Ought To Ship

I don’t want to praise the Lord too much for providing me with such a trivial and mundane benefit but, I sure am grateful when my 112 pounds of cat litter arrives/is delivered to my front porch, mere feet away from our cats’ litter boxes. “Auto Ship,” baby. No more am I lugging 28 to 44 pound boxes of cat litter into our five-indoor-cat household from the local supermarket and/or pet superstore. I don’t want to plagiarize a television “spokesthing” from my youth so I’ll give “Speedy” from Alka Seltzer proper attribution when I write as enthusiastically as I can: Oh, what a relief it is!”

The litter is my second auto-ship of substance; having made an earlier/similar commitment to 16 pound bags of dry cat food. I do get some fancy, multi-vitamins auto-delivered and my wife, Dina, as well receives special eye vitamins in the mail, but I thought that was the only way to purchase them, given that the manufacturers were out of town so I never considered them an auto-type ship. Previously, I had always resisted inquiring about getting products delivered from a national company when they are available locally. My thinking had been that since I’m home during the day, and regularly in and out doing errands at many of the stores that sell this merchandise, why ship it when I can shop it? It seemed redundant.

Now however, given the pleasure I felt when I saw that litter sitting on the porch without my having had to life one finger; well, a few fingers initially when I “keystroked” my way through this companies online registration, the light has come on. Moreover, given the neuropathy I have in my feet, I’m tired of walking around those giant  warehouse stores. Sure, the local proximity and availability is helpful but the bigger the buyer, the more effort the unloading/restocking is required at home. Perhaps I’ve simply come to a realization, and not necessarily an accommodation to my age, that less effort equals more overall value. And if in addition to less effort, I can buy products at equal or even lower cost than doing so locally, than I am sittin’ pretty in high cotton, if I may double-down on the benefit?

Not that I’m overworked and underpaid for the household duties I perform but, I’d rather be under worked and overpaid, if you catch my drift? And given certain realities to the many tasks now performed by hand, it’s up to me to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. And so, I’m starting to consider very seriously, ordering more stuff this way, especially bulky/weighty stuff and to let my fingers do the clicking rather than my arms and legs doing the walking and carrying. Let commercial/corporate America do the driving and delivering. I don’t have to prove my shopping mettle anymore. I’m ready to sit back and let the boxes do my talking.

I’m not quite ready to order food/perishable however. I feel a certain sense of calm and serenity wandering down supermarket aisles taking mental inventory of what’s present and what’s not – and what’s new and what everything costs. Not that I try many things as anybody who knows me knows, but occasionally, Entenmann’s or Hostess or Nabisco will surprise me with a new item and thus will have made the visit all the more sweeter. I wonder if I’ll have the same sensation perusing and clicking my way through a site that so far has been unseen – by my eyes, anyway. I guess it can’t hurt to explore a bit. I mean, it’s not exactly the dark web. (Is it?) Nor do I expect to use bit coins or have to create an avatar for myself. Nevertheless, the process does seem a little daunting; changing habits that have become habitual, and routines which have become routine. Seems a bit like turning an ocean liner around after it’s headed out to see. They don’t turn on a dime and neither do I. Still, I’m intrigued by the possibilities, and besides, I’m nearly out of laundry detergent.

Perhaps a test is in the offing. I don’t think I’m quite ready to join a club/pay a membership fee, but I am open to investigating. Time will tell I suppose, as will my first bill.

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Talking the Walk

Our long, local, over night nightmare is almost over. By the date this column publishes: September 20, 2017, I will, for the first time in nearly nine weeks, not had to have snaked down in the dark, our “turny-twisty” and narrow 150-year-old staircase to walk from the upstairs master bedroom to the downstairs and only usable commode. Though the renovation of this upstairs bathroom is not entirely complete nor ready for primetime (it is mostly usable as the water is now running and flushing), the demolition/renovation process apparently must go on/adhere to a schedule so, on Tuesday, September 19 the downstairs bathroom, with all its fully functioning amenities will come under the sledge hammer – among other tools, and provide no further use until on or about October 24th.

