Monday, January 14, 2013

Total hip replacement -- special guest post by anonymous!

My bunion surgery posts still get many hits (people - just get your bunions removed!), and since someone I know had a hip replacement this past summer, I thought perhaps a few readers (or internet searchers) would like to read someone's perspective of a complete hip joint replacement because of arthritis. This person has graciously allowed me to share this person's story. (Lack of gender-specific pronouns purposefully done albeit awkwardly so, thank you very much.) So...without further ado....

Total Hip Replacement Surgery, My Story by Anonymous

Tomorrow at 6 a.m. I check in for the operation. Gonna get up at 4 a.m. and probably sit around and wait for time to go. Good luck, me.


I haven't written for the past four days since my surgery for obvious reasons. The number one reason is that this journal won't let me go back and pick up days I missed, which I don't like, or I would have cheated and filled in days one, two, and three to fool anyone who reads this. The last reason is that I didn't have my iPad to write with (on second thought, that should be reason number one). Anyway, here's how things went from Friday July 20, 2012, to today Tuesday July 24, 2012.

I checked into Kaiser Hospital in Fremont, CA. at my 6 a.m. scheduled time. My wife and I arrived early (as usual) and sat in the lobby across from a woman who was in a party of three and who stared relentlessly at our faces. It was like we were the fourth and the fifth people she'd seen in her life. Not a valuable detail but at the time it was very annoying.

Finally the door opened and we handed our home-prepared paperwork (medical directive and power of attorney type legal things) to the check-in lady.

We sat in another waiting area nearby while she copied my forms and did the computer "magic" check-in. We didn't know it at this time, but there was another woman sitting in a small office down the hallway who would later have me sign some release forms. The kind that say that if I were to die on the operating table, it really wasn't their fault. Eventually we talked to this lady and were then sent to the second floor to wait in another waiting room while the people there looked at my papers and prepared to guide me through pre-operation routines.

After a very short wait (they really don't give you enough time to start screaming and running out of the door) I was led to a small dressing room by a nurse to shed every stitch of my clothing (and, I might add, every bit of the dignity, ego, and self-control I ever had in my life landed comfortably on the cold tile floor) and I put on a one-size-fits-all surgery gown. They've improved these gowns over the years, and now they actually are big enough to cover your ass. (Just a fascinating side note.)

Here's a point that's burned into my memory: They give you hospital antislip booties to put on your feet. (I learned a few days later that the supervising personnel at Kaiser had better not see your very slippery little feet on their tile floors without these booties on. This is a major safety violation that allows them to surgically remove both feet at any time. I know, a little too facetious.) I found it humorless that I was given booties to put on a foot that I haven't been able to lift far enough to get huge hiking socks on in years, yet there I was with this dainty too-small booty to put on without assistance. I gathered everything inside me and slightly hooked the bootie on the tip of my right foot, while at the same time suffering for what I hoped would be the last tremendous pain that my arthritic hip joint would ever give me. I grabbed a very small piece of material at the heel of the bootie with my outstretched fingertips and pulled it on. I sat there for a minute to let my pulse subside and then took the next step into the unknown.

I pulled the call switch and the nurse returned. He took my personal items, which I had put into a hospital provided plastic ziplock bag, and he asked me whether I wanted to carry them and give them to a loved one later, or have them locked up while I was there and then the hospital staff would move them to my room after my surgery. Since I had no idea whether my wife had ran screaming from the building at this point, I told him to lock them up.

With that done I was walked down some hallways to an area where there were several curtained-off recliners with computers at each station. Each sectioned-off area was in  an open area where gurneys could be easily wheeled if need be. A nice lady in medical-looking garb came (I'll stop using the nice man and nice lady adjectives here, because they were all nice) and asked me  the first of many check/double-check times, "What are you  here to get done and where on your body?," and she took my vitals and punched in all the data she'd gathered into the computer. Another lady came in and inserted my brand new IV port into the back of my left hand. They put a computer-generated plastic bracelet on my right wrist, which I learned over my stay at the hospital that it would be scanned every time someone did anything to me or for me.

I have to confess what this whole process reminded me of: You know those death row scenes in movies where the guards have walked the prisoner down the Green Mile and are now going through all of the routine tasks to prepare the inmate to be put to death? Yup, that was my vision at the moment.

Soon the anesthesiologist whizzed in with his smock waving behind him and sat down in a real whirlwind of a doctor way. I knew it was him because he had sent me a picture in an email a few days before to introduce himself and to supply me a PowerPoint presentation on the different ways to be put under. I already knew what I wanted, but I was surprised that he actually gave me a choice. I said I wanted general anesthesia and that I didn’t want to remember anything. As we were talking about lifestyle choices I was making  that could affect me while in surgery,  he asked if I drank and how much in the last six months. I told the truth and said about six beers was all I've had. He said, "So, just special occasions like New Years, birthdays and waking up in the morning?" I liked him from then on. Then the whirlwind left while saying that he'd see me in a few minutes.

My orthopedist (great guy I might add, and I didn't know how great until things were all over. He has a decent sense of humor, which is number one in my book, and he answered anything I needed to know) came into the recliner area and looked at the monitor. Using a Sharpie pen, he marked my right leg with a  "yes" and his initials. I believe I sent my wife home soon after this (I forgot to add that she sat with me during this process) because it was getting close to 8 a.m. and everything was wrapping up in pre-op. 

They gave me a relaxation pill, and I walked to the OR on my own in my little-half sock antislip booties. The whirlwind,—my orthopedist—and everyone else were there doing their getting ready activities. I was helped onto the operating table, and the anesthesiologist soon came into my view of the OR ceiling. He told me that he was going to give me oxygen through a mask, slipping the mask  on as the words left his mouth. My doctor walked up (with his game face on) and pulled my gown up and asked me which hip they were operating on, I replied, "Right one."

With all this confirmed, I looked at the fluorescent lights in the OR…and then I was being woken up by a voice from somewhere far away from the planet I was on. I tried to get my thoughts together about what just happened and what I was doing there, then I realized that my throat was feeling awful. I began coughing and pointing at my throat and the voice from somewhere outside reality said it felt that way because of the tube they put down my throat and it would pass. (I thought I was going to pass.)
When I got half my senses back I realized I was in no pain, which is something I did not expect since I'd just gotten my hip hammered on, sawed on, and ground on for an hour and a half. This was a pleasant surprise. They moved me down a bunch of hallways to my room where there was another beehive of activity. A bunch of words were said and I was hooked up to the feeding tubes and morphine drip.

