Thursday, July 26, 2007

Disciplinary measures.

If we all agree that the regular premise of The QC Report is that I am an idiot and that my feeling any pride in my accomplishments rains payback humiliation within a half-hour and that I am in no position to judge anyone, can I please discuss this mother I met on Sunday? My eyes actually hurt from not rolling them.

I am going to change the names of the children, but otherwise keep the details in place. If she's reading this and thinks "Why, I met Quinn Cummings on Sunday!", this is about you.

My family went to a swimming and grilling party at a friends' house. We were told there would be other children. Daughter was pleased but, frankly, after hearing the words "Swimming pool", we could have said "There will be little-girl-eating tigers! And vaccination needles!", and she still would have been in a glorious haze of chlorine lust.

We arrived at the house to be greeted by the host and hostesses' new dog, a Goldendoodle. For those who think I stole that name from a Sid and Marty Kroft Saturday-morning show involving psychedelic mushrooms who sing, a Goldendoodle is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle. This particular Goldendoodle is about a year old, newly adopted, and came with her own instruction manual. The dog has a code word for peeing, if you can believe it. You walk her. You say the magic word. She pees. Our last dog, Polly, also had a peeing code word: it was "NO! (EXPLETIVE)! NO! YOU IDIOT!” and it was said while she was peeing on the kitchen floor. In spite of the Goldendoodle’s Mensa level of awareness and knowledge, she was friendly and down-to-earth, besides being capable of discussing the Greek Stoic school of philosophy. She approached everyone with a wagging tail and an open expression. Needless to say, we non-Goldendoodle owners were impressed.

A while after we arrived, the other couple with children arrived. The first sense I had of them in the back yard was a piercing whine.


I looked up quickly, prepared to help. Apparently, someone was being attacked by a thousand enraged bees while being stripped of their tendons. What in fact had happened was the older child had come through the back door and the dog had trotted up to him. The boy's mother, following behind, comforted him and said to those of us who were about to run up with flaming sticks and pitchforks, "He's a little afraid of dogs".

I nodded sympathetically. I've known kids who were afraid of dogs, and while I didn’t have that particular phobia, I certainly sympathized. If something more than half my size ran towards me with a mouth full of sharp teeth, I'd probably notch up the adrenaline as well.

Because we arrived in Consort’s car, which isn’t equipped with the Sporting Goods inventory found in my trunk, daughter was swimming without her beloved goggles. This was limiting her ability to fully emulate the entire Cousteau clan underwater so she was skirting the edge of a minor sulk. The other mother lent me a pair of goggles, which helped everyone’s mood considerably. I say all this because I am about to start eye-rolling, and I want to make sure I've given her all the credit she deserves.

Her older son, the dog-fearer, was a little older than Daughter. Her younger son was slightly younger. For privacy's sake, let's call the older one Josh and the younger one Tim. Or, as she would call them: " Joshyyyyyyyyyyyyy " and "Timmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy".

As frightened of the dog as the older one was, the younger wasn’t frightened at all. In fact, he was most anxious to play with the dog. Of course, “Playing” looked an awful lot like “Getting the Styrofoam pool-noodle soaking wet and then flinging it at the dog -- who was already overexcited and racing around the pool—while managing to get the poolside adults wet as well, shrieking like a maniac and doing it again”.

Now, full disclosure; Daughter has, on occasion, done things of Quinn-rubs-the-bridge-of-her-nose-in-irritation in public, things I had never expressly forbidden simply because it never occurred to me she would do something so weird, so random and so loud. When such events have broken out, my degree of escalation has gone like this:

1. Scary Mother Look with a quickly mouthed “Stop that now”. Yes, I can mouth in italics. If behavior continues,
2. Short private conversation, lasting all of two sentences, which goes something like “If (asocial behavior in question) continues, we’re leaving”. If she can’t hear me over the cupcake frosting coursing through her veins,
3. We leave.

One vividly horrible day, we drove twenty miles to attend a school fair, stayed ten minutes and had to leave. There’s no scrapbook page dedicated to that ride home.

In sum, any parent who is actually in the trenches knows undesirable behavior can erupt at any time, usually around strangers and in public. I have a couple of friends with kids who have emotional delays or situations where these kids look pretty bratty if you don’t know their medical condition. Those parents, however, are never more than a few feet from these kids and are constantly mediating for them, negotiating with them, teaching them how to live in the world. If your kid is having a rocky time of it, but you are right there working with them, I send a quick prayer to you, I encourage Daughter to cut the kid some slack, and I wouldn’t presume to judge.

