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.)

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Exile on High Street

Steph’s Saturday calendar was packed to the rim today (even more so than usual), and so, though she didn’t specifically order it, I’ve made myself scarce today.  I’m blogging at the Whetstone Library, one of the many stops I’ve made on High Street this afternoon.  I’ve been a regular on the 2 bus today.

Steph taught some voice and piano lessons this morning, and when I left, a double rehearsal for her a Capella women’s group, The MadriGals, had just started.  I slinked (slunk?) slowly and unmissed from the house, headed to Cartridge World to exchange ink cartridges for my Hewlett-Packard DeskJet printer/scanner.  (I’m too stingy to break down and buy a laser printer.)

There was rain last night and some this morning, so all of Columbus has a mildewy smell about it.  I seem to have outgrown most of the environmental allergies that plagued me as a kid, otherwise my eyes and nose would be running, and aforementioned eyes would be bloodshot right now.

I finally did buy the notebook I was seeking on Thursday, before my friend Scott and I found ourselves in the midst of the OSU AXE Undie Run.  (I’m still old enough to remember when having your underwear showing was the ultimate humiliation.  At the Ohio-Meadville Youth Con last weekend, I came to the conclusion that exposed bra straps are now a fashion statement of some kind.)  I bought a blue Mead 3″ x 5″ notepad, and christened it last night by making notes for a short story.  I haven’t typed a word of the story itself, but I think I know what I want to do with it.

I turned around and headed north here to Whetstone, mainly to return interlibrary loan books.  If they’re overdue, the fines can be prohibitively expensive.  I also picked up a Book on CD, Haiku, the most recent Andrew Vachss novel.  (I was a bit leery, since he’s permanently retired the Burke series, but what little I read of this book in print sounds fantastic.)

I’m not sure where Susie is.  She was in her bedroom with the door closed when I left.  I doubt I could have interested her in a trip to Cartridge World, so I didn’t bother to knock.  I had company on the errand; I’ve begun a long overdue taped letter to a friend of mine, so I was communing with my tape recorder (the Memorex MB1055 standard-sized one, not Diane the Olympus microcassette recorder).  As I was waiting to catch the northbound bus, a gaggle of four or five sorority women walked by (I was in front of the Newport Music Hall), and one leaned over and shouted “Hi!” into the microphone while I was talking, sounding like a nursery school kid on Romper Room.  The time-and-temperature sign in front of the Ohio Union said 12:45 p.m., and these women were already quite drunk.  It made me wonder how long they’d been at it.

I’m going to a wedding on Second Life tomorrow night–one of my rare forays into that domain.  (Its national anthem should be the Alan Parsons Project’s “In The Real World”: “Don’t wanna live my life/In the real world.”)  Steph and I are tux-shopping for me tonight.  I’ll enjoy that as much as I enjoy real-world clothes-shopping, I’m sure.  (I’ve worn a tuxedo only once in my life, when I was best man at a friend’s wedding.  When I saw myself wearing the tux, I wondered if it came with a hurdy-gurdy and a monkey, or if I’d have to buy them separately.  I didn’t even wear a tux to my own wedding!)

Were it not for the threat of rain, and my overfilled over-the-shoulder bag, I might have walked from campus to here, all 20+ blocks.  The musty after-rain smell didn’t make me as miserable as it would have during my childhood, but it was still triggering an itchy palate.

I probably should have walked, because I dozed off a few times on the relatively short bus ride north.  I slept rather well last night, but I recognized the dozings-off on the bus as narcoleptic attacks; I was going straight into REM sleep and dreaming in a matter of seconds.  It’s happened a lot on the way home from work lately, too.  Last week, I was riding the northbound bus and reading The New Yorker, and at least three times I dozed off, awakening only when my magazine hit the bus floor.  (The article I was reading was far from dull, too.)

The cough seems to be 95% gone.  I do still cough from time to time, but the tickle in my throat doesn’t trigger the long and loud bouts that have plagued me through much of March and April.  The chest pain episode on my birthday turned out to be pleurisy, so I’m willing to bet it’s all part of the same package.  There was a woman on the bus the other day whose cough sounded as bad as mine, although I could tell by the sound that she had a much more productive cough than I did.  (Mine was dry 99 times out of a hundred.)  I’d look over toward her seat and her face was red from the effort of all that coughing.