This heretofore (“Good Will Hunting”) logistical challenge has not presented too many difficulties for my wife, Dina. But given that I’m a male of a certain age, quite the opposite has been true for me. Once or twice and occasionally even more per over-night depending upon how late and how much I’ve had to eat or drink before bedtime, I’ll need to visit the bathroom to attend to some very personal business. To be clear, the ‘challenge’ to which I refer is getting to the bathroom, not starting and/or finishing what I intended once I get there. Moreover, when the task at hand has been completed, of course I need to retrace my steps – usually in the dark, and walk back upstairs. Though not nearly as difficult as walking downstairs; nevertheless, at the time I am going down and back up, in the middle of the night, my vision might not so readily acclimate and my balance is, let’s just say: inconsistent, especially when trying to avoid the miscellaneous bathroom-remodeling boxes staged in the living room on the very route I must travel.

Needless to say, having this nightly nonsense come to an end is most definitely a column worth writing. Not necessarily to self-indulge anymore than usual but more so to amuse you regular readers and possibly even prepare you for your own in-home renovation. And considering that this renovation is our first – and we have minimal experience with these matters, I thought it useful to write it forward and perhaps share a less-than-obvious impact of taking the one-and-only-on-the-same-floor bathroom out of service. Sinks, mirrors and shower/tub issues notwithstanding, all of which can be withstood and endured with the reorientation to the downstairs bathroom, the commode issue, considering its unpredictability, naturally trumps all other real or imagined difficulties.

Though the upstairs bathroom is incomplete and lacking multiple finishing elements, its transformation so far is incredible – to our eyes. I’ll spare you any details because that really would be self-indulgent and not at all the point of this column. But the two months or so it will have taken for the upstairs bathroom to become operational again and the nightly effect it’s had on me appears to have been worth the wait.

As concerns the downstairs bathroom, we are now ready, willing and able to integrate its destruction into our routine. Given that it is more of a powder room than a master-type bathroom – though it will include a shower-only enclosure, no longer will it be my twice-nightly destination. In addition, I am looking forward to its transformation because the interim process will not prevent me from going anywhere I regularly go nor inconveniencing my wife, Dina, when she readies for work in the morning.

Monitoring its progress will be more of a curiosity than a calamity since, in my mind, there will be no sense of urgency about the pace of this project as there had been with the upstairs bathroom because my bathroom access will not be affected in the least. And in the most, I am extraordinarily grateful – and relieved.

“Kenny’s Story”

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have given the Lyrica television commercial too much attention. But there sat a spokesperson named Kenny, his name clearly printed in red script on top of a white oval located above his right breast pocket on his custom-work shirt, a middle-aged white man like me, holding his left foot across his right knee talking about a medical problem that we both feel: the “shooting, burning, pins and needles of diabetic nerve pain.” It was odd seeing someone named Kenny on television referring to a problem that not-on-television Kenny also has, though my symptoms are not from diabetes; they’re from eight and half years of chemotherapy. Nevertheless, as Babe Ruth said about the sound of his throat-cancer-ravaged voice on “Babe Ruth Day” at Yankee Stadium on April 27, 1947: “It feels just as bad.”

Campaign to date, according to ISpot.tv, within the last 30 days, “Kenny’s Story,” as it’s identified, has had “74 commercial airings.” And though I don’t think for a moment that this Kenny could be confused with that Kenny, considering that he’s an auto mechanic who “grew into a free-wheeling kid” and “enjoyed every step of fatherhood,” and I’m not ‘free-wheeling,’ not a father and know zero about cars, I do feel his pain, literally.