In all honesty, the next three days were the same things over and over. I was asked every two to three hours if I had pain. People (supervisors) came in and introduced themselves and said to call them if I had any problems with anything at all. My doctor popped in at all hours of the day or night to check on me. I guess the biggest moment of the three days was when the physical therapist stood me up for the first time. This was a moment that I'll never forget because, to my total hip replacement amazement, I had no pain. Other than a tightness in my hip, I was standing like I had in the years before I had gotten arthritis. It was so shocking that it still doesn't seem possible. This painless feeling has pretty much been the case since Friday afternoon. I am told that it happens, but not that often.

I am very lucky. 

My personal key events during the hospital stay are the following.

1. The catheter removal on the morning of the second day.
I had no idea what to expect, and the truth is, I was so grateful to have the catheter in the first place because I didn't have to move. It was a very scary proposition at this point in my life to move at all, so I never wanted it to leave my body. My nurse of that shift (7:30 p.m. Friday to 7:30 a.m. Saturday— can you believe that?) was nice enough to tell me on Friday night, with a smile and a glint in her eye I might add, that I wouldn't feel any pain when she did it, and she'd wait until late in her shift to do it. I have proof of this too because my wife was there when she uttered those soothing words. Now, I really don't want to scare anyone, but I'm sworn to tell the truth here, and to say that the catheter removal hurt is totally incorrect. The removal of a catheter is three seconds of staring at the sun, being on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, being drafted, losing your favorite pet, and putting your hand on a hot burner (don't try this at home) stinkin' pain all rolled into one. Eeeyaweeee! That hurt! I'm just sayin'.
I had already read that it burned to pee after the catheter removal, so I decided to never have pain again by never peeing again. My urinary tract was now officially closed for business until further notice, or until I popped, which I almost did. After gathering pee for a few hours it became imperative that I pee.
2. Peeing after catheter removal.

Peeing after catheter removal obviously makes you have to shift toward your side to get at an angle to pee (I mean us males of course) and you're wearing this hard foam rubber wedge shaped thing between your legs to protect from leg crossing, which makes this more difficult. With the help of the male nursing assistants, I was on unceremoniously rolled onto my unoperated side and then supported with some pillows behind my back. I told them to shoo away because I'm a shy pee'r, which they gladly did. As I was getting things ready I noticed that I'd bled some when she shot the caterer through my urinary tract. My sense that this was going to burn was now at 1000%. That thought coupled with lying in a position that made my stitches feel as if they were about abandon this ship and the fact that I'd now held my pee three hours too long, made me not pee that much more. But finally—tada—it flowed and flowed. Without much pain I might add. Before I started to pee and during my long and slow pee, the assistant would pop his head in and ask if I was done. I'd say no and he'd close the door. Soon I really was done, lying there tilted on my side in a painful balancing act and guess what? He'd given up and left for break or lunch. I was now a human domino waiting to split open. Finally, he returned to empty many, many ounces of urine. So much he was shocked (yep, I'm the proud holder of the peeing championship trophy).
3. The drain removal.

This was an event, but not a significant one. My orthopedist did it at the first dressing change and it turned to be a small tug and it was gone.
4. Blood thinner shots in the belly.

Doesn't sound fun does it? Well I have to say, it was almost painless and the fastest shot I've ever received.
5. Physical therapy.

I have covered my first PT (physical therapy) in the body of this writing so you're aware that I had no pain during it. I was warned in the class I went to two weeks before this operation and by my nurses many times after the operation, to shoot some morphine before PT starts so it wouldn't hurt so much. That was a great idea, in theory, but the fact was, you never, ever, ever know when the therapist was going to arrive, which means you never get the chance to slap that morphine in you thirty minutes before. Like I said, luckily I had no pain when I walked and that's what the therapist had me do. He had me walk as far up the main aisle as I felt comfortable, reminding me all the way that I had to walk back. The last day he had me go up some fake stairs and back down. Bing, bam, boom, dun. It really wasn't bad. He sent me home with exercises to do and that was it.
6. Side note event.

When anyone in a hospital tells you something will happen in ten minutes, rest assured that person is using a different time measurement than the rest of planet earth. Ten minutes in hospital time equals one hour in your time zone.
7. Occupational therapy.

Remember the whirlwind anesthesiologist in the beginning? Well his counterpart is the occupational therapist. My goodness she is full of info. Most of it was covered in the two hour class I took before the operation, so it became an "I'm aware of that" conversation. Very nice person though. She popped in twice, first time to educate, and second time to make sure I could dress my half self with the dressing aids. Actually, I've been dressing myself for three years using variables to these devices, so I was a star on her occupational therapy stage. She got all excited and released me to in-home therapy.
At this point I must step back and describe a nursing assistant (NA) whose shift was Sunday afternoon and evening. You know the guy that you work with that everyone knows can't do his job but somehow he gets by without being fired? I think every work group has one, and this particular NA reflected that description perfectly in the mirror of ineptitude. He was the only employee at the hospital that I would say needed to find another line of work before he kills someone.
I was already getting hints that he was clumsy and accident prone by small things he did on the first few visits into my room. Unlike all the other NAs he'd take my vitals and never tell me what they were unless I asked, he'd move things around that made no sense, and he'd bring in three boxes of gloves when there were already three boxes on the shelf. Then two incidents happened that really sealed my opinion of him.
I was lying in bed half asleep when I heard a crash/bang/smash against my door and someone muttering like he'd screwed up. Yep, it was him trying to roll the $25,000 worth of equipment in to take my vitals, all the while coming very close to tipping the whole shebang onto the floor. I told him that that was some entrance he'd made and he mumbled that he hit the door. Yep, I can confirm that.
The other incident happened when I asked him to bring another chair into the room so I could sit with my wife when she came that evening. They had been bugging me to sit in a chair so I figured that would be a good opportunity to comply. When I told him what I wanted, he just looked at me like I was crazy. I re-explained and then it sunk in. He banged around and got the chair in the door. He crammed the chair between the bed and the wall so that it was ten feet and a hospital bed away from the other chair that my wife would be sitting in. During this process, that he was not at all happy about, he kicked and tripped over the foot of my operated leg. Then he acted like it never happened. Scary dude.
One small thing happened that I'll mention here just because it surprised me so much when it did happen. On Friday after I was in my room and had eaten chicken noodle soup for lunch, I punched the morphine drip to relieve whatever little pain I had. My mouth started to water like I'd never experienced in my life. I swallowed several times to keep from drowning and it subsided. You know the old adage about listening to what your body is telling you? Well, my body had warned me that the next time I hit that button I was going to projectile vomit and I didn't listen. I hit the "make me feel good" button about an hour later and my mouth flowed once again for about two seconds before I had to raise up and over the bed rail to throw up. I don't know if the dose was too high or not, but after I did throw up my chicken noodles it never happened again, so I suspect that they lowered the dosage.
So this brings us to this first week at home, accompanied by the dreaded ride home in a bumpy car.
I was very anxious about the drive home. I didn't know how the incision would handle the bumpy ride, and I didn't like the idea of getting in and out of the car for fear of doing major damage to my new joint. My mind always prepares for the worst and hopes for the best.
The attendant wheeled me down the halls toward he elevator. I saw quite a few people on my way and almost none looked at me. It must be some sort of hospital etiquette that we all observe. I know I do it out of respect for their privacy when I see people wheeled around a hospital. We reached the elevators and the doors were already open so whish in we went. As we were going down I was still preplanning my entrance into the car. As we crossed the automatic doors threshold, I saw my wife wheeling our car toward the curb. My sphincter was getting tighter now. As it turns out I had forgot one key yet positive ingredient in my preplanning: Our car has a sturdy handhold above the door that allows me to pull up and shift into the seat. I knew at this point that my body removal would work out okay at our house.
I wasn't sitting in the car seat quite the normal way you should, so the ride home shifted my butt weight from left to right with every turn. My wife couldn't have turned any more carefully, but I still felt as if the incision (that I'd never seen) would pull open at any second. I held my breath and the overhead handhold all the way to our garage.
After getting out of the car I made my walker way inside to begin the next step of this twilight zone I was in. I greeted our dogs by sitting and protecting myself with the walker in front. It was good to feel some normalcy in my life again.
My wife and I got me to the bedroom and in bed without too much trouble. My wife had cleaned and set everything up for my recuperation and it still took a few days to gather all the things I wanted around me. Now I could pretty much leave her alone except for the things I needed to survive.


