Thursday, February 23, 2017

Snow, Zoobies, and technological impairment

It's snowed on and off most of the day.

This shouldn't be much of a surprise. If I choose to visit Utah in February, I'm bound to see at least some snow. It is kind of what Utah's known for these days. But the first few days I was here, the only snow was on the mountaintops; everything else had melted in a glorious mid-February thaw, with shirt-sleeve temperatures during the day. And I, like a doofus, got used to it. At least I remembered to bring my overcoat.

Anyway, my rental car doesn't have 4-wheel drive, which has made things Interesting. My mother's house is on a hillside, and getting that car all the way into our cul-de-sac after a good snow dump is an exercise in futility. Fortunately, I did learn to drive in this state, so I remember the basics: how to drive in snow, how to handle a skid, how to put extra space between me and another car in icy road conditions, etc.

What is truly driving me bonkers, however, is the daily Zoobie obstacle course between the rehab center and Mom's home. Zoobies (aka BYU students) are notorious for their jaywalking ways at any time of the year, but when it's dark and icy and they randomly step out in front of cars in black clothing, not giving anyone enough time to slow down... gaaaah! RAAAHR. I tell you, if I end up mashing them into jam with my rental car, it'll be a fate too good for them.

In other news, I hear through the grapevine that Julie is already part of the way into Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. So, Project Get Sooz a Cheapie Cell Phone proceeds apace. Not sure if I should pick up a new feature phone, or just try to reset my niece's old flip phone to factory specs and go with that. (How easy is that to do? Or is that even possible? Could I be more clueless? ngh.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Are you asking for a CHALLENGE?!

I'm most likely to reconsider my conscious choice not to own a smartphone when I'm traveling. When I'm at home, my daily habits are set up so that I don't really notice not having a cell phone. Travel is another matter. If I'm sitting next to my gate and wondering how much time I have left before boarding, I have to go in search of a public clock or subtly peek at the iPhone of the stranger seated beside me. If I'm stuck in a strange city with a two-hour layover, I can't call Captain Midnight and tell him that I already miss him. (Pay phone? It is to laugh. If you can find a specimen of this endangered species, it will charge you an arm and a leg for a call.) If I intend to use public transportation, I have to plan ahead and print out a map and schedule before I leave home. I have a fairly good sense of direction, but if I'm in an unfamiliar city I tend to be very careful so as not to get lost. Should I become curious about something new I see or experience on my travels, I just have to put that curiosity on hold -- no looking it up on the spot. And if I ever feel a bit bored while on public transit or in flight, I'd better have remembered to pack a good book or a knitting project in my carry-on, because retreating into an electronic pacifier is not an option.

With that said, I think I notice many more details -- all the little finches flying around the Long Beach terminal gates, for instance, or the conversations the flight attendants were having in the back of the plane, or the unusual view of the Wasatch Front from the FrontRunner tracks (especially the slightly creepy up-close remnants of the Geneva Steel plant, since the rail line ran right past it) -- than I would if I were to spend the whole trip glued to a smartphone. And I know I would do just that, based on the way I'm consistently glued to my computer at home.

All this is coming up again, of course, because my sister Julie and I got into a playful sparring match on social media about my advanced case of Phonus Lackus, and her continued unwillingness to read any of the Harry Potter series. And I posed her a challenge I might later regret: that if she would read all seven Harry Potter books (no, I'm not insisting on Fantastic Beasts or Quidditch Through the Ages or The Tales of Beedle the Bard or even Cursed Child), I'd get a cell phone.

Well, she says she's downloaded book #1 onto her tablet. So I'm doing some initial research into phone plans. (If she'll go through with it, then so will I.) What I really want is a dumbphone that can handle talk and text equally well. I don't need a billion apps or Internet access or even a camera -- just talk and text. That's it.

So, my 3.5 readers, got any suggestions for a dumbphone with a good QWERTY keyboard?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Weirdness, with a side of snow crab

[Mom has moved out of the hospital and into a nearby rehabilitation center, where she will probably stay until her doctors determine she's had enough treatment to finish convalescing at home. If you're inclined to pray for her, please ask for her break to heal cleanly and her physical therapy to go well. Thank you!]

Last night I was thinking about a little incident I'd almost forgotten, something that happened the last time Jenny came to visit me. We went into Seattle to play tourist for the day, taking in the sights on the waterfront. We also decided to pick up some lunch at a seafood restaurant, and it was there that we witnessed something subtly creepy.

Our waitress seated us across from an older couple, a man and woman who appeared to be in their 80s or early 90s. They were clean, neatly dressed, had unremarkable features. But they were sitting perfectly still and staring into space, looking not at, but through each other. And all the time my sister and I sat there -- talking, laughing, perusing our menus, subtly glancing at this couple out of the corners of our eyes -- they remained locked in that position, unmoving, unblinking, perhaps not even breathing. They might have been statues. We were just starting to wonder if they'd simultaneously died in that position and rigor mortis was setting in, when their waitress arrived with their food. This broke the spell, and they picked up their cutlery and silently began to eat.

