Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On Hit-and-Run Motorists and Vexing Healthcare "Service"

Picture my Sunday morning: I set out on my trusty bicycle facing a crisp and relatively bright (considering the lateness of the season) ride from Somerville to Jamaica Plain around eight thirty in the morning. I've grown used to the six miles, enjoying the same commute six or even seven times each week.

I don't typically encounter any variety of trouble any more noteworthy than the standard rage-addled motorists behaving selfishly and foolishly with their two-ton death machines that any road-user encounters routinely on a daily basis. This especially beautiful autumn day, however, was to be a somewhat of an exception.

Over the river and through the...congested rush-hour traffic of downtown Boston, I meandered happily along. I would not say I was well-rested, but I certainly had my awareness about me and I am a very careful cyclist in general.

As my waxy readers are well aware, I am an enthusiastic proponent of safe and responsible cycling, which gives me an edge over my more foolhardy and reckless cyclist brethren as far as staying alive on the streets are concerned.

However, as I mentioned, this was to be a rather special day; there are some traffic events that you simply cannot quite hold an influence over. To my surprise, I was about to discover one.

Just past the Mass Ave T stop, where the sharrows turn into an actual bike lane, I found myself pedaling merrily along as a car overtook me rather closely on my left. As a cyclist who actively avoids getting doored, I tend to stay to the left side of the bike lane when riding past an endless stretch of parked cars (which one may easily find at any time of day on this particular portion of Mass Ave). For this reason, it's not that unusual for me to find cars passing me on the left within arm's reach.

Unfortunately, as this particularly gifted motorist almost finished passing me, they inexplicably swerved to the right--directly into the bike lane. They successfully rammed into the rather large rack on the front of my bicycle with the rear-end of their car, and I instantly went down. Hard.

As I fell to the pavement, I suppose my main concern was trying to fall in as reasonable a manner as I could manage without seriously hurting myself. I wouldn't say I did a great job, but I certainly survived; I think that is testament to my effort, if nothing else.

This effort, however, distracted me from noticing the license plate of the car--as they drove away without even stopping to see if I was dead or alive. Fortunately for me, the cars behind me managed to stop; otherwise it is not likely I would not be writing these waxy words you see before you.

A kind onlooker from the sidewalk rushed between the parked cars on the side of the road to help me to my feet, and asked the obligatory, "Are you okay?" I certainly had no idea at the time, as I was a bit rattled. I had fallen on my knee pretty hard and it was throbbing like a mother, but naturally I claimed I was fine.

She helped me walk my freshly-mangled bicycle to the sidewalk as I limped beside her, and asked if she should call an ambulance. I told her "No, no...I've got my phone right here. I'm fine." I pulled it out of my pocket and began to dial; she eventually walked away.

My leg felt pretty terrible, but there was no way in hell I was getting inside an ambulance.

I was actually calling my workplace as she walked away, and when they picked up I described why I just wasn't in a good position to make it in today. They told me since I was in an accident and was hurt, I needed a doctor's note claiming I was able to work without restrictions before I could return.

As I don't have a doctor (I know, I know: shame on me), I would have to take a trip to the dreaded ER.

I called my friend Josh, who agreed to collect my mangled bicycle and self with a vehicle we would both fit inside. He gave me a lift home, where I dropped off the misshapen ride, and onward we ventured to the hospital.

The staff at the hospital was somewhat accommodating for the most part, ushering me in right away and getting me into an especially ugly hospital gown to ensure my humiliation would be rather thorough. Josh waited patiently in the chair next to my hospital bed, where I sat somewhat anxiously. Hospitals give me anxiety.

The doctor finally joined us, and it was evident he was pissed off about something before he even stepped foot in the room. He rifled off a few routine questions regarding what happened in a somewhat irritated manner before finally asking the clincher: "Were you wearing a helmet?"

As my waxy readership is aware, I choose not to wear a helmet while cycling. Naturally, I answered his question: "No."