After four weeks had passed since my surgery, I had crossed all of the personal milestones that my mind feared long before the surgery. I'll list them in no particular order.
1. Sitting on a raised toilet for the first time with a newly stitched incision.
For obvious reasons and for fear of the unknown, this was scary the first time. I had no idea how the incision would feel being pressed against the hard plastic high chair while making sure that my operated leg didn’t bend 90 degrees at the hip. So I lowered myself as gently as I could, and to my extreme happiness there was only a small discomfort in the new hip joint. Mission accomplished.
2. Getting in and out of bed.
Swinging your legs over the edge of a bed and lifting them back in is a thoughtless process in your normal life. When you've got a leg that is hanging on by a clump of glue and a couple of screws it becomes a whole new world. Of course I never attempted to do it without help for the first week or so. Then it became obvious that when I was left by myself there may come a time when I'd have to get up on my own for safety sake. I tried swiveling out of the bed with my legs pressed together and sitting up as my feet headed toward the floor and it worked. My wife still helped me reverse the process by lifting my legs as I swiveled back into bed. After a couple of days of getting out of bed and getting assistance getting back in, we came to the conclusion that she was hardly lifting at all anymore, so I tried it on my own and it worked. Now I had the freedom to save myself, if the need arose.
3. Somewhere to sit at home.
Wow, this one turned out to be a biggie. Before the surgery my thoughts were, I've got bigger fish to fry after I've returned home, so I'd man-up and sit in a couple of different chairs in the house and live with that. That case was closed until I actually got home. I found that I had to sit with my leg pushed out away from me and at the same time I had to slightly twist to protect the incision that was still a little raw. You guessed it, this position throws the back into a misalignment that only allows it to be that way for a few minutes at a time. That concluded any hope of comfortably sitting and watching TV or just visiting away from the bedroom. Can you say "bedridden"?
If I had it all to do over again I would make sure that there was a very comfy chair to sit in in my living room. I would even have bought one just to allow me to join the outside world inside my home. Also, I would've built a 3 1/2" high platform for this chair to sit on until it was okay to sit at a lower angle. If I have to have another hip done (oh please, never let that actually happen! ), I will make sure I have a place to sit. Never, ever, ever do what I did.

4. Showering
I just smiled thinking about the first time I did this five days after the surgery. I am lucky to have a shower stall that is low enough to step into. I can't imagine how someone with a tub/shower combination can get over the tub’s edge to stand inside the shower without causing some harm to his/her new hip joint. Anyway, here's how showering went:
First of all, I had to decide whether to use the walker inside the shower or not. After checking to see if the walker would even fit inside the shower, which it did, I came to the conclusion that the shower stall handhold/towel rack would do the trick as far as stabilizing myself. As long as I didn't get too goofy, or slip, I thought that it would be okay to go ahead and shower.
So here was my setup: One towel on the floor in front of the shower and one towel hanging over one of the walker rails to use to dry off. I moved the walker sideways in front of the shower opening so that the back of it faced the shower. I could then turn around and face the shower and simply step inside. While stepping in, I held onto the towel rack on the opposite stall wall. Once inside, the shower was pretty much routine except that I quickly realized that I was very weak in my upper body. I don't know if this relates to just me or it's something that is common with surgery of this magnitude. I found myself shaking from weakness, and I hurried to get done so I could sit down.
After washing, I turned the water off and slowly turned to face the door again. I slid it open and reached for the towel on the walker and dried as much as I could reach. I grabbed the upper shower door track and used it to take the weight off my operated leg while I stepped back out into the walker. At this point I had assistance drying my legs, but I can say that if you are by yourself, I found that you can move the towel around you enough to get relatively dry.

So, in a nutshell, I'd say that the first shower was mentally a very thought-provoking challenge, but it turned out to be not so bad, other than the weakness in my body. As the days went on it was easier and easier. Today I have no more weakness and showering is as routine as it used to be.

5. Sleeping

During my hospital stay I slept and slept. I'm assuming that they were giving me a sleeping pill; plus the surgery knocked me for a loop because just being able to sleep on my back is not natural for me. When I got home this pattern continued for a week, and then insomnia hit. My guess would be that I had so much rest and sleep that my body didn't want anymore.
Insomnia isn't very pleasant when all you can do is lie on your back. It is normally difficult to get back to sleep when you can twist and turn to get comfortable, but to lie there and stare at the ceiling…you feel so unbelievably uncomfortable that sleep is fleeting. When sleep did come it was for about two hours and then I'd be awake for eight hours. Actually, the loss of sleep wasn't so bad compared to the fact that without rest, I never felt like getting up to walk or exercise, and both were things necessary for my recuperation. This added to all the thoughts I was having while lying awake.
At my first visit to the orthopedist, my wife asked for some kind of sleeping aid, so the doctor prescribed a pill to take. The short story is, I took the pill only two nights and it didn't work. It ended up working against me because it was the type of pill that requires you sleep for eight hours and if you don't, you feel horrible. As for myself, I slept about two hours and woke up the two nights I took the pill and  felt so awful that I didn't even want to talk, much less exercise.
Then the first night after I stopped taking the sleeping pill I slept for seven hours. The insomnia was over and it hasn't come back since. I hope it never does.


