Depression on a Sunny Day

It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining and the sky is blue and by all appearances it’s the perfect day. I’m forced to stare at this magnificent day from the confines of the drive-thru window at the bank, where I will remain until my lunch hour arrives, and then it will be freedom as I shove one of the double doors of the building open, exerting more effort than usual as the wind fights from the other side, trying to keep me in, but I emerge victorious. The sun shines down on me and the crisp march air that carries with it an unmistakable scent associated with a happy memory, though I don’t recall the exact memory, nor can I name the smell, hits softly pushes against my face and through my hair, reminding me of the simple and unexpected pleasures that life can bring. I dare to let the corners of my mouth to shift in an upward trajectory, allowing a faint, but genuine smile to form on my face. I’m happy.

I pause in the parking lot and wave to the oncoming Toyota, signaling to the driver to continue driving and not to stop for me; it’s a beautiful day outside, and I’m in no hurry. The solemn driver nods as he passes, acknowledging my gesture as the cobalt car glides by then gets further and further away until eventually it is out of sight completely. I have a sandwich waiting for me in my car, Cajun turkey on a croissant with mild cheddar cheese and a thin layer of spicy mustard. I could sit in my car and eat it, falling into the monotonous  pattern of eating my same lunch while listening to the same radio show at the same time every day, but it’s just so nice outside, and it would be a shame to waste the moment, so I drive to the park and take my place on a wooden bench looking out at the water. I don’t know if it’s a pond or a lake as I have trouble distinguishing between two, but whatever the proper name, it glistens in the sunlight directly overhead, mesmerizing me as I munch on my sandwich.

A couple of ducks have swam to the edge of the water, so I break off a chunk of the croissant then pick little pieces one at a time from it and toss it to the grateful birds. They quack their approval and I toss them some more; this is what life is all about. Leaving the park, I roll the windows down on my car, making the most of this wonderful day that I’ve found myself in. At a stoplight, the cool breeze carries with it the scent of exhaust, and immediately I’m sent back in time to Paris on the spring break I took with my dad thirteen years ago. It’s the same smell as the time we rode our bikes around the city on Easter Sunday when most of the major roads were closed to automobile traffic. It was so freeing, the wind rushing through my hair as we rode past the Eiffel Tower or sped across one of the bridges on the Seine. It was one of the greatest days of my life. It was thirteen years ago, almost half of my lifetime ago, even though it feels like it could have been last year. I don’t feel any differently now than I did that beautiful Sunday morning in Paris, but I am different. I’m older now, and no matter how much I wish I could, I’ll never be able to go back, never be able to recapture the happiness of those youthful spring days in Paris ever again. I cry all the way back to work. Thanks depression.

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Dirty Secrets Inside America’s Favorite Sandwich Shop

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During the Fall of 2013, in between my failed career as a real estate agent and my two and a half year stint at Publix grocery stores, I worked for a fast food sandwich shop, for the purposes of anonymity we’ll just call them “New York City Underground Transportation Sandwich Company.” I’m being intentionally vague because I would hate to get into any legal trouble for what I’m going to share with you about the most popular place to buy sandwiches in the entire country, but I feel that there’s something the public needs to know, so if anyone is somehow able to connect the very vague dots then so be it, but I will not be silenced.
 
I used to love going into that restaurant with the delicious smells of the freshly baking bread in the oven greeting you as soon as you walk through the door, but knowing what I know now, it seems that was just a façade, a distraction to keep hide the truth about what was really going on there. It may have smelled fresh throughout the restaurant, but I can tell you, from my behind the scenes experience, that the food was far from it. How fresh are the ingredients that go onto your sandwich? I can’t tell you specifically because nothing was dated, which meant that nothing could be rotated properly so when a new tub of green peppers was brought out of the walk-in, it was a gamble whether you would be getting something chopped fresh that morning or peppers cut up days before. Although that’s pretty disappointing and even perhaps a little disgusting, that’s nothing compared to what I found lying in the trays beneath all of the “fresh” ingredients displayed to the customers. A slimy, grimy, brown colored substance caked the sides of these trays, invisible to the public, hidden directly below the lunch meats. I don’t know what it was, and frankly I don’t really want to know, because it was one of the nastiest things I’ve ever seen, and one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever smelled, a single second of the stench enough to make me gag. Not to worry though, it was easily hidden by a supervisor who replaced the tub of roast beef over it, claiming we could clean it later, a task we somehow never got around to doing during my time at the sandwich shop.
 