Were they having a fight? Trying to win a bet? If it was some kind of game, it wasn't one I'd like to play. The two showed every appearance of being an old married couple, which made me wonder -- how do you reach a point where you're so unmoved, so apathetic in the presence of the person with whom you chose to spend a lifetime that you can't even rouse yourself enough to scratch an itch or change your expression?

I suppose there could be some alternate theories to explain their preternatural lifelessness. Were they aliens who had finally grown tired of blending in with the human population? Androids taking a quick mental road trip to Uncanny Valley? Beings under some kind of malign enchantment that could only be broken by chowin' down on lobster? Maybe they were spy fish in clever human suits, infiltrating the restaurant as part of their assignment to discover what became of their boss, the missing Captain Dungeness. (That dossier isn't going to have a happy ending.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Behold, Utah!

Got up at Oh Dark Hundred and flew from SeaTac to Long Beach to Salt Lake, then got on the FrontRunner and eventually picked up a rental car. I've been at my mom's place for about an hour. And I plan on being here some two weeks, so all you Puget Sound folks are getting a well-deserved fortnight's respite from Soozcat, The Chick Who Won't Shut Up!

The view from Mom's balcony. It's right purty.

Mom will be going into a rehab center for a week to 10 days, getting care and information on how to handle her long-term convalescence (a broken hip takes about a year to heal completely). "So what will you be doing then, Sooz?" I hear you cry. Well, I will be doing whatever needs to be done, running errands and cleaning house and entertaining Mom and otherwise keeping busy.

Oh, and sleeping. I intend to sleep very heavily tonight, since I think my current collective sleep strength is Brief Nap. (Mornings. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

The last step

This is my lovely mom. You've probably seen her before.

And this is an X-ray of my lovely mom's hip. You may notice she has some extra hardware in there. That's because over the weekend, my mom fell downstairs and broke her hip. She's currently in the hospital recuperating from surgery to put everything back together.

I anticipate Mom needing some help during her convalescence, so I'm in the process of finding a flight out there. Will probably write next from her house. 'Til then, remember to watch out for that last step; it's a lulu!

Monday, February 06, 2017

News of various positive qualities

The good news is that my sense of smell is starting to make special guest appearances. I have hope this means I'll recover it completely.

The better news is that, after 10 days of the ick, I think I'm finally on the mend. Believe me, this can't happen quickly enough for my preferences.

The best news of all: HOMEMADE RICE KRISPY TREATS! (After a day of being snowed in, making them was a moral imperative.)

Oh yes, and here's proof of being snowed in:
This was taken last night. There was far more snow on the ground this morning.
Hoping the snowfall (and the ick) will soon come to an end; I'm getting a little cabin-fevery. Yes, even with Rice Krispy Treats as consolation.

Friday, February 03, 2017

WARNING: Don't use Flonase (fluticasone). Just don't.

Here is the biggest problem with viral respiratory infections. You can't just nuke them from orbit with antibiotics; you have to wait (and wait. and wait. and wait...) for them to go away. And after about 48 hours of following the standard advice of "stay warm, force fluids," etc., you start getting Really Tired of Being Sick. I can't sleep, I can't read (too woozy), I can't go anywhere or get any household stuff done (and it's all piling up)... ugh.

And thanks to my stupidity in taking a clinician's advice without exercising due diligence, I picked up and used a fluticasone-based nasal spray for four days, and now have what I SINCERELY HOPE is a TEMPORARY case of anosmia (a fancy term for "no sense of smell").

I can't really cook, because I rely on "season to taste" and now I can't taste well enough to season. I can't even heat up canned soup without being super vigilant about it, because if I get distracted and leave it on the stove, I can't rely on "what's that burning smell?" to inform me I've let it scorch and nearly destroyed a pot. (I'll leave you to guess whether I've just described a hypothetical scenario.) And I've been too sick to clean, so for all I know my home smells like a midden right now.

Having anosmia has taught me that humans actually have four base senses: sight, hearing, touch and smell. Taste is a subset of smelling; you can smell without tasting, but you really can't taste squat without smelling, as I've discovered over the last few days. With no working sense of smell, experiencing food largely comes down to a question of touch, of physical texture. I get sensations of warmth and cold, juiciness or dryness, crispiness or softness, and I get muted sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter, but with no aromatics to make flavors bloom, nourishment goes from being a blessing to a necessary chore. From past experiences, I know that a piece of dilled Havarti cheese should taste good. And it does have a nice smooth feel in the mouth. Beyond that, though, I get only the tiniest sensation of sourness, a little more saltiness, and that's it. The rich tang of a ripened cheese, the green herbal note of the dill -- all gone.

Just... no.

Why GlaxoSmithKline hasn't been sued out of existence for putting Flonase OTC and its generics on the market without a huge, detailed warning label ("May utterly destroy your ability to smell a natural gas leak") is beyond me. Anyway, learn from my fail and don't use products containing fluticasone unless you already have anosmia. I've discontinued using the fluticasone, but there's no guarantee my sense of smell or taste will ever come back. Much like everything else associated with being sick, I guess I'll just have to wait it out.