compliant with a ramp and elevator. Soon after the purchase, he discovered it would take over a year before an elevator could be installed. After that, it would be at least another year before he could get the elevator inspected. Also, the elevator would cost almost as much as the building to install. He held out for two years, unable to bring in any money from his investment, before selling the building at a loss. Lets just say elevators were a real sore spot for him. Steve, who had been silently listening from his chair in the waiting room corner, shed some light on the situation. The building he owns includes two elevators freshly built and ready for inspection. Well, they were fresh 3 years ago. Now they just sit unused because of a shortage of qualified elevator inspectors. Don’t worry though; he’s on the waiting list. The two men continued exchanging stories about the maddening process of building renovations and ended up leaving together. It would seem the cure for the Seattle freeze can be found in shared suffering.

The time I was helpful

I’ve worked in healthcare for years and I could pack a humpback whale full of paper shreds containing the names of people who have been screwed by the American health care system. And that’s really saying something because paper shrinks so much when it’s wet. I’ve spent hours fighting with insurance companies on my patient’s behalf. I’ll always remember the look on my coworker’s face when she walked in on me doing a happy dance because I got a treatment approved. In all fairness, the dance did involve “the swim.”

While waiting for an appointment, I struck up a conversation with the flustered woman next to me. This meeting seemed kismet when the source of her distress was revealed to be a battle with her insurance. L&I was using a loophole to avoid paying for an injury she sustained at work and her health insurance was refusing to pay because the injury was work-related. Her employer was now trying to force her into retirement because said injury was keeping her from doing her job. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but my face still contorted in a comical manner, causing her to choke on the water she was drinking. At least I was able to lighten the mood. She continued her story by saying she was afraid to retire because she didn’t know how to get health insurance. Cue my random but useful knowledge of Medicare and Medicaid. By the time she was called back for her appointment, I had helped her find a resource for free legal advice to battle L&I as well as contact information for a health insurance navigator.

I try to keep this blog humorous, but seriously I wonder how many people struggle with navigating our healthcare system without help from a random person who is socially awkward enough to break the ice and actually communicate with the person a foot away. A good question to chew on.

The time I shared an elevator ride

Construction sites are scary. Every time I drive under the mess of metal and concrete that will one day become the new light rail station in Northgate, I feel a tiny bit of relief when nothing falls on me. In my defense, I was traumatized when the kid gets crushed by a windowpane in Final Destination 2. While we’re on the topic, another character in the movie died in an elevator. This brings me to my highly anticipated first elevator conversation blog entry. Yay!

The office I work in is located on the eighth floor of a building with…lots more floors above mine. Yes that is an official way to measure the height of a building. You can also estimate its altitude by how many elevators it has. This one has four wonderful concrete shafts perfect for isolating strangers in small places, thus soliciting so many awkward Seattle freeze moments. To anyone who may have pulled an Ant-Man and became a fly on the wall, I hope you took a video of this particular elevator ride. That’s right, the elevator we took was a working construction zone, complete with dust and unfinished walls. So take my fear of construction zones, mix in my fear of confined spaces, and add 6 other people to make it cozy, and then I will need those deep breathing exercises people use to calm down. Thankfully I didn’t go too far into the rabbit hole before one of my fellow elevator residents broke the silence with “why aren’t the walls done?” Its part of the construction that has taken over the 8th floor…is what I should have said. Instead, I said “it smells good.” I meant the wood boards that were serving as temporary elevator walls smelled good, of course. Everyone was too busy looking at their phones to really notice my brilliant ramblings thus proving the Seattle freeze actually has an upside. So the big awkward elevator ride, my Seattle freeze white whale, happened. And it was fine. And I wasn’t swallowed by a giant mammal so that’s a win.

The time I was frozen

I am not a morning person. When this first became apparent during my elementary school days, my mom gave me a t-shirt with a picture of a kitten sleeping in a coffee mug with the words “I don’t do mornings” written above it. Ironically I have been known to hiss at people who try to wake me up. But I am technically an adult and therefore must do my adulting, which just happens to involved getting up around 6am for my new job.

I silently cursed the rising sun as my weary body forced itself to walk the two blocks to the bus stop. I wanted to be that kitten happily slumbering in the cup, not the human version of grumpy cat. And of course I woke up too late to make coffee. As I climbed aboard the bus I was aghast to find my only seating options were to sit sideways or share a seat. In my desire to shield any unsuspecting seatmate from the wrath of un-caffeinated Tanya I reluctantly sat in a sideways seat and awaited the nausea. At least that’s what I told myself. Really I was just Seattle frozen.

By the time I got on to my transfer bus for the remaining few stops, I was content to take one of the reserved seats in the front. I was just returning to the workforce after a severe hip flexor/left lower back sprain left me unable to walk or even stand for more than a few minutes at a time. This wasn’t just my first time commuting to a new job; it was the first time I had been able to walk those two blocks to get on a bus. And I was sore! So yes, I sat in the reserved seating. Next to me there was a man with a walker. Across from him was a woman with a cane. Next to her, a young woman with her baby fast asleep in a stroller. I was the only one that didn’t have an easily visible disability, which became a problem when a man in a wheelchair boarded the bus two stops before I got off. Of course I would have moved because it was the right thing to do. However, before I could manage the woman sitting in the first non-reserved seat started pointing at me and loudly proclaiming that I would need to get up. Keep in mind I still haven’t had my coffee. Before I could process what she was saying, she repeated herself, then pointed at the man rolling onto the bus ramp, then pointed that damn finger back at me again. I suddenly wished I was grumpy cat, and then I could bite her and get away with it. Apparently I wasn’t moving fast enough while I was fantasizing about assault with a toothy weapon, because there it was again, the scolding finger judging me. Then the rest of her fingers got involved and she progressed to full on gesturing. And I still hadn’t had any coffee. So I looked her straight in the eye and sternly said “just because I don’t look disabled doesn’t mean I’m not injured. I have a severe hip sprain and I need a seat.” She looked mortified. At this point the bus driver asked if I was okay and made finger lady get up so I could have her seat. That was the first time I truly smiled that day. You see, sometimes its better to stay frozen then be caught wishing you could melt into a puddle.

The time I wasn’t bored at the Fred Meyer check-out

I love all things pumpkin spice. Well except those fake scented candles. They give me a migraine. Once fall begins, I make it my personal mission to eat as many pumpkin flavored things as possible. This is my first October since going gluten-free which has put a real damper on my pumpkin pie consumption. So when the cashier at Fred Meyer asked me if I found everything okay, I mentioned I was bummed but not surprised that they don’t have any gluten-free pumpkin pie. I expected some sort of negative reaction since I didn’t respond with the traditional “yes.” Instead, she told me how complicated it is to safely operate a gluten-free kitchen. Turns out, she grew up working in the bakery her parents owned.

A look of pleasant nostalgia lit up her face as she talked about getting up at 4am during the Missouri summers to start prepping the dough. I should have known by how friendly she was that she wasn’t a Seattle native. During her prep time, flour soared freely around the kitchen, giving the illusion of a light snowstorm. While a little wheat flour wouldn’t hurt me, it could cause harm for celiac patients. In order for her parents to provide gluten-free options they would need a second kitchen stocked with its own dedicated pans and utensils. For small business owners like her parents, this just wasn’t feasible. This was brand new information for me. I’ve had flour poof and spill a little on my kitchen counter while baking, but I had no idea it could fly. Before leaving, I thanked her for teaching me more about being gluten-free. She thanked me for indulging her trip down memory lane. I bet she gets so bored when all the Seattleites fail to acknowledge her ability to speak while she bags their groceries.