The Hold

It’s been really warm lately, over 100º today.  Warm enough to open the windows.  Even to keep them open all night.  After months of bone-chill, this is something really great.  Except for one thing.

I wake up screaming.  Most every night, I wake up screaming.  It is not from nightmares.  I do not dream.  It is shooting pain from the nerves.  It is sudden and it is severe.

It is a big problem, this screaming.  Because the neighbors do not like it.

When it happened last summer, a neighbor called 911.  In the middle of the night, a neighbor called 911.  And without so much as a knock, the police broke down my door.

Instantly, my bed was surrounded by five over-zealous officers and paramedics.

Such a scene, maybe some girls, they would think they had died and gone to heaven.  Not me.  I have never been attracted to a man in uniform.

I told them my many and various symptoms, diagnoses, medications, and side-effects.  This information, it did not seem to interest them.  But then I fainted —

This was very bad timing, very bad, but my blood pressure is naturally very low.  Sometimes I have to take medication to raise it to a more human-like level.  And sometimes I faint.  It is really no big deal.  Except if I should be driving.

When I awoke, there was a gurney beside my bed.  They wanted me to roll onto it.  Instead, I pushed through the crowd and started to run —

It used to be that when I watched a cop show, I would wonder why the criminals try to make a break when it is clear there is no chance for getaway.  Now, I know.  It is instinct.  You do not think.  You just GO.

Anyway, I didn’t get very far.  Just to my living room.  There, the medics grabbed me, tossed me on the gurney, and bound my wrists and ankles to the frame.

Within moments, we were in an ambulance, sirens blaring, en route to the hospital.  I tried to remain calm.  I tried not to struggle.  It was very hard.  I wanted to sit up.  I wanted to see.  But the restraints so thoroughly restricted my motion, I could lift only my head, and only a few inches.

As soon as we got to the Emergency Room, the EMTs transferred me to an examination table and warned the hospital team to be careful because I was very strong.  This remark, it made me to feel very proud.

Instantly, the staff retied my wrists and ankles and cut off my clothes.  At least, I wasn’t wearing anything of particular value or special favor.  They stuck me with sensors and punctured me for IVs and shoved a catheter deep inside me.

Several times, I asked them to untie me and told them I wanted to leave.  I assured them I did not require emergency care; I needed only the sodium and electrolytes found in a good broth.  They told me I was being put on “hold” and would not be released without the supervising doctor’s authorization.

To emphasize this point, they assigned three — three! — security men to guard me.  Each one of these burly guys looked like he played tackle on some championship high school football team.

Seriously, besides being trussed up like Harry Houdini before one of his great escapes, the only thing I was wearing beneath the flimsy hospital gown was seven electrodes.  I was not going anywhere.

A parade of physicians and technicians took many samples and various images for untold, unnecessary tests.  I suppose it’s just protocol, but still…  A chest x-ray?  My cardio-thoracic condition is so excellent, G-d forbid someone you love would need a new heart, you should just shoot me in the head and take my mine.

Of course, they found nothing, or rather nothing other than the chronic conditions I had previously reported.

It was getting close to morning; I felt like I had been a good sport, and I told them it was time for me to depart.  I was still tied to the bed and the catheter was causing terrible pain with the slightest movement.

They told me I would need to urinate before there was any chance of liberation.  No problem, I thought.  If there is one task that I can perform on command, it is to urinate.

But I could not.  When I pressed down, I felt overwhelming agony.  Later, the nurse would tell me the catheter had been inserted improperly.  BTW, this is Stanford, one of the most highly regarded medical centers in the world.

Finally, I convinced them to let me use the toilet.  They untethered me, handed to me a pitcher (not one of those little cups), and sent me, along with my security detail — I am not kidding — to the lavatory.  When you enter into a hospital, you leave your dignity at the door.

At last, they released me on my own recognition.  My body was covered in bruises and the vaginal abrasions made it difficult to walk.

