Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Perspective

So yesterday I went to the doctor, after battling a sore throat that culminated in three days of hearing loss in my right ear. She confirmed my suspicion: a middle ear infection probably caused by strep. She prescribed antibiotics which make me nauseous but - unlike certain other medicines - otherwise result in no adverse reactions.

That's not all.

I'm driving home last night when a tire blows out. For those of you who don't live here... it was about eight degrees last night. All the snow on the ground has literally frozen into chunks of ice and - for whatever reason - no one in this city believes in salting or sanding the walkways. So just walking outside is often a gamble.

But, luckily, the tire explosion occured not too far from my apartment (I would have been MUCH worse off if I'd been on the expressway). I was able to park, go inside to change and call around to see what time the "tire" places closed. Unfortunately, every place closed at 7, and I was calling at about 6:30 - a deadline I couldn't make since I still needed to change the actual tire.

So I walked back out to my car, figuring I'd at least put on the donut then, and then take it in for a new tire this morning. My car was two blocks away from my apartment and - during the long walk back in the blistering cold - I saw this woman in a van, spinning her wheels on snow & ice in an effort to leave her parking spot. Part of me - the dark and sinister part that we all pretend doesn't exist in our inner psyche - reminded me of my own tragedy, and compelled me to walk on to my own car (not to mention, I quickly envisioned a scenario in which she accidentally put the car in reverse, thereby pinning me between herself and the car behind). I (literally) shook my head at myself, and walked over to the lady.

I made a motion implying I'd push her van, and she nodded. I got behind the vehicle, but she didn't put it in drive. She got out and said to me, "I don't even understand what I'm stuck on."

I looked around, commenting that the snow was so compacted that it was just a series of ice mounds. I suggested she either needed a source of traction or a push. She got back in her car, put it in drive... and then with a couple heaves, she was gone.

***
I felt good for a moment before I made my way back to my car, opened the trunk, and endeavored to inspect the spare and loosen the lugnuts. I was feeling generally lousy, with the occasional searing pain in my ear reminding me that I was supposed to be home in bed and NOT outside in the freezing cold.

So naturally, two of the lugnuts wouldn't budge. They have a history of corroding onto the surface, and it took the entire weight of Washington (who later arrived to assist) literally JUMPING on the wrench to move them. But once we got those off, the tire itself was stuck. We tried everything imaginable (by this point, for the record, my fingers and toes were painfully numb) before I telephoned one of my mechanically-gifted cousins.

He has a long history of coming to my rescue in times of need, and is one of those people who knows how to fix everything -- cars, motorcycles, lawnmowers, HVAC, household appliances. You name it, he can fix it.

"Kick in the front, and then spin it. Kick it, and spin it. Do that until it pops off."

His advice was dead on. After 3 or 4 tries, the tire fell into our hands and was tossed into the trunk of my car.

***


I made small talk with my cousin while Washington put on the spare (thanks, man!).

I eventually made my way to the question I ask my mother every time I talk to her about my cousin.

"So, how is your eye doing?"

A couple months ago, my cousin was out working (he's successfully self-employed) when a metal pipe - propelled by a sizeable force - hit him directly in the eye, taking with it a chunk of his cornea and leaving him immobile in bed for a days while he waited for the pain to subside.

"Oh, I'm blind in that eye," he said matter-of-factly.

He shared more details as we continued to talk. He said they tried a contact of sorts, but his cornea is no longer "smooth," and so the contact didn't work. The only thing that could restore his sight would be a cornea transplant... something he can't have done for another 22 months because - get this - his wife's last day on her previous job was THE DAY his accident happened. And the insurance at her new workplace won't cover "pre-existing conditions." His eye injury qualifies as such. And even though she was still gainfully employed with insurance the day of the accident (not to mention, they had already signed up for COBRA), that insurance company is looking for loopholes to deny his emergency room visit. He has yet to be reimbursed for the thousands of dollars he had to pay out-of-pocket.

This all sounds dreadful to me. And I expressed as much, though my cousin seemed to shrug off my concerns with smile.

"Oh, there are people way worse off than me," he said. "Besides, at least I still have the other eye. And I'll probably get my money back from the insurance eventually."

"But, still, you have to wait two years before this new company will cover your pre-existing condition. You can't even see an opthamologist in that period. That's terrible."

"I know it," he said. " But I'll be all right. I'm just glad it wasn't worse."
***

And there I was, foolishly stressed about an earache and a busted tire.
***

By the time I made my way back inside, I could barely bend my toes. It was late, and I still had about four hours of tasks ahead of me. I went to bed at 1:30 a.m., but woke up continuously throughout the night, the pain in my stomach reminding me that medicine was at work.

***
When my alarm went off at 5:45 a.m., I dragged myself out of bed... called my boss to let him know I'd be in late... and then made my way to the tire place for their 7 a.m. debut. Unfortunately, three cars were left there overnight, so they were the priority. They finally took in my car at 9, charged me a sizeable amount, and rattled off a list of "other" things wrong with my car. I sort of shrugged them off and made my way to work, where I was a veritable zombie for the rest of the day.

"So much for sleep being the best medicine," I thought.

***

But the thing I can't seem to stop thinking about is my cousin's current situation. I mean, this guy has helped me just about every time I've had a problem with my car... whether by offering advice, or doing the work himself (for little to no profit).

And it bothers me that -- in times like this -- I can't turn around and fix his eye. The best I could do was offer to help with his bills... an offer that was nowhere near what I would have preferred to extend.

Times like these, I wish I'd never changed my major.

Pre-med to English.

What was I thinking?

7 comments:

Winter said...

I'm forget people like him are on this earth.. so thanks for reminding me..

disgruntled world citizen said...

It sounds like your cousing is quite a guy. I think we could probably all take notes from the guy.

I hope you feel better.

Oh, and stay warm.

XOXO said...

I guess you don't want to hear about my flat tire last week. It just so happened to be the day it was near 60 degrees. I was sick (sinus infection and near bronchitis), so I was frustrated and annoyed. The next day the weather changed a bit...by like 40 degrees. Now I hear your story and realize how happy I should have been.

When you talk of your cousin, I'm reminded of several things. The main one is the time I stood in WalMart thinking there had to be something in there to help my mom. It was the last time Grandma was in the hospital before she finally passed a couple weeks later. Sometimes it doesn't matter your skill, knowledge, or wealth. Things happen regardless. Your cousin has it right by taking on a good attitude about it. BUT, I still think we all have a right to feel sorry for ourselves without guilt every now and then.

Anonymous said...

You are doing the best you can with what you have at hand. I would have passed the lady in the van by for the reason you stated.

You can't do the hindsight thing. Why did you change majors? What brought you to where you are in your life today? That is the thing about choices.
~BPP

michele said...

Pre-med you would've been helping people. Now, you're also helping people. Sure, they're different, but you're still the same person, doing what you can where you can. That hasn't changed.

There, now I sound like a motivational poster!

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

You know, Michele, you're exactly right. And I should have been more clear about that in my post. A person CAN do a lot of good with my degree. But right now, I'm not. And that bothers me.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

DWC - I'm lucky to have a handful of cousins like that, actually. Seems someone is always available to help... even when I'm miles away from home.