Like This

The purple has faded to a purer white. And the surgical eye drags the other eye along with it, so with both open I see about the same thing as I see with the right alone. But just to give you an idea what it’s like to lose a cataract:

Before
After

I’m still kinda processing this.

Everything Is Purple

I was warned about this.

So my eye has been forked. They told me I would be so relaxed and spacey that it would be like a mini-vacation, which didn’t happen. Redheads and anesthesia: we’ve been here before. The only thing that happened was that an annoying charley horse in my right ass released and the stitch in my left ribs went away for a while.

They numb your eye with drops, so that was okay. And despite being told that I would experience the whole thing as happening in a few seconds, I got to sit through the entire ten or fifteen minutes, feeling them crank my eye open with a not uncomfortable gizmo and watching a series of pink, blue and green shapes do things in my near field of vision. It didn’t feel like it, but they were making a cut in the cornea, emulsifying the opaque lens behind it, and sucking it out like someone going after the last bits of a pumpkin spice latte with a straw. There were hydraulics, like when you get your teeth cleaned. A short bout of fidgeting doubtless represented settling the replacement lens in place. I am pretty sure I was awake through it all.

The one thing they were right about, though, is that what I can see of this screen through the perforated eyeshield they taped on — it makes me look like the Borg Queen on a budget — is purple.

Apparently cataracts filter light toward the yellow band of the spectrum. Your retinal cells compensate, overproducing the opposite color — remember color opposites in grade school, and the little trick where you stare and stare at a red light or color block and then close your eyes to see a vaguely identical green shape? Like that. My retina is turning everything purple. I don’t know how long this is going to go on.

It’s still normal on the left. Or yellow. I don’t know what the accurate description is. I am resigned to at least some days of a split screen existence.

This happens all over again next month.

The Flying Juror

Not like the Flying Nun, or the Flying Wallendas. More like the Flying Dutchman, doomed to sail the sea without ever finding port.

What happened was, they called me for jury duty. This has happened twice before in my life, on both occasions when I was up for some sort of surgical intervention. The third time, we were in the middle of a pandemic and I was allowed to defer by checking a box affirming that I was over 65.

So in our new Vaccinated States Of America, the deferment expired and they called me for today, two days before my cataract surgery. Someone in Management obviously got the program back on target.

I was about as eager to do this, two days ahead of getting a fork in my eye, as I was to get a job Simonizing seals, but I filled out the questionnaire, dutifully read the handbook and watched the fifteen minute video about court procedure. Most of this shit I already knew from a spree of true-crime reading in my 30s and a couple of locally set murder mysteries I churned out the year I hit 50, but it’s been a while. Then I had several meltdowns considering that I am already terrified about the eye operation and my most recent memories of the local Justice Center involve a bitchy deputy nearly yanking my arm out of the socket during a routine fingerprinting for my professional license, apparently under the impression that I was a garden variety arrestee (who shouldn’t be treated that way either).

Also I no longer have any “business casual” clothes to speak of, considering I do my job in a tee-shirt and gym baggies and have for 35 years, and made space in my closet years ago by getting rid of all the dress-up crap. I finally cobbled something with a maroon L.L. Bean tee, matching baggies and an old Deva Lifewear jacket left over from my spell of guerilla street theater as a protest campaign manager, which sort of feeds back into the county government thing, but that tale is told elsewhere.

The Engineer dropped me off at the Courthouse (it’s been over a year since I became too blind to be behind the wheel of anything) around two-fifteen, a solid quarter hour before I was required to check in. The usual drill: deputies screen you through a metal detector, which I set off shriekingly. Twice. It is a credit to my hip surgeon that I completely forgot until the end of this adventure that I am rocking a set of titanium tuchus, but apparently wanding me down satisfied the guy. I double checked where the jury coordinator could be found (my e-mail said 10th floor, but I find these things often lie). Two people gave two different answers. I set off on my quest.

The tenth floor was as echoing and empty as if it were after hours. A large neon-pink sign with large black letters — which, to my horror, I realized were the only signs in view that I could read at all — pointed me to the JURY ASSEMBLY ROOM.

Which was locked and, viewed through the glass of the door, dark and unoccupied.

I poked into an unmarked adjacent door. Utility closet.

A door on the other side of the lobby was marked as a courtroom. A police officer sat in the vestibule. I caught his eye and waved.