Of course there were inspections, once a month, in theory to hold us accountable for upholding the standards set forth by the corporate office who would send forth one of their cronies to do a “surprise” inspection. The only problem with that was that it never was actually a surprise, because all along the Treasure Coast of Florida, “New York City Underground Transportation Sandwich Company” owners would alert each other of the whereabouts of the guy from corporate, giving each restaurant enough time to fake their way into another good inspection. Inspection days were the worst. The owner of the “New York City Underground Transportation Sandwich Company” was on edge and prone to yelling, ordering everyone around in a frenzy to make up dates to write on products in the walk-in and to furiously scrub and clean everything that had been neglected for the past month. If the corporate crony had looked under the deli meat at any time, then I’m sure we would have failed the inspection immediately, freeing me of that awful job sooner than I allowed myself to go, but unfortunately, he never did.
 
All of that should have been enough to have me running for the hills, to leave my apron and my visor at the sandwich shop never to look back, but what actually caused me to start seeking other employment opportunities was something more disgusting than even the congealed slime beneath the lunch meat. I opened the restaurant most every day by myself, so I would go unlock the doors, turn on the lights and start doing everything that needed to be done, but one particular morning, I walked into the darkness of the “New York City Underground Transportation Sandwich Company” and discovered that I was not alone. I heard desperate squeaking come from multiple places different places as I made my way to the light switch, not wanting to flip it on for fear of what I might find. Rats, plural, squeaking their little, disgusting, furry heads off, caught in traps that had been set out the night before, unbeknownst to me. I’m not a big rodent person, so if I hadn’t needed the money I would’ve left my keys on the counter and left that place for good, but I did, so instead I locked back up and called the owner from my car, putting some much needed distance between me and the rats. She wasn’t surprised when I told her about the rats, because apparently it’s a fairly common occurrence there, and she told me that a pest control person would be there at some point that morning. I wasn’t going to be waiting around for someone to show up while I cringed at the front counter pretending that there weren’t squeaking rodents in the other room that were clearly audible from where the customers would be standing, so I took matters into my own hands and decided to get rid of them through the back door of the restaurant.
 
I briefly considered the possibility of putting them into a garbage bag and taking them out to the dumpster, but there were a couple of things that gave me pause about that plan. First of all, in order to get them into the bag, my hands would have to get way to close to them to grab the glue trap that they were stuck on, a thought that literally just made me shudder as I thought about it. Secondly, rats are known for their sharp teeth, so if tossed them into a garbage bag, there would be about a sixty second window as I walked from the restaurant around to the dumpster, during which time they could be working their magic on the cheap plastic of the bags, creating holes that they could fall through, possibly brushing against my leg or ankle on the way down, which just wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t my job to dispose of that rats that are so common at the “New York City Underground Transportation Sandwich Company” that they have a go-to pest control guy, I just needed to get them away from me, so I took the broom, and much like a professional hockey player in the Stanley Cup Finals, I hit the glue traps like pucks across the floor, then through the wide open back door for the win, the rats squeaking all the way. I did this several times, once for each of the traps, a couple of which held more than one rodent, leaving them to bake in the sun, the problem of pest control now.
 
It was after this traumatic incident that I began looking for somewhere else to work, realizing that there had to be something out there better than the “New York City Underground Transportation Sandwich Company,” even if I did get to work in a place that smelled like freshly baked bread all of the time. I couldn’t in good conscience continue to serve people that food, knowing what I knew, that there was a disgusting smelly slime sitting just below the food that would never get cleaned, that we didn’t actually know the dates on any of the “fresh” food because it wasn’t a priority to keep track of that, and worst of all that there was a rampant rat infestation that was apparently a recurring problem. I started applying to other jobs like crazy and took one of the first one’s I was offered, and it turned out to be a good thing, so I guess it’s a blessing that I worked at the “New York City Underground Transportation Sandwich Company,” but unfortunately I can’t go back and not see the things that I’ve already seen, things that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I’m not going to tell you whether or not to eat at the most famous sandwich place in the country because ultimately it’s up to you, but you’ve been warned, so don’t come crying to me if you taste something grimy on your turkey sandwich and lift up the lunch meat to discover the very horrors that I’ve just informed you of.

