For starters, I violated my sacred oath to never again work on my birthday. This oath came about after years of working in hospitals, and routinely having the worst shift of the year occur on my birthday, October 15th. This was quite often the shift where the nuclear medicine scanner would break down, after I had injected the patient with the radiopharmaceutical. If it was an x-ray job, the guy on the next shift would invariably call in sick, and I would get stuck at work until they found someone to let me go home.
At first, things looked like they were looking up last week, when local TV news crews showed up to videotape my department during the Great Shakeout—the annual earthquake disaster drill. Cameramen were in my face, recording as I helped the HazMat guys suit up, and made sure there were no leaks in their spacesuits, before they entered the building. Look ma, I’m on TV.
The wife called, and we talked about going to Csardas Hungarian Restaurant, on Melrose. She would bring the kids, pick me up at work, and off we would go. I called up the Csardas, and a guy with an accent answered the phone. Naïve guy that I am, I asked him in Hungarian what time the restaurant was opening. He answered me in Spanish , first demanding to know who I was, then telling me to “Chinga tu madre-la puta, pinchi perro.”
So I answered in Spanish, explaining that I am trying to call a Hungarian restaurant, and I start dictating the restaurant’s phone number to him. I’m guessing that the restaurant has changed phone numbers, or perhaps even gone out of business. He huffs, “Wait.” and walks away from the phone. A woman answers, and we talk in Hungarian. I ask her if the restaurant is open, and she says “yes” and then I very politely relate the previous conversation with the Spanish-speaking gentleman who told me to fuck my mother. With the verve of your standard-issue Eastern European customer service personage, she says angrily “That’s not possible!” (Ez nem lehetseges)
Doesn’t apologize for the butthead’s behavior, doesn’t ask me further questions; just informs me that I’m wrong.
I tell her, “Well, I speak fluent Spanish, and I know what I heard.”
She says, “Well, I can’t do anything about it!” (Errol nem tehetek semmit)
At this point I have decided that I am not spending my hard-earned money from my multiple jobs at their fine establishment. I will be perfectly happy to eat Thai food at the place down the street from my house.
The wife calls up, and says that the boy has a fever.
Oh my god. No. Not now. Screw my birthday: I hear the word fever, and I’m thinking “swine flu”. That stupid H1N1 swine flu virus has been doing what it did to my father’s mother in 1919: killing the young and healthy. He was 5 years old when his mother died, and 17 when his father died. He went on to graduate from law school in 1937. What a guy.
Well, okay, that strain of the influenza virus was the Spanish flu, also H1N1, but I must confess my ignorance of the difference between the two. It can’t be much, though.
So, now I’m frantic. In my mind I see the images that have been on TV so much, lately, of children in hospitals on life support. Respiratory failure. Renal Failure. Ventilators. Dialysis.
I get home, eventually, and find the boy lying on my bed, alert, talkative, and on fire. The wife has run off to the Baskin Robins to get an ice-cream birthday cake. He asks me for a cup of ice water. I go get it, and on the way back into the bedroom, my left foot catches the door frame. Ouch! God &^$%#@6 that &%^$# hurts. The whole foot hurts, but the pinky toe really hurts. Ice only helps so much.
The amazing thing during the next 3 days that he had that fever was that he was alert, talkative, and wanted to watch TV.
Back to Thursday night: we sat around the dining room table, and ate Thai food out of Styrofoam containers. My gift, a bottle of 18 year old single malt Glenlivet, sat on the counter. I refused to open it, stating that as long as the boy is sick, I won't consume alcohol, because I need to be able to suddenly drop everything and drive him to the hospital, should the need arise. Truth be told, had I opened the bottle, I would have slowly worked my way through a very small glass, while sniffing and swirling it. Probably outside, with a Maduro in my other hand. Doesn’t matter. If that kid is sick, I need to be 100% ready.
Everybody went to bed, and I stayed up, watching The Mentalist. After the show I watched the local news. Nothing about the disaster drill at work. I switched channels. Nothing. I looked at their web sites. Nope. I got pre-empted by the 6-year old who didn’t float off in the UFO-shaped balloon, and a 7 year old Poodle named Snoopy, who found his way home after being lost for years.
Speaking of dogs, we went to the humane society, Saturday. A week ago, I had seen a Pug/Chihuahua mix who looked docile. We wound up adopting a Bassett Hound. The boy’s fever was gone by Saturday afternoon, so we went to the dog pound to look around. (See, L.A. Times, how I didn’t use a bad pun like “We went to the dog pound, and sniffed around”??? You can do it, too. Give up the puns!). The dog pound had several good choices of dogs that you would pay a fortune for, if you wanted to buy one, like the calm Yellow Lab, and the big black, friendly Great Dane. Papers were filled out, fees were paid, and we were instructed to return on Monday during the daytime, to pick her up, after she would get spayed. Poor dog is a year and half old, and they think she’s already had two litters.
She (the dog) is a cutie pie. All she wants is someone to love. If you walk up to her, she rolls over, and sticks her feet into the air, inviting you to rub her belly. The first day, she was quiet and mellow, under the influence of the anesthesia from her surgery. Now she’s a typical puppy. We can see that she has figured out this is her new home. I wonder where she comes from, and why her owners didn’t find her at the shelter. She’s housebroken, much to my relief. Whew. Of course, she wants to sleep and rest on the sofa, and other beds, which we are trying to discourage. I definitely don’t want a dog on our bed, or the kids’. I’d be happy to concede the sofa, but dumb dogs don’t realize that just because you’re allowed to do that here, doesn’t mean you can do it in that room, over there.
We didn’t really want to get a dog, right now. Taking care of two small children is enough work—thank you very much—but we did it because of what happened to the boy last summer. While visiting relatives, their sheep dog decided to shepherd the boy by knocking him over, and biting him in the leg. The wife called from the desert, while I was working the night shift in the ER, and she told me about what had happened. I told her to bring him to my job, where the wait would be hours less than the county hospital. The ER doc closed the wound, and sent us packing, but the boy became terrified of dogs after that. It’s been a long year. Every time I take him and his sister to the park, I have to scan constantly for dogs. if he sees a dog, he screams in terror, and I have to pick him up. needless to say, I have developed an intense dislike of young guys who let their big dogs run around, off leash. Self-centered, selfish idiots.
He adapted to her presence fairly quickly, and has become friends with her. He constantly reports to us where Gina the dog is, and what she’s doing. It’s like having Howard Cosell follow your dog around the house.
Okay, a confession: I’m glad we got Gina Bina. I love dogs, especially dogs that have puppy-like features as an adult: round heads, floppy ears, and sad eyes. I think the thing I love about dogs is that the relationship is so simple and honest. Hey, if you feed me, and give me hugs, I’ll be your best friend. Dogs and humans have been friends for a couple hundred thousand years. Bernd Heinrich’s book “Mind of the Raven” is ostensibly a book about how smart ravens are, but it turns into a book about the relationship between prehistoric man, the wolf, and the raven. Heinrich’s thesis is that ravens developed a mutualistic relationship with wolves, in which the wolves would open up a carcass, after the ravens helped them find it. Along came humans, who decided that baby wolves—with their smooth round heads and floppy ears—were cute, and we elbowed the ravens out of the way. I don’t think the ravens have ever forgiven us. If they really want to get even, they should get a job at a Hungarian restaurant.