He waved back, and disappeared somewhere.

Finally a live human passed. I presented my plight and he told me to go to the Clerk of the Court’s Office on the sixth floor. “Does anyone know where Toni is?” yelled the genial young woman at the counter. Toni is the Jury Coordinator now, but back in the day when I was writing mysteries about the county government she was the secretary of the Board of Supervisors and had a minor supporting role. I decided not to mention it.

I was told to go to the 11th floor and report to courtroom 11A. I did that. Trial in progress. Hard nope.

A sheriff’s deputy makes an appearance and tells me to go to the sixth floor. I try to tell him that’s where I just came from. He starts to get in my face — “you asked me, I’m telling you” — because he is Law Enforcement and we are all there to make trouble for him, right? Finally he calls someone on his Bluetooth and tells me to go back to the tenth floor and someone will be along shortly.

I go back. There are benches, empty halls, and utter silence.

Finally Deputy Dawg shows up again. He is looking a little chastened by now and makes another call. Go back to the clerk’s office, he says. Nice Girl asks and I tell her. By now we are half an hour past my reporting time and I am envisioning citations and fines and possibly a mental health eval when I melt down. Finally someone finds Toni.

“Oh,” she said. “I sent a text about one-fifteen and told people not to report, they selected a jury from the pool that was already here.”

She texted my landline. In this great 21st century it is apparently assumed that all God’s children go through life 24/7 with a mobile phone up their asses.

At least I made thirty bucks on the deal, for showing up. “And,” I remarked, feigning affability, “I read the handbook and watched the video, so I learned something for if I ever write another crime novel.”

She didn’t drop a stitch. Probably didn’t read them.

The Millennium Falcon

I don’t think the Engineer has adopted the name yet, but I’m settled on it. I mean, it isn’t shaped vaguely like a Stealth fighter and it doesn’t actually fly, but when we were bringing it back up the Interstate I said “I bet this thing can do the Kessel run in under eight parsecs.”

(You did see how they ret-conned that in the last trilogy, right? A parsec is a measure of distance, not time, and someone helpfully explained that the Falcon’s drive warped space or something so that the actual distance diminished, like a tesseract. I only waited forty years for that.)

It’s got a touch screen that tells you who’s texting you and lets you answer calls hands-free (he doesn’t, too much of a learning curve), when it’s not displaying what you’re about to back up into. This can be annoying because our driveway tilts down a little and it screams bloody murder every time he backs out, warning him he’s about to run into… the street. Oh well.

It has a Sport mode that corners sharply and accelerates like a jackrabbit, and he kicked that in and cruised over to the next neighborhood where they have a lot of traffic circles, beguiling several minutes with executing tight turns and doing donuts in the church lot.

We are careful methodical people so last weekend we did a test run to make sure he was smooth with using a commercial car charger before he used it for a site visit. We zoomed it around on the riverside parkway to drain the battery a little, fetching up finally in the parking lot of a Wal Mart south of the city. Suburban strip malls are arid, draining places. Someone had set up a folding chair on the grass verge and was sitting there with an infant (thankfully sleepy or perhaps drugged). I don’t know why.

White science-fictiony pillars stood in a quadrilateral arrangement and we tried plugging the car into the first one. It didn’t like his Visa. Second try was okay. We learned that it charged about 15% capacity in as many minutes and that it slowed dramatically as it reached the 100% mark, I gather to keep the battery from exploding. For hours after we left the scene, he kept getting thank-you texts from Electrify America.

The next day he charged three times on a road trip. “There was a bad moment out near Centreville,” he said. “I plugged in the charging cable, my card got declined again and then the cable wouldn’t unplug.” Confronting the possibility of having to call Cooper’s roadside assistance perk on his first excursion, he resorted to the time-honored male method of “wiggle it gently till it slips back out.” “I still don’t know exactly what I did,’ he said.

Electrify America texted him for the rest of the evening.

As soon as he was back he plugged it right into the Juice Box. He can’t get enough of plugging that baby in. It’s a guy thing.

Die Mad About It

I make it a rule never to talk here about anything personal that clients tell me. Actually it’s part of the professional code of ethics we sign on to. So you are not going to hear anything that would remotely identify the guy I’m starting to hope I never see again, or any but the broadest mention of his life and doings.

He’s been coming for years. Various quirks, but the kind you can work around. Until now.