Summing this journey up.
Honestly, I had no fear going into the days and hours before the surgery. What happened was my mind saved my worries for after the surgery. Because of all the things I had read and was taught, I knew that I came through it so much better than I had ever expected. I think more than anything, I didn't want to screw things up by doing the wrong thing in the weeks after the surgery. Also, this is a very humbling experience because so many things can go wrong. Once you survive the surgery, you still can be struck in other ways, such as, pneumonia, blood clots, infection, or the thing I feared most, the dislocation of the new implant. Again that was due to the many, many warnings about never exceeding the movement limitations they'd drummed into my head. I could visualize my new hip with almost nothing holding it together because whatever was holding my hip was sliced lengthwise. I knew that it needed to heal to be safe, but I had no idea how long this healing process would take. There's no book on that.

Don't think that I feel that this operation was more serious than others that are performed. I know it isn't just because of the fact that no major organs are involved. What I do know is that the concerns are the same, prior to the surgery and certainly after. After a week or two you know that you have most likely passed the likelihood of ever having most of the complications that could have affected your recovery. The one remaining concern is the chance of hip dislocation. I can't truly put a timeline to it, but as the days pass you know you are able to move easier and easier, and your fear of messing up the surgery lessens. The one feeling that is continuous is the feeling directly under the incision that all the muscles are like a twisted rubber band or it's under spring tension with each step. I have since looked on the Internet to see what is happening to make it feel this way, and it is caused by the iliotibial band that is opened in order to reach the hip joint. This fibrous band connects the hip to the knee and stabilizes you when you walk. It's my feeling that once this band is healed and the tight feeling it causes is gone, I will be able to walk without a cane.
So, those are all the milestones and concerns that I experienced. I tried to cover the things that I wish I'd known prior to the surgery and the things I wondered about while lying in the hospital. I have to say though, time does fly afterwards, and before you know it weeks have passed and it's hard to believe that the surgery date is so far behind you.


Any questions? Anyone? Post them below and I'll funnel them through.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My socially awkward life.

You might be surprised when I write that people tend to think I'm....socially awkward. Yes, I know. It is hard to believe. I'm a lot better than I used to be. I'll talk to you freely but don't expect me to talk to you out of the blue. At least for the first three or four months of my knowing you. People have to engage me...and then I usually don't shut up. And it's not because I don't want to talk to you; it's more because I can't believe anyone would want me to talk to them. I just assume I'm invisible regardless of the stories I have to tell.

Last fall I decided to volunteer at my son's school. They were having a book fair and needed volunteers to ring up books, pencils, posters, and the like. I used to work at a bookstore in my early twenties so I knew my way around books. I have a kid, so that means I know my way around kids, right? Don't kids possess a level of social awkwardness? Books + socially awkward kids + socially awkward me = book fair!

I have to admit that I'm not a kid person. Yes, I have a kid. Yes, I love my kid. But I tend to view kids as immature (read: socially awkward) little adults. I tend to talk to my son like I would, say, anyone else I need to boss around. I don't dumb down words, I don't pretend he doesn't have a penis but a pee-pee (or whatever parents are calling it these days; I really don't know), and I expect him to act like a little man with a fabulous sense of humor.

Some may think: Ah, sad that he has to spend a lot of time with her. But my kid has a pretty good vocabulary, can solve a math problem like a bee pollinates flowers (two things -- he didn't get the math from me, and I don't know what the bee business is about; I just couldn't think of anything better), can laugh so much it becomes infectious, and is a fantastic artist. He's not too bad on the eyes either (ask any young lady at his school). I must be doing something correct, no?

Oh, yeah, he does have a dad and we both live with him so I'm sure his dad has something to do with it but that's neither here nor there because this is my blog!

I was nervous the night before I volunteered. What if I was forced to do math and clammed up? What if it was so busy I cracked and ran straight out of the library where the book fair was held with the coordinator yelling at my quickly diminishing figure, "Hey, come back here, socially awkward lady with one kid!" What if technology has changed so much that I couldn't figure out the register (and then had to do math with 5th graders correcting me)? What if what if what if...

But, about 99% of the time, when I say I'm going to do something, I'm doing it. No matter how I feel about it the day I'm supposed to do whatever (like all those 7 a.m. dental appointments? Such a fabulous idea when making them, but such a crap-ass idea the night before the actual appointment). The 1% is me saying I'll do it with no intention of doing it -- usually something I feel very strongly about not doing but it's easier to agree at the time -- and them's the breaks for whoever thought I was going to do whatever I said I was going to do.

At the appointed time, I showed up for my shift (which, I might add, went from two hours to four hours overnight because no other parents volunteered for the mid-day shift the day I was volunteering, and so I said I would stay for two more hours but not a minute more because I DO HAVE A JOB, people!). I was given the basics about the register (no big deal), I looked at the schedule of classes who were going to drop by for 20 minutes at a time so the kids who had money could by things, and then began straightening book displays. The librarian was working with me, and since she was not socially awkward and was more leaning on the side of, "I'll talk to just about anyone, anytime, about anything," we got along famously. I talked when talked to. She talked a lot.

About 15 minutes into my shift, a hoard of kids came in. In a nutshell these were the highlights:
  • Selling the last Lego encyclopedia to some kid who was absolutely tickled to be buying it (it was about Ninjago or Star Wars - perfect little boy fodder) but then being told by the librarian that that was the last copy and I wasn't supposed to sell it to him (she missed this part in the introduction to what I should and should not be doing). She had to go hunt him down, take the book back from him, and write it down in the "to order" log. Yes, I felt like an asshole. I found out closer to the end of my shift that the kid went back to class completely distraught about the whole thing. So much so that his teacher asked him what was wrong.

  • Ringing up books for a little girl who then handed me her bag of money (all the kids were very trusting of me, an adult, as they should be, and it was touching and disheartening at the same time since so many adults can be big butt chunks in this world), only for me to count it and have to break it to her that she didn't have enough. She stared at me with her doe eyes. I repeated it. She looked at me like I was the adult here, make it happened. I had to hand her her money back and tell her should couldn't buy it. She turned away while still eyeballing me like the whole transaction made no sense to her and I was the biggest letdown in the history of adult-child trust.

