Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hip Replacement 2.0: The Anti-Ass Strikes Back

Long-time readers of this blog will know that nothing in my life is ever simple. If I walk to the gas station to buy a Diet Coke, I am bound to be roped into conversation by some random stranger eager to tell me about the City of Urbana's housing bylaws in regards to porches (true story). If I go for a drive, there's a pretty good chance that I'll take a wrong turn and end up in the next state. If I go on a vacation to Turkey, it's nearly assured that I will end up using the phrase "but it said the massage parlour was non-sexual on the brochure!"

Yes, life in Arley-Ville is rarely straight-forward, though it's never dull. After all, if I'd had a straight-forward hip replacement, this blog would not exist. It's therefore no surprise that even though my second hip replacement is just getting underway, the level of pre-surgical ridiculousness has already reached epic proportions. This time, it wasn't even my hip making things difficult. No, this time, the problem lies in a little phenomenon known as "the anti ass."

I've written a lot (read: too much) about my anti-ass, which is my affectionate term for the fact that my absence of junk in the trunk means that I can't pedal on an exercise bike without wearing all the skin off my tailbone or sit on a hard surface without sustaining a remarkable level of bruising. (Reason #1564 why I'm still single. And, yes, I do realize that the fact that I have a pet name for my ass is probably Reason #1565).

A few days ago, I went for my pre-admission appointment at VGH. In this three-hour appointment, they run a bunch of tests and then you have meetings with the anesthesiologist and some nurses to make sure that everyone's ready for the big day. It's like a wedding rehearsal, but instead of in-depth conversations about what angle the bridesmaids will stand at, it's in-depth conversations about which surgical tape gives you blisters.

At first, I thought that everything was going well. I met the anesthesiologist and he gushed over the fact that my "anatomical structure is so accessible," which I decided to believe was anesthesiologist-speak for "nice ass," even though it really means "your back is so bony that finding the knobs of your spine will not require any educated guessing." Either way, I've decided that "Hey, baby. Did anyone ever tell you that your anatomical structure is really accessible?" is going to be my new go-to pick-up line. It'll replace my old pick-up line, which was "'re you?" Yup, that's me: making all the gentlemen swoon since 1982.

Anyhow, it looked as if my pre-op appointment was going to go off without a hitch. I met the pre-op nurses and we had a conversation that basically went " there a way we can keep the post-surgical puking, fainting and skin blistering to a bare minimum?" Turns out that, yes, it is apparently possible to recover from surgery without re-enacting that scene from "The Exorcist." Good to know!

I was nearly out of there when the nurse asked the fateful question: "do you have any open wounds on your body at the moment?" Flash back to last weekend. I was in Montreal for work; (I'm a communications coordinator for the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships and part of my job is traveling to tournaments). The downside of my awesome job (wheelchair rugby is such a cool sport) is that I have to sit on hard bleachers and gym floors for 15 hours a day, which is not exactly anti-ass friendly. Long story short: I wore all the skin over my ass bones. (Do you think that a risk of pressure sores should entitle me to danger pay?)

Because knowing when to keep my mouth shut is never a strong suite of mine, I stupidly told the nurses about the pressure sores. Medical professionals are trained to treat everything as a worse-case scenario, so when you say "yeah, I've just got this small pressure sore because I sat on bleachers for work all weekend, but it will totally be cleared up by July 28th," they hear "Danger! Danger! Antibiotic-Resistant Staff Infection and Possible Blood Infection Causing The Removal of Your Artificial Hip!" I really need to learn to save the rambling for the blog.

The next day, I received a phone call from my surgeon's office. Because of the pressure sore, they can't do the surgery until a) I get a note from a doctor saying that the pressure sore is cleared up and b) my surgeon takes a look at my ass. Yes, that's right. Now, if I want this surgery, I will need to get two different medical professionals to visually inspect my anti-ass and give it the seal of approval. (Is it a bad sign that this is probably one of the only times my ass gets checked out?)

So, today, I took a little trip to the clinic to get my ass approved. (The excitement of my weekend really never ceases). I was worried that the doctor at the clinic would be really attractive, and I'd have to try to explain to him that I need him to get out his magnifying glass and go all Sherlock Holmes on my ass bruising to make sure that there's no broken skin. Luckily, however, I got an older Indo-Canadian woman, who thoroughly inspected the area and pronounced it surgery-ready. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my ass has been certified as top quality!