An Important Thing that I Forgot

I don’t know if it’s Alzheimer’s or Dementia or if this is just something that starts to happen when you turn twenty-seven, but I can tell that I’m getting more forgetful lately or maybe it has been going on a lot longer and I just don’t remember, but either way, something a change needs to be made, because the consequences of my forgetfulness are becoming more severe. Like yesterday for instance, I forgot something that had the potential to impact my life in a very negative way. Yesterday I woke up at 7:30 feeling good, having gotten to sleep in until the time I normally leave for work, because it yesterday, it was my short day at the bank. You see, there comes a Tuesday once a month where I only have to work three hours at my job, solely because I am scheduled to work that coming Saturday and cutting my Tuesday short is just a way to prevent me from getting overtime pay. Short Tuesday is my absolute favorite work day of the month, because it’s almost like another day off; I don’t have to go in until eleven and I get to leave at two, and for the most part, it just flies by, and yesterday was no different. I left the bank a few minutes after two, sped home eager to make the most of my short day, and immediately flipped on both fans in my room, undressed and got into bed. There are few things in life that bring me as much joy as taking a nap in the middle of the day, maybe because that’s when I can be my truest and laziest self, so on a day when the opportunity for one of these sought after snoozes comes about, I do everything I can to make the most of it.

The room was cool and I was buried under my comforter, just waiting for that sweet sleep to overtake me and deliver me to Dreamland where I longed to be, but then a thought popped into my head, and no matter how much I wanted it to go away, it was already planted in my brain and there was nothing I could do to get rid of it. The thought was something that I forgot to do at work, something that might get me fired if I didn’t fix my mistake. Due to not wanting to run the risk of breaching any kind of confidentiality or security confidence, I can’t go into the specific details of what I forgot, but it was something of a very important nature that really could have resulted in me losing my job. Luckily, I remembered, and still had an hour and a half until the bank closed so I could get back there and correct my mistake, however unfortunately, that required me getting out of my comfortable bed, getting dressed, and driving back to work. I texted my supervisor to let her know my mistake and that I was coming up there to do what should have been done an hour earlier, and then I was on my way. I drove about forty five minutes through traffic round trip for a task that took fifteen seconds to do, but it had to be done, and today I still have my job, which is a good thing, it’s just an unfortunate sign of the times to come since I’m already just forgetting really important things. I guess the upside is that at least I probably won’t feel bad for too much longer because I’m bound to forget this incident soon enough.

Timeline of a Sick Day

What follows is the excruciatingly dull timeline of my sick day today. Enjoy.

3:58 am- I wake up though it’s not by design. My alarm isn’t set to go off for another two hours and thirty-two minutes, but here I am, awake nonetheless. My throat is killing me. I grab my water bottle from the bedside table and take a sip, trying to ease the pain. Bad move, the cold water hits my throat and the pain intensifies once I build up the courage to bring myself to swallow. I go to the bathroom and spray three squirts of Chloraseptic spray directly into the back of my throat. It’s the red kind, and it’s disgusting, but it’s what helped me many times before so I rely on it faithfully despite how much I hate the taste. I go back to bed hoping that the next time I wake up I’ll feel better, vowing to never again take for granted the act of swallowing something painlessly.

6:30 am- My alarm goes off and I switch it off. The pain is still there. I go into the bathroom for another hit of the Chloraseptic spray. Still disgusting. I make some hot tea with lemon juice, another attempt at getting my throat to quit hurting. The pain of swallowing keeps my sips short and spread out. The tea is room temperature before the mug is halfway empty.

6:48 am- I call my boss to tell her I won’t be coming into work today. I hate that phone call, probably because I’ve been traumatized from calling in sick at a previous job, only to have my boss yell at me before hanging up the phone. She asks if I’m going to the doctor, to which I have to embarrassingly explain that I can’t really afford it. My health insurance is terrible and each doctor visit costs me a hundred and fifty dollars, so unless I’m dying, it’s hard to justify spending that much money at the doctor.