She got off the bus before I did, and I saw her opening her purse as she stepped off the bus.  I thought she was getting out an aspirator (for asthma), or her cell phone (so a friend could take her to Urgent Care), but I was wrong on both counts.  I was just shaking my head in disbelief when I saw her pulling out a lighter and a pack of cigarettes.  No doubt where her cough originated.  (Mine was probably an opportunistic infection that came when I was still recovering from the gallbladder surgery.)

Now I’m Famous For My Cough?

My appointment with the pulmonologist is Monday, and I’m starting to act like a little kid counting down the days and hours until Christmas Day.  (I have never felt that way about going to the doctor.  And I saw quite a bit of my pediatrician as a child.  I was sick so often as a child that I named my doll Jones, after my pediatrician.)

I was in my cubicle working this afternoon, mostly on Statements of Fact and ex parte orders, and I heard someone come up from the mail room with some files.  A supervisor said, “Oh, those go to Paul.”  I heard him say, “He’s the guy with the cough, isn’t he?”

Steph has been at choir practice tonight, and that is always followed by pizza and wine at a restaurant in Worthington.  Quite a few times tonight, I’ve picked up my tape recorder to try to start a taped letter to a friend of mine, but never got past the first minute or two.  I had to keep shutting off the mike to cough, and it’s hard to draw enough breath to speak for any length of time.

All my visits to the pediatrician as a child have had one benefit, and that is that I am not squeamish about needles.  I don’t like them, but I am able to get shots and have my blood drawn without panicking.  (A co-worker of mine is absolutely terrified of them, which I find amusing, because he’s an ex-Marine.  Mr. Lean, Mean Fighting Machine cannot stand to have his blood drawn.)  The aforementioned pediatrician was very quick with the syringe (which I called the “shot pencil”), and generous with penicillin and gamma globulin for most childhood ailments.

My friend Robert sent me a link to eBay: A Royal portable manual typewriter signed by J.D. Salinger is on sale.  The minimum price is $500.

Jefferson Awards

I think I was more disappointed than Jacques that he wasn’t one of the five finalists for the national Jefferson Award.  He took it in stride, and saw the award, and its coverage on television and in This Week Community Newspapers, as benefiting his goal of reducing, if not eliminating, hunger in Central and Southeastern Ohio.

The ceremony wasn’t a banquet, as I thought it would be.  There was a ceremony, hosted by Angela Pace and Chuck White, Public Affairs Director and Public Affairs Director Emeritus, respectively, of WBNS-TV, Channel 10.  There were speeches by Ohio’s First Lady, Frances Strickland, and Mayor Mike Coleman, and then they announced the five finalists.  When Jacques saw video rolling, featuring interviews and a two- or three-minute vignette about the honorees’ causes and activities, he knew he wasn’t a finalist, because no camera crew or TV reporter had spoken to him.

We did get a free meal out of it, because there were finger foods and refreshments in the foyer outside the hall at the McCoy Center after the ceremony.  I spoke with Chuck White briefly.  Since Angela Pace had introduced him as “Mr. Tree,” I told him about how Luci’s Toy Shop had been my favorite children’s program in my pre-school years, and how I didn’t want to go to kindergarten because it would mean missing the show.  (White was the puppeteer for the program, which ran on WBNS from 1960 to 1973.  Mr. Tree was one of the characters.)

Luci’s Toy Shop was also where my name was first broadcast on mass media.  On my fourth birthday, Luci said happy birthday to me and all other kids born on April 29th.

Jacques made contact with other people, including his fellow nominees, about possibly joining forces for their respective causes.  That, he said, made the award worth it, even if he is not in the running for the national award.

Jacques and me before leaving for New Albany
Jacques and Angela Pace
Angela Pace and me
I am seeing a pulmonologist on the 12th about the cough that has become as much a part of me lately as my beard.  Each day I think that maybe I’ve overcome it, or it’s improving, but then I take a deep breath and I’m brought back to reality.  The chest X ray I had at Mount Carmel West turned up nothing, and neither codeine nor antibiotics have stopped it.
So we’ll see.