Pleasurable Penance

I have redeemed myself (for now, anyway) as far as the Columbus Metropolitan Library is concerned.  I’ve been unable to check anything out these past few weeks, because my unpaid fine balance kept creeping higher and higher.  When it exceeds $10, the library suspends your borrowing privileges.  (I have kept mine at $9.99 for over a year, but my card went inactive when Susie lost a book borrowed on my card.  Yesterday, I went down to the main library to pay for the lost book, and the book jockey gave me some very good news.  Some anonymous Good Samaritan had found the book and had returned it.  I guess I’ll never know where he/she found it, but at least I don’t have to pay for replacing it.)

While lost, the meter kept running on the book’s fines.  So, after church today, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to read off my fines.  (I’m not 100% in the black, but my fine balance is below $10, so I can borrow again.)

You can read off your fines once or twice a year at the library, at a rate of $8 per hour.  Reading off the fines means sitting at a table and reading–no text-messaging, no computer.  I checked in at the desk at the Whetstone Library when it opened at 1, and the woman at the desk figured that 2½ hours would reduce my balance enough to where I could borrow again.  I pointed out where I’d be sitting, and went to the table to serve my “sentence.”

That’s why this entry has the title it does.  I have never considered reading to be work, and it was definitely never punishment.  If I’m eating alone, I have to be reading something, even if it’s the side panels of the cereal box.  (I think a byproduct of my Asperger’s syndrome is a strong tendency toward hyperlexia.  I may not retain all that I read, but I have to be engaging in the mechanism of reading, even if I’m only looking at words. (If I’m without a book at McDonald’s or somewhere else, I’ll read discarded copies of Sports Illustrated or The Buckeye Sports Bulletin, publications I would otherwise never peruse.)

I am glad there is no designated place at the library where people reading off their fines sit to do it.  Although I would gladly be doing it, I would be less than happy to be in a place that trumpeted, “Look, everybody!  This guy is in the hole with fines!”  It would feel like being in the penalty box during a hockey game, or like being in the stocks during the Puritan days in New England, except that at the library nobody can throw mud and rotten eggs at you.

Crazily, I came prepared in case there was nothing at the library that struck my fancy.  I brought along Harlot’s Ghost, Norman Mailer’s 1310-page novel about the CIA, which I bought when I lived in Cincinnati (I left there in 1995), and have tried to read more than a dozen times, never getting past the first 10-15 pages.  At McDonald’s between church and Whetstone’s opening time, I conscientiously kept Harlot’s Ghost in my bag, wanting to save it for the library.  (I wrote in my diary instead–I didn’t want to run the risk of finishing all 1300-plus pages in the time it took to eat two McDoubles and drink two cups of lemonade.)

I never took Harlot’s Ghost out of my bag again.  Once at the library, I found an excellent book, Charles Lachman’s The Last Lincolns, about the direct descendants of Abraham Lincoln, starting with his four sons (only one of whom, Robert Todd Lincoln, lived to adulthood), and Robert’s children and grandchildren.  Abraham Lincoln has no direct descendants alive.  When his great-grandson Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith died in 1985, that was his final lineal descendant.

When the woman told me how long my “sentence” would be, I started the stopwatch on my watch, but I didn’t pay attention to it once I began reading.  I was a few pages into the book when I decided that I would christen my newly reactivated card by borrowing it.  (I did just that, along with a three-disk set of Bob Dylan’s Biograph, a boxed set I used to have on LP.  When I bought it, I turned off the phone, locked my apartment door, and listened to all 53 songs.)

The change to Eastern Daylight Savings Time came this morning.  I was awake for the change, because I wanted to make sure that my cell phone and my alarm clock made the adjustment (I have an Emerson Research SmartSet clock radio that adjusts itself automatically when you plug it in), and both of them.  It mattered because Susie and the rest of the Rising Voices choir would be singing at both services today, at 9:15 and 11 a.m.  Susie had to be there at 8:45 for rehearsal and warm-up, so we left the house just before 8 to catch the bus, so we could eat breakfast at church beforehand.

I stayed for the entire first service, and stayed at the second service long enough to film the kids.  (I shot a video of the kids at the 9:15 service, but started it about five seconds too late.  Although both performances were wonderful, the second one was the better of the two.)  They sang “What is Pink?”   (Susie is in the front row, wearing an orange shirt, and this is the link, for your viewing and musical enjoyment.)

