Friday, November 30, 2012

Next step: PhD

Today I got a CT scan and also filled out a questionnaire in which I said:
A. That, yes, I know what a radiologist is.
B. That no, a radiologist is not a doctor.*
C. That I have a master's degree.

So. That went well.

*The whole time I was filling it out, I had in mind the technician who performs the scan, but there's no going back now. I am very hopeful that it's anonymous and that all the radiologists don't get together at lunch and say, "Did you see this Kari? Ha! Master's degree, my irradiated kidney. I bet she's got some pathetic MA in, like, Humanities." And then they all laugh and laugh, entirely unconcerned about choking because, even though they're radiologists, they all totally know the Heimlich.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Today my kidney stone and I are celebrating our one-month anniversary.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cafe culture

This afternoon, I went to my favorite cafe on Valencia Street. It has some good armchairs and floor lamps. They play no music. When I order tea, they give it to me in a diminutive pot along with a cup, a tiny pitcher for milk, and a wee spoon. All this they put on a little oval tray. The cafe is attached to a bookstore. It is clearly a cafe for people who want to read. I thank them for it.

Today, the chair I chose was facing and fairly proximate to the bathroom--not in a "last row of the airplane" unpleasant way, just in a "hard to ignore the bathroom line" way. Generally, to access the bathroom, you must fetch a key from the front counter. Today, however, the door was not firmly closed, such that when cafe-novice would-be bathroom users approached, they could quite simply push the door open and walk in.

Unfortunately, when the system is meant to involve a key, and there is a sign explaining this on the bathroom door, to go into the bathroom without the key is to have a false sense of security. Really, you are open to a sudden and embarrassing encounter with someone who does have the key.

For a long while, people came in and out without incident, each letting the door fall mostly, though not entirely, closed behind them, essentially perpetuating the perilous situation indefinitely. I worried about it for about an hour and remained ever-vigilant. Finally, someone came out and pulled the door closed--click--behind him and I was able to relinquish my self-appointed role of Bathroom Door Guardian.

Everything about this episode strikes me as terribly telling about my character. I am not altogether pleased.

And now, to make me seem even worse, a small screed
Dear sir,
Aside from this one, every other cafe on Valencia, of which there are seemingly hundreds, seems primarily designed for you to come with your colleague and a variety of electronic devices and talk loudly about your business plan for hours on end. Everyone else will have their earbuds in anyway, or their own business plan to discuss, so they won't even notice.
If you feel you must do this in the one cafe for miles around that does not scream "hipster internet millionaire," I think you should have the courtesy to at least buy a cup of coffee. Seriously. Even if you don't want it. We are all renting our chairs for the price of a beverage. That's how this business model works.

I feel better now. Thanks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I will not try to make an all-encompassing list of things for which I am grateful because A) it would be impossible and B) it would be boring for everyone but me. Maybe even including me. I try to stay pretty actively grateful year round, so for today I'll just look to the recent past and the imminent future and see what I come up with.

First, I am so overwhelmingly grateful for my parents that it brings tears instantly to my eyes to even think about it. I'm grateful they're so nearby and available to keep me company and feed me custard when I have a mouth full of newly-sewn human dermal product, even though I'm a grown-up. I'm grateful that my mother can hear all my weird issues about how our tiny three-person Thanksgiving makes me feel like a lonely spinster and then devises a Thanksgiving plan that involves swimming pools in Calistoga and going to a restaurant. Ta da! Magically transformed from sad day with not enough people to glamorous California outing. My parents totally top the list. I like them. Long may they reign.

My friends come next. I like them too. Have you noticed how good it is to have friends? I'll bet you have. You're pretty perceptive like that.

Next I'm going to say:
1. Grant, my colleague's husband, who hardly knows me but who calmly answered the phone and then drove me to the hospital one morning at 4:30am.
2. Health insurance
3. Drugs and the kind people who administer and/or prescribe them.

I know it's a bit kidney-stone centric around here, but I am very serious about my gratitude for having access to a whole system that let me step quickly from agony to painlessness and then continue to keep the pain at bay for what is now almost a month. It's no joke. I have been thinking a lot about people who are obliged to suffer because they don't have that access. It shouldn't be allowed. Period.

Oops. I didn't mean to go quite so Power to the People there, but seriously. Health care. It's a good thing to have. Still, so as not to leave you on quite so serious a note, I will add one more:

4. The guy who just moved in next door who looks like he was sent here after an open casting call for "hot neighbor."
What? Like there's no room in Thanksgiving for a tiny bit of objectification? C'mon.

May your own blessings prove too many to count.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Say what?

In a radio commercial I am hearing constantly of late, Taylor Swift informs me in the flat voice of someone new to reading aloud that: "Wonderstruck Enchanted is the next chapter in the story of my Wonderstruck fragrance."

What? Do fragrances have chapters?

To me it sounds as though someone has taken a lot of arbitrary words and strung them together in the hopes that, for the listener, being confused will be similar to being fascinated. Bicycle tea cozy astonished dumbstruck harmonica wheelbarrow. Also, a pretty girl! Coming soon!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday glow

People are all fretting about the potential shopping mayhem of Black Friday--crowds! crowds1 CROWDS!

