Thursday, September 26, 2013

Naked Anxiety

It happened again last light.  I was OJ-ing through an airport when I looked down.  I was naked.  Again.

I thought, "Screw it; it's just that dream again," and hopped on the down escalator, hoping I was right.  I still feel the escalator stairs stinging the soles of my bare feet, and I wondered if the cowcatcher at the bottom would rip my toes off or worse.

I'm getting better as I age.  Time was I would discover my nakedness while frantically searching for the room where my Advanced Calculus exam was being conducted, thinking, "How I could have missed an entire semester of classes?"  Now when the stress dream kicks in, I just wonder what happened to the pants where I put my plane ticket.

I expected when I retired that stress would wither to a curious artifact of a prior life.  Nope.  Here is an eternal principle:  stress expands to fill the emotional space available.

Last week I flew to Robinsonville, Mississippi, which is a suburb of Clack and is usually called Tunica, hard by the Mississippi River.  Permanent population about 6, plus the droves visiting the ten gambling houses perched by the levee.

Of course, you can't fly to Robinsonville, with or without clothing.  You have to fly to Memphis, Tennessee and drive your rented Toyota Yaris 40 miles south on US 61.  The "US" designation on the route number is surely aspirational, since everyone from the area speaks only Clack.  Flying and driving, however, give me no anxiety.  I'm at peace with those things.

I went to Tunica/Robinsonville-near-Clack to play cards.  Duplicate bridge, specifically.  I took up bridge when I retired, hoping to ease the stress that I expected never again to encounter.  Just in case.

In due time, I got pretty good at bridge, in a newcomer sort of way.  It's a demanding game, and I dreamed often of dealing naked.  But I progressed faster than whatever norm applies, and the dreams subsided  That's how I knew I no longer had enough stress in my life.  So I volunteered to teach newbies how to play the game.  And to write a blog for them.  (If you have nothing better to do in life, the blog is here.)

Teaching is a good way to learn.  You need only be a lesson or so ahead of your students, and you can fake the rest.  While you explain timeless principles, those principles become gouged a little deeper in your own grey matter.  In theory.

Teaching's fine, but writing it all down in public raises stress to a new level.  It's not just ambitious newcomers who read the blog, but also players with the decades of experience that I lack.

So there I was in Robinsonville, playing the game and collecting a new bridge credential that I pretend does not matter to me.  That, I think, should give me the confidence to wear clothes all the way home.

When I got smugly home to beautiful Tampa Bay, I fired off a blog article on the subtleties of a peculiar bridge hand that appeared at the tournament:

A J 10 9 5 4
A Q J 10 9 7
♣  (void)

(I just did that to show you I could.)

I explained on-line that the hand should be bid in a certain way to take advantage of the lack of black cards.  Great lesson for new players.  QED.

Not Exactly.

If bridge players share a common trait, it is the criticism gene.  So when I recommend Doubling over 1 Club, there is always someone to argue that the Unusual 2 No Trump would have been a superior tactic.  The fact she was right made matters all the worse.

So here I am waking up on a Memphis Airport escalator again, starkers.  I'd take up checkers, but I have a bridge blog installment due Saturday.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Navel Engagement With HIPPA

So I took some time off to contemplate my navel.  As it happens, my navel is surrounded by so much acreage that it took me the first six months to find it.  Now, however, my umbilical year is done, and I have returned to the startling awareness that little has changed.  Case in point --

My Darling Judy picked up a prescription for Prednisone this morning.  Long experience has taught us that the P drug is not taken in the usual once- or twice-a-day fashion, but invariably requires a big initial dose, followed by sequentially smaller doses, until you're taking just one pill a day, and then the bottle is empty. Otherwise you may experience sweaty palms and death-like symptoms.

The Rx label said, "Take one a day by mouth."

My DJ did not get caught up in how else she might take pills than by mouth, but she did call the doctor's office to inquire whether this simple instruction might be incorrect.

Right - you can't just call a doctor's office, ask a question and expect a simple answer.  So she pleaded with the computer to have the medication nurse call back.  Then she went off to play bridge, oblivious to the regulatory machinery that she had set in motion.

I was still rooting around in my navel when the phone rang.  It was Mitsy, the medication nurse, looking for Judy.

"I can help you," I said.  "She just needs to know how to take the Prednisone: once a day or on a more traditional graduated schedule."  That's when I discovered that the world had not changed during my omphalic musings.

"I'm afraid I can't talk to you because of HIPPA," said Mitsy.

"I'm her husband; you can talk to me. My name is on a form somewhere in your office."

"Um ..."  It was a pregnant "Um ...."

"I promise I will not tell the government that you have disclosed the ultra-secret instructions for taking Prednisone."

"Um . . ."  She was considering how long it would take her to find Judy's HIPPA form with my name on it.

"Look," I said.  "If the FBI comes to your office and accuses you of breaching Prednisone security, you can swear that I threatened your first-born child."

I almost had her.

"Okay, then," I continued, "I guess the patient will just have to follow the instructions on the bottle.  The worse that can happen is sweaty palms."

"Oh, no," she blurted. "There's death-like ... um ... symptoms... Um ... theoretically, that is."

"Okay, I'll wait while you check the HIPPA form." 

I got my answer with surprising alacrity, and now I'm waiting for the FBI to appear on my doorstep.


P.S. ---

Dear N.S.A.:

This blog entry is a work of fiction, and any reference to Mitsy is a fragment of my loyal and patriotic imagination.  She doesn't even have a first-born child.

"These aren't the droids you're looking for."

--- Alec Guinness 1977