Now the fact that the words of advice are coming from someone named Kenny does give me pause however. Not that all Kennys have identical personalities or life’s experiences but knowing how little familiarity I have with this product makes me distrust him somehow. My name is Kenny and I’m not prepared to make those statements. How can he? It reminds me of a long-ago M*A*S*H episode when Major Frank Burns was feeling paranoid (as he said: “I’m only paranoid because every one’s out to get me”) because he thought “someone else is using my face.” None of which makes any more sense than my not believing spokesperson-Kenny just because his name happens to be Kenny. But there’s no accounting for viewer reaction, probably. That’s likely why there were a total “1271 airings” of Lyrica diabetic nerve pain commercials nationally over the last 30 days. “Kenny’s Story,” at 74 airings, was a small percentage of at least a dozen variations on this theme as well as a parallel campaign to address Fibromyalgia, a similar condition also treated by Lyrica.

It’s odd, of the multiple spots that have appeared on television, all of which show people living active lives – and being grateful for using Lyrica, only three: “Kim’s Salon,” “Michael,” and yours truly are “given-named.” All the others: “Coach,” “Grandpa,” “School Teacher,” “Keep the Beat Going,” “Helping Others”, as a few examples, are not. I’m wondering if “naming”/invoking names in these spots does in fact personalize the experience for viewers in a way that the pharmaceutical companies think is counter productive? Maybe naming the spokesperson/sufferer causes a reaction among Kims and Michaels that yours truly is feeling/writing about? Moreover, given that “Big Pharma” probably doesn’t want to limit its reach by excluding a segment of the market because of name recognition possibly lends some credence to the presumption that using a name to identify the individual in one of these spots is rare because it’s unhelpful. As it relates to these spots and their names, perhaps less is more, given how many research/clinical dollars (hundreds of millions of dollars we’re often told) are invested in the process of bringing FDA-approved products to market? Accordingly, I suppose “Big Pharma” can’t afford to leave any potential stone/”presrciptee” unturned.

I certainly don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I can only wander – and wonder what is it that makes sense here and where I fit into their universe. The commercials have hit their intended target: me, a patient with “shooting, burning, pins and needles … , but I have to tell you: I don’t like “Kenny.”

Nothing To Do With Cancer, Almost

How lucky am I? In the last two days, I have been the extremely lucky, though presumably random, recipient, of not one but two unsolicited phone calls offering me FREE accommodations at any number of Marriott and Hilton hotels, fairly reputable brands, I’d say. All I have to do is transport my wife, Dina, and myself to the agreed-upon hotel during the designated window of opportunity and voila, a semi-unencumbered vacation for two awaits. And believe me, the offer couldn’t have come at a better time. Let’s be honest, what more than a cure does a “terminal” cancer patient need than a reasonably priced, stress free get away from his every day? Need I even characterize that previous question as rhetorical?

Now since I hung up rather quickly, I don’t have all the details, other than their phone numbers of course. Because, as you might imagine, I still have a few questions I’d like answered – you know, to optimize the benefits/coordinate the timing of our vacation. But the ‘unsolicited’ nature of the call didn’t enable me to organize my thoughts and ask all the appropriate questions. Nevertheless, the opportunity seems worthy of a follow -up phone call.

Ideally, what I’d like to do is bracket my vacation/air fare and the miscellaneous travel expenses I’m undoubtedly going to incur around the respective properties’ availability. Meaning, I’d like to fly once and stay twice; staying in their respective properties in the same city/location switching out of Marriott after my first free weekend stay and then booking into the Hilton for my next free weekend stay (and I’d be willing to pay for my mid-week excursion during the transition). In effect, making the trip a two-for-one as opposed to a not-going-at-all. And in so arranging, using as much of corporate America’s largess and marketing budget as is cleverly possible for a non-corporate America employee to exploit.

Not having pursued this possible presumption quite yet because I’ve just had chemotherapy on Friday and I’m not really in the mood to tangle with a fast-talking, smooth operator, who though he/she may have my best travel plans at heart, may not exactly be feeling my strain. So I’m going to wait a few days until I regain my bearings – and patience, and tolerance and call them back unsolicited at a time convenient for me but possibly not so for them and see if we can make a deal.

Because, to tell you the truth, if I could coordinate two hotel reservations – along with all the amenities with which I’m likely to be showered for accepting these extraordinarily generous offers, combined with some free air miles I