I left after the girls (Rising Voices isn’t intentionally all-female; it’s an all-girls choir by default) sang.  Susie stayed behind to go to OWL class (an acronym for Our Whole Lives, the human sexuality curriculum), and I killed time at McDonald’s until the library opened.

Dominion Middle School’s second and final performance of Annie Jr. was fantastic on Friday night.  I took some pictures during the show with my new cell phone, the Motorola that arrived via FedEx on Thursday.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a USB cord with a Micro-B male terminal, so I can’t download them yet.  Stay tuned to this blog, and as soon as I find the right cord, I will share them with all you eager readers.

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My Annual Cough

This is my last week of comparative luxury.  The seasonal job at Columbus State Community College’s bookstore begins Monday evening at 5:30, so from then until the 31st, 13-hour workdays will be the norm and not the exception.  I should probably savor what free time I have, but it’s hard to when my cough has come back, making its presence known whenever I take a deep breath.

The vernal equinox is the 20th, and I had been hoping that I would be spared the cough this year, but no such luck.  It started off as a mild tickling in the back of my throat, and now there’s a constant urge to cough nestled at the base of my tongue.  All I have to do is breathe normally and that’ll trigger it.

Susie and I are in the same boat, ear-wise, unfortunately.  She developed an earache that goes down the whole side of her face and even into her tooth.  Nevertheless, she took some ibuprofen and gave a splendid performance in Annie, Jr. tonight at Dominion Middle School.  (I didn’t go, because I was supposed to be at a late doctor’s appointment.  His office called to reschedule just as I was leaving work this afternoon.  But I’ll be there tomorrow night at 7 p.m. sharp.  Take note, those of you in the Columbus area!)  She went to bed tonight with some NyQuil, and hopefully that’ll clear it up.

On Monday, I leave work at 11 a.m. for an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat guy) at OSU Medical Center.  Since before Christmas, I’ve had a non-stop rushing and ringing sound in my ears.  It feels like your ears do after someone has come up behind you and boxed them.  I was a little worried when the office called to reschedule, because they wanted an audiologist there, as well as the physician.

I complained to a friend of mine that I had such a backlog of work, I needed a periscope to see over everything.  I admit that sometime soon I’ll have to make an effort to clean up the papers that scatter my desk, but I’m actually spending most of my work hours transcribing, which means I haven’t had time to sort through what belongs there and what I should discard.  One of my un-favorite doctors dominated today’s work.  He dictates very rapidly, occasionally gasping for breath between paragraphs, and I have to take down what he’s saying, sort out his run-on sentences, and pause to look at various medical references (both online and in books) to make sure he said what he said.  I keep thinking to myself, For Christ’s sake, you’re a physician, not an auctioneer.


Some people have said I’m a little anal-retentive when it comes to transcribing the doctors’ reports, but this is one profession where it is a must, or should be a must.  So many medical terms sound alike (“atraumatic,” as opposed to “it was a traumatic event”), as do the names of many medications, that if I’m not 100% sure, I stop the recording and look up the term or drug name in question.  This is because someone’s health is at stake whenever you transcribe a report.  It’s not like a data entry job at Victoria’s Secret, where the worst that can happen is that a package addressed to Logan, Ohio may end up in Logan, Utah.

After about a week of going without, I have a cell phone yet again.  My LG cell phone fizzled unexpectedly Wednesday night.  I spent over an hour on the phone with Net10’s customer service people the next day (not including the time on hold–you can listen to most of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen during that), and finally they agreed to send me a new phone free of charge, and FedEx delivered a new Motorola cell phone, complete with camera, this morning.  I had to go to my email account and send a mass message to friends who have called me.  (I stored most of their numbers in the phone, and when the phone went belly-up, the memory was kaput as well.)


While Susie was onstage and Steph was in the audience tonight, I did something which probably helped neither my cough nor my ears.  They had eaten dinner before I came home (since they thought–as I did–that I wouldn’t be home), so I went out in the cold rain (temperature in the mid-30s tonight) and went to Wendy’s and brought back two Double Stacks for dinner.

More doctors’ reports await me when I walk into the office at 8 a.m.  They’re from a psychologist, so at least it’ll be interesting.  They’re long, but I always seem to whiz through psychological and psychiatric examinations.  Hearing about people’s backgrounds and family upbringings is more interesting than hearing about their spines and their problems walking.  (One claimant had a condition you’ll find most often in spelling bees: trichotillomania, a compulsion to pull out your own hair.)