His work, before he retired, was in a field that would expose him to a daily dose of news. So I got nothing. Maybe he decided to retire from watching the news too. Because throughout the pandemic, he’s been calling every couple of months to ask if I were seeing clients yet. And every time I answered “no, because we’re still having a pandemic” he would hurry to reassure me “But I’m CLEAN!”

Right.

So finally he gets vaccinated, and we make a date. He shows up on my porch without a mask. I mime through the storm door window that he should put one on. He makes a disgusted gesture and walks back to his car, returning caparisoned in a mask bearing the logo of his favorite football team. “Do I have to keep this on the whole time?” he asks whinily. I remind him that Delta is running around out there and I am not taking chances.

Almost as soon as he lies down on the table, he lifts it away “to take a breath.”

I retreat to the hallway.

A few minutes later he says “It’s hard to breathe through these things.”

I get a three-ply surgical mask from the courtesy box by the door and say “These are easier to breathe through. Compliments of the house.” Okay, one general fact about him: he dropped a remark once, back in the Before times, that made it clear he was a garden variety homophobe. I made sure to hand him a lavender mask (I have a tasteful selection of pastels).

Not typically for him, he says “I’ll have to call you” when the time comes to make the next appointment.

Yesterday Tina, the colleague who gives me my massage, and has worked on this dude occasionally when I’m loaded up, tells me she ran into his personal trainer, with whom we’e both on chatting terms. “X is pissed at you,” she said. “He told Mike YOU MADE HIM WEAR A MASK.”

A week later this is what’s on his mind. Some people don’t have enough to do.

Not a MAGA, not a science-denier, not a wingnut so far as I can tell. Just someone who doesn’t fucking GET IT.

Yup. I made you wear a mask. Even if we’re both vaccinated, because this is not over. And so will Tina, if you go to her. Even if she’s got asthma and is the one doing the work. You can breathe through it just fine. You’re no more impervious to this thing than anyone else. Die mad about it.

Oak Itch Mites

So apparently this is something that happens after a cicada brood, though I honestly can’t remember experiencing it before, and I have weathered four cicada broods in this here burg. There are these little vandals called Oak Itch Mites which, expectably enough, cluster in oak trees, of which there are something like three or six on every lot in this town that isn’t a postage stamp, and their favorite thing in the world to eat is cicada eggs and so right after the brood breeds they go apeshit.

Why do I care? Because apparently their other favorite dish is humans, and if you are in contact with the ground they will find your ass, and I mean that very specifically.

Most bugs don’t bite me. I taste bad. These fuckers do not discriminate. I have a habit of pausing in my walk to park on a retaining wall here or there and stretch and chug from my water bottle, and every day I come back with another flaming welt on my backside. I could eschew the breaks, but the bionic hip thing still inclines me to leg cramps if I don’t. I just have to remember not to claw at my butt in front of clients.

I really did not need to know this fun natural history fact.

I know I have a bottle of topical Benadryl around here somewhere.

Restricted Content

So I got an e mail from the “YouTube Community” alerting me that one of my videos had been “age-restricted” because it’s “not in line with our community guidelines.” No one who is logged out or under 18 can now view it.

This is the video, in case you are over 18 and logged in.

A tutorial on how to put two tennis balls in a sock and use it to massage/adjust your back. That’s all you see. Me in gym clothes, two tennis balls and a sock. At one point I do describe the resulting device as “vaguely obscene-looking,” but…. really, YouTube?

This is why the Internet is a trash fire. I’ve been spammed like 100 times by Twitter hoes inviting me to look at their XXX pictures, and even “YouTube” frankly sounds like some kind of silicone male masturbation device, but some robot thinks adjusting your vertebrocostal joints with a couple of tennis balls is problematic. FFS, I have videos up of my cats in flagrante delicto, one of them titled “Torvald Does Teenage Jailbait” (Aggie was in heat awaiting her spay and Torvald was neutered at the time, but tell him that). You don’t know how many hits that one got.

I doubt this is worth the bother of disputing. Odds are no one under 18 needs their back adjusted that badly anyhow.