I thought I was going to get through the procedure embarrassment-free, (because, really, given the number of crackheads in the waiting room, I'm nearly positive that she had far worse open sores on her agenda that day), when I looked behind me while she was conducting her examination. Scrawled across my underwear in blue glitter were the words "HIGH FLIER." When getting dressed that day, I did not stop to think, "Hey, maybe I should wear a pair of underwear that is not ridiculous." Because, really, WTF does 'high flier' even mean? And who was sitting around a marketing meeting at Victoria Secret thinking up slogans to put on the ass of a pair of women's underwear and came up with "HIGH FLIER" as the pinnacle of sexiness? And why did I not notice this when I bought the underwear? Was there a point in my life when I was out shopping at thought, "Yes, this is exactly what I need to jump start my love life. Once men know that I am, indeed, flying high, they will be unable to resist my charms." (Reason #1567). These are the important life lessons I'm confronting today.

Okay, we're clearly in Too-Much-Information-Land. Long story short (...shorter...) the doctor wrote me the letter and gave me a lecture about how I should be carrying around an inflatable cushion wherever I go. But, see, here's the problem. There are certain decisions that are medically sound, but which will render you dateless for the rest of your natural life. I mean, what's better? To be known as "that chick with the ass cushion" or to have a rear end that looks like you were engaging in activities that require the use of a safety word (watermelon! Watermelon!)? At least the latter can be fixed with a dark bedroom, a little concealer, a whole lot of alcohol and the phrase "no, honey, I'm sure that's not bruising. It's probably just a trick of the light."

Anyhow, my ass has passed stage 1 to rendering it surgery-ready. Next stop: my poor proper British orthopedic surgeon has to inspect the area. I really need to learn when to keep my mouth shut.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Open Letter to Air Canada

Dear Air Canada/United,

I traveled on Flight 5150 from Chicago to Vancouver on June 14th. No, strike that. I attempted to travel on Flight 5150 on June 14th. I was 90 minutes into my three-hour drive from Champaign to Chicago when I received a phone call. Someone at Air Canada had spun the "Wheel of Travel Misfortunes" and my flight had landed on "cancellation" as opposed to just "endlessly delayed" or "staffed by boarding agents who are deeply offended that you asked them to waste a full 12 seconds of their time changing your seat to an aisle seat despite the fact that you have explained to them that you are sorry to bother them, but your recent surgery makes it impossible for you to sit in any other type of seat."

Well, damn. I was trying to get back to Canada for my grandma's funeral and did not want to spend another night getting my soul drained out of me by the great succubus known as the O'Hare International Airport, wind up getting further delayed the next day (because I'm pretty sure that if a flight ever leaves on time from O'Hare, there will be a full task force set up to discipline whatever eager beaver tried to make the rest of the flights look bad), and missing the service. I decided to go to O'Hare and seek my fortune. When I arrived to the United counter and found only 7 or 8 people in front of me (many of whom were in groups), I figured that Lady Luck had smiled down upon me. How long could it possibly take to serve 8 people?

Oh, 96 minutes, give or take a few excruciating seconds. As I waited, the woman in front of me (a former flight attendant) kept wondering aloud why it was that our flight was one of the only ones canceled. And how was it possible that an 8:30 pm flight to Vancouver could be canceled because of weather when an 8:20 flight to Seattle was running? And how could it be "weather-related" when it was sunny in Vancouver (she phoned to check) and sunny in Chicago? The plane, she said, begins its journey in Chicago, so it couldn't have been delayed from another airport. All excellent questions! And all questions I tried to ask to the boarding agent. For my efforts, I earned several eye-rolls, a side-eye, and the phrase "it's weather-related" repeated with varying degrees of apathy/sulleness. No explanation. No elaboration. Not even a "sorry your whole day has been ruined by some random decision made by someone thousands of miles away." It was like talking to that Eliza/Alize psychologist emulation program.

After ninety minutes of standing, I was already sore and cranky. I did, however, get on a flight to Seattle with the intention of traveling the next day to Vancouver. I grabbed a hotel (thank you, Hotwire!) and got a few hours of sleep, then woke up groggy thinking, "Well, at least it's just a quick flight to Vancouver. How bad can it be?"

