Huntress of the Lens


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

You can dress me up, but you can't take me anywhere

Sometimes I have difficulty knowing exactly what appropriate behavior is in certain situations. Many times I know exactly, and then choose to step over the line, because really, that line is drawn like a hop-scotch grid and it's a game for me to jump through.

The book store: It's a store, not a library. I am very quiet and respectful in a library, because it's full of books and people browsing and reading them. People who are very studious, or simply lack the internet go there to study. Reading is serious business, and I would no sooner be boisterous and loud in a library than show my panties to a cop to try to get out of a ticket. (Or ask him if I can try on his mustache, apparently they don't see the humor in that, or so I've been told.) I am very clear on my library behavior, but in a book store, not so much. 

I know there is no stereotypical, stern, spinsterish woman you would never dream of calling by her first name to give me the evil eye if I say "Hey, have you read this book?" to someone two aisles over. I know that if I've lost track of my daughter I can call her name like I would in any other store. The books though, they seem to demand a hushed tone of voice.  I've never been a big fan of libraries, I feel I have to look at, hold, open and consider every single book on the shelves before I can check one out. I have spent hours in libraries and left without a single book. Since I started reading on Kindle I don't  go to the book store any more, and the trees thank me for it. They are as quiet as I am in a library.

A doctor's office is another place where I feel conflicted. They are professionals I pay for their services, and they will often require that I wait in a little room with a closed door for an undetermined amount of time until it's my turn. On the counters with the sharps container and the hand-sanitizer are always so many interesting things. Glass jars, some with easily identifiable items like tongue depressors or giant Qtips. (which I am always tempted to pilfer, I don't know why, but who couldn't use a few giant Qtips, at least for a joke?) Sometimes the jars contain mystery items that just beg me to open and examine them. Are they painful? What are they for? If they're in a glass jar on the counter they must be used frequently, is the doctor going to use one of them on ME? The urge to research is always present. I'm paying to be there, should I be able to touch the things in the jars? What about the drawers? I know they're not underwear drawers, and some of them have locks so I always wonder if the unlocked ones are fair game.

Then there's the little rubber reflex-checking hammer. I always feel free to try to make my own knee jump if they make me wait long enough. There are anatomical posters on the wall, I assume for my edification and enjoyment. I sincerely hope a specialist does not need to consult these to know which glands are in an endocrine system, or where the stomach, liver or kidneys are located. Yesterday's poster was all about colo-rectal cancer, and I learned a lot by studying that one. I am pretty sure I could diagnose it now if I saw a case.

There is usually a rack of pamphlets and I read those sometimes. Yesterday I read all about the procedure my doctor may use if abnormal cells are found in the cervix, and what the procedure for biopsy might be. I tried to read the one about the pap smear, but it was in spanish and I felt like I was cheating just looking at the illustrations, since I know what a pap smear is and how it's done.

The items that torment me the worst in a doctor's office, the ones that blur the line of appropriate behavior are the plastic body-part models. I just need to know definitively, are we allowed to play with those or what? Many aren't that interesting. The "Female reproductive organs" model is one piece, cross-sectioned and firmly mounted to a plastic display stand. Pear with antenna, ok I get that. The multi-piece, come-right-apart-in-your-hands models though, like the brain, the heart or all the torso organs are just irresistible to me.

I take them apart. I look at the hand-painting job that has been done for the detail, certain that I could have painted those blood vessels much more accurately if I did it myself. Then I think about the people who's job it is to go to work every day and paint details on medical models (the same ones over and over, I'm sure, they don't start at the head and go to the feet before beginning another) and wonder how much they hate their jobs. I wonder if I would get sloppy with it too after years of painting the same little ridge or indentation on giant fake organs. The doctor comes in and I have the brain or the heart disassembled and am fully checking it out and I have a sudden idea that this was not appropriate; these were not toys left for me to play with. 

Worst of all is when there is an entire skeleton hanging from a stainless steel stand. They move because the joints have been bolstered with rubberized plastic. It may start with something as simple as shaking it's hand. "Hello, do you enjoy just hanging around here?" Inevitably I will see if I can get it to give me a real hug, and pretend it's a very tall celebrity. Sometimes I like to slow dance with it, but they don't dance well. Their feet don't touch the floor and they are hanging from a hook after all. Then I start to wonder... Is this the skeleton of someone who donated their body to medical science? Have the bones been boiled and sealed with something shiny or is it molded plastic? My usual way to decide what something is made from is to tap it on my teeth. (Try it, you can really tell glass from plastic, wood from metal in an instant if you do this.) Medical skeleton models aren't eligible for this test though, because if it is a real skeleton I am NOT tapping it on my teeth, boiled and shiny or not. It is very embarrassing by the way, to be caught in the embrace of your chiropractor's model skeleton. I'm just telling you in advance so the same thing doesn't happen to you.

Then there's the volume of my voice. I often don't realize just how loud or soft it sounds on the outside of my head. Sometimes, when I think I'm saying something very quietly I will get shocked or scandalized looks from people near me. "God, why don't you close the door, you door opener!" last night in class. It was cold, and he left the door open. I thought I said that very quietly, but apparently he and everyone else in class heard me and he sheepishly went back and closed the door. My teacher actually shushed me, and I got an elbow in the ribs from Michael. So I've been shushed and as he walks by I'm afraid to say "I'm sorry, I was just kidding, a little." I made the "I'm really sorry I said that as loud as I did and I know you didn't leave the door open on purpose" universal silent gesture to him. 

At one point in class it was like someone dumped a bucket of tired over my head, and all of a sudden I couldn't keep my eyes open. I propped my head very sturdily, arranged my glasses so that you couldn't really see if my eyes were open and fell sound asleep. I totally missed the slide of whatever bridge the teacher kept referencing in relation to other pieces of architecture, and couldn't even admit it and ask her to go back. Michael was falling asleep as well, but hadn't propped his head so it bobbed and woke him up. He leaned over and whispered (in an entirely appropriate volume) "Honey, you're falling asleep." I know he was afraid I might snore, I can do that sitting up. I replied with "Mm hmm." and kept right on sleeping. Then he poked me. "Why do you keep poking me?" I say, but since I've been asleep I have no volume filter on. Once again our whole class can hear me, and the teacher stopped the lecture to give me that look.

She's got a class of super young people, who commit crimes like texting in class, and the two middle-aged people in the back row all of a sudden can't be quiet. Ok, ONE of the two, that would be me.

I like to know what behavior is appropriate to any situation, and will, when I feel like it, act entirely inappropriately. Unfortunately, it's those other times that leave me feeling embarrassed, or like I have toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe or an open zipper. 

The moral of this story is that life is hard to navigate, even as you near the ripe old age of one hundred.

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