Everyday Adventures-Weekly Column

A Rare Meeting of the Minds

I’ve long known that my husband’s mind works quite differently from my own.  Sometimes it seems we’re operating in parallel universes, pausing only long enough to look quizzically at one another as we each wonder what could possibly be going on in the other’s head.

On the road completing some errand or another recently (most likely dropping a car off at our mechanic’s—a practice in which we indulge weekly), Dave asked if I wanted something to drink.

“What did you have in mind?” I asked.

“Just some green tea or something.  There’s a Wawa right up here,” he said.

We pulled into a parking lot and Dave deftly maneuvered into a spot, not near any Wawa that I could see, however.  “What are you doing?  I thought you were going to a Wawa,” I said.

“I am.  The back door is right over there,” he said.

“How do you know where the back door is?” I asked.

“I was in here three times last week.  Haven’t you ever been in this Wawa before?”

“Well, no, I haven’t,” I muttered.  “I don’t make a practice of frequenting them.  But I’ll take a diet soda.”

Upon his return, Dave proceeded to tell me the location of every Wawa within a ten mile radius.  “By the way,” he added, “Do you have to go the bathroom before we get home?  TD Bank has really nice bathrooms.”

“Now how on earth do you know that?” I asked.  “Are you going around inspecting public bathrooms now?”

“Hey, you forget that I was in outside sales for years.  One of the first things they taught us was to scope out the decent bathrooms.  Otherwise, it can be a really long day on the road.”

“I think I’ll wait until we get home,” I said.

“Suit yourself,” he answered.

The other day, my husband phoned to ask if I’d like to join him for a weekday lunch.  “It’s Whopper Wednesday,” he said.

“What?  Again, I have to ask, how do you know these things?”

“What do you mean?  Every Wednesday is Whopper Wednesday.  And Monday is Chicken Monday, with four different kinds of chicken sandwiches.  So do you want to go?” he asked.

“Sure, I could go for a burger,” I said.

“Not just any burger, baby.  A Whopper, don’t forget.  One condition, though,” Dave said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Please don’t tell anybody.  I don’t want Whopper Wednesdays to get too crowded.”

“I’ll try and contain myself,” I said.  “What other little secrets do you have circling in that head of yours?”

“How about this:  If you go to the bagel shop before the 8:30 Mass on Sunday morning, they have Everything Bagels.  If you go after church, there’s a run on them and they’re usually out.  So you have to get up early and go before church.”

“Wow.”

“And, you know how I like Hershey bars?  They’re up to 89 cents.  But, the newspaper usually runs a coupon for them, so if you add 11 cents and buy the paper for a dollar, then clip the coupon and divide by the price of the paper, you get the Hershey bar for less than half price!”

I could hear him grinning over the phone.

“You’ve really got your world figured out, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Hey, it’s tough out there.  Anything to make life a little easier,” Dave said.

He may be quirky, but he’s happy.  Maybe I should pay a bit more attention and orbit in his universe for a while.  A big chocolate bar for only 40 cents?  There’s got to be a Wawa near here somewhere.

Sliced, Diced and Sent Home

He sounded like one of those old guys who tells his kids stories about walking to school uphill both ways, but when my husband relayed his unpleasant go-round with two hernias in his youth to our son, we listened incredulously.

“When I had my surgery, I was in the hospital for six days,” Dave said.  “I was hooked up to all sorts of monitors.  Nurses and doctors in and out.  It was really intense,” he went on.

About two months ago, our son came to us with an uncomfortable problem which my husband immediately recognized as the nasty signs of a hernia.  Sure enough, a doctor visit a week later confirmed it and we scheduled surgery for later in the month.

My son and I left the doctor’s office with a few sheets of paper, a pamphlet and instructions to show up at the surgical center early on the appointed day.  David was told he’d be admitted around 6:30 A.M., patched up and sent home a few hours later, hernia repaired.

Informed of the protocol, my husband regaled us with his hernia history.  “Well, not only will he not be in the hospital for six days, he probably won’t be in there for six hours,” I said.  “In fact, he won’t be in the hospital at all.  This is an outpatient surgical center.  They take them in, slice, dice, patch and send them on their way.  Kind of like the Veg-a-Matic on those infomercials,” I added insensitively.

“Gee, thanks, Mom,” David said, turning a peculiar shade of green.