I did, however, judge when the mother of the shrieking noodle-wielder said “Timmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, stooooooooooooop”, in a small die-away voice more reminiscent of a tire slowly leaking than a human voice issuing a warning. For nearly an hour, we around the pool got sprayed, Timmy jumped in and out of the pool, the dog raced around faster and faster, the older son screamed if the dog got too close to him (which was relative, considering the boy was in the middle of the pool on a raft and the dog was on dry land), and the mother wheezed “Timmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, stooooooooooooop”.

Those of us standing around the pool blotting our pants were learning what Timmy had known for years; as far as maternal weapons went, this was it. He raced on.

(Where was the father, you might ask? The father was enjoying a nice conversation with another adult. I’m guessing he’s one of those “Your aimless whining seems to have things under control. Ooh, guacamole!” fathers.)

Mid-afternoon, I had to make a run to the grocery store to get myself veggie-burgers. When I came back a few minutes later, Daughter was wrapped in a towel by the side of the pool. I looked at her questioningly.

“Daddy said I couldn’t go in until you got back,” she shivered.

“I’m back.” I said, gesturing toward the pool, which was now empty. Since I had left, both boys had gotten out and had been given Diet Coke. Because that’s what they needed; caffeine.
The meal-time was a relentless parade of boneheaded choices by the children and ineffective curtailments by the mother. The only part which was new was that now both boys were participating.

“I’m going to take my hot dog in the pool!”

“Joshyyyyyyyyyyyyy, stooooooooooooop.”

“The dog wants to come in the pool with me!”

“Timmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, stooooooooooooop.”

“Look, I fit through the dog door!”

“Joshyyyyyyyyyyyyy, stooooooooooooop.”

“I can balance this soda can on my nose while standing in the pool, wanna see?”

“Timmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, stooooooooooooop.”

(Horrible, piercing scream) “I’M STUCK IN THE DOG DOOR!”

I must admit, I liked that one.

Having been freed from the dog door, Josh considered the spacious lawn and pool area and decided he couldn’t rest unless he walked between my lawn chair and the pool, a space about two inches wide. This was accomplished by much bumping of my chair. A minute later, he walked back that way. Another minute, another pass-by. The next time he passed, he got to the edge of my lawn chair, suddenly grabbed his foot, and fell on to the ground screaming in pain. His mother rushed up.

“Sweetheart, what is it?” she wailed. I was interested to note she could speak without whining.

He stood up with much flinching, screamed, “I stubbed my TOE!”, and fell across my lawn chair, sobbing. I moved my legs so his caffeinated tears wouldn’t stain my new Lilly Pulitzer pants.

His mother looked around in horror.

“He stubbed his toe. What can we do?” she asked the universe.

Seeing that his mother had no cure and had given his care up to God, he wailed louder. She scooped up her son, prepared to run if need be to the nearest trauma unit. Holding a sobbing child, she leaned over to me and said in a martyred tone, “You might want to move that chair back a bit, so people can walk around it.”

I made a big show of looking behind the chair, where the length of the lawn lay, perfect for walking. However, irony is lost on a woman who performing Extreme Unction on her child, dying of a stubbed toe.

We left shortly thereafter. I complimented the hosts on their lovely party and silently commended them on their forbearance, which might have had something to do with the Indifferent Father being a client of the host. We said goodbye to the Goldendoodle; I waved weakly at the other family from the back door. Looking down, I noted the dog door was now broken from Josh’s adventures in canine living.

As we walked through the front yard, I commended Daughter on her good behavior.
“Actually,” Consort said, “your daughter got in a little trouble. When you were at the store, I went inside and told her to get out of the pool until I came back.”

I nodded. Daughter is a good swimmer, and there were adults outside, but there was no harm erring on the side of caution. Daughter danced ahead of us, not too eager to discuss this infraction again.

“Well,” he continued, “when I came outside again, she was back in the pool. We had a little chat and then I said she couldn’t get back into the pool until you returned.”

“Oh, really.” I said warningly, trotting a little faster to catch up with my miscreant offspring. Consort caught my arm.

“I don’t think you need to cover it again. She seemed to get it. You might find this funny, though. When I came back out, that other mother was telling her kids how some parents don’t watch their children as closely as she watched hers.”