The big secret is that everyone is flocking not to the mall, but to the UCSF radiology department. Or, I assume so, based on the fact that when I called to make an appointment for a CT scan this morning, I was on hold for an hour. It was a dramatic hold, replete with sudden breaks in the hold music suggesting that I may have been disconnected; many recorded updates letting me know that they were experiencing high call volume (a thing I was able to deduce by the very fact that I was still on hold, but thanks); and many actual rings of the phone that implied someone was about to answer, but really, just prompted another announcement that everyone was busy. It was all very exciting.

So, if you gaze into the faces of your loved ones in the coming days or weeks and see that they seem to be positively glowing with holiday spirit, it is highly possible that they have been recently irradiated.

In related news: kidney stone, joke's over. We know you're still in there, and we're coming to find you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two meals

Last night I waited for a very long time at Pizzeria Delfina, where I had been planning to have the Margherita pizza, my favorite. However, once I was confronted with the menu, I entered into a spiral about how always getting the same thing is illustrative of how I lead my sad little life, etc. and so ordered the special. It was liberally seasoned with some mystery herb that my waiter informed me was part of the catnip family. I still ordered it. It was a misguided decision. Let's just be honest, shall we? Even without catnip being involved, no matter how fancy it is, pizza that does not involve tomato sauce always disappoints me. Viva marinara! (as they no doubt say in Italia).

It occurs to me that in this increasingly gluten-obsessed town, with its passion for soy products, my breakfast of Cream of Wheat with 2% milk is totally punk rock.

As you are no doubt wondering, but too polite to ask, yes. There is still a kidney stone stuck in me somewhere. I believe this is day 23.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Well, now we know

So much has happened since October 25, back when we were young. The Giants won the World Series; a scary storm ravaged the East Coast; we set the clocks back; we reelected our lovely president. We also had Halloween, about which I care not at all, but I don't want you to be distracted thinking, "Hey! What about Halloween?"

And yet, I spent most of that time asleep. From time to time, I would be awake for a couple of hours, during which time I forced myself to drink gallons of water. Remember poison stomach? Yeah. Me too.

It's funny to look back and realize that I wrote about poison stomach on Thursday of that week and then Friday night at 8:30, I was suddenly doubled over in pain. "Wow." I thought, "That poison stomach is really not messing around. I guess I shouldn't have eaten that slice of pizza. I'll get some Tums on my way home." Have you ever needed Tums and been literally unable to hold yourself upright due to crippling pain? No, me neither. And yet, I was totally committed to this Tums theory even though I could barely drive the car. I will spare you the long version of Walgreens trip. It involved a lot of nausea, weird limping, shallow breathing, and sitting on the floor of the store. You know what didn't ultimately alleviate any of my symptoms? Tums.

The drugstore errand was sufficiently harrowing that when I got home I looked up "appendicitis" online and, having established that the pain was on the wrong side, I came to the end of my list of medical theories which looked like this:
1. Gas
2. Appendicitis
So, I settled in for several hours of writhing and keening and rocking back and forth and vomiting. It was novel. I'll give it that. Finally, at 2:30am, I called the advice nurse who told me to call the doctor on call. I was embarrassed to bother the doctor at 2:30am, but made the call. She suggested that I should go to the emergency room. I suggested that maybe I should try Alka Seltzer. She said she doubted that would really help, which was too bad because it seemed a lot easier than going to the hospital.

This is perhaps the main reason that living alone is maybe not such a great idea: you might need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. I may get married this week, in fact, just to ensure that someone is around in case this ever happens again. Neighbors seem like a good Plan B, but there are just three apartments in my building. One of them is currently vacant and my remaining neighbors were out of the country. (Was this karmic payback for being so delighted that they were going? Possibly. Just kidding, neighbors. I'm not excited about your baby, but could you please come back and drive me to the ER? But maybe in a few minutes? Right now I can't actually get off the floor.) The doctor had suggested that I take a taxi. I pretended that that was an option, though my real reaction was "yeah, right." Have you ever tried to get a taxi in San Francisco? It's not one of the things we do all that well. I lay there for another couple of hours running through the "who can I call at this hour?" emergency list and finally settled on a colleague who I knew lives very nearby. She was out of town, as it happened, but her very kind husband came to fetch me at 4:30 in the morning and took me, clutching my trusty vomit-receptacle trashcan, to the emergency room.

The wait was not so very long and though I was in agony, I was at least no longer in agony while simultaneously trying to figure out how to get from bed to the hospital, so that was reassuring. Once I was in a room and in a gown, the doctor deduced almost immediately that I had a kidney stone. This made me laugh, which puzzled him. "I don't know." I told him. "It's just not something I ever imagined having." The tech said, "It looks like you're doing the kidney stone dance all right." (Make a note of that. It might be a big sensation in the clubs, if that's your scene.) Meanwhile, he was helpfully prepping me for an IV and, just when I thought I might actually die, he hooked me up to dilaudid and my life improved by about 1000% in 20 seconds. (I haven't worked out all the details of my plan to get married this week, but that guy is at the top of the list of candidates. Thank you, kind sir.)

Now it's twelve days later and it's still lodged in there somewhere, unimpressed by the deluge of fluids I have consumed, so I take a narcotic painkiller every six hours and look forward to some future day when I'm no longer so sleepy all the time.

Meanwhile, the moral is, if you feel like you have to crawl to get from one part of the room to the other and no position gives you any relief from the sensation that someone is stabbing you in your lower back, Tums is probably not the answer. There's no need to wait eight hours to go to the emergency room. Just go. What? You can take a taxi.