Now, keep in mind that traveling with a hip replacement is already pretty ridiculous. For the rest of my life, I'm going to have to arrive at airports an extra 20 - 30 minutes ahead of other people, so that the good ladies at Homeland Security can give me the special pat-down grope-fest. Multiply that over a lifetime, that probably translates into an extra week of my life where I'm subjected to the phrase "Now, I'm going to use the back of my hand to clear the breast area." (As if my cleavage was a highway in Afghanistan that needed to be swept for mines!) And that doesn't include the fact that airports (with all their walking, standing and sitting in uncomfortable positions) are not exactly "hip friendly."

I therefore do not need any more meaningless standing in line, and I especially did not need to stand in the "line" that greeted me at the United counter in Seattle, which was less a "line" and more of "a throng of people struggling to print their tickets off a row of broke-down boarding kiosks, while two agents randomly appeared at different kiosks at different times, so that tracking them down was like one of those video games where the zombies appear and you have to shoot them without hitting the innocent bystanders, except instead of "zombies" it was "boarding agents trying to go on break" and instead of "innocent bystanders" it was "similarly dressed boarding-agent underlings who do not have the power to help you and will scold you not to 'speak in a big voice' if you try to talk to them over the din of other shouting people" and instead of "shooting them," you have to "shove your passport in their general direction while pleading for help." I'm sorry, but bread lineups in Soviet Russia were run with less chaos.

After 30 minutes of trying to foist my passport on whomever would help me (spoiler alert: no one), a nice agent finally took pity on me. I explained to her that I was standing in the line in the first place because the self-check-in machine was freaking out about my itinerary change and wouldn't let me check in. The problem that Air Canada had made for me yesterday had spawned little baby problems, which because of the general understaffing and over-chaos-ing had turned into big problems, since I was in danger of missing my flight. The nice agent was sympathetic and literally 3 seconds later, I was booked. Yes, that thirty minutes of standing, jostling and passport waving was to correct a problem that could have been fixed in the time it took for the person on the other end of the customer-service phones by the self-check-in kiosk to say, "You'll need to talk to an agent in person."

I thought my problems were over. I thought I would board the 30-minute flight to Vancouver and be done with it. I, however, had underestimated Air Canada's incredible appetite for the ridiculousness. Five minutes before I was set to board my plane to Vancouver, my flight was again mysteriously canceled. Why? Never found out. Maybe the numerology of the flight number was off. Maybe a monkey drew a number from a hat. Maybe the pilot was watching an episode of "Maury" that was really heating up and he couldn't bear to leave without finding out which one of 10 guys was the baby daddy. I will never know. I do know, however, that I was transferred on to a different airline's flight, which was leaving in 15 minutes from a gate across the airport.

Another passenger and I therefore ran (well, she ran, I gimped at a fast pace) through the various modes of transportation needed to navigate the Seattle airport. It was like an episode of "The Amazing Race," except instead of winning a million dollars, we won exactly what we had already paid for. When we got to the new gate, there were no tickets waiting for us because the agent hadn't called ahead, but somehow (miraculously!) after some confusion and more boarding-agent ennui, we got on the plane and landed in Vancouver.

Now, I have said in the past that I will never again fly Air Canada. I said it after you refused to let me gate-check my basketball wheelchair. I said it one of the million times someone was rude to me. I said it after you tore a gaping hole in my bag on a flight to Paris, then spent a full year losing the bag in different "repair departments" and directing me to increasingly snarky customer service representatives until the window for getting compensation had expired. But now, Air Canada, I mean it. You and I are done. Going from Chicago to Vancouver should not require me to spend 36 hours of my life trapped inside a Kafka novel. I am taking my business to West Jet, where they're at least friendly whenever they have to inconvenience you.


- Arley

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Here's to Skinner the Sinner

It's a sad day around these parts. On Friday, my Nana Elsie died of kidney failure and complications of dementia at the age of 90. In a one-two punch to our family, her brother (who I called Uncle Hugh) died unexpectedly just a few hours later. My grandma was one of my heroes because, well, she was the ultimate bad-ass. How bad-ass? When I was four, my other grandma was visiting us and asked me what my Nana Elsie would like for her upcoming birthday. My answer: "Whiskey. Lots and lots of whiskey."