7:15 am- My wife tells me goodbye and leaves for school. I lie in bed willing my throat to quit hurting, which of course doesn’t work.

8:00 am- I go to the kitchen and give the tea another shot, and again it gets cold long before the mug is empty, but this time I reheat it, willing myself to drink all of it. When that seems to have no effect whatsoever on my aching throat, I begin thinking about going to the doctor. I come to my senses, or lack thereof, and decide that I really can’t spend a hundred and fifty dollars for a sore throat.

9:30 am- I’m sitting on the couch listening to Geoff Calkins on local sports talk radio. I wish I felt like talking so I could call the show and weigh in on how I would feel if Mike Conley took a knee during the national anthem during a Memphis Grizzlies game and how I thought the fans would react. Would I boo him? Of course not, and in fact I would probably be inclined to take a knee in the stands along with him, assuming that there is enough room for me to do so from my seat in the nosebleeds, which I’m not certain that there is. From what I remember, there’s not really a lot of leg room near the top of Fedex Forum, but I would attempt it all the same. As for how the rest of the stadium would react, I would guess that a lot of people would be upset and a smattering of boos would reign down from the stands, but maybe I’m wrong. Ideally, as a sign of solidarity with the team and the cause that is the focus of the peaceful protest, the entire stadium would take a knee, but I just don’t see that happening. Anyway, it hurts to talk so I don’t call in.

1 pm- I’ve been asleep for the last few hours, thinking that maybe when I wake up I’ll feel like my normal, non-aching throat self. No such luck. I go to the kitchen and put some tomato soup on the stove, because it’s liquids only for me at this point. The Walmart brand soup is pretty terrible, but it doesn’t really matter because I don’t feel like eating anyway.

2:15 pm- I’ve been watching Game of Thrones and forcing myself to take sips of water every few minutes. It’s getting easier to swallow, but still the pain lingers. I get up and go squirt my throat with more Chloraseptic spray. The bottle seems more full now than it was earlier, like it’s taunting me with the fact that it will never run out, a never-ending spray bottle of disgustingness.

3:30 pm- I reheated the soup and have been eating it slowly. It’s still terrible but at least I’m able to eat something now. The throat still hurts, but it’s definitely less painful than when I woke up this morning, which gives me optimism going forward.

4:11 pm- I just finished writing out my day to this point, and if it’s possible, I think it was even more boring to write about than it was to live it. Here’s to a better tomorrow.

The Flu Shot

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Does anybody actually know if getting a flu shot actually works? I’ve gotten mine for the past few years, for no other reason than it was free, and I haven’t gotten the flu, but I don’t know whether or not that has anything to do with getting the shot or if I just have a superior top of the shelf immune system, because I don’t think that I’ve ever actually gotten the flu. I don’t think it’s genetic, because I remember family members being sick with it when I was younger. I remember my mom getting sick and having to take the medicine Tamaflu, and since her name is Tammy, it seemed an appropriate nickname for her. On the other hand, every time the topic of flu shots come up, there is inevitably a group of people who hold fast to the belief that flu shots don’t actually work, and in fact make you more susceptible to the illness. I think those people are crazy, but the truth is, I don’t really know. When I started working at Publix in 2014, it was the first time I ever remember thinking about getting a flu shot, since that was one of the perks offered up by the company, and I’m not one to let free things go unused. I don’t like shots, despite being in my mid-twenties, but I was torn, have someone stab in the arm with a needle, or let this free benefit go to waste. It was literally a last second decision, debating back in forth in my head on the day that the physician was at our store, finally deciding to do it and catching him just before he left. The shot wasn’t that bad, which is probably a good thing, since I tend to let bad experiences shape how I feel about certain things going forward, but this wasn’t one of those times, and the following year I got another flu shot, and then 2016 rolled around, and I wasn’t planning on getting one, but a trip to Walmart changed my mind completely.

