Wednesday, February 20, 2013


So, yes, in spite of having lost my car keys (as an act of subconscious self-sabotage, I've been saying), I called John, who told me where the extra Honda ignition key hung.  Which meant that I did get to the call-backs on time, and ultimately got the role I was hoping for, in 'The Full Monty'.  It was so exciting to hear the news on Tuesday morning, in a phone call from the director, that when that call was over, I hung up and shouted for delight.

But of course, there was still the matter of the lost keys.  Not only was the Honda key on that bunch, but also my YMCA pass, the keys to the Newark storage space, and perhaps even more importantly, the keys to my two storage spaces in Rochester NY.  Okay, so I get there once every ten years, but it's still nice to be able to get in, if I do happen to make the trip.

Plus, there was the matter of initiating the new device, allegedly prescribed for my by the surgeon who installed my pacemaker.  I'd been getting pestering phone calls from this weird company, threatening me with unspecific punishments if I didn't 'open the box and initialize the device'.  What -- have these people never watched a spy movie? 

But I did finally call them back, and spoke with a very cheerful, buoyant operative -- I mean, customer service representative, who explained most of what I needed to know, so I promised her that, once my audition was over, I would submit to this latest technological indignity.  I just didn't want to be stripping off my clothes and revealing a set of extra metallic nipples.

I could have done the computer tutorial, but instead I took the much dreaded box up to the bedroom, and opted to do things the old-fashioned way -- by reading a pamphlet.  Even though there was no particular explanation of what this device -- or, really, this set of devices -- would do, or why it had to be physically attached to my skin, the pictorial guiding me through the process seemed clear enough.  And after all, there were all those smiling faces on the pamphlet's back cover -- they'd all had terrific experiences with the Heart-o-Vention, hadn't they?  How bad could it be? The one guy even looked older than me!  (Walter sometimes forgets that there are such things as paid models, and stock photos.  Such is the lure of a narrative for a life...)

Once the three little gummy electrode pads were in place, and I'd let them settle for about twenty minutes -- who knew these sensors would have to be warmed up to body temperature? -- it was time to put a battery into the little grey transmitter device, and put it over my head, so it would rest in the middle of my chest, like a scapular, only without the holiness.  The only problem was that the illustration showed a different configuration of suspending cords, and none of the cords were attached to the transmitter, and there was no gummy back on it, so I really had to figure out what to do.  Finally, after maybe five minutes of fiddling with various possibilities, I discovered the secret, slipped the cords over my head, and then plugged the sensor heads into the electrodes.  Trying not to notice just how much those sensor attachments resembled leeches, or remoras.

Then I had to activate another, larger grey rectangular device, somewhat larger than an old cell phone, but with a little antenna on the top, like what I'd expect to see on a policeman's cheap walkie-talkie.  More switches, and prompts to follow, and zingo!  In only twenty-five minutes, I was now wired for... whatever this thing was supposed to do.

The only clues I had to its purpose were the use of 'cardio' in the (real) name of the company, the fact that a heart surgeon had apparently prescribed it for me, and I've got a pacemaker installed, right near where one of the electrodes was supposed to be glued.  The white one, I think.  But, according to the walkie-talkie's screen, I was supposed to go through some process if I had an event.  Well, I won't have a birthday party until October, if then, and I don't know if choir rehearsals count.  I did lose one of my favorite gloves (during my lost car key episode); maybe finding it could be considered an event.  Who knew?

And I had to re-attach the red electrode, because it was apparently causing a red warning light and a stern read-out on the walkie-talkie.  I kept trying places until the desired green light was pulsing regularly.  I was a little tentative about moving very much.  I felt like I was taking care of a colicky baby.  A grey one.

Then the walkie-talkie began beeping, because it needed its transmitter -- another grey plastic thing with another antenna built into it.  This one looks sort of like a space-age rat trap, but without an obvious neck-breaking spring.  This one would use some other death ray or something.  When I set the walkie-talkie into the open space where the dead rat would otherwise be, all seemed well.  For a while.  The little green light was blinking, which meant that all was (temporarily) well.

Who remembers what one was doing, when yet another alarm beepy thing went off, which the walkie-talkie told me, via its flat grey screen, meant that now the rat trap was running out of energy, and needed to be plugged in.  I found the recharger, found the correct port, and an open socket near where I was hoping to sit for part of the evening, eating dinner.  Once again, all seemed quiet. 

But it began to be apparent to me that two weeks (!) of tending to this set of wires and readers and electric devices was going to put a serious crimp in my activities.  Would I want to go to the gym with these things hanging all over me, under my tee-shirt?  What would happen if I should break a sweat?  Although I knew I could (temporarily) detach the electrodes from my supernumerary nipples, for bathing, I didn't know how long it would be before the beeping resumed.  And in these troubled times, having something beeping in a mens' locker room isn't the coolest thing on earth.  Would I constantly have to look for electrical outlets, when I was grocery shopping, for instance?  More imminently important -- was I supposed to sleep with this tangle on me? 

Well, in fact I did sleep in the intrusive embrace of this device that was reading what was going on in my body, and telling other people about it.  It wasn't a good sleep, but it was something.  I woke up with a headache and a sense of dread about this being only the second day of a fourteen-day ordeal.  I felt a little like a Parisian, during the German Occupation.  Only without the cheese.

How fortuitous was it, then, that at 9:30, I got a call from the surgeon's office, reminding me of today's morning appointment with him.  Usually I remember these things, but this had completely slipped my mind.  Maybe I was distracted by wanting to audition for a play that, if I were cast, would require me to take off all my clothes in public?  In any event, I used my new technique of being almost an hour early for my appointment, and even though I'd taken a moment to eat an apple in the van, before going into the office, it turned out that, when I did make my entrance I was next!  And my pal, Mike the Tech Guy, was there, unlike the last two appointments when his presence was sort of central, and he hadn't been notified of either.

Mike did his semi-sadistic 'let me just try this' routine -- 'Oh, I really have to 'pace' you.  Let me know if you feel anything...'  Yow!  Suddenly it feels as if there's some angry little razor creature trying to burrow its way straight out of my chest.  'Okay, well, let me just see what this...'  Now the razor creature has been replaced by a sharp spinning wheel that seems prepared to slice me in half, laterally. Mike tells me that, in many if not most cases, his clients don't notice any of these alterations in the pacemaker settings -- no reaction at all.  Perhaps he's working with more zombies than he realizes.  I didn't have the heart to mention it -- he seems like such a clean, well-groomed guy. 

But the wonderful outcome of this forgotten appointment was Dr. V.'s instant brushing aside of the need for my newly-installed device from Hell.  Mike said they're monitoring me regularly enough, and that everything is as it should be.  So I could peel off the electrodes, pry loose the information-sucking parasite plugs, and ship all of it back to wherever it came from.

Rarely, if ever, has a trip to Jersey City seemed so worth it.

Oh, and I found the missing car keys -- for reasons unknowable (right), I had dropped them on my work space in the basement, where, because of the surface clutter, they functionally disappeared.  The glove is still missing.  It's probably taped to my forehead.

Now, because the acting role I'm playing in the upcoming strip-a-thon requires me to be clean shaven, and because I've already taken the big razor-driven plunge, uncovering skin that hasn't seen daylight in thirty years, the thing I'm currently semi-obsessed with is my upper lip.  Which pale, characterless  topic we can leave for another time, perhaps.     

I just know you can't wait...

©      2013          Walter Zimmerman

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