That Time I Went to the Urgent Care

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It’s not that I fear going to the doctor, or that I don’t trust modern medicine or anything. I’m just supremely lazy about making an appointment with a doctor, even when I’m suffering from an extended illness.

Unless I’m bleeding profusely or lying in a pool of my own vomit, I’ll find any excuse not to see a professional. But after suffering from a months-long cold this winter I finally had enough and stopped at the urgent care near my office one afternoon on my way home from work.

First of all, it’s a little awkward waltzing into an urgent care in a paisley day dress and heels and no immediately obvious symptoms. And the nurse who escorts me to exam room makes a point of telling me I look nice, as if I dressed up just for this and she wants to acknowledge my effort. After a cursory interview she leaves me alone to wait for the next person. I would say “for the doctor,” but no one at the urgent care ever uses that title and nothing about this guy’s demeanor says “medical school graduate.” The walls are exceptionally thin, so I can hear him in the next room talking about other patients and when he comes in he doesn’t even introduce himself. As far as I know, he may not have had any medical training whatsoever—there are no diplomas on the wall at the urgent care.

After swiftly diagnosing me with a sinus infection (I mean, I could have told him that much but he’s the one with the prescription pad) “Doctor” Whoever offers me a couple options. Either they can hook me up to an IV for a little while or they can give me a steroid shot and send me home with a prescription for antibiotics. I assume this is one of those scenarios where you give someone one bad option and one terrible option to make the bad one sound more appealing. Obviously, I opt for the shot.

When the nurse comes back in to give me the steroids she pulls two syringes out of her pocket, uncaps one and holds them up to my face.

“Look how thick these needles are,” she says. “These can’t go in your arm. We’ll have do these in your glutes.”

Which, ok. If you need to give me a shot in the butt, whatever—but don’t force me to marvel at the needle’s girth beforehand.

While she’s giving me the first shot I start to feel woozy, and I have to lie down as soon as she’s done. I have a long history of passing out at inconvenient moments, so I’m not that worried about it, but the nurse starts to freak out even as she tells me it’s a common reaction. She runs to get me some candy and a glass of water.

After a while she comes back with a couple Jolly Ranchers and a styrofoam cup, but before she hands me the water she says, “I need to tell you something,” and holds up the cup, the rim of which is broken.

“I want to let you know that no one bit this cup. It’s just broken, but it’s the last one we have.”

So obviously someone definitely bit a piece out of the rim of this cup, because she’s trying really hard to convince me otherwise, but I’m too lightheaded to care and honestly, I’m more concerned that I’m receiving medical care in a place that can’t afford to stock enough cups for the water cooler. While I’m starting to come around she tells me that she needs to give me the second shot, so we get that over with and she leaves me to lie down for a while longer.

When she comes in to check on me again she tells me her shift is over, but she wants me to rest for a while longer and says she’ll “find someone to stay with me.”

A few minutes later, in walks a middle-aged man in jeans and a t-shirt. He sits in the chair next to the exam table where I’m still lying in semi-conciousness and starts asking me how I’m feeling. Then he begins to tell me about how effective the steroids are and keeps calling them “magic medicine.” I’m going to assume this guy is also not a doctor.

Eventually I’m able to piece together that this is the owner of the urgent care, and at that point I realize we know each other. I’ve definitely met this guy before when I worked at the Chamber of Commerce and he was opening this facility. I’m pretty sure I even helped organize a ribbon-cutting ceremony at his request. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to recognize me and the awkwardness is enough to bring me fully to, so I can gather my things and head to the front desk to pay my bill and pick up my prescription.

For the record, the most notable effect of the steroids is a sore butt for the next few days, not instant relief of my symptoms, and the antibiotics make me so sick to my stomach I have to stop taking them. So maybe the effort of seeing an actual doctor with a diploma on his wall is worth it after all.

 

Kodi Scheer’s Incendiary Girls and other fantastic fiction

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I recently finished reading Incendiary Girls, a collection of stories by Kodi Scheer. The book first came to my attention because she’s a local Ann Arbor author, but it ended up on my bookshelf because Scheer’s stories occupy a space between fantasy and magic realism that I consistently gravitate toward in my reading and in my own writing.

In Scheer’s stories, the protagonists confront any number of spectacular events; a woman’s boyfriend turns into a camel, a beauty pageant contestant is literally torn to shreds by the competition, and an army wife finds the body parts of her imperiled husband hidden around their house.

Medicine is a common theme, and it’s no surprise that Scheer once planned on a career in the discipline. She’s also the writer-in-residence at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, and that experience shines through in this collection, where several characters confront the specter of cancer or other life-altering illnesses. In “Fundamentals Law of Nature” a woman considers a possible breast cancer diagnosis after becoming convinced that her mother has been reincarnated as a horse, and in “Transplant,” a patient undergoes extraordinary physical and spiritual changes following an organ transplant.

By the end of the collection, I grew a little weary of the fixation on bodily crisis, but each story on its own investigates this common thread in an interesting way. And the final story is such a brutal and tragic semi-departure from the theme that it will make you appreciate the gentleness with which the preceding stories treat the body in its most delicate states.

