I have waaay too much time on my hands…
You’ll have to pardon my curmudgeon-like use of outdated british neologisms (those of you who bothered to look up those two words will realize that they make no sense in the context in which I used, but so chuffed was I at the defintion of curmudgeon (“…a crusty irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas”) that I sort of went crazy looking up other words I have often heard but have no idea the meaning of, resulting in the literary disaster you see above, but actually it sounds sort of good, in a pretentious sort of way, so anyway…) but anyway, one of my new co-workers is British, and I swear that before long I’ll be slinging the cockney rhyming slang as if I was a downtown london cabbie my entire life… or else talking like a Jamaican-Italian pirate, if Tennis has anything to do with it, but that’s another story entirely…
My rambling little exposition not withstanding, I managed to make good usage of my so-called “down time” to catch up on a lot of work that had backed up over the last 6 months, including such significant things as trying to get my errm…. taxes done. Having been a member of those lucky few people who got to fill out a standard US IRS tax form 1040EZ for most of my life (also known as “people living below the poverty line”), it came as quite a shock to me when was forced to finally tackle the monstrous packet that arrived in the mail for me about 9 months ago from the Tokyo branch of the IRS office. Not being the sort of panda naturally blessed with an affinity for numbers or any manner of fiscal acumen, I had kind of been putting it off for the longest time in the hopes that I would randomly open my mailbox and find a letter from my parents stating that while they were at H&R block, they had just happened to have paid them to do my taxes for me as well, so I needn’t worry. Needless to say, this day never came (though they were kind enough to send several other packages my way in the interim, most of which contained bills, and on at least one occasion, (I kid you not) 10 kilograms of processed artificial cheddar cheese spread).
So sitting down with a nice hot cup of tea (it’s finally starting to get to the point where I can drink hot tea here again without instantly overheating and dying of heat stroke) and a slice of ultra-healthy whole grain wheat toast liberally slathered with aforementioned artificial cheddar cheese spread left over from february, I ripped open the envelope, hefted its contents onto my desk, opened up to the first page…. and promptly had an aneurysm and collapsed in a quivering heap onto my half-eaten slice of toast.
When I awoke a half hour later, I spent a few minutes prying loose the now-solidified orange mass of goop and toast that had fused to my brow (as an aside: artificial orange cheddar cheese spread bears more than a striking resemblance to the compound they use to fuse the various components of artificial hips to the bones their inserted into. Once when I was in high school, after watching one too many weepy CBS dramas (7th heaven, touched by an angel, walker – texas ranger, that sort of shit) about feel-good-lovey-dovey families suffering inexplicable dramas in the midwest (typical story lines include how a tornado destroys the family corn silo, but not their love for each other, or how the whole family comes together to help Jack combat his supposed “drug problem” (demonstrated by his casual ingestion of three Benadryl and subsequent immediate loss of all inhibitions) and go on to lead his HS football team to victory, etc.)…
…. ermm, anyway, one time, after watching too many of these shows in a row because I was too lazy to get up and find the remote to switch them, I got it in my head that it would be a great “bonding” (haha, pun-ny) experience to go to work with my father, you know, to see what he does and all that…
Pardon me sir, do you have any artificial cheddar cheese spread?
This of course, would be normal, (if somewhat sickeningly “functional”) if my father didn’t routinely perform orthopedic surgery, and consequently use high powered jackhammers and buzz saws to break, smash, grind and re-seat human bones on unconscious people as a matter of course.
So anyway, flash back to this point, and I’m sitting here, huddled in the corner of an operating room (where I sat in the same cramped position on the same stool as I was initially put after stern admonitions from an even sterner Nurse Ratched-look-alike to “not move a muscle and not touch anything”), ducking down to try and avoid the bits of human flesh, blood and bone that are being flung through the air after being forcibly removed from the poor anesthesized elderly lady to whom they formerly belonged by some whirring, clanking, buzzing power bone crushing tools being wielded by several doctors who seem to be in slightly more jocular mood than I would think people standing around an unconscious old woman with a dissected thigh should probably be in. (“Cripes, eh’, watch that you don’t nick that femoral artery again…!” … “hahah, yeah, that was a close one! reminds me of how I sliced too far on my last shot for par on hold 17 over at the golf course and almost ended up in the sand trap! wow, what a mess THAT was” … [simultaneously]: “hahaha, yeah, that would’a been something…!”)