"You were not wearing a helmet?!" the doctor exclaimed, somewhat perturbed.

"No, I wasn't. I don't wear a helmet."

"You don't wear a helmet?!"

"You see, it's my knee that's actually injured," I offered, pointing toward the affected knee. "Not my head. I didn't hit my head. My head is fine."

"But you weren't wearing a helmet?"

At this point, the pissed-off-for-no-discernible-reason doctor was aggravating me. He was getting kind of annoying, and I didn't feel like going into all the reasons I have for not wearing a helmet.

"No, I wasn't wearing a stupid helmet. I don't see how that's a relevant question," I remarked, pointing again to my knee.

"You don't see how it's a relevant question?!" my doctor raged. He was clearly infuriated by my statement somehow. He shouted on for a while, and told me if I didn't change my tone he would call security and have me escorted from the building.

"Listen, dude," I said, trying to figure out if this asshole was worth my time or not, "I need a doctor's note that says I can return to work 'without restrictions'. Are you willing to write the note for me or not?"

"I will not write the note!" he exclaimed. "I'm calling security now! You're outta here!"

My friend Josh, observing the whole interaction, simply shook his head and waited as I pulled off the fantastically ugly hospital gown and put my normal clothes back on, grimacing in pain the whole while with my somewhat busted body parts that the hospital chose not to even examine because of a helmet argument.

As if like clockwork, two rent-a-cops showed up the moment I had my shoelaces tied and walked Josh and I out of the hospital to the tune of Josh telling me, "Why didn't you just tell him you were wearing a helmet? Why does everything have to be a public service announcement with you?"

The next day, I visited another hospital to get the doctor's note. The woman at reception asked me a bunch of questions about where I live and blah blah blah, and "Were you wearing a bicycle helmet?"

"I sure was," I said.

They brought me into a patient room were a nurse asked me what happened, am I okay, what is hurting, and "Were you wearing a helmet?"

"I sure was."

The doctor finally came in. He pressed on my knee here and there, and pressed on my back, and listened to his stethoscope as I took deep breaths for what seemed like forever. Finally, he asked me: "Were you wearing a helmet?"

"I sure was, sir."

A second nurse came in and joined the doctor (I have no idea why), and looked me over. She asked a few questions I had already answered, and then pulled the trump card: "Were you wearing a helmet?"

"I sure was."

"Oh, good thing...good thing."

"Yes ma'am; I never leave home without it."

A few minutes later, I had my doctor's note, and I've been working happily since.

I still have to build a new wheel for my bike (the rim is in the mail), but I have a "number two" I've been riding and that'll be just fine for now.

What's the moral of the story? If nothing else, take away this: as always, never trust the healthcare industry with anything, ever. Ever. Ever.

You may even have to lie to get the treatment you deserve. As a general rule of thumb, any seemingly innocuous question they might ask that has nothing to do with anything should be answered with whatever answer you suspect they might prefer. Otherwise, they may just go ahead and call security to have you extracted from the hospital.

If the doctor asks you, "Do you wear a completely worthless piece of Styrofoam on your head while you ride?" he only wants to hear one answer. Give it to him please; otherwise he may neglect to look at the knee you may have seriously injured.

Thanks for reading, waxy readers. Try to be healthy, and certainly try to be safe out there. Take it from me: there is no mercy from the cold and clueless world that surrounds us, and your doctor likely has no idea what you are talking about.

Thanks for tuning in, waxy readers, and see you next Tuesday!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Henry and D: a Conversation

"Somewhere around here," D thought to himself as he walked along the sidewalk. "I'm getting close."

He had all the time in the world, and he found it a fine day for meandering about instead of just getting right down to business. As he passed by Henry, he nodded an acknowledgement.

"Oh, hello. I know you," Henry offered from his spot on the bench as D passed by.

D stopped for a moment; he had certainly been acknowledged by strangers before, but not very often and he had never quite gotten used to it.