My trip to the Emergency Room had lasted only a few hours, but I left in far worse shape than when I had arrived.  Whatever happened to “do no harm”?

And even with insurance, the visit cost me thousands of dollars.  Not to mention the expense of repairing the entrance to my home.

I really love the fresh air at night, but I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.

© 2017 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The Brave One

Coming from a very modest background, I never left the country until my mid 20s.

I was scheduled for a business trip to Sweden.  I was excited.  Very, very excited.  I had parlayed three days in Stockholm into three weeks crossing the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.  I was working on Italy when my boss told me I better quit while I was ahead.

Two weeks before my departure, I broke my foot.  These things happen.  By me, they happen a lot.  Everyone assumed I would cancel my trip.  No way.

Many people told me I was brave.  To go halfway around the world, by myself, on crutches.  But it felt like an adventure.  It didn’t feel like something brave.

When my grandmother came from Europe to this country, she came third class on a boat.  She was a teenager responsible for her younger sister.  When she said goodbye to the rest of her family, it was forever.  She had little money in her pocket and little English on her tongue.

I was flying business class.  I had credit cards and traveler checks and a toll-free emergency number in my wallet.  I had email to keep in touch.  I had hotel reservations and dinner engagements.  I had Fodor’s guides.  Everyone was speaking perfect English.

Me?  I’m not the brave one in this story.  Not by a long shot.

© 2017 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The Dryer Story

When we were kids, my mother’s surveillance was constant.  My parents never went out.  We never had babysitters.

Once — literally, just once — my mother needed to make a brief excursion and had no choice but to trust my father to watch us.

We snuck into the laundry room.  We knew we were not supposed to go in there.  But we were not supposed to do anything.  Except sit quietly looking at books that we did not yet know how to read.  But we were kids.  With a natural curiosity.

Anyway, we thought it would be a good idea to see if one of us could fit in the dryer.  I was not the largest.  I was not the smallest.  It is likely I was the boldest.  For the sure I was the dumbest.

Clothes Dryer imageSo, with great excitement, I climbed into the dryer.

It was a front-load tumbler with a large circular window.

My brother closed the door…

Space Capsule imageI felt like I was Judy Jetson riding in the space capsule!

These were the days of the Apollo moon landings.  Rocket ships were everywhere.  Including my dream of the previous night.

Actually it had been a whole rocket factory in my dream.  With “about a hundred” rockets.

My brother turned on the dryer…

It was warm and blue and the rotating drum kept lifting me up one side, but then I just kept sliding back down to the bottom.  Over and over and over.  I didn’t spin around the full 360° of the circle like the way the clothes make a complete orbit.  Something maybe to do with gravity?

People tell me this story helps them understand me better.  I have no idea what they mean.

© 2017 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Rhinoplasty

A professional associate called to let me know that upon Googling me, he found my business specialty listed as rhinoplasty.

In the first place, I informed him, I was raised to marry a doctor, not to become one.  And secondly, I continued, had this been my occupation, my nose would be smaller and my income larger.

Ba-da-boom.

© 2017 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Curb Your Mercedes

My insomnia is of the world-class variety, the kind that gets you qualified for the most selective treatment programs.  This does not make me feel special.  It is not like getting accepted to the Ivy League.

So sleeping, and the consequent dreaming, are just not a regular part of my life.  But last night, I had an incredibly vivid dream.  Really true to life.

In the dream, my car dies.  There is no hope of resuscitation.  I would like to get a Prius or some other environmentally-conscious vehicle.  But I am completely broke.

My anonymous boyfriend — his face is actually pixelated in the dream, like on TV to protect the identity of the whistleblower — tells me he will come up with something.  And he does.  He brings to me an adorable but older vehicle.  He brings to me a small delivery van.  He brings to me a German car.

Now, you should know that my practice of Judaism tends to be more in line with the spirit of the law and not so much the letter.  And my priorities, they are not terribly logical, even by my standards.  I make no judgment, but there are some traditions I would never violate.  I would never eat of the pig.  I would never tattoo on my body.  And I would never drive a German car.