It's hard to write a blog post about my grandma without entering dangerously into Hallmark territory, so I've decided to fall back on that old standard of business writing designed to convey information quickly and effectively: the bullet point list. So here, then, is a list of reasons my grandma was awesome:

  • Once wrote her memoirs, which I (at the tender age of 12) was tasked with transcribing, since I was the only one who knew her way around those newfangled "personal computers." The "memoir" turned out to be more of a "detailed account of her sexual history," and I was forever traumatized by her use of the phrase "mad Russian love."
  • Would begin every family dinner by reciting various dirty rhymes, which she picked up when she lived with her first husband in mining camps. Her favorite was about Skinner the Sinner....who took his best girl out to a quarter past nine, he looked at the a quarter to ten it was in her....the dinner, not Skinner. He'd had it in before dinner. The sinner!
  • Once got drunk, hopped up on stage in Reno, and recited "Skinner the Sinner" in front of hundreds of patrons and her three very embarrassed sons.
  • Another go-to poetry favourite was called "It was Cold" and contained such phrases as "cold as the tip of a polar bear's tool" and "cold as the kiss of a whore when she cums."
  • Used to ride her exercise bike a few miles every day. I have never seen her so mad as when I started riding her bike backwards, thus disturbing her mileage count.
  • Caught gigantic fish.
  • Was a union shop steward when working at a pulp and paper mill. Had various service awards from the NDP.
  • Contracted and recovered from polio. (I guess this isn't so much an 'awesome thing my grandma did' but an example of 'shit she overcame').
  • Used to go down into the mines with her first husband, despite the fact that this was considered bad luck by the other miners.
  • Was the adopted grandma to several of my friends, who fondly remember her with phrases such as "your grandma tried to give me her underwear" or "your grandma taught me that 'cat' was spelled 's-h-i-t.'"
  • Made the most delicious bread and cinnamon buns. I have fond memories of eating raw bread dough covered in cinnamon and sugar. She also did her own canning and made her own soap.
  • At 80, had a better dating life than I did, at 17. ("My grandma gets more play than I do" is not a phrase you ever want to use). When she broke up with one paramour, she told him to "stick his d*ck up his a**h*** and f*ck himself," which is probably the best f*ck you I've ever heard.
  • Once drove through Mexico with my grandpa. They were aiming for Tijuana, but ended up driving for days before phoning my dad to say that they were lost. They hadn't found "Ti-a-wanna,' even though they had passed this "Ti-joo-ana' place awhile back.
  • Had the most high-pitched, glass-shattering voice. I have distinct memories of being on stage at Christmas concerts/ piano recitals etc. and hearing "that's my granddaughter up there!"
You see? I could really go on and on. So here's to Skinner the Sinner. And here's to my grandma, Elsie Margaret McNeney.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's the Final Countdown...No, Just Kidding, Psyche!

For the past few months, I've been preparing to move back to Vancouver. (Well, okay, preparing mentally, since I haven't really done the whole "packing" thing yet, even though my dad comes to get my car tomorrow). I had wrapped my mind around the fact that I would leave Champaign on June 14th, then have surgery on June 24th. You know how advent calendars give you a little chocolate every day until Christmas? Well, I had a little surgery advent calendar in my mind, except instead of getting chocolate, all I got was iron pills and an overwhelming sense of dread.

This morning, however, my world was rocked when I received a phone call from my surgeon's office letting me know that my surgery has been bumped to July 28th. It was like opening that last day of your advent calendar expecting a huge-ass chocolate Santa and instead finding a little piece of paper that said, "Christmas has been moved to January 27th. In lieu of chocolate Santa, please accept another month of anticipation and mall Christmas carols." Wrong and unnatural!

On one hand, I was disappointed. Leaving Champaign has actually been really hard for me, but I've had my goodbye party, said farewell to most of my friends, and reconciled myself to ripping off that big bandaid known as "the last four years of my life." I've spent weeks full of emo-ness mentally reenacting that scene from Thorton Wilder's "Our Town" where the chick is a ghost and is lamenting all the things she'll miss about earth ("Goodbye world! Goodbye to clocks ticking and my butternut tree...and Mama's and coffee...and new-ironed dresses and hot baths..." ), except instead of clocks ticking and butternut trees, it was more like cheap bourbon, barbeque, $250 rent and fireflies. (I freaking love fireflies. They don't have them in Vancouver). I was mentally prepared to leave and I wanted to get the ass-reattachment show on the road.