“No.”, I said flatly, as Daughter clambered into the car and Consort put our beach bag in the trunk.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, casually. He shut the trunk and saw my expression. Obviously fearing for this woman’s well-being, he added quickly, “Maybe she wasn’t talking about us.”

“Right,” I said through clenched teeth, and slid into the car. I turned around to Daughter, already knee-deep in the newest Harry Potter.

I murmured to Consort, “I’d sooner see her behave like that dog than any member of Josh and Timmy’s family. “

Consort said, “Quiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin, stooooooooooooop.”, in perfect imitation of that odious woman. I flinched. He grinned and said, “Too soon?”

“Oh, yes.” I hissed.

We drove off.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Writing block party.

First of all, I want to thank every single one of you who wrote in with congratulations. Really, it was the loveliest surprise, and your good wishes have been much of the motivation I’ve had towards setting up a writing schedule. During the past week whenever I would think “Yeah, I’ll start writing when Daughter goes back to school in September, or possibly some time after that…”, I’d see all of you cheering me on, encouraging me to get started. Actually, in my mind, you were all wearing cheerleading outfits and, frankly, some were better served by this outfit than others, but your flippy skirts and waving pom-poms did their duty. I created a writing schedule; I have ninety-thousand words to write. Ergo, I will write a thousand words a day for ninety days.

I didn’t say it was a complicated schedule.

And when a person signs on for writing a thousand words a day, I think we all know what happens. That’s right; the closets get incredibly organized. I’d like to thank you all and the nice people at Hyperion for giving me the incentive to view closet-organization as the lesser of two evils. When a person such as me is not writing or, as I like to call it, “Working on ideas in my head”, a person will happily determine which of the countless pairs of khaki socks Consort has is no longer suitable for public viewing. After writing 250 words, I would gleefully take a break by filleting out which of my workout t-shirts had degenerated from “Acceptable for sweating” into “Pitiful and having created its own mutant mold strain”.

Yesterday, having stapled myself to the computer chair and telling all the family members to shun me if I walked out of the office, I vowed to finish my daily 1000 words. This lasted until word 750, by which point I was making small mannequins out of paper clips. Having noted the only words left in my head were obscenities and someone muttering darkly “You can’t make me…”, I deemed it break-time. I dashed from the room and threw myself into Daughter’s room. She was lying on the bed, reading. Under her body was the folded pile of clean clothing I had asked her to put away two days before. I took in a deep breath, preparing for a wind-storm of nagging, when I noticed one of the t-shirts was, while clean, stained. The breath which had been allocated for nagging was exhaled while I grinned. I had a project.

We would clean out Daughter’s clothing.

First, all obviously stained clothing would go. This worked until I remembered she is my child, and we’re still surprised about gravity; we eat food, we drop food, we eat some more. If I used the “Obvious stain” rule as a cut-off, Daughter would have a bathing suit and her Sunday dress. Wait, let me check that. Correction; Daughter would have shoes. I amended the rule to “…obvious stains which bother me.”

The next category to go was “Life is too short”. Over the years, we have benefited from several friends who have older children and limited closet space. Daughter has received hand-me-downs which were all but unworn, leaving me with extra discretionary income to spend on things like children’s pastry-making classes, the Captain Underpants oeuvre, and Shout stain-remover. Some of this clothing has been hugely successful, some has not. Oddly enough the European hand-me-downs -- all insanely cute, exquisitely-made and pristine – never went on Daughter without a fight. Now, staring into the crammed abyss which is her closet, I made the decision to stop trying to make Daughter the cover girl for Vogue Bambini. Out went the slim-legged jeans (“I can’t play basketball in them”), the colorful jumpers (“They itch.”), the frocks with the enigmatic non-English sayings on them (“No.”). I held up one especially adorable dress, sighed and said to Daughter, “Not even once…?”

Daughter, having been given the task of matching her socks, looked up and shook her head definitively.

“Heathen”, I said without rancor and plunged back in. Having removed that which was obvious, and having no interest in finishing my writing, I chose to attack the last and more challenging category. We’ll call it “Yes…no…I don’t…help!”.

