Saturday, August 06, 2005

Oh Blessed Rage For Order, Pale Ramon

I knew it was a bad day at work Thursday when I found myself expounding on the concept of "entropy" to a fellow harried staff member. We were understaffed, and had too many patients. Chaos had muscled in early and refused to budge.

I recall one quintessential moment. I stood staring down the long vista of the clinic corridor, trying to decide what to do next. A patient stood in every open doorway staring expectantly back at me.

I thought of George Romero. Graves opening. Hungry zombies avid for my flesh.

Home stuff had been only slightly less unruly and disconcerting.

My pager went off early today, 7:45 am. Its obnoxious, overloud beep tore through my sleep, needling deep into my brainstem. I sat bolt upright, heart racing, head pounding (I knew I hadn't drunk enough coffee yesterday.) I staggered to the phone. Some patient of my internist colleague wanted me to change a prescription her neurologist had written. She wanted me to specify "no substitutions." It was not an unreasonable request. But had she even tried paging THE DUDE WHO WROTE THE PRESCRIPTION ? The neurologist ? Who was probably sleeping blissfully in even as we spoke ? Nope.

Never mind. I had to get some coffee into me. STAT. I took down the pharmacy number.

"It opens at eight," she said.

The pharmacy was not even open. I could have slept 15 more minutes. This was not a good beginning to the my longed for restorative Saturday. Zombies were headed up my driveway, plowing their way through the weed forest that's erupting through the tar. Note to self. Must mow driveway. Must hack down tree-like thing in front of garage door.

Once I'd gotten some caffeine onto my Jonesing receptors and the pounding anvils out of my head I decided to undertake that great antidote to disorder, housework. The house had been swiftly moving through the various degrees of untidiness into the first stages of abject squalor.

Clearly I had to start with the vacuum cleaner.

My son, The Lad, who lives in the attic has temporary custody of his ex-girlfriend's rabbits. Her TWO rabbits. Her two, big, muscular, unfriendly rabbits. They live with him in the attic in one penned off corner of the big space doing what they do best: shredding and shitting. Did I feel a twinge of resentment toward young E. on her month long junket in Europe as I fed and watered these beasts for my son last week ? Or at toward her Mom who won't let the "filthy things" into her probably pristine house ? You bet. Was I pleased when my vacuum cleaner went south after The Lad tried to clean up some of their effluvia last week ? Proving that Panasonic uprights and agricultural grade timothy do not mix ? Nope. Pas du tout.

Or when The Lad, after clipping the bunnies nails, had an asthma attack, scaring me to death, propelling us out to the all night pharmacy to get an inhaler ? Nope. Not pleased.

So I clearly needed to do some environmental intervention in the Lad's Room lest he perish from rabbit-induced asthma. For that, I'd need the vacuum. Which, as you'll recall, had died. I'd have to take it into the shop. That would take days.

I thought back. The vacuum had died once before. Its powerful little toe-threatening brush thingy had ceased to spin. I'd hauled it into the shop. It was, they said, "the belt." Could it be "the belt" again ? It was the same symptom. How hard could it be to replace a belt, anyhow ? I thought back to the patient who had tried to drain the abscess on his neck a few weeks back. With a heated needle. He'd jabbed and jabbed and squeezed and squeezed. When the redness had dipped below the collarbone he came in. "Should I have put the needle in deeper, Doc ?" he asked. Was I entering the same fools rush in realm ? What did I have to lose ?

I upended the thing in my room. Long wisps of hay and a dozen or so pellets of rabbit shit rolled out and scattered over the floor. I unscrewed a little metal plate and, sure enough, there it was. The busted belt. I peered into the depths of the machine. It seemed feasible.

So I called the vacuum cleaner guy.

"Do you sell parts ?"

"What kind of parts ?"

"Belts ?" I ventured.

"Sure," he replied, obviously not appalled. "Three bucks."

So, long story short, I fixed the thing, swaggered about, vacuumed the rugs, did the laundry and emptied the dishwasher. Soon I will change the litterboxes, mow the driveway and scrub the toilets.

Chaos, I am happy to report, is, at least for now, whimpering in the corner.

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