  • Having my biggest fear happen: Being challenged to do math by a 5th grader. For some reason, the librarian told the class to grab wishlists and to write down everything they wanted along with the price. She failed to mention that just because they were doing that didn't mean they were actually getting them and the point of doing it was to provide the list to their parents. So all the kids went berserk, writing down titles and prices, and then promptly walked up to me and told me to add everything up for them so they knew the total. I told the first kid who asked me, "Oh, no. I can't do that!" and he looked at me like, are you kidding me? You can't add this up? (Apparently no one caught word of my inability to do math before allowing me to run a register.) So I rounded up the prices, added, and gave him a total (that was probably not even close to the actual total). Since I did that for him, other kids demanded the same, so I just started guesstimating: Oh, you've EASILY got 100 bucks here; I'd said 45 dollars; Just write down 10 and call it a day. At one point, the first kid said, "the total is 234.94," to me. The whole time I was guesstimating, he was adding all his book prices up. And I'm pretty sure he was correct. Yes, I'm a math loser.

  • Seeing my son as he was going to the secret library. I said hi to him and he was confused yet super happy. But then when he realized he wasn't going to work at the book fair with me, he was sad and disappointed. I fielded a lot of questions that night. Most of them accusatory.
And the topper of them all? When I left, kids were being led outside for recess, and one girl whom I rang up before noticed me, waved shyly, and said hi to me. Like I was someone.

Socially awkward my butt. I got this down, and then I did a side-heel kick before continuing to walk down the hall.

(Okay, what really happened? I moved to the side of the hall because I am socially awkward and didn't want to deal with trying to walk down the hall while streams of kids were trying to get outside and weren't paying one bit of attention to me other than that one girl).

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Being an asshole in Minnesota is harder than you think.

My kid doesn't go to school right when school starts. If I'm dropping him off, it's at 6:15 a.m. or shortly thereafter (early bird catches the worms and all that fun stuff plus I get to go home early from work! Win-win!). I am grateful that I don't have to drop him off during drop-off madness time or pick him up during pick-up madness time. I can't imagine it's much fun. Thinking back to my childhood, I never thought once how annoying it probably was for my mom to drop and pick my sister and me up at school...however, I do remember being dropped off and picked up way far down the street, and I do faintly remember thinking that was mean of my mom to do to us...but now I get you, mom, I get you.

It's winter now, and in Minnesota that means dragging excess bags filled with snow pants and boots and gloves and hats to school every morning. This is on top of a backpack and a lunchbox and a completely mummified child (think Christmas Story and Ralphie's brother falling over in his snow bodysuit). It's a lot. And my kid is in kindergarten. It's kinda ridiculous. (My husband has also packed a change of clothes for my son in my son's backpack just in case my son goes all snow crazy and rolls around in the snow, getting himself soggy wet. He's also packed him bandages and chapstick. No, I'm not kidding. What's scarier is that my son has used both but luckily not the change of clothes. Me? I just pack him snacks that he doesn't eat and his library book and homework when he needs to return them. Perhaps there is a reason for having two parents instead of just one who doesn't take into consideration a child's chapped lips?) In other words, it's a lot to remember and of course something will be forgotten at some point.

I work at home most days now, and my son's school is all of one minute away from our house when it's not snowing (two minutes when it is). One day I was happily working away when my husband texted me and told me that he forgot our son's snow boots.

I thought, hmmm, that's too bad, now isn't it, and continued to work. I figured being very noncommittal so I didn't have to throw on real clothes and try to make myself look alive (working at home means working in PJs and only taking showers when the mood strikes me, which is never first thing in the morning) was better than being a responsible parent. Sometimes it works.

Husband: He was good.

Husband: But I forgot his boots.

Me: Ohhhhh. That's too bad. [Insert knowing nodding from concerned wife.]

Tick, tick, tick...

Husband: Do you think you can drop his boots off? [Read: You weren't really going to offer, were you? What kind of crappy mother are you?]

Me thinking: Frickin' frakin' wish I decided to go into the office today because it's almost time for school to start and I don't want to deal with the madness and so what if he doesn't have boots, he'll live, they have a boots to borrow, it's not the end of the world, I so don't want to leave, gah.

Me: Sure.

I ran into the bedroom, changed clothes quickly, ran into the bathroom, untangled my hair, straightened it, threw on some make-up, and sighed. I still looked slightly homeless and half-asleep.

I grabbed my son's boots, got in the car, and braced myself for my trip to his school. As I turned the corner onto his school's street, there were kid crossing guards, buses galore, and cars and cars and more cars. I've heard there is some sort of drop-off and pick-up etiquette, similar to that of staying to the right side of an escalator if you're standing or allowing bus passengers to depart from front to back (and you better believe we all want to kill that one person who dares to go from the very back to the front like we're all sitting there waiting for him (yes, it's true, I just gender stereotyped) to get off the bus before we move, but that's another story), but like I said, I don't drop my boy off during this time. I don't know what it is. I'm stupid. And innocent. And looking homeless.

I drove into the horseshoe where I normally park my car when dropping off or picking up my son. I read the signs: Drop-off only and Waiting zone. And I thought, waiting for what? Waiting for your kid? And what if you're dropping off your kid?  And so your car is waiting because you need to walk them in because you're protective and they are little and you fear a crazy person will jump out of a bush and attack your kid while you're driving through the horseshoe after you've dropped them off? Huh, what then school??? And maybe to "drop one off" means parking and doing just that...dropping them off by walking them into the school? What to do, what to do?

There was a little lady in a crossing guard outfit chatting with someone who was in a van with its side van doors open wide. Well, if it's okay for that person to sit and chat, then why can't I park in the drop-off zone to drop-off boots...I thought. I mean, really, waiting zone, drop-off zone, all semantics, and I need to get back home to work. This is all my husband's fault anyway.

As I pulled the parking brake up (Side note: It's apparently weird to use your parking brake in Minnesota. My mechanic casually mentioned that we must use our parking brake like it was an extremely weird thing to do. I mentioned this while in a cab in San Francisco going up on the the steeper hills and the cab driver had my back and said, it's always good to use your parking brake. He's probably never been to Minnesota. I'm not even sure what that means and I live in Minnesota.) I looked in my review mirror and saw a lady pulling up behind me, and another lady pulling up behind her, and so on and so forth. The van was still in the drop-off zone with the lady in the crossing guard garb chatting away. I looked back again, lady was giving me the stink eye; I looked up again, van still parked.

Hell, what choice did I have?

I pulled the keys out of the ignition (Another side note: Leaving your car running, whether it's freezing or super hot, it a-okay here in the Twin Cities (unless, of course, you're in parts of St. Paul or the slummier areas of Minneapolis, and maybe Burnsville, but yeah, you get the point. We're old timey here in Minnesota and trust each other (but I don't, hell to the no, I do not!)), grabbed the boots, jumped out of the car, and proceeded to walk purposefully to the door to the Y entrance. That's when I heard a, "Hey, LADY! YOU CAN'T DO THAT!!!" being yelled at me from behind.