A couple other favorite story collections that fall on the spectrum between the fantastic and the magically real:

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The Secret Goldfish by David Means

In my favorite story, the protagonist is stalked and repeatedly struck by lightning. These stories step in and out of the realm of the fantastic, but the collection is as notable for its fantastic qualities as for the author’s spectacular turns of phrase—they’re gorgeously written tales. Coincidentally, Means is also from Michigan—at least originally.

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Nice Big American Baby by Judy Budnitz

In Budnitz’ stories, correlations to real world issues are often strong enough that her tales read as modern fables, with something fantastical to say about our literal lives. In “Where We Come From,” a hopeful immigrant mother extends her pregnancy by several years, as she tries again and again to cross the border so that she can give birth to the titular American baby. And in “Sales,” a family traps a traveling salesman in a pen in their living room. Flipping through the book now is making me want to read it cover-to-cover again.

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Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta

Technically a novel rather than a story collection, Dasgupta’s riff on the Canterbury Tales finds an international group of travelers stranded in an airport together. Like Chaucer’s travel companions, these characters launch into stories of their own, some of which crossing over into the truly surreal.

FestiFools and FoolMoon: Ann Arbor’s Weirdest Tradition?

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If there’s one thing Ann Arbor-ites love, it’s a weird event. I imagine it would be difficult in most other small cities for an art professor to launch a large-scale papier-mâché puppet parade and see it thrive as FestiFools has in Ann Arbor. FestiFools has only been around since 2007, after University of Michigan professor Mark Tucker returned from a trip to Italy with a big idea—to get art students and artsy locals to build their own oversized puppets and parade them around town on an early spring Sunday afternoon. The FoolMoon luminary parade is even younger—in 2011 festival organizers added the luminary parade on the Friday night before FestiFools. And it’s not just luminary parade, it’s a block party complete with live music, snacks and performance art.

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Can We Talk About How Much I Love Tim Walker?

If you’re into Tim Burton movies, you’ll appreciate Tim Walker, a fashion photographer who’s aesthetic is as surreal and macabre as Burton’s. He’s even photographed the director, so it’s no secret that they’re cut from the same cloth.

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My favorite Walker photographs are so artful and high concept that I’m sometimes surprised they make it into magazines like Vogue, except I guess that dying mermaid does wear Marchesa.

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Walker’s style is so cinematic it’s no surprise he’s also made a short film, which I haven’t seen yet but hopefully will be able to track down soon.

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And here’s a self portrait of Walker eating a lot of cake:

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Matthaei Botanical Gardens

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Wednesday was so sunny and so beautiful and so freezing cold that I did what any sane Ann Arborite would and went straight to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens after work. As a kid, I used to go the gardens with my cousins every winter, and somehow that tradition has carried over into adulthood.

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The Perfect Loaf of Homemade Bread

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I used to be intimidated by the thought of baking bread, mostly because other people seemed daunted by the task, and the only people I knew who did bake bread used bread machines that turned out spongy, crustless and oddly-shaped loaves. When I finally decided to give it a try, I was fortunate enough to find this basic bread recipe which turned wonderfully on my first try. I’ve modified the recipe ever so slightly, so my version is below.

I’ve been using this recipe for years now and it consistently turns out well. Homemade bread it’s more than worth the work; there’s nothing more comforting than a warm loaf fresh from the oven and the smell that fills your house is magnificent.

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5 Ways to Pretend it’s Summer

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We can’t ALL escape to the tropics when winter becomes unbearable, so here are some ideas for recreating the summer experience when you’re stranded at home in the Siberia that is February.

1. Set up an Out of Office email You have to be at work, but that doesn’t mean everyone else needs to know. You’re going to cut down on a lot of meaningless busywork by telling all your business contacts that you’re unavailable until March 31st camping on an island with no internet service or cell reception. Also, keep coming up with reasons to email that one guy in the office who still hasn’t turned off his OOO since his last vacation so you can get caught up in an OOO echo chamber that’s as reminiscent of summer as the smell of sunscreen.

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It’s Like a Bird Aviary, but for People

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(I wrote this piece for the Ann Arbor blog Damn Arbor. Read the whole post here.)

The Ann Arbor Aviary is the perfect example of what’s great about Ann Arbor. You wouldn’t expect to find a gym specializing in the “aerial arts”— which include aerial silks, trapeze and lyra—in a city of this size, but there it is, next door to a storage facility out past the airport. For the record, they also offer other classes like belly dancing, and burlesque performance, and at one time, something called a “Twerkshop” for anyone needing professional instruction in that area.

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Sleeping in Seattle

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Over Thanksgiving weekend I visited my cousin who moved out to Seattle (well, Bellevue, if we’re being precise) a few years ago. Having never been to the city before, I pulled a lot of my itinerary from this blog post. This turned out to be a good move.

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Dumb Things I Said to a Police Officer

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Last summer I went on a ride-along with a very nice Ann Arbor police officer whose name I’ve forgotten because I’m extremely self-centered, but let’s say I’m omitting it to protect his privacy. Let’s call him Officer Jones. I went on a Thursday night from 11:00pm to approximately 3:00am because the Police Chief told me that’s when I was most likely to see some “action.” Here’s what Officer Jones and I got up to.

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