It’s funny how a single trip to Walmart has the ability to influence and change your life in a way that few other things can, like before Walmart, I always looked down on store brand items, but one time my grandmother bought the Walmart brand cinnamon toast crunch, and it became my favorite cereal, and was far superior than the original name brand, or the time I went for a few groceries, and walked away with a new job having spotted the job application kiosk out of the corner of my eye as I went to the bathroom. Unfortunately the job never worked out, and I’m too old eat sugary cereal on a regular basis, but you see what I’m saying about how a single trip to this place can eerily impact the course of your life, and September of 2016, a year ago, was no different. I was walking past the pharmacy, probably to get Aleve, the only brand of medicine that seems to work on my annoyingly intense headaches that I get from time to time, and the only time I ever walk past the pharmacy unless of course I’m picking up a prescription. As I walked past, the pharmacist said hello and asked if I’d gotten my flu shot yet. I said no. The truth is I hadn’t even thought about getting a flu shot since I moved to Memphis and was no longer employed by a company that offered it for free to their employees, and I told the pharmacist as much. She asked to see my insurance card, telling me that most everyone’s insurance covered flu shots, which made my ears perk up immediately, the word free acting for me like the word “outside” does for my dogs, immediately grabbing my attention.

I obliged, handing over the card, and waited patiently while the information was being keyed into the computer to check on my credentials, half hoping I would be able to get the shot for free, the other half of me once again succumbing the voices within me telling me that needles hurt. I was covered, and since I was going to be kicked off my dad’s insurance at the end of the month, I figured the responsible thing to do was to go ahead and get the shot while I had the chance to do so for free. I sat down behind a little divider, separating me from the rest of humanity inside of the store, which I was more than okay with since there was about a twenty percent chance that the shot would sting and would start bawling uncontrollably, so privacy in this case, was a godsend. The pharmacist pulled out her necessary instruments to perform the procedure, a sanitizing alcohol wipe, a band aid, and the needle, setting them down gently on the TV tray that had become the makeshift operating table. She must have seen me wince at the sight of the needle, or maybe like a dog, pharmacists can smell fear, because she immediately started telling me about this new technology, something that made shots virtually pain free. It was a circular band aid looking thing that she stuck to my arm after it was sanitized. In the center of the circle was a see through film that the needle was supposed to be stuck through, and somehow, some way, that was supposed to eliminate the pain of the needle. I was skeptical. Unless that see through film had a very strong invisible pain killer on it that would attach itself to the end of the needle and hit your bloodstream and take effect immediately, I didn’t see it could possible stop the pain. She stuck the needle through and guess what, I was right. It wasn’t less painful, it was worse than any shot I’d ever gotten, and then, the cherry on top, a bump immediately appeared in the spot on my arm where the needle had been stuck, which wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t swollen up even more overnight and become unbearably itchy by the next morning. It was horrible, but I didn’t get the flu last year, so maybe it worked.

I just got an email this morning informing me that I can get a free flu shot this year thanks to the bank I work for, but last year’s experience has me feeling a little bit hesitant. I don’t really want to go through the pain and agony of what seemed to be a clear allergic reaction to the flu shot, especially when I’m not convinced that it actually works. Right now I’m leaning heavily towards not doing it. The worst thing that can happen is I’ll get the flu. I’ve still got more than eighty hours of paid sick time that’s going to be wasted if I don’t use them by the end of this year, so maybe getting violently ill wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Maybe I’ll find out in the coming months.

The Continuing Saga of my Wife’s Hurt Back

It had been a week since my wife’s first visit to the doctor for her back pain. After a surprisingly short time in the clinic, the doctor had concluded without a shred of evidence that my wife had a muscle strain, causing the unbearable pain in her back and her legs to go numb. She prescribed two medications, a steroid and a muscle relaxer, convinced that they would both relieve her pain, and heal her body, but they did neither, which is why I found myself crossing three lanes of traffic at the last second to get into the turn lane for this chiropractic clinic that my wife had found online. We opened the door to the clinic, the lobby was dark and empty, and the girl behind the desk said welcome to “The Joint.” That’s right, the fate of my wife’s back lies in the hands of a place named something that sounds more like a hip new restaurant or a local bar than a doctor’s office, but without many other options, we continued on inside and my wife filled out the seven pages of paperwork, which turned out to take longer than the actual time spent with the chiropractor.