I looked up “chop shop” in the dictionary, and while it currently relates only to stolen cars which are dissected and sold for their parts, I think the definition needs to be expanded.  Because these surgical centers are chop shops.  Well run, technologically advanced, sterile chop shops, but chop shops all the same.

On the appointed morning, we arrived at the chop sh…I mean, surgical center and David was checked in, taken back to a prep room, dressed in his surgical gown and hooked up to an IV within forty minutes of walking in the door.  We met with the anesthesiologist and the surgeon, after which Dave and I were ushered to the waiting room.

An hour later, the doctor emerged, informing us that the surgery was successful and David would be able to go home in a short while.  Ninety minutes later, we were home, after the patient had been passed gently to his mother through a side door about fifty feet from the main entrance—all to keep the undiced walking in the front door from running in the opposite direction, I’m sure.

As we helped our dazed and sore son into the house, I whispered to my husband, “I can’t believe they sent this kid home.  They were just digging around in his abdomen two hours ago!”

“MOM!” my son croaked.  “They didn’t operate on my ears.  I can still hear you!”

“Sorry,” I said.  “I just find this whole experience surreal.  They had so many people going in and out of those doors, the only thing missing was a conveyor belt.  It was like the baggage claim at the airport.  Round and round they go.”

“I just want to lie down,” David said, again looking green.

I know the logic behind a surgical center is that patients heal better at home.  (Hopefully, most patients are blessed with a caregiver possessing a better bedside manner than mine.)  But four hours total for abdominal surgery?  How about giving the patient at least half a day?

Somehow, surgery just shouldn’t call to mind an infomercial in a chop shop.

Keeping it Private—Except from Mom

Privacy.  A highly valued personal right in the United States.  And I’m a fan, particularly when it applies to a closed bathroom door, me on the inside of the bathroom and everyone else in my house, including the dog, on the outside of the door.

But it’s a rather odd value as well, given the apparent need for the general public to inform the world of every hiccup, giggle (LOL) or other inane activity via the likes of internet social sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.  For some reason, folks want everyone to know what they’re up to.  Everything.  All of the time.

So in some ways, the privacy issue seems moot.  We don’t live in a country where Big Brother scrutinizes our every move, but then we don’t have to, since we tell everyone our lives’ most intimate details with no prompting at all.

Yet privacy is a really big deal to some of the powers that be.  Take the good folks at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (http://www.hhs.gov).  They would be the ones who established the HIPAA Privacy Rule back in 1996, to govern the legal disbursement of health related information.  HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the intention was to make sure that entities with access to an individual’s health information kept it private unless given permission to release it.  So your health information remained your business and unavailable to prying eyes.

The policy applies to every adult over the age of 18.  Can any of you parents out there guess where I’m going with this?

No 18 year old in the world wants to be responsible for her own health information.  For that matter, neither does any 22 year old or any 23 year old—male or female.  I can personally attest to it.  My guess is that no “adult” under the age of 28 wants that responsibility, and I’m only picking that number because my kids haven’t gotten there yet.  When they do, look for a revision.

The basic problem begins with the assumption that an eighteen year old is an adult, a concept every mother on the planet knows is downright laughable.  How can a person who thinks that a bag of Goldfish crackers, nine Bagel Bites and a liter of soda constitute a balanced meal, be an adult?

But back to the brains behind HIPAA.  Because they have decided that my kids are adults, I cannot invade their privacy and have access to their health information.

Newsflash, folks: They don’t want privacy.  What they do want is for me to handle any and all of their health related issues, from now until forever.

Believe me, it’s not that I haven’t tried to pass the reins to my kids.  I’ve accompanied them to appointments and handed them the twelve page forms they need to fill out to get past the gatekeepers and see the Great and Powerful Oz (or any doctor of the day), only to be met with confused and slightly terrified stares along with the plaintive plea, “Can’t you do this?”

I’ve sat silent in rooms as doctors asked questions and the kids immediately looked at me for answers.  I’ve heard my son, 23, on the phone with a nurse, say “Hold on.  I have to ask my mom.”  I’ve watched the three of them panic over insurance forms.  (Insurance that we pay for—we just can’t ask questions about it.)

So if some government agency wants to insure privacy, give me a sign to put on my bathroom door.  As far as my kids go, they’re only too happy to share.

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