A few Mondays ago, with Russ at the wheel, Karen in the backseat with Molly, me in the co-pilot’s seat, and TomTom doing the navigating, we made the trek to the Emory Clinic to have my Baclofen pump refilled and the dosage adjusted. Baclofen is a muscle relaxer. It isn’t a cure for what ails me, but it does make it a little easier to deal with the spasticity and stiffness that comes with multiple sclerosis. The secret, according to Dr. McKee, whom I used to see at the Cleveland Clinic, is to set the dosage high enough to ease the stiffness and make moving a little easier while not making it so easy that the patient becomes a jellyfish.
Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll find out how much the good doctor at the Emory Clinic is charging the insurance company and me for his services. I will deem it exorbitant. Every time I went to the Cleveland Clinic to be refilled, Dr. McKee had me walk a short distance, asked me a lengthy list of questions, held my knee and pumped my leg to gauge the stiffness and then said something like, “I’d recommend a ten-percent increase.”
I’ve been to Emory three times, and each time the doctors have reminded me of gas station attendants; those guys who once came up to your car and said, “Fill ’er up?” The doctor asks, “How you doing?” and “Do you think we should increase the dose?” Then, without bothering to assess my condition, he fills the tank and resets the dosage. It should be noted, however, that the woman who fetched me from the waiting room and took my blood pressure and checked my pulse had “Sexy Red” tattooed in fancy script from her elbow to her wrist on her arm.
I did ask the doctor for a referral to a neurologist, and the Emory Clinic called yesterday to set up an appointment. We’ll see what happens.
It has been my personal policy is to stay out of the Covenant Woods’ laundry room between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. But, as with all personal policies, there came that moment – 1:37, Tuesday afternoon, to be exact – when I thought, “Oh, what the hell.” With a basket of dirty clothes on my lap, I set off to the laundry room and ended up in another world. The accents in the other world were all wrong, but otherwise it was as if I were on the set of one of those Britcoms, this one involving three daft octogenarian women.
With the sound of washers agitating in the background, Helen discussed the washday transgressions of other residents. The infractions are many and varied, but Helen encounters nothing but frustration when she tries to enlighten the washing masses.
“It doesn’t do any good to tell her,” Helen would say after pointing out this or that person’s deficiency. “She just keeps on doing it. She doesn’t understand.”
Frances, as far as I could tell, wasn’t doing her laundry, but every few minutes she’d pop in to check on things.
“Whose stuff is this?” she asked after lifting the lid of an idle washer.
“That’s Mary’s,” Helen said. “I told her she should stay in here when she’s doing her laundry. But doesn’t do any good; she doesn’t listen.”
“Is that middle dryer empty?” Frances asked.
“Yeah, one of housekeepers had some rags in it, but she was just in here and got them,” Helen said. “I wish they wouldn’t wash their rags in here. But it doesn’t do any good to say anything”
“Well, I’ll put Mary’s things in that dryer,” Frances said. And she did.
Frances wandered out, and Margie wandered in. In the manner of a mother waiting for her teenaged child to do as he was told, Margie drummed her fingers on the washer in which she had put some things ten minutes earlier.
“There’s something wrong with this washer,” she said, lifting the lid.
“No there isn’t,” Helen said. “See that light? It’s on rinse.”
Margie put the lid down, and the washer resumed rinsing. But only for a minute, then Margie opened the lid again.
“Every time you do that, the machine resets,” Helen said. “Just leave it alone.” Then turning to me, Helen added, “It doesn’t do any good to tell her.”
Margie put the lid back down and let the washer run for a minute and then announced that the washer must be broken. She pulled the few items she’d been washing from the machine, wrung them out by hand, dropped them into an unoccupied washer and set it on the spin cycle. That done, she closed the lid on the machine she had been using, and it immediately went into the spin cycle.
“All that for three pairs of panties,” Helen, who had obviously been paying close attention, said. “But you can’t tell her anything. She won’t listen.”
Changing washers didn’t do anything for Margie’s patience, and after just a few minutes she took her stuff out of the washer and put it in a dryer. Helen shook her head in disgust as Margie retired to her apartment.
In a bit, Frances was back.
“That your stuff in there?” she asked me, pointing to a dryer.
“No, his things are still in the washer,” Helen said. “Margie is using that one. She put three pairs of panties in it, set if for an hour and left. She shouldn’t do that. There’s no reason to set the dryer for an hour for three pairs of panties. But it doesn’t do any good to tell her. She doesn’t understand.”
“Do you think they’re dry?” Frances asked.
“Probably,” Helen told her.
Frances checked, found Margie’s panties to be dry, took them out, folded them and put them on top of the dryer.
And so it went.