I kept on walking.

I pulled open the door, handed the boots to the Y person, and told her we forgot them, and turned around and ran out the door and to my car. You know, to show I was, uh, making an effort?

The crossing guard-garbed lady was shaking her head at the lady who was behind me and giving me the stink eye previously. I'm sure there was some "the nerve of some people!" being tossed about, perhaps even, "she must not be from around these parts, dontcha know," but I made it to my car without anyone jumping out of their car and pelting me with rocks.

The lady told me, "You can't do that! You can't park here! You should park over there," while pointing to the waiting zone area.

Well hot damn, that explains it all, now doesn't it?

The cars were backed up to the street behind me; however, since I don't normally drop my son off at this time, that may be normal for all I know. I smiled sweetly at her, giving her my best homeless mom smile, and said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize it. I won't do that again," and jumped right back in my car and took off.

Yeah, I kinda did realize it. I'm an asshole.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

California Anger. What? You've never heard of this?

So this really weird thing happens to me when I go back to California. All the ease of living in Minnesota, where things are a tad slower, where people aren't so oblivious of each other (well, okay, I think the less crowdedness of Minnesota makes the oblivion a bit easier to deal with because oblivion still happens), where there is just breath and walk and not worry about things so much, all that ease tends to dissipate once I enter California.

I lived in California for 35 years and so, based on seniority alone, I am allowed to be mean to the state. While it's a beautiful place (in certain areas), it's also a very crowded place with way too many cars and buildings and people...and well, it's pretty much the opposite of where I live now. It makes me tense. It makes me glad I moved. It makes me want to pick a fight with anyone who is acting a fool...and in California, since there are way more people per square mile than in Minnesota, that means there are way more fools to pick fights with.

I just came back from California, and I'm glad to report that I didn't have any incidents of California Anger this trip.

But today? Today my California Anger reared its ugly head.

I shop at Super Target (take that, mom) for my weekly groceries and other sundry items I need. Usually my husband and son come with me since Super T is my son's most favorite store on this earth because he's only four and he always thinks he's going to get a toy each time he steps inside a Target store. I'm not sure why my husband goes - moral support? to buy random things I would never think of buying? to buy the kid a toy? (They are often in cahoots, those two.)

I love me some Super T. Inexpensive organic foods, sundry items, kitty litter...Super T has it all.

Tonight I plan to make veggie fajitas for dinner, so I picked out two yellow squash, two zucchinis, cilantro, and a red onion. After reconvening (the boy and the husband ran off to pick out a new lightsaber, light bulbs, gum...sundry items! Super T! Weeee!), I picked the one checkout aisle with the youngest kid running the cash register.

The first problem? My organic cauliflower heads wouldn't scan, and he went into some weird fluster mode and I was going to put them back and get regular cauliflower (i.e. nonorganic, less expensive, but possible sprayed with pesticides and who knows what else) but he convinced me he would get them scanned and I believed him, so when I looked up and saw he rang up our cilantro as "green onions" and our zucchini as "cucumber" and our yellow squash as "manzanilla" (which, if you click through, CLEARLY does NOT look like a yellow squash), and our organic lemon as a "large lemon," I realized I was never going to buy my organic cauliflower or any other kind of cauliflower that day. Not unless I stayed at Super T a lot longer than I wanted to stay.

The second problem? He got super flustered at the end of ringing our stuff up and tried to charge me for some random (sundry!) Star Wars items the lady behind me was buying even though she told him very clearly that they were hers and not ours. Then I had to tell him it wasn't ours. So he was flustered and pushed our transaction through while completely ignoring my organic cauliflower heads. So I pointed, and said, "What about those? Do you want me to just put them back?"

He looked at me and said, "Oh, I can ring those up for you right now."

I looked at him and told myself, he's a nice...We are NICE here in Minnesota. NICE, people, NICE. "Um, okay, but I'm not sure why you couldn't ring it up before then?" (To be nice when you want to be mean means stating things like they are questions.)

He woke up then and remembered that he couldn't scan them, so he scanned one to show me that he couldn't scan them (the screen turned red and yelled at him to get a manager or something).

"Okay, just forget it, it's okay," I said. See? NICE. I am nice.

As we were walking away, I said to my husband, he was ringing up stuff wrong.

Uh oh.

"What stuff? Where? What, show me!" my husband, ever the problem solver in our relationship, said.

"Oh, he rung this up as that, blah blah blah manzanilla," I said.

"What the heck is a manzanilla?" he asked?

"I don't know, but he thought that was the yellow squash."

My husband took the receipt and declared that there was no way yellow squash (a single one) costs $1.99. He thrusted two dollars in my hand and told me to go buy our boy a slushy while he takes care of this little "problem."

See, I was going to let it go. Sure, he might have overcharged us, but who cares. If it was 3 bucks for one squash or double charged us or something, then yes, I can see trudging over to the customer service counter and complaining. But since my husband was so sure that we were overcharged, I let it go and took the boy to buy a slushy.

When the boy and I went over to the customer service counter, my husband was standing there with bags all over the place, trying to explain to the lady what had happened. I won't go into all the details, but basically she wasn't listening to us and was more concerned with trying to explain to us that manzanilla must be weighed or something so there is no way we have manzanilla and we kept saying we don't have that, that's the point, and it went in circles and an older man next in line kept looking at me like he wanted to punch one of us for making his wait so long, so what happened? That's right. California Anger came out and I pulled the "Can we talk to someone else about this?" which implied I felt she was a stupid idiot who cannot help us further and we needed someone smarter to come take care of the situation.

At first she said no. The she said yes and called a manager. The manager suggested that she refund the wrong items and then she will re-ring them up, and was that okay with us? HELLO? I said that a few times already! So yes, yes, that was just fine.

At that point we were treated like loose canons, and the manager kept asking me who rung us up (which was not the point -- I didn't want the kid to get in trouble, but he should really learn his veggies) and I said I didn't remember and really, I couldn't see him from where I was standing because it's a Super T and those stores are really big (in case you haven't been in one). I didn't even mention the cauliflower incident. I had no ill will towards the teenager because I am a Minnesotan now and we are NICE. Anyway, she was walking me through everything she was doing, and I was being nice to her, and really, there was no need to apologize at this point, I just wanted my veggies and to get out of there.

She handed me the original receipt, the refund receipt, and the new receipt that has the veggies on it. I thanked her. We started to leave, and it dawned on, really....did he overcharge us? Or did we just make a huge stink about something that really didn't matter?

I got the receipts out and look at the refund one - we were refunded $5.36. I look at the new one for the veggies -- we were charged $5.74.