I am pleased beyond measure to note Daughter doesn’t resemble me at all. It’s really fabulous how little of me is in there. One of the ways she is not-me is how leggy she is. Since my legs begin at my knees, sometimes I just stand there and marvel at my daughter. What this means, however, is I have a much harder time determining when she has grown out of something. The skort will continue to snap around her waist easily, but just keep moving steadily up her legs. One day, without either one of us noticing, the skort becomes too short, but usually stays in the closet for another month after that, because I don’t notice it’s too short until she’s getting out of the car at school. By the time she comes home and puts it in the hamper, I forget it’s too short until the next time she wears it. This last exercise was to determine which items were still cute and appropriate, and which ones were suitable for her audition for the remake of “Taxi Driver”.

Since the only way to see was to have Daughter try all skorts on, I relieved her of sock-matching duty and impressed her into the skort army. She’d try one on; I’d make her turn around, and then turn the other way. I’d have her try shirts of different lengths on top. I’d have her do simple stretching exercises, and then sprint around the room. What seemed to Daughter to be Mommy showing an out-of-character willingness to play dress-up was rapidly becoming P.E. with multiple wardrobe changes. She darted out her door.

“Where are you going?” I called as I pulled out a box labeled “Winter clothes and knives”.

“Bathroom”, she answered.

Minutes later, she was back. With her was Consort, who was gaping at the piles of Daughter’s clothing mounded throughout her room. He said to me, “I thought you were writing.”
“I am!” I chirped, upending a box of wool sweaters on her bed. “I’m just taking a break.”
Daughter and Consort exchanged a look. I can only assume my delicate state had been discussed in the other room. Consort took the box, still filled with mittens, scarves and a set of serrated knives, and put it on the ground. He then put a hand on each of my shoulders and steered me towards the office.

“Write now,” he said firmly, just before he shut the door, leaving me alone with the computer, “Right now”.

The door clicked shut and I pouted. I didn’t like this at all. Having written is fun. Writing is like removing an African Guinea worm.

(Note to readers: This following fact is fascinating to me, and I think describes the artistic process perfectly, but I have been told it is disgusting. Be warned.)

The Guinea worm is a threadlike parasitic worm that grows and matures in people. Worms grow up to 3 feet long and are as wide as a paper clip wire. The only treatment is to remove the worm over many weeks by winding it around a small stick and pulling it out a tiny bit at a time. Sometimes the worm can be pulled out completely within a few days, but the process usually takes weeks or months.

Writing is like that. And now I had nothing to do but take out the old stick and start winding. I looked around the office. Same business-school books, same piles of unknown computer wires, same innumerable heaps of notes, messages and doodles; I looked again and had a flash of joy. Not a single object in there had been organized!

I wanted to write, I really did, but who could expect me to work within such a chaotic environment? There was only one thing I could do. Breathing a sigh of relief, I dumped a basket of random phone messages on the floor.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Lisa Stein wrote in with what I think is an excellent idea. My book (Hee! That sounds funny!) has a working title, but there might be a better title out there. Offer up your suggestions for the book's title. If your title is The One, you'll get an autographed copy of my book (Hee! Still funny!).

Lisa's title suggestion was Tea in My Lap.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Extra. Extra.

Slightly more than two and a half years ago, when I began writing The QC Report, I gave myself two rules: each entry had to be no less than 750 words and I had to post one every other day. When friends and loved ones asked about these two restrictions I would say something vague like “…gotta draw a line somewhere, right?” which was true but not entirely so. As near as I could tell, 750 words was a column.

If I could write 750 words every other day that meant I could be (she looks around and whispers) a newspaper columnist. Someone from a newspaper could read The QC Report and say to themselves “Why, that gal’s got moxie! Get that dame on the horn and tell her to get down to the editor’s office, pronto!” I imagined this man wearing a fedora indoors, chomping on a cigar and speaking the rapid, clipped speech of a 1930’s screwball comedy.

Of course, the 1930’s were one of the last times newspapers were frantically looking for new columnists. As I wrote and waited, I read articles about the DEATH OF THE AMERICAN NEWSPAPER and the AGING POPULATION OF THE NEWSPAPER-BUYING PUBLIC! not to mention the WHOLESALE FIRING OF EVERYONE IN THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS NOT NAMED MURDOCH!

Still, I waited patiently and revised my plans. Now, not only would I get a column but the bulk of columns would add up drawing the attention of a literary agent who would then get me a book deal with a tiny publishing house trying to break out of its reputation as the second-best publisher of dermatology textbooks. My literary career fantasy had that perfectly Quinn blending of delusional and humble. I held it through seeing four nationally known columnists lose their jobs.