In Pieces In Antwerp

What happened was, the Engineer looked upon his motor vehicle, and beheld that it was a beater. The Red Rover has withstood two owners and twenty years of commuter driving, and I gave it a glow-up a few Christmases back to the tune of three new hubcaps and a side mirror with an intact frame, but the inside door panel threatens to come off every time you pull it shut, the gas cap hatch won’t stay hatched, the rear bumper hangs at a casual angle and the engine light keeps coming on for no reason anyone can determine. Oh, and the aircon doesn’t work. Even before climate change DC was pretty much intolerable in summer without aircon.

This was how we met Vinny Malatesta.

Fun fact: the Malatesta were a powerful condottiere family in the 1500’s, and somehow the name still makes me think of being received in the back room of a restaurant by someone who expects you to bow your head over his hand, but Our Cousin Vinny was really an ordinary unprepossessing salesman in the Cooper dealership down the road a piece.

It was kind of a Goldilocks thing. The Engineer has had his heart set on an electric car ever since it became apparent the Rover was quietly decaying. We tried out a Chevy Bolt, which rode as smoothly as a monorail and had bags of room in the back but no place to put your arms down the midline. I mean if he shifted gears his elbow was in my lap. The Nissan Leaf felt like bumping over ruts in a wooden-wheeled cart, cost the earth, and exposed us to the kind of sales people who suck up to you and tell you how special you are and that you deserve the best and, well, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Vinny handed us the keys and called me Mrs. Engineer. Oh well.

It was just right. On the down side, you only get 110 miles to a charge, but then it’s a poot-around-town car. Also, theoretically there is a back seat but it’s really only usable by toddlers or amputees.

Fuck it. It’s fun. Moon roof, snazzy body options, and sensible toggle vs. touch screen controls (who the hell wants to take their eyes off the road to look at a touchscreen?). The Engineer has never bought a NEW new car, and went nuts picking out options, meaning this baby had to be built from scratch, to order.

Vinny sent an e-mail a few weeks later. The car was in production, basically in pieces in a factory in Antwerp. Who knew.

Guys showed up one morning in a couple of ramshackle station wagons and began banging around in the utility room and noisily digging next to the driveway, pausing every couple of hours to run to the hardware store (“they switched teams on this job at the last minute and we need some parts”). By the end of the day (“it’s usually quicker than this”) a rather elegant little parking-meter-like dingus was in place, connected to a new 240V circuit in my breaker box by a cable run through the duct chase in the cellar::

Then a few weeks later it was going through customs.

A few days ago it arrived at the Port of Baltimore, and is presumably having the floor mats and custom “tentacle” wheel covers put on (I told you he went nuts). Next week.

Eyes Up Here

Well, that was unexpected.

I like the new ocular surgeon. I like his practice, where they have their shit together and run on time and address you with basic courtesy, instead of acting as if you should be grovellingly grateful to be in a medical office receiving perfunctory attention from scrubs-clad people young enough to be your grandkid.

I like being told “actually, your corneas aren’t that bad, and the only thing that makes sense is to repair the cataracts and see how your vision is then. And oh, of course, it would be the minimal surgery if we do have to go on to a transplant.”

That bitch I consulted last year was ready to whip off my whole corneas and stick entire brand new ones on. At least, if she had any other suggestions, I didn’t hear them.

The intake forms had the usual rude questions about your health status and habits, and then, rather unexpectedly, at the bottom a horizontal line across the page, with the direction: “Mark the point along the line that best describes your personality.” At the left hand end of the line was the word “Easy-going.” The far-right end was labeled “Perfectionistic.”

I made an X mark at the extreme right-hand end, then on reflection scribbled it out and drew another at the absolute right margin of the page.

They need to know, I’ll tell them.

I have a date August third with someone who does nothing all day every day but measure eyes for replacement lenses. It seems like no one is rushing this. Well, another month to get back in condition from that godawful pandemic year, when I couldn’t get to a gym and spent half of it recuperating from forty-four staples worth of surgery. You want to be in fighting shape in case they need you to punch the cataract while it’s down.

Better Than A Fork In Your Eye (IV)

I sure as hell hope it is.

I wrote, years back, about the Engineer’s early cataract repairs (his family apparently has a rogue gene that predisposes to cataracts, some forms of arthritis, and compulsive deployment of power tools). I remember thinking at the time that I kind of hoped I’d get cataracts eventually, because the bastard has never stopped trolling me by demonstrating that he can read the end-user agreement on the computer screen from out in the hallway, and that sort of thing. I can’t remember being able to see without glasses as thick as Little Debbies (at least until they invented polycarbonate), not ever in my life.