I'm not good at math, but yeah, I could see we just made assholes out of ourselves for no reason.

I told my husband we are stupid and it's all his fault. He told me I should have known how much everything was supposed to cost (vegetables get weighed, by the way, so not only does he think I remember all prices but also he thinks I have a scale in my hands that is linked to my brain). I said he was the one that was all "THESE SQUASH DO NOT COST $1.99 AND I WILL NOT LET THE MAN MAKE ME PAY SO MUCH FOR THEM, CURSES TO YOU, SUPER T!!!" (By the way, they do cost $1.99, go figure.) And then I threw in that he forced me to figure out how to buy a slushy since I was really confused that there were no cups available. And then he said something about me, and me about him, and so forth and so on.

When we got in the car, it dawned on me even more what an ass I just made out of myself and I decided (temporarily) that I can never go to the Super T again, and that I felt like an idiot (our son heard me say "idiot," which is a bad word to him, but he told me since I didn't call anyone that word, it was okay and I didn't have to say I was sorry) and I wanted to curl up and die. I really wanted to go back there and apologize to everyone for being an ass. But then, I rationalized that he could have overcharged us, what do we really know...but then I felt like an ass again and declared I was going to take it out on our bathroom by cleaning it like it's never been cleaned before (not really sure how that was related to making an ass out of myself, but nonetheless I didn't clean the bathroom any better than I normally do).

Finally I told my husband he made my California Anger come back and I did not appreciate it. AT ALL.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Too much time and a stool.

I took my son to the doctor today because for the past 5 nights he's been hacking up a lung and sometimes throwing up parts of it (okay, maybe that's just curdled milk, who knows), and, well, enough is enough.

But this isn't about that. This is about my son becoming a...MAN (or trying to become one).

So after waiting 50 minutes in the room with only four books (I read that, read this one, read that one, I DON'T LIKE THAT ONE!), a chalk board, and an exam table, my kid was about ready to explode with impatience. After chalking up my pants, I refused to let him suck up the last 30 minutes of my phone's battery so he could play games (fair punishment), and I proceeded to send angry texts to my husband about being fed up and ready to blow up on someone.

All the while, a little voice from the other side of the room was saying, over and over, "Momma? Can I get up here? Momma, can I get up here?" 'Here' being the exam table, which I already told him to have at it as long as he doesn't try to stand up and walk around on it. So I continued to send angry texts to my husband while brushing aside the small voice from the other side of the room until I saw legs and arms waving about and a loud thump and a bit of a cry.

Ooops. Great parenting.

I rushed over, picked up the stool (hey, appearances first in case someone comes in -- oh no, no, he wasn't trying to climb up there with that, noooo), and then picked him up and snuggled him on my lap.

And then, well, he proceeded to bunch up his little face and hold back every single tear in his head.

"It's okay, you can cry," I told him while having flashbacks from another recent incident where he hurt himself but refused to cry...oddly enough my husband was there at the time....I started to become suspicious of all the daddy and son time and envisioned my husband drilling into my four-year-old's head that it's not manly to cry.

Instead of crying, his hurt and pain and frustration turned into furious anger.

"I WANT TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW, MOMMY! I WANT TO GO HOME!" he told me in short bursts

"I know, baby, but we need to wait."


"Oh, baby boy," I said. "You're just mad, and that's okay."


And then...


See, that's our thing. He's sad, I make him laugh. He's upset, I make him laugh. He's mad, I make him laugh. He's happy, I make him laugh. It's what we do.

"Oh, I need to make you laugh, huh?" I asked. "I can do that."

"No.You.Can't.Mom-my," he told me.

"What's this thing here? A....butt?" and I gently poked his butt.

And instead of crying or being mad and threatening to take my car keys and leave me at the doctor's office, he burst into his normal, joyous laughter.

You better believe I mentioned this incident to the husband (minus that part about me not paying attention while sending him angry texts about being trapped in a doctor's office for 50 minutes with our child who was on the verge of losing it) and you better believe I insinuated that my husband has been feeding our soon this crap about not crying.

He didn't deny it.

But I have a feeling no one really fed this load of crap about 'not crying when hurt' to my son. I think he's just growing up. And now I know to hide my car keys.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I do stupid things so you don't have to. You're welcome.

So there I was on Monday, working my butt off trying to get a million things done in one day, when my work cell phone rings. I looked at the number quickly, answered it, and listened to a female robot telling me my ATM card was disabled due to some system error and blahblahblah and I was going to be transferred to the security team of my bank. Oh, let's just call my bank "Home Town Bank" or "HTB" for short.

(Note: It is now Friday, and, as I stated, I was super busy on Monday, so I wasn't fully listening to everything the robot was saying to me, so the following is a mere paraphrase of real events. Or something like that. Just take my word for it, and, as you will see, I'm too simple to make things up.)

Robot: Before you can speak to a security specialist, you will need to answer four questions so we can verify your identity.

Me: Ugh, just get on with it.

Robot: Please enter the last four digits of your social security number.

Me: Hmm, that's weird. Usually it's the last five digits. Oh well, what the hey. (I proceed to enter the last four digits of my social security number, which, I must tell you, is not easy to do on a BlackBerry with its teeny tiny little keys that are so unlike an iPhone I feel like a giant when trying to enter anything into my phone.)

Robot: Now enter your [some random number I barely heard] account number for [something else I wasn't paying attention to].

Me: Frickin' frackin, I got work to do. (I get up and get my wallet, pull out my ATM card, and slowly and very painfully begin to type in my ATM card number.)

Robot: Now enter your [some random number I barely heard] account number for your ATM card.

Me: Huh? What was the previous prompt for if it wasn't for my ATM card? Waaaaaaaiiiitttt a minute. (Dawns on my how incredibly fishy this whole scenario is...I pull up my email to see if I received an email from HTB about my account - nothing. I access my account online -- nothing there either (and luckily I have money in my account still.) I IM my husband and ask him if he used the card this morning -- he did but only for a small amount and with no issues.)

Robot: Now enter your [some random number I barely heard] account number for your ATM card.

Me: Um.....

Robot: Now enter your [some random number I barely heard] account number for your ATM card.

Me: Waaaaaiiiittt a minute...most robot phone things will send you off to the land of the real people if you don't follow the directions correctly after the third time.

Robot: Now enter your [some random number I barely heard] account number for your ATM card.

Me: OMGWHID. (Oh my goodness what have I done.)

Robot: Now enter your [some random number I barely heard] account number for your ATM card.

Me: Uh oh.

Robot: Now enter your [some random number I barely heard] account number for your ATM card.

Me: (Click.)

I immediately call HTB, wield through HTB's robot voice command system to finally get to a real person.

