Spare Me the Peeling Rash!

There I was minding my own business when an authoritative voice asked me to imagine facing my life with less chronic osteoarthritis pain.

This anonymous narrator then subtly introduced me to a pretty, middle-aged, bleached-blonde lady whose knee clearly hurts her when she descends the stairs to greet her chubby, graying husband who suffers from back pain.

As we move outside, I’m told that Cymbalta will relieve my pain, but of course I am to tell my doctor right away if my mood worsens (from what baseline?) or if I have suicidal thoughts.

Next we see a racially ambiguous younger Latina woman on the front steps of a quaint whitewashed older home sitting with a child….the camera zooms in on the fact that she and the child are wearing jeans and sneakers, to assure me that these are Regular People just like me, except that the child is wearing a leather WWI fighter pilot’s hat and goggles.  That seems a bit irregular.

Everything is weathered in this commercial…including the people…but of course in a good shabby chic way because, though weathered, baby boomers are gods in today’s pharmaceutical world.

Next we catch another glimpse of our blonde lady, the heroine of this flash fiction, sitting at a table shelling peas (we’re sure she bought them at a farmers’ market just minutes before) on a grassy lawn in front of a beautifully weathered oceanfront home…and the camera pans to her pedicured sandaled feet. Then there appears a slow-mo blinking Dalmatian…why he’s in there is anybody’s guess, unless he has bad hips, but he clearly adores the blonde woman.

The goggled child and the blinking dog just warm my heart. Which is necessary at this point because of the cold fact that Cymbalta, taken with aspirin, may increase bleeding risk, and because severe liver problems, some fatal, were reported.  Now the kind, yet firm, voice wants me to know that the signs of liver problems include abdominal pain and yellowing of the skin or eyes. I am also gently informed that high fever, confusion, and stiffness (what I would have taken the drug for in the first place), or serious allergic skin reactions like blisters, peeling rash, hives, or mouth sores can be life threatening.

There is a lot of rain in this part of the commercial. I’m thinking it is filmed in Washington State – lots of trees, sea oats, and skittering leaves – where all the cool, interesting people are…you know, where the film crew voted to go so they could hang out with progressive people at night when the ad was a wrap and safely “in the can.” (I’m showing my age…there are no film cans in the digital age, though there might be in this ad just to satisfy us boomers.)

But then the rain goes away (“cymbolic” of the pain going away, I’m guessing). All the tentative folks we’ve previously glimpsed are now happy: an older woman in a very upscale window-front café reads and drinks creamy coffee in a clear mug (don’t forget to talk to your doctor about your alcohol use or migraine treatments); the handsome middle-aged black man now smiles (he’s only been seen on a park bench with an abandoned book, whose pages flap in the gentle breeze as he observes life); the racially ambiguous younger Latina woman, now alone, eyes the camera pleasantly; a middle-aged brunette woman looks relieved; and Joe Average, an overweight middle-aged white man, has stopped cleaning his glasses and now gives the camera a bit of a satisfied smirk.   The gray-haired lady from the café stands and stretches her cape above her arms as we’re told that dizziness or fainting may occur upon standing.

The gang’s all here…except the pea-shucking blonde lady with the nice feet…I think we can safely assume she and the chubby husband, who was snuggling her earlier, have climbed back up the stairs and are having a roll in the fabulous bed we never see – but I’m betting has a white eyelet bed skirt. (We may one day see these two handsome boomers in matching outdoor claw-footed bathtubs with no actual plumbing.)

None of these happy people seems to give a moment’s thought to bleeding risk or liver complications…you get the feeling that those symptoms only affect “other people” – you know, the less glamorous and less affluent.  The ones who don’t have cool, old beachfront homes, chic neighborhood coffee shops, purebred dogs, or, perhaps, health insurance.

So you can go to Cymbalta to learn about a free trial offer. Or do as I do and pop a couple of generic naproxen every day, and skip the peeling rash.

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The Bathroom Goddess Lives in the Sprinkler Head

The Bathroom Goddess Lives in the Sprinkler Head

I’m quite sure this is true, as that’s where my gaze is naturally drawn when I enter the bathroom at work and, upon discovering that no one else is in the large, more private stall on the end, I say, “Oh thank god,” my eyes rolling heavenward. And there’s the sprinkler head directly in my line of sight.

I amend my prayer to “oh thank goddess,” when I realize that this is, after all, the ladies room. I know she’s up there, monitoring my life at work, and just when I desperately need some privacy, she usually manages to provide it. She’s a nice lady.