Back in the 90s my optometrist, a woman with skill sets beyond her professional certifications, remarked that I had the beginnings of a thing called map-dot corneal dystrophy, in which areas of the clear surface of your eye lose their normal fluid volume — it’s a defect in the osmotic pump of the hydrating cells, for you fellow medical geeks out there — and create a shifting, irregular distortion that can be seen on exam as a sort of archipelago of deflated tissue, like the Maldives, hence the nickname.

I didn’t notice anything for years, but eventually the astigmatism prescription in a new pair of lenses got into an argument with the astigmatism created by the map-dot condition, leading to an epic 45-minute phone fight with an optician who was hell bent on proving to me she knew what was wrong (narrator’s voice: she didn’t know shit). “Hello, I’m Janice. I’m the optician. That’s the lady who makes your glasses. I have a new lens blank here and I’m ready to go ahead with regrinding your right lens…” You know how you can always tell an idiot in the medical and related professions? They talk to you like you’re an idiot. I finally got her to talk to the optometrist and we stopped doing an astigmatism refraction, because the corneal condition creates an astigmatism that can change from one day to the next (think of fly’s eyes), and I resigned myself to a lifetime of 20/70 vision and seeing two or three of any high contrast road sign, license plate or traffic signal. You can adapt.

Then I did get fucking cataracts. Fine, we know they can fix that.

Then I got distortion in yet another layer of the cornea (think of double-paned glass, you know with the argon layer in the middle, or… well, more or less like that).

The world looks like what you see in a steamy locker room most days, or like looking through very diluted milk, or right after a flash goes off. I quit driving when it became clear the sun hitting someone’s metallic-painted fender on a bright day was enough to completely blind me for several seconds; hey, there was a pandemic, where was there to drive anyway? I wear sunglasses even when it’s cloudy. I yell “seeing-eye boyfriend” to the Engineer six times a day and patiently explain to people that I can’t see what they’re pointing out to me, no, really, I CANNOT SEE. By now I’m using such big fonts you can probably read what I’m typing from the next time zone.

There was supposed to be a surgery in March of 2020. Instead there was a fucking pandemic. It may have been the felixest culpa of my life, because the longer I had to reflect, the less I thought of the surgeon to whom my very wonderful optometrist had sent me. Having to go to the mat with her financial office to get a refund of a four-figure deposit didn’t help. And seriously, who decides that the thing to do in a practice entirely devoted to visual deficiencies is establish a touch-screen sign-in station facing picture windows that suffuse the screen with blinding glare? That should have tipped me off right before you start.

So once I made friends with Moderna, I called someone recommended by the Engineer’s surgeon, who did a damn good job. Everyone does cataracts, it’s like you can get coffee anywhere, practically drive-thru, but corneal problems are a lot rarer. Forget finding someone who’s actually had the experience. One of the things I had time to ponder about the surgeon I walked away from was a complete absence of orientation to what I could expect and how the surgery was done. (I spent two hours in the waiting room for twenty minutes of actual examination, mostly by machines under the control of a woman whose face would have legit broken if she smiled, got five minutes with the surgeon, by which time I was exhausted, and formed my most lasting bond with the financial manager, who practically became my new best friend.)

So I have this appointment on Thursday. A couple weeks back, I dropped in on a sci-fi geekchat that I visit irregularly (we’re talking fans who forex make Doctor Who videomontages set to Elvis songs), and said something like “I wish I could see that videomontage more clearly but my eyes are due for surgery.” The usual chorus of Oh You’ll Love The Results of Cataract Surgery followed. No, I explained, it’s this other thing and no one can tell me what it’s like and I’m scared. I don’t know anyone who’s had it. “Oh, I’ll call my mom,” said the videomontage lady.

A perfect stranger in Northern California spent forty minutes on the phone with me, walking me through it all (“no, you really won’t be allowed to do kettlebell goblet squats right away”) and took the time, being medically credentialed herself, to look up my new surgeon in the databases and report back that he had, in fact, all the correct qualifications and skill sets to deal with my specific flavors of corneal defect, and maybe even get away with two surgical episodes instead of the four that Doctor Waiting Room proposed. Sometimes the human race can still astonish me.

News as I get it. I am shopping for a pirate patch on Amazon.