So anyway, at some point, long after I had closed my eyes and started praying to god to not make these images haunt my dreams for the rest of my natural life, I start hearing this CrrriIIICCKK KAA~CHAAKKK!! sound over and over again, and I open my eyes to see them just finishing up with something called the “bone reamer” or the “marrow reamer” or something like that (to be totally honest, I try not to remember since the very idea of such a tool causes me pain…). After they have finished excavating a slot in the middle of this lady’s bone, then they start to put in some part of her artificial knee or whatever was the reason this scene of horrifying carnage was unfolding around me in the first place. Of course, to do this, they need some sort of bonding sealant thing to fuse it to the inside of the bone, and this is promptly supplied by a nearby O.R. tech, straight out of batch she apparently mixed herself, and which sort of resembles clay or play-dough.
After the marrow cavity is fully lined and the titanium bits begin to (I shit you not) get hammered in with a hammer, there’s a little bit of the clay sealant stuff left over, which brings us back to the exposition of what must surely be the longest tangent in pandablog history, a small bit of which the OR tech rolls into a ball, and with a sadistic grin visible clearly through her pleated surgical mask, throws at me saying “here, you can play with this…”.
So I’ve got this ball of bone fusing sealant in my hands, sort of mushing it around and little suspecting that almost a decade later I’d look back at the memory of it and think “my god, this looks exactly like artificial processed cheddar cheese spread which has dried and fused to my eyebrows!”, when all of a sudden, it starts to get a) really hard, and b) really really HOT…!!
and by “hot” and “sudden” i mean, “really fucking hot” and “really fucking suddenly”…! I mean, one second I’ve got pseudo-cheese like putty in my hands, the next second, I’m juggling a little ball of nuclear fusion from hand to hand. And the thing is, it’s hot as all HELL, but I don’t know where to put it, since I fear that if I set it down anywhere, the vicious sadistic nurse who admonished me to “not touch anything and not move a muscle” is going to pick up a powertool from the table and promptly cut me in half. In the middle of my desperate antics and fanning of hands, I happen to glance up and see the O.R. tech grinning from ear to ear like the proverbial sadistic cheshire fucking cat, and all I can think is …
…. ahhh, memories.
(For those of you interested, the fixing compound in question that sort of resembles artificial cheese spread (only not orange) was a type of “bone cement”, most likely polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), which solidifies around 8-10 minutes after initial mixing via an exothermic reaction that releases at least 12000~13600 calories/100 grams of compound, an amount of heat which even the FDA indicted as “potentially damaging bone or other tissue adjacent to the implant” [pg.46,854 part.c] …)
Anyway, so after I finish wiping the hardened cheese spread-cum-bone cement from my face, I bend down and start the long, arduous slog through the interminable arcana that is the set of tax laws governing US residents abroad who may or may not have a foreign earned income exemption, but who also earned money in the US during the 2003 tax year and thus has some percentage of tax liability, but may or may not be able to offset that with obscure deductions and exemptions that depend on how finnicky the alignment of the planets is feeling that day. Needless to say, it was not pretty (the shit took me two days…), but in the end, I managed (for the most part) to get it sorted, though this was in no way due to the IRS, who not only have closed their Tokyo branch office (with nary as much as a pre-recorded message saying “oh and by the way, we moved, so you’re on your own suckers…!” – I had to harass some poor office lady at the consulate to get her to tell me what was going on) but also have, in their incredible governmental foresight, cleverly designed their US-based 1.800 number to ignore all button presses from calls not originating with the states (even if we foot the bill), so while you can reach their number from Japan (you have to pay, of course), it will ignore all the buttons you desperately push, or all the vocal cues you desperately shout out, until at some point, you give up and throw down the phone in frustration, right around the time I swear to god the menu starts molesting you in spanish (“para repetir estas opciones, prensa 1… para chupe leche del mi gran…” *CLICK*).
*sigh* erm, anyway….
Well, I was going to write more, but I’m actually pretty tired right now and have a lot of things to do, so this will have to be it for this entry. Hope you’re all enjoying the winding down of September – yeah!! Autumn is on the way!!