<my glamorous life>
My girlfriend has M.S. When she is exhausted she is supposed to go with it and sleep for as many hours as she needs. If she does not sleep - if she pushes herself - she could trigger an outbreak. Outbreaks can blind or cripple people with M.S. Therefore it's a good idea to avoid anything that could trigger an outbreak. Therefore, my girlfriend is sleeping.
She is strong and beautiful and deals with this every day of her life.
Our cat Bathead has a disease called megacolon. It sounds like a breakfast cereal. The fatal disease with the funny name. Without medication, his inability to digest food will kill him. He is out of medication, and the vet's office closes at 5:00.
At 4:00, I am working on my book, answering email, and crafting a proposal for a lecture I'm supposed to give later this year. I haven't bathed, and my long hair is standing straight up, like a strange cross between an Afro and Eraserhead. I haven't bathed because I worked all night. I worked all night because I spent yesterday with my father and my half-brother, and I had to make up the time somehow. Over the years, my hair has either been really long, or punky crew-cut. Nothing else seems to work for me. Not that these styles do either.
At 4:15, I realize that the cat needs his medication and I will have to run to the vet's office. Going out unwashed and unkempt makes me feel that I'm taking the day off. Throwing on sweats and a loose striped shirt, I grab an unmailed bill and realize I had better hit the post office. I also grab the Blockbuster Video copy of Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, a movie I rented in hopes it would entertain my half-brother, who just turned 15. (It did.) Not a bad movie, but not the kind of movie you want to pay late fees for. I slip the video cassette under the unmailed bill, as if it were pornography or The Very Best of Jerry Springer.
The streets are murky after days of rain. Hitting them, I realize I'm broke, except for a small wad of singles. When I have money I spend it or lend it. First stop, the bank. Next stop, the Post Office.
To avoid the long lines at the Post Office, I head directly to a vending machine. A couple gets there just before I do. I let go of my instinctual territorial reaction and pretend to be a decent citizen. I smile. I wait for them to buy their stamps.
The process is straightforward: insert tens, fives, singles, or coins, push button, get stamps, leave. For some reason it is taking the couple a long time to accomplish this mission. I decide not to cough, jostle them, or otherwise behave like a bad citizen, merely because I am running late to pick up medicine for my cat.
Five minutes elapse. Ten minutes elapse.
I locate another vending machine and purchase a few stamps - just enough for today's bills. Unfortunately, a few stamps is all this machine will dispense. I should go to the vet's, but my demented territorial imperative makes me return to the good machine - the one that dispenses many stamps - and get in line behind the hapless couple yet again.
I tell myself I will need many stamps and I might as well get them while I'm here. I know I am merely enacting some kind of monkey ritual. I will stand here until the klutzy couple has moved on. I will buy more stamps at the machine I intended to use ten minutes ago. It is my right as a primate to assert my mastery over turf I have previously staked out.
At last, the couple leaves, discussing their success as if they had just solved an extraordinarily tough problem in quantum physics. I feel good about not having hassled them.
I stride up to the machine to show the world how it's done.
The machine eats my ten. It will not take my ones. I grab a fistful from the pocket of my sweats, trying one after another. Maybe the couple was not so dumb. The machine takes a dollar, refuses three others. I need $13.20 to complete this purchase. I will have to jog to make it to the veterinarian's office before they close.
I continue to smooth, flatten, and insert dollar bills. The machine grinds, holds onto them for 30 seconds, then rejects them.
Finally I have gotten it to accept $13. I find twenty cents in my pocket, and deposit it. I push the button.
The machine emits a bizarre rattle and its LCD updates to show that I have 20 cents' credit. The $13 has disappeared. I push the button anyway. Nothing. I push the refund button.
An ear-splitting siren erupts from the vending machine. No one pays it the slightest heed. This is New York.
I walk into the crowded room, interrupt a citizen's transaction, and tell the desk clerk the machine emitting the ear-splitting siren has eaten my $13.
The clerk tells me to go to another room.
In the other room there is a service window. A customer at the service window is making small talk with the clerk behind the window. I walk up, trying not to look frazzled or belligerent. My hair is standing straight up, my shirt looks like I wore it all night without sleeping, my face is unshaved, and I'm not wearing underwear.
The customer and the postal clerk pick up my vibe and extend their conversation to assert their territorial imperative. They will not be rushed for some siren-raising, frazzled-looking, no-underwear-wearing misfit.
Finally the customer has finished discussing the weather, and I walk up to the window. The clerk gives me the disdainful glare endemic to people in positions of small authority everywhere.
I tell her the machine emitting the siren blast has eaten my $13. She tells me, "Uh huh, that's because you punched it." I smile and assure her I did not punch the machine.
She begins to move more and more slowly. Smiling helplessly, I tell her that I need to reach the vet's office before it closes, because my cat is sick. She tells me, "You've got ten minutes," and disappears.
A line forms behind me.
Eventually the clerk returns with a form. "Fill this out completely." Then she disappears again.
Eventually she returns and reads the form. She withdraws again.
Eventually she returns. "Bad news, you can't get refunded for over ten dollars. Come see Mr Diggs tomorrow. He's here at nine."
I thank her with all the fake graciousness I can muster, and sprint the five blocks to the veterinarian's office, arriving five minutes before the deadline.
The office is closed.