On the other hand, however, I recognized an opportunity to cling harder to America. Even though my bags were packed, my apartment was sublet (subletted?), my dad was flying down to get my car and my cat had her own little kitty airplane ticket, I didn't have to leave. I could go up to Canada for a week for pre-op appointments and work-related stuff, (I'm off to Montreal soon for a tournament), then come back down for a whole month of rekindling my turbulent romance with the old U. S. of A. America and I could have one of those relationships where it's like "Oh, darling, I know we broke up because you cheated on me with my sister, but let's get back together because I'm lonely and have daddy issues, even though we both know that this will end badly. Turbulent relationships give my humdrum existence meaning!" You know, those people for whom the Facebook status "it's complicated" was invented.

Some might say, "But Arley. Aren't you just prolonging the inevitable? Why don't you just get it over with, move back to Vancouver and begin the chapter of your life entitled 'The Part Where Arley Goes to Concerts By Herself and Tries to Appear Both Receptive to New Friendships And Repellent to Drug Dealers/ Fetishists/ Men Who Believe "So, What's Wrong With You?" is an Acceptable Pick-Up Line'' Wouldn't that be the mature thing to do?" To you, I say: hells no. I have spent at least six months of the past year in bed (or at physio, being out-run by 95-year-olds, which is worse) and I am about to spend another god-knows-how-long doing roughly the same thing. I'm in a "months of bedrest" sandwich and I fully intend to make the filling of that sandwich be as exciting, entertaining and meaningful as possible. And if that means traveling back to Champaign for an extra month of seeing the people I care be it.

Yes, it looks like I'm going to have to rebook my ticket on the Struggletown Express. The new plan is that I'm leaving Mika with A., going back to Canada for a week or so, (which will involve a trip to Montreal), then returning to Champaign for a month of couch-surfing, BBQ-eating, and hearing the phrase "hey, didn't you leave here a while ago?" from random people on the street. Because, hey, if my life wasn't relentlessly complicated, I wouldn't have anything to blog about.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's Not You, It's Me: The Breaking Up With America Deportation Extravaganza

In just over a week, Mika and I will be going back to Vancouver and I'm not the only one who's having a hard time being optimistic about the move. Mika has somehow figured out that we're leaving (more proof that she secretly speaks English) and is acting out. Case in point: last night. While A. and I were watching "Dead Ringers," Mika got inspired and unleashed her inner David Cronenberg by killing and snacking on a baby bunny, dragging it in through my window, and depositing it on my living-room rug right as the movie was getting all "heroin-and-bizarre-gynacological-instruments"-y. That night, she kept me up from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. meowing and biting my chin. When I finally let her out, she packed her kitty bags and ran away to A.'s house, where she broke in through an open window and refused to leave. Yes, it looks like there's a little feline-shaped seat on the Struggle Train. At least she's not acting out by smoking crack behind the 7-11.

But while Mika's been throwing cat-tantrums, I've been trying to make the most of my final weeks in Champaign-Urbana. My original plan was to say 'yes' to every social opportunity, though I had to tweak this plan a little when someone rather strenuously offered me meth at a BBQ (not even once! Not. Even. Once). There have been too many highlights to mention (Kimberly, Erin C. and I rocking Allerton Park by posing beside every statue of a half-naked man, half-naked centaur, unintentionally suggestive Chinese musician, or Fu Dog; the Room 248 Reunion Party; randomly deciding to purchase and eat a large cake with LeFevs, Shelley and Donnie in a campus bar while drinking the world's nastiest $3 margarita), but the main event was "It's Not You, It's Me: The Breaking Up With America Deportation Extravaganza and Dance Party."

Though the name was long and egotistical, my goodbye party was really just a chance for me to hang out at The Esquire with people I might not see again. And you know what? Even though I have a semi-detached ass, a wonky hip, and a one-way ticket back to Canada, I have fantastic, fantastic friends. Erin C. made me an awesome cake based on the "Hark, A Vagrant!" web comic and bought me three cards: a retirement card for my Freaky Cyborg Hip; a "congratulations on getting re-attached" card for my ass; and a general card for me. (There are good friends, and then there are good friends awesome enough to buy you a card for your ass). Erin McQ bought me flowers and tons of other people contributed to my mission of getting sappily drunk on bourbon (mission accomplished). It was great to see all the 20+ people who showed up to help me break up with America, even though knowing what good friends I have in the Midwest will make it extra hard to leave.

Next stop on the Struggletown Express: figuring out how the hell I'm going to pack four years worth of stuff into one PT Cruiser.