While she was filling out the forms, a man in his mid twenties walked in and scanned a keychain at the front desk, as if he had security clearance at a top secret government facility. The scanner beeped its recognition and he took his seat. A few minutes later a doctor summoned him to the back, where loud noises ensued. It sounded like someone was picking a heavy table off of the ground from one end, then slamming down against a marble floor as hard as they possibly could. I feared for the man’s life back there, sure that he was being beaten to death, not that I made any attempt to help or avert my eyes from the book I was reading, but after a couple minutes of the mayhem, he walked back out into the lobby like nothing had happened. After a few minutes, my wife was told to go into the back to meet the doctor and the receptionist asked if I would be joining my wife, to which I politely declined, opting to sit in the lobby and strain my eyes reading “Story of a Sociopath” by Julia Navarro. Perhaps the story is about me, the man who refused to join his wife when she went to consult with the chiropractor, but I haven’t read that far yet.

After only about ten minutes, and some more of the crashing sounds, my wife returned, feeling better than she had in more than a week. The chiropractor told her that her alignment was off, that one leg was an inch longer than the other due to some sort of shift that had moved her spine slightly out of place, but not too worry, after a few more sessions, she was sure my wife would be healed. I have my doubts about the legitimacy of the practice, likening the chiropractor to the new age healer that turns George’s face purple in Seinfeld, but after two sessions my wife seems to be getting better and the pain has subsided drastically, so whatever the chiropractor is doing, seems to be working for the moment, and hopefully my wife will continue along this trajectory until she’s good as new, or at the very least, comfortable getting out of bed in the morning.

My Wife and Her Hurt Back

I’m currently sitting in the lobby of a building that looks more like a nice hotel than a walk-in doctor’s office, and watching Sports Center on a TV that is bigger than the one I have at home. I want to live here. As soon as I got off work today, I went home, picked up my wife and brought her here, to the Campbell clinic, so she can see a doctor about her back. I wrote last year about how she’d hurt her back working at Fedex, but luckily after a few days she was back to normal, and it never bothered her again, that is until this past weekend. Saturday morning she woke up with a terrible back pain, and no recollection of what could have possibly happened to have caused it. She took the dogs out to the bathroom before going to work, her daily ritual, and upon returning to the apartment, fell facedown onto the bed, tears in her eyes, due to the unbearable pain. I told her she shouldn’t go to work, but she, as she often does, didn’t take my advice, which usually works out in her favor, but this time would have been a smart decision.

Her back kept hurting throughout the day, and she had to keep stopping as she walked to her car after work, trying to regroup before continuing on in pain, once more. On the drive home her legs started becoming numb, more noticeably the right, which made it pretty difficult for her to drive home, taking great pains to move the leg which felt like a forty pound bag of flour, from the gas to the brake, and back again. She made it home safe, thankfully, but hasn’t driven again since that incident. Over the course of the last four days, the pain in her back and numbness in her legs has continued, to the point where she moves as little as possible because she can’t do so without excruciating pain. She hasn’t been able to go to work, but luckily today, her insurance came through and we are now at the doctor’s office seeking help.

We’ve been in here for only twenty minutes and she just got called back, so that’s a pretty positive thing, at least for me, being the type of person who hates waiting rooms and the people in them with a burning passion. I didn’t ask her if she wanted me to go back into the room with her because I was too busy typing and by the time I finished the sentence I was working on, and paused to ask, she was too far away to hear my question, so I think I’ll go try to find her. Be right back….Okay I found her, sort of. After being led through a maze of hallways by the nurse at reception, we arrived at the x-ray desk where another nurse just told me I could sit in the chairs (gesturing) to the right and told me my wife would be right out.

She’s finished with the x-ray and she and I are now sitting in the little room where the doctor should be arriving sometime soon. I don’t know what the diagnosis will be; my wife is guessing a pinched nerve, while I’m betting on cancer. The doctor just finished up, prescribing my wife pain killers and steroids (I always wanted to be married to someone like my childhood hero, Mark McGwire) and diagnosed her with a sprained muscle, and us on our way, not once acknowledging me, even in greeting as I sat in the room. I think she must have heard me tell my wife the thing about it being cancer and was not amused. Now we’re finally back home and my wife has her medication and I sincerely hope she starts to feel better very soon…It’s been rough on me having to help out around the house.