"Hello," he managed to reply. He lingered on the sidewalk for a moment, observing Henry and trying to feel out the exchange.

Henry, extending his hand for a handshake, said, "I'm Henry."
"Oh," said D, automatically offering his hand to respond. "You can call me D."
"Yeah, I know who you are."
"Oh, right..."
"You're pretty famous, you know."
"Right, right."
"Pretty much everyone knows who you are. I've even seen you around, doing your thing."
"Sure, sure," said D, nodding slowly.

A pause settled in between them.

"I've seen you around too," said D after a moment.
"You have?"
"Sure, I see you sometimes riding your bike."
"Oh, no kidding."
"Say, what's with those little hats, anyway?" asked D. "How come bike riders wear those?"
"I dunno...they're practical," Henry replied. "It's a cycling cap."
"Uh huh."
"Like any hat, they keep your hair from blowing all about while you ride, but you can also pull down the brim to keep the sun or the rain out of your eyes."
"How is that different from any other hat with a brim?"
"Well you see," answered Henry, "they're also designed with an aerodynamic shape that keeps them from blowing off of your head in the wind."
"Oh...that's interesting. I never realized that."
"Like, a baseball cap," Henry continued, "was designed to blow off of your head on purpose."
"What do you mean?" asked D. "I've never had a baseball cap blow off of my head."
"Baseball hats worn by players were originally meant to be worn kind of loose. They designed the brim of the hat so that when an outfielder is chasing after a fly ball, looking up at it, the cap will blow off of his head and help him see what's happening with the ball better."
"Interesting," D replied. "...Is that true? Where did you hear that?"
"Oh, I can't really remember," admitted Henry. "I just heard it somewhere and assumed it was true."

"So are you here for me, then?" asked Henry, after a moment.
"Oh, no, no. Not today. Someone else. Someone nearby," D replied, glancing at his watch. "I'm kind of early."
"That's nice."

Another pause lingered for a moment. A cloud obscuring the sun happened to move on just then, offering the sun's light an opportunity to thoroughly illuminate the bench. Henry and D both looked up for a second, as if to see where the light was coming from.

"You wanna sit down?" asked Henry. "I guess you're not in a hurry."
"No, no...I rarely hurry," D replied as he gently pulled up his pants at the knees and sat next to Henry on the bench. "I don't find it hard to be on time without being in a hurry."
"Oh...that's cool; I like that," Henry responded.
"Yeah, sure. I never understood why people rush about so maniacally anyhow." D withdrew a cigarette from somewhere inside his jacket, and with his other hand struck open a lighter. The lighter seemed to come from nowhere, as if he had been holding it there the whole time.
"Me either," Henry nodded as they sat and surveyed the sidewalk before them.
D lit the cigarette.


"So how are you, anyway?" asked Henry, attempting to create small talk.
"Oh...fine, fine...I'm just fine. Thanks for asking. How are you doing?"
"I am also doing fine."
 "Good!" said D with a smile. "That's good to hear. Say, that's a nice shirt; I like that shirt."
"What? Why?" asked Henry, somewhat surprised at the compliment. "I hate this shirt. Just earlier today, I was thinking about how much I hate this shirt. I even decided I am just going to give it to Goodwill after I wash it next."
D paused for a moment, then asked "Why don't you like the shirt? It looks fine. It's a nice shirt. Nice color, nice pattern..."
"I don't like the collar."
"Oh...what's wrong with the collar?" D asked. "The collar is fine. You don't like collars on shirts?"
"No no, I do...it's just...I dunno, the collar is just so big, and and they've tailored it with this gaudily stylish curve to it that won't go away." Henry proceeds to crush down the collar with his hands, demonstrating his proof that the stylish curve does indeed snap right back into the collar once released. "Every time I look in the mirror, I think 'Damn, what's up with that collar? That thing needs to settle down.'" He shrugged. "I guess I prefer a more humble collar, myself."
"Huh. I guess it does have a little something going on, now that you mention it," D acknowledged.
"Yeah, it makes the shirt look ridiculous."
"I still like it."