Anyway, back to the dream.  I tell the boyfriend that I would not drive a German car.  I am thinking that I must have told him this before, probably many times, but even if I didn’t mention, he really should just know.  I tell him we have to take it back.

I instruct him to get behind the wheel.  Just sitting in the passenger seat is bad enough.  OK, we go in the car and make the beeline.  Right into the telephone pole.  I am sure we deserve this fate.  I mean, what were we thinking?  Driving a German car?

He asks me to wait while he goes to the nearby service station.  So I stand beside the car in the heart of downtown, where you always bump with the people you know.  I try to hide behind the car.  All I can think is G-d forbid somebody sees me by the Hitlermobile.

Let’s face it, I have some real problems in my dream.  My bank account has no money.  My boyfriend has no face.  My car has no insurance.  But my biggest concern?  That someone should think I am not a good Jew.  And then it starts to rain.

This morning, I recount the dream to a friend who laughs heartily and tells me the dream reminds him an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

On the show, Larry and Jeff really like this Palestinian restaurant.  But they know their Jewish friends would feel to eat there, it’s a terrible affront on Israel.  And the place is next door a Jewish deli, so they worry someone should pass by and see them.

As for me, guess if you’re gonna live a sit-com life, you’re gonna dream a sit-com dream.

© 2017 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Winter Camping

My first job after graduate school.  Me and my boss are polar opposites in every possible way.

She:  a tall quiet blonde with short straight hair
Me:  a short loud brunette with long wavy hair

She:  from Minnesota
Me:  from New York

She:  liked to stay home and listen to NPR
Me:  liked hit the clubs and hear live music

You get my meaning.

So anyway, one day, we are driving to a client meeting.  She is very excited to tell me about her upcoming vacation.  Winter camping, she says.

This is something I never heard, but before I could think, it pops out from my mouth: “Wait a minute.  You are taking the two things I hate most in the world, winter and camping, putting them together, and calling it a vacation?”

She was very offended by this (and by most other things I said).  But I didn’t mean any disrespect.  Vive la différence!

© 2017 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Persuasive Lips

Mrs. Townsend, my 11th grade English teacher, once defined kissing as “the uptown persuasion for the downtown invasion”.

I do not recall which great literary work we were studying at the time of this declaration.  Perhaps it was the scandalous Scarlet Letter.  I doubt it was the interminably morose Look Homeward Angel.

Anyway, somewhat more recently, though still very long ago, I attended a party at a firehouse —

In my memory it was a firehouse, but that doesn’t make much sense.  More likely, it was a warehouse.  Well, it was some kind of house.  A big one.

So, the band playing the party was named Persuasive Lips.

During a break, I chatted with the lead guy, and when the group returned to the stage, he called me to sing backup.  With a microphone.  A working microphone.

I sang and danced and played tambourine for the rest of the night.  It is something very special to make music with other people.  It is a joyous thing.

After that night, I formed a girl group, The Jackets.  A Go-Gos, Bangles sort of thing.  I should probably mention, this part was all in my head.

At the time, I did play the guitar.  With great frequency and enthusiasm and a very solid intermediate level of proficiency.  Now, I don’t have sufficient fine motor skills.  I haven’t in years.  To be honest, I have trouble even to make my fingers press the right numbers on the cell phone screen.

I did used to sing, too, all the time.  Bosses would tell me it was good for morale.  Strangers in stores would remark how nice my voice.  Now, people actually ask me to stop.  I just can’t seem to control my vocal chords.  Linda Ronstadt isn’t able to sing anymore, either.  But, by her, it’s a loss.

You know what they say.  It’s never too late.  Lemons?  Lemonade!

So I’m starting a new group, The Arthritix.  I’m soliciting women over 45.  Must play an instrument poorly and/or sing off-key.  We’ll practice at my place.  Bring your own noise-canceling headphones.

© 2016 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.