There’s something about having to attend to bathroom duties surrounded by co-workers, albeit behind somewhat private stall walls. I can’t fathom the whole guys-lining-up-side-by-side-at-the-urinal scenario – at least we women get some semblance of solitude. My husband has a friend with “shy-bladder syndrome” who has to have a stall. Frankly, I’m surprised this isn’t the norm, with the exceptional man being able to pee freely alongside others. (And am I the only one whose mind just flew back to the snicker-inducing title junior high schoolers tittered about, namely, Yellow River, by I.P. Freely?)

I mention “semblance of solitude” when referring to the stalls at work because whoever measured for the door placement did a lousy job (lowest bidder on a state contract!). Some of the stalls have a one-to-two-inch gap, which affords little hope that your every move won’t be accidentally observed. I say accidentally because I know of no one who would purposefully peek, but the stalls face a long mirror, and when Bertha, Belinda, or Beatrice (are those sufficiently false names?) is applying lipstick or brushing her hair, she can’t help seeing behind her. She’s probably more uncomfortable than the person seeking refuge in the stall. The outsider’s mantra is Avert your eyes, avert your eyes!, while the insider’s is Brush your hair at your desk!

I am, of course, referring to your typical American bathroom stall. I love Europe for many things, not the least of which is its gentility in the realm of public bathrooms. The vast majority of stalls across the pond not only have fully closing doors with no gaps, but they also have walls that stretch from floor to ceiling. Nothing more embarrassing than having your pants around your feet and knowing that those on either side can easily observe. If you’re a guy reading this and you’re thinking Oh c’mon, no one knows whose feet those are, you’re mistaken. Women know each other’s shoes.  Those red six-inch-heel pumps were just being discussed five minutes earlier – probably behind the wearer’s back. (Girl, did you see those shoes?! What was she thinking? The last time I checked, this isn’t Saturday night clubbin’!)

Oh to have the privacy afforded the Europeans! We lost more than the civility of high tea, croquet, and je ne sais quoi when we launched this start-up country of mavericks (is it safe to use that term again without everyone conjuring a certain ex-governor?). We lost the right to five minutes of complete, unobserved solitude to do, well, you know.

But enough potty mouth for now…next week, boys and girls, we’ll talk about the “courtesy flush.”

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The Endangered Spoon

“May I have a spoon, please?” I asked the waiter. He hesitated just a fraction of a second – enough to make me add in haste, my voice apologetic, “This sauce is just so yummy; I’d like to enjoy all of it.”

“Sure. No problem,” he said, attempting a smile that devolved into a smirk. He hurried off. He did not, however, return with a spoon. Eventually he came back, and took away my plate with its lovely sauce still pooled in the center. I rationalized that I really didn’t need the extra calories anyway, and figured he was thinking the same thing. Which he was not – he just failed to bring me a spoon because, really, who uses spoons these days anyway?

Am I the only one on the planet who has noticed over the past 15 years or so that spoons in nice restaurants have gone the way of the floppy disk? Oh, they’re still in the basic lineup with the knife and fork in your lower-rent, ma-and-pa greasy spoons (pun just now noticed but not intended), but my observation is that the chance of having a spoon present in your initial place setting is in direct proportion to the prices on the menu. And the phenomenon is counterintuitive: the nicer the place, the lower the chance you’ll be gifted a spoon.

Like all decisions, the one to quit routinely including spoons in a basic place setting is a financial one – fewer items to wash and less bulk inventory to maintain means a fatter bottom dollar. But I don’t care about their fat bottom – ironically, I want my spoon even if it makes my own bottom fatter!

Out of desperation, I’ll order the soup over the salad just to ensure that I get a spoon. But beware if you go this route: the waiter will swipe your spoon the moment you finish your soup if you don’t guard it. Usually there is some assemblage of condiments or spices mid table behind which your spoon can lie camouflaged. If the table is bare, you have two choices: grip the spoon tightly in a fist, thus challenging the waiter to wrench it from your hand, or hide it under your napkin in your lap. I don’t recommend the latter, as it will inevitably fall on the floor, and then where will you be?

And so I add the loss of the spoon as a given I can count on to a growing number of endangered niceties in my life: thank you notes, the phrase “you’re welcome,” paper newspapers, yearly cost-of-living salary increases, etc. Sigh!

Finally, a note to my children: when you’re packing my casket with all my favorite books, go ahead and throw in a spoon. There may be sauce in the afterlife.

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