Customer service rep (CSR): Blahblahblah, niceties, how can I help you?

Me: Uh, well...I just received a call about my ATM card being disabled or something due to some hardware issues or something...honestly I wasn't really listening, and now I think it was a fake call and I want to know if something really is happening to my ATM card.

CSR: Ohhhhh....well....we've had a lot of people calling about emails and phone calls lately, and this and that and ... long story short ... I think you should cancel your card.


She questioned me further about giving the last four digits of my social security number, and I admitted AGAIN that I was a big dummy and yes, I did punch the numbers into the phone, and, well, that's how I ended up with a nice new "Enhanced Identity Theft Protection" account for only $15.99 a month. Seriously, I need this. I'm not fit to be an adult or take care of my family. Perhaps I should hire a secret agent spy man to stealthily follow me about to ensure I don't fall into a hole or leave my kid in a shopping cart in the parking lot? Perhaps.

And the kicker? I work for HTB. I've worked for HTB for over 10 years. I SHOULD KNOW BETTER, PEOPLE! So this just proves even someone who works for a bank can be fooled by some random phone call from a robot. Learn from me.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Rat-sized cockroaches.

When I was 23, my now husband and I lived in an old Victorian house split up into apartments and studios. We lived in a studio apartment on the first floor that was fairly large, but when we had to share the space with cockroaches the size of rats, well, space became less and less limited.

My husband worked about 30 or so minutes away from where we were living, and I was going to school and working, but typically, I was alone most of the time in the apartment (well, if you call 'alone' me and the 3-4 gigantic cockroaches and our cat, who could care less about them and would much rather attack me at a moment's notice). He would come home after 8 or 9 most nights, sometimes later. I just locked myself in and hoped for the best.

See, we were completely fooled by the neighborhood we moved into the day we went to look at the apartment. It was a beautiful day full of promises and chirping birds. A slight wind blew a warm breeze around us, and the smells of flowers in abundance surrounded us and made us believe that this was the neighborhood in which we had to live. The sky was blue, the houses were old with fantastic history, and nary a person was to be seen slumming up the streets.

And then we moved in and soon found out the neighborhood was a playground for the homeless, the drug addicted, and big rigs using the street next to the window where we slept as a thoroughfare between freeways. At 6am in the morning.

Our next door neighbor was some drunk guy. He was nice enough, but not really my kind of people. The guy across from us dressed like a hobo professor and we never really did know what he did for a living. He tried to help me break into our apartment one day when I locked myself out and my husband wasn't going to be home anytime soon. This was well before the days of cell phones, so I just sat on the porch for a good 3 or 4 hours. There were a few young professionals living upstairs, but we never really talked to them besides saying "hi" in passing. There was an elderly man living upstairs as well, but we never really talked to him either outside of friendly waves and 'hellos' and 'how are you doings?'.

The first time I noticed the cockroaches, I was sitting on our bed, watching TV in the dark, when I noticed something run really fast across the living room floor. The reflection of the TV shone off its back. My cat, bless her frozen heart, tried to pounce on it, but then gave up and left me alone with the creature. My husband came home, and I was still sitting on the bed, having a silent panic attack because I'd never seen anything that big and shiny in my life until that night. I couldn't fathom what it was.

"KILL IT!" I screamed at him.

While he was used to me being slightly melodramatic about things, that was not something he wanted yelled at him as soon as he came home. After convincing him that I wasn't making it up about the creature's size, he finally went to investigate.

When he came back, he said words I never wanted to hear again, "I....I don't know what that is."

But, you're supposed to take care of ME! I thought. I didn't sign up for this. I didn't agree to live in an apartment with a creature much less a fiance who couldn't identify said creature! God dammit, I'm from the suburbs!

"Oh my god. Don't say that. KILL IT!" I yelled while shaking my arms around and squealing.

"Would you stop!" he said. He's always hated it when I shake and squeal about the unknown.

"What IS IT?" I said with my volume increasing to squeal again.

"I think it's a cockroach. But I've never seen a cockroach that big, so I don't really know."

"OH.MY.GOD.KILL.IT!!!!" I think I was crying at this point.

It's worth mentioning that the cat was missing at this point because she was a lot smarter than we were and wasn't going to stick around trying to figure out what the hell that thing was.

My husband did the bravest thing any human could do outside of squashing a tarantula with paper towels (a thought that gives me the willies as I imagine it now), and he killed that creature good and dead, and then removed the carcass to the outside, which was fine by me because who knows if it was really dead and not just stunned. If I were that creature, and someone tried to squish me and throw me in the garbage but I wasn't really dead and just stunned? I would get revenge. Just saying.

From that point on, until we moved, we were being constantly surprised by rat-sized cockroaches here and there, and sometimes even in the corner where the 20 foot wall met ceiling. Like a bat. Out of hell.

As you can imagine, being alone a lot while fearing the appearance of a rat-sized cockroach does wonders for the imagination.

One night as I was waiting for my husband to come home from work, I heard a lot of commotion going on in the hallway. I, being the nosy person that I am, stuck my head to the door to listen and tried to figure out what was going on outside.

I heard someone say, "He's upstairs." I heard walkie talkies. I heard bits and pieces of things that never added up. I was freaked out yet intrigued. I called my husband to tell him something was going on, and he told me to open the door and just look. So I did, and there was a car with lights flashing outside, and I could hear people upstairs, and I was no closer to the truth of what was going on.

My husband came home an hour or so later, and when he was coming in from the back parking area, he ran into the male "young professional." In cases where something dramatic happens, "hi" goes right out the door and two strangers will gossip like elderly ladies sitting on a porch. And so this was how we found out what happened.

He told my husband that he had called the cops because he hadn't seen the elderly man in almost a week, and since the elderly man was, well, elderly and lived in a studio apartment and looked like he was going to blow away in the wind if the wind blew too hard, it wasn't like he was going to just pick up and take a trip to Hawaii. He tried to get the management to do something, but they said it wasn't their place, and to call the cops. So he did. What I was hearing was the cops going upstairs to try to get the old man to open his door.

The building management eventually had to open the elderly man's door because it was either that or the cops knocking the door down, and come to find out, the elderly man had died a few days prior and was just beginning to rot away in his apartment.

Oh, did I mention the smell? Apparently some funky smell was coming from the elderly man's apartment too. Which was another reason to raise suspicions. Since we were on the first floor, we never smelled a thing, but, my husband later said that he realized he hadn't seen the elderly man for a few days before the 'incident.'

Later we found out his apartment was a huge mess, full of papers, money and trash and whatnot.

And, come to find out, full of rat-sized cockroaches.

Which, as you can imagine, explains a lot.