1st Place, 2014: “Stones I Have Known” © Daniel Montville, Oak Park, IL
I’m no stranger to pain, having had thirteen bone fractures in my life. But my bout with kidney stones a number of years ago ranks right on top of the misery list. The best way I can describe the sharp, stabbing pains is to imagine sliding down a banister that suddenly turns into a razor blade. Non-prescription pain remedies were about as effective as a Boy Scout troop trying to quell a mob riot.
The only thing worse was the treatment itself, known as a “basket retrieval procedure.” While the patient lies spread-eagled in stirrups, the doctor inserts a teeny basket that looks like a miniature guppy net into the urinary tract, in an attempt to snag the nagging nugget.
Now, since I get my medical care through the VA, I have to accept certain concessions in the quality of my care. For instance, the doctor who performed the procedure on me was a resident. The VA uses a lot of greenhorns to get hands-on practice before they go out into the real world where mistakes have real consequences. Upon reflection, I believe that my wide-eyed aspirant got the nod for this procedure because she did such a great job scooping out melon balls for the staff’s holiday party several months earlier.
I was awake during the entire procedure because they used a novel, non-anesthetic, pain-blocking method (more on that in a minute). The stones were as elusive as those previously mentioned guppies, and she couldn’t get the hang of capturing them cleanly. Instead, she resorted to wedging them against the ureter wall and scraping them down to the bladder. On a larger scale, I’m told this is how the Great Lakes were formed.
The VA rarely uses heavy sedatives any more. Instead, they employ an innovative approach to pain blocking: distraction. In my case, they brought in a large water globe about the size of a soccer ball. Instead of the usual pastoral scene, revolving in seeming harmony with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” this one had a shapely porcelain statuette facing away from me, wearing a scanty “naughty nurse” outfit.
The anesthesiologist then flipped the switch and the fetching figurine began to slowly revolve, as “Brahm’s Lullaby” wafted ever so softly throughout the room. My eyes began to glaze over and a deep sense of calm engulfed my entire being, as I awaited the revelation of an angelic face beckoning me to dematerialize into an otherworldly state.
Just as she was about to reveal her comely frontal attributes, the entire operating room erupted with blood-curdling, Psycho shower scene screeching. Instead of the anticipated likeness of a heavenly angel, the grinning face of Hannibal Lecter appeared while holding a rectal thermometer in a most menacing way.
The shock immediately hurled me into a catatonic state, completely blocking out any sense of pain. It’s worthwhile to note that the Geneva Conventions banned this procedure long ago, due to its perceived inhumane nature. However, the VA has gained a waiver for its continued use by successfully arguing before the Supreme Court that the distinction between military veterans and lab rats is negligible.
Getting back to the procedure itself, young Doctor Fetchit was becoming more frustrated, since the stone removal process wasn’t progressing as smoothly as she’d seen in the Disney training film. However, she did manage to jiggle the stone enough to break it into smaller fragments. At the same time, the shock was starting to wear off, and I was feeling a good deal of discomfort.
So, she chose to leave the remaining rubble to nature’s own purging process. And since I would be sporting a catheter for the next ten days, she reassured me that when I did pass the rest of the grit, I wouldn’t feel a thing. Yes, doctor, and I suppose sucking a broken beer bottle up your nose wouldn’t be any worse than a case of the sniffles.
I jokingly asked her if I could still have sex, and she responded with a deer-in-the-headlights expression. It was obvious she’d never been to Tijuana.
After ten days of feeling like a human corn dog, I returned to have the FDA-approved garden hose removed, once again by another young pup. After I blubberingly limped out of the clinic, I surmised that her major qualification for removing catheters must have been that she never met a lawnmower she couldn’t start with the first yank. Need I say more?
Moral of the story: Don’t get stoned.
2nd Place, 2014: “How to Talk Sports (Even When You’re a Sports Moron)”
© Dan Van Oss, Solon, Iowa
We all know the guys who sleep, breathe and sprinkle sports on their Wheaties, who in February, after the final second of the Super Bowl ticks off, will immediately begin discussing the men-on-base, weekday only, away game, slugging percentage of an obscure minor league player who might be drafted in the 23rd round by the [insert favorite team here; it doesn’t really matter], if they trade McClowski but not if they keep McGurkowitz, unless he’s REALLY reinjured his achilles eyebrow, in which case, they should trade Fedorowitz for a small ocelot and a player to be named later, unless that player is Durbowitzoski, because he SUCKS. Am I right?
These are the guys who make it hard for the rest of us not to sound like idiots, when we’re just trying to remember if a dropped third strike means you can legally punch the catcher or not.
You may, however, find yourself in situations where talking about a sporting event is unavoidable, such as at a work party, you father-in-law’s house or a bar mitzvah being held in Yankee Stadium during a rain delay. It is here you must rely on generalities and distraction as your method of avoiding looking like a complete sports moron.
First, always agree with whatever opinion your companions seem to favor. If your buddy says, “Shantzenheimer is a bum!” agree quickly that he is indeed a bum and also question the validity of his parental heritage. If the interaction is in the form of a question, such as, “Nameless Golfer A should have used a fungo wedge with a lower torque on his variegated upswing, right?” say something like, “I’m with you there, friend. He should have fungoed the variegation out of that thing!”
If he looks at you quizzically, don’t panic, but proffer a distraction such as, “My Dad once saw Brett Favre in a Piggly Wiggly buying Slim Jims!” Also consider memorizing one or two obscure sports facts that you can throw out in emergencies, such as, “Did you know Babe Ruth’s on-base percentage was in direct correlation to how many hot dogs he ate before breakfast, but only if it was a home game?”
Be careful with this tactic, as there eventually will be someone who also knows Babe Ruth’s base-on-balls/hot dog consumption stats and will want to engage you in heated conversation.
One of the problems in keeping up with the sports Joneses is that sports terminology, like women’s shoe styles, changes almost daily. A home run, one day, is called a “dinger” and the next, a “four bagger,” then, the next month, a “downtowner.” Just knowing the terminology for one sporting action is a feat. In baseball, “Uncle Charlie,” “the yellow hammer,” “yakker,” “Public Enemy Number One” and “the deuce” are all nicknames for a curve ball and not, as you junior high boys are already thinking, hilarious names for going to the bathroom.
Our suggestion in these cases is to make up your own sports slang and use it as if everyone else should already know it, if they were as cool as you. For example, if you are watching football, you might say, “He really spanged that one on the boomers,” and wait expectantly for someone to nod in agreement. If you’re watching baseball, wait for the pitcher to throw a bad pitch and exclaim, “Why did that shanking cardswark think he could gollywalker that with a yellow hammer?” and immediately go to kitchen for more Cheez-Its. And if you’re watching soccer, you must live in another country, which we’ll have to address at another time.
So until next time, keep your yakkers on the deuce, don’t forget to variegate your upswing and remember: Durbowitzoski sucks.