"So, when are you coming for me then?" Henry asked, looking up to meet D's eyes.
"Ha!" D laughed, showing a grin. "Come on, now; I can't tell you that."
"Why not?"
"I always keep it a surprise," D replied. "I always keep it a surprise, unless someone is asking for me."
"I see. Well, I'm not asking for you."
"I know."


"You make me kind of nervous, really," Henry revealed after another pause. "Nothing personal."
"I make a lot of people nervous," D replied. "I don't get it."
"What? You don't get it?"
"Yeah...why are people so afraid to die?"
"People enjoy living, silly," said Henry. "People want to stay alive. Plus, no one knows what being dead is like, so there is kind of a fear of the unknown."
"Uh huh...interesting,"
"Sometimes you take people before they are ready," Henry continued, "and it makes the whole thing even more sad."
"The way I see it," said D, "Everyone knows I am coming for them sooner or later. It shouldn't come as a shock or surprise. You've had your whole life to get ready for me. It's not my fault you aren't prepared at all when I finally come."
Henry considered this, as the silence that punctuated their exchange returned.


D, after the moment passed, said, "Well, anyway, nice chatting with you," as he arose from the bench.
"Yeah, sure thing," Henry agreed.
"I guess I'll see you around," D predicted as he dropped his cigarette to the ground and squashed it into the pavement with the toe of his shoe.

Henry hesitated, and eventually decided not to reply as he walked away slowly, methodically, and never once looking back.

Henry and D: a Conversation by Jeremy Ross, October 2012. May be used without permission. Please do not plagiarize.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Suspenders: what many would consider the original method of holding one's pants to their waist.

Suspenders are certainly old-school, and are historically more popular with older men than with anyone of the younger generation.

However, in my opinion suspenders have always been a unique and favorable style choice; I like their look, and I wear them with somewhat of a happy feeling knowing I can grow old with them.

Suspenders used to be the stand-by; laborers especially used to rely on them to hold up their pants, and back in the day they were more common than a belt.

Oftentimes, people would use suspenders in conjunction with belts; the suspenders served to hold up a person's pants while the belt served a utility function. John Wayne can be seen in many old westerns with not only suspenders, but one or even two belts. The belts served to hold his gun holsters and other accessories.

Now, wearing a belt in conjunction with suspenders is considered a fashion faux pas, and is normally only considered an acceptable choice if the belt is being used for a utility function.

Appearing to be a laborer fell out of favor at some point, and men switched to the belt exclusively. The belt became a universal accessory, and suspenders grew more obscure as a style choice. They eventually evolved to be somewhat like the conventional bow tie in a necktie world; not necessarily absurd, but certainly somewhat unusual and outdated.

Besides offering a unique style option in a universally belted world, I would go so far as to suggest that suspenders are rather practical. Allow me to explain.

Suspenders are rather comfortable. Where a belt cinches your pants to your waist by binding them as tightly as is tolerable, suspenders do just what their name suggests they do: they suspend your pants.

They hold your pants up while allowing them to remain just as loose as they happen to be. You can even wear oversized pants, and suspenders will allow them to remain at a reasonable height on your waistline. Loose pants are more comfortable, really.

Also, if you are an active person like I am, you have probably experienced the following phenomenon: you are running about doing whatever it is that you do, and your pants continuously sag. Even if your belt is adjusted properly, your pants still tend to sag in this manner.

However, with suspenders your pants never sag this way. Suspenders effectively maintain the height of your pants just by their very nature. There is no need to hike up your loins because your belt has only a mediocre grasp on your blue jeans.

Suspenders: they are not just for old men. They are for anyone that has a preference for comfort or practicality. Suspenders are preferred by waxy grouches all around the world.