Two years later, I was still waiting for a call from the majors. I had so rarely made long-term job goals -- besides things such as Wait to audition for the funny and unattractive best friend of the lead on a sitcom or Unlike every other former child actor, try not to get arrested -- that it didn’t occur to me to revise them once I actually conceived them. Nevertheless, my audience kept growing. My regular contributors (including Mel, Judy, Houseband, Mel the Second, Valerie, et al) were a gracious, funny and talented lot and I enjoyed the writing for its own sake. I had reached a cruising altitude where I wasn’t scaring myself any more or forcing myself to stretch; it was an altitude where I could settle in and watch a fairly average in-flight movie while eating pretzels.

The email came without warning.

An editor wanted to talk to me about a book. I did what any sane person would do: I Googled her. She was, in fact, a senior editor at one of the largest publishing houses in the United States, Hyperion Publishing, who had steered several books I actually knew all the way to my local bookstore. I wrote her back with my phone number, still trying to decide if I knew anyone cruel enough to have set this up as a joke. The phone rang and no one yelled “SUCKER!”

She was exactly who she said she was. I found her to be lovely and funny and smart, which might have had something to do with all the nice things she said about my writing. I did, however, give her every indication I had severe cognitive difficulties:

EDITOR: I’ve taken your blog to the head of publishing and he’s very excited. We’d love to publish your book.

QUINN: Great, where can I send you a writing sample?

EDITOR: I…don’t need a writing sample. We’re offering you a deal.

QUINN: Terrific! So, I’ll just be waiting for you to think it over, decide if I’m right for you.

EDITOR: (Very slowly) Hyperion…wants…to…publish…your…

You’ll have to forgive me. People get book deals all the time but the book deals come though years of hard work and the tender ministrations of a dogged literary agent (or because the author has had sex with a famous person, which is another kind of hard work and tender ministration). Book deals don’t just leave emails saying “Hey. You want to write a book?”

Only, apparently, sometimes they do.

A book agent was hired and a deal was hammered out. I am to write 90,000 words, very few of which will have already been seen in the blog. I found this mildly annoying as I had planned to hand in what I had already done, only get paid for it. And, of course, for the first time in about a year the prospect of writing is sending adrenalin to my stomach and brain. The chance to succeed or fail is real again and while I can’t say I like it exactly, I am reminded of something Consort says frequently:

After a certain age, your life is either expanding or contracting.

And with this book deal I am in expansion mode again. So, I am here to say thank you to my regular readers. Knowing you are out there kept me writing when my inertia threatened to annex my muse. I am going to try to keep to my schedule of one post a week (the every-other-day business had to stop when I realized I would be cannibalizing Daughter’s childhood) but please excuse the occasional re-run.

You see, I got a job.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Oh, sugar, sugar.

Last week, I finally made an appointment with my doctor to have him take a gander at my low blood sugar. Having read the previous sentence, I can only imagine some of you are thinking “Low blood sugar? As in, you’re hungry? Quinn, you are the kind of person who is driving up my health-insurance payments. Just eat something!”, after which you would mumble something about idiots who live in Los Angeles.

Take my word for it, my blood-sugar isn’t normal. Better yet, take Consort’s word for it. This poor man has been stuck with me in a car when the last usable calorie has left my body. Five minutes earlier, had he asked me whether I was hungry, I would have answered jovially “Oh, I could eat a little something” Now, I’m sweating and dizzy, with shaking oven mitts for hands. Worst of all, I’m hostile and irrational:

QUINN (Suddenly, through gritted teeth): We need to eat.

CONSORT: Sure. After we look at the dishwashers, we can get some lunch.

See, he thought I meant “We” as in “Me and the man I love”, when I actually mean “We” as in “Me and the new personality who has taken over my autonomic nervous system”. My voice grows more guttural.


Consort, having previously made the acquaintance of Quinn the Destroyer of Worlds, remains calm.

CONSORT: We’ll get you some food in about three minutes.

Destroyer of Worlds grows emotional.

QUINN (Near tears): Just let me out here! I’ll find food!

CONSORT: We’re on the freeway.


I am eternally grateful and puzzled that he stays with me. But, clearly, the blood sugar thing merited medical attention of some kind. It seems to have gotten worse over the last year or so, so I did what any mature, responsible person would do.

I ignored it.

I ignored it until I found myself standing in the middle of a grimy bodega in a questionable neighborhood, peeling open a bag of the first thing I could find -- salted mangos -- because I couldn’t count on getting all the way through the check-out line of drunks and professional Quick-Pick lotto players before I passed out. This was the sort of place where armed robberies happen with predictable frequency. Was I prepared to deprive my child of a mother for an urgent dosage of exotic carbohydrates? Apparently, yes.

Finally, grudgingly, I made a doctor’s appointment.

Having made the appointment, I became smug. Look at me, I crowed to myself, taking care of my health! Being all… pro-active about my blood sugar! Not waiting until I fall down from hunger and cut open my head and get dragged into an emergency room where a resident does a less-than-aesthetic job closing the wound! I will go to the doctor, and he will check me out, and we’ll have an answer and spit-spot, I’ll be on to some other mature and foresighted activity, like getting my tires rotated!

My doctor is a wonderful man. My doctor’s innate impulse to actually care for his patients means that he talks to each one of his patients. This is soothing and comforting when you are the one with whom he is speaking. When you are waiting outside, and ninety minutes have passed since your appointment time and you aren’t in a paper gown yet, his need to connect is less charming. Being as he is a cardiologist as well as a GP, he sometimes has unscheduled walk-in patients complaining about a crushing pain in the chest and a general feeling of ill-health, not to mention a desire to walk towards the light. Then, what little schedule exists goes all to hell. One terrible day, I waited over two and a half hours.

I really like the doctor so I try to outsmart the system. I make the first appointment in the morning, the first appointment after lunch, or in the case of this most recent visit, the last appointment before lunch. When the receptionist called the day before to confirm, I verified I was the last appointment before lunch. I chuckled smugly, “Well, everyone will want to go to lunch, so I know I’ll be getting in on time”.

“It should work that way”, she said hollowly.

I chose to ignore her lack of faith in my planning genius and was about to ring off when I heard a small voice yelling “Quinn? Quinn?”. I put the phone back to my ear.

“Just confirming you won’t eat or drink anything after midnight tonight”

I blinked.

“I’m sorry, did you say no food?”

“We’re doing a blood-sugar test. We have to do that on an empty stomach.”




Breakfast was okay. I sometimes wait until I get Daughter off to her day’s activities before eating so missing breakfast isn't a problem. But by 10:00, my body was puzzled, verging on disgruntled. I spent a lot of time staring into the cabinets, thinking about how black olives were an underappreciated snack. By 11:00, I was sitting on the couch at home, breathing shallowly through my mouth, trying to move as little as possible; I’d call it hibernation except, of course, animals going into hibernation eat. At 11:30 I drove across town, alternately dabbing the sweat off my brow and being annoyed at the sensation of sunlight and the sight of so many people flaunting food. Stupid al fresco diners. How I hated them. My hatred fueled a sort of metabolic generator which allowed me to drive the last few miles.

My appointment was at 12:30. I arrived at 12:28. There were three people waiting in the waiting area. The good news was that none of them were rubbing their left arm or giving off any indication of myocardial infarction. The bad news was -- how does one say this politely? -- they were all old. I mean, in their nineties old. There was a good chance these people had fairly intricate and lengthy problems to discuss with the doctor and there was an equally good chance this appointment was the high point of their day. Who wants to rush that?

I sat down between an elderly woman and a seemingly even more elderly man. The man was wearing sweat pants, slippers and a t-shirt with a cartoon logo on it. The fashion sense of the very young, the very old, and the flu-stricken are uncannily similar. Slowly, methodically, he removed each slipper and put them on the table between us. Not under. On. He then stared down at his toenails, leaned forward and tried to touch a scab on the top of his foot. Between his hunch and his fragility, I was terribly concerned he would just continue to lean forward until he did some sort of Methusalean somersault, but my calorie-depleted brain couldn’t think of a graceful way of saying “Sir, I don’t think you need to touch that scab right now. It’s not going anywhere”. I promised myself I would put my hand out if his head went past his knees, and grabbed Good Housekeeping.

I read half the article on why Meredith Viera is supposed to matter to me when the words started swimming on the page. I let my head rest against the back of the seat, and shut my eyes. My new scabby friend starting trying to clear mucus from his throat. I'm guessing about six years worth by the sound of it. This is new, I thought dispassionately, my eyes can’t focus and I’m getting nauseated. My appointment was an hour ago, I haven’t eaten in -- I checked my watch -- seventeen hours, and now I’m going to pass out into a pair of old-man slippers.

With my eyes shut, I eavesdropped on the conversation of the woman next to me. She had been brought by a woman in her sixties who seemed to be her daughter. I was caught between admiration for filial devotion and a desire to throttle them both. It was probably the plummeting blood-sugar at work, but I was convinced they were having the most inane conversation ever uttered in the history of the world.

DAUGHTER: You sleep okay last night?

MOTHER: Oh, yeah. Went to bed at ten, got up at seven.

DAUGHTER: You seemed to be sleeping good.

MOTHER: I was. I was.

DAUGHTER: I came in to check on you.

MOTHER: I didn’t hear you. I was sleeping.

DAUGHTER: I know. I checked on you. Nothing like getting some sleep.

MOTHER: Yes. Yes.

(Silence. But a topic this rich couldn’t end there.)

MOTHER: I like to sleep.


MOTHER: Yeah. I always feel so rested after a good night’s sleep.

DAUGHTER: Me, too.

MOTHER: Oh, would you look at that.

Something accosted my brain. It was a smell. Since my nose doesn’t actually work, the fragrance must have been overpowering. It was a glorious, seductive mix of ginger and garlic and soy…

My eyes snapped open. Chinese food was being delivered to the nurses and receptionists. Many bags and trays went into the inner offices. I didn’t know whether I hated the nurses more for eating, or the bags more for going inside while I was still stuck out here. My sense of the almost Olympian unfairness of it all propelled me toward the front desk. The receptionist was biting into an egg roll; its glistening skin a perfect golden brown. I spoke very slowly.

“I am here for a blood-sugar test. I am taking the blood-sugar test because I become very sick if I don’t eat. I have now not eaten since eight o’clock last night. My appointment was an hour and ten minutes ago. You are torturing me.”

I rested my shaking hands on the counter.

“Please take my blood before I pass out. I suppose you could also take my blood after I pass out, but I will become extremely nasty before I finally lose consciousness and will probably focus all my rage on you.”

She stared at me, a drop of soy sauce resting on her lip. After a moment she said delicately, “I’ll see what I can do”.

I teetered back to my chair. The elderly man was adjusting something in his sweatpants. I shut my eyes. The woman and her daughter were now discussing the gentleman who had just gone in. He had been talking to them when I arrived.

MOTHER: That was a lovely man.

DAUGHTER: Wasn’t he?

MOTHER: Yes. (A beat) I couldn’t understand a word he said.

DAUGHTER: He had an accent.

MOTHER: I couldn’t understand a word he said.

DAUGHTER: He said he was from South Africa.

MOTHER: But he was white.

DAUGHTER: I betcha that’s why he moved.

MOTHER: Lovely man. So cultured.

DAUGHTER: You know, all those Europeans are like that.

MOTHER: I didn’t understand a word he said, though.

The door to the examination rooms opened. Mr. Scab was summoned. I was pleased to note he took his slippers with him. Having reached the ninety-minute mark, I toyed with lying on the floor so my sudden descent into coma would be less bruising, but dismissed the idea in favor of curling into a ball and shivering in my chair. Noel Coward's mother and sister would, from time to time, look over at me in pity and some curiosity. Clearly, they longed for me to leave so they could talk about me. They didn’t know I now lived here .

After another ten minutes, I heard something familiar. What was it…oh my God, it was my name! I was being called towards the inner sanctum. I whispered, “I’m here!”, fearing she would give my spot to the conversational powerhouses to my right. I grabbed my purse, dabbed the hunger-sweat from my brow and I slowly, gracefully rose to my feet. With only the slightest wobble to my walk, I passed by the nurse. I looked over at the receptionist, and leaned against the inner counter. I pointed to the tray of food on the fax machine.

"Those eggrolls?" I said silkily, "They're mine".

I sailed into the first room, starved but stately.

P.S. My blood-sugar proved there is nothing wrong with me that keeping nuts in my purse won't cure. Or, rather, keeping nuts in my purse and eating them when I'm hungry won't cure. But don't we all know I'm going to reach for them in a panic one day and eat a few of Daughter's Polly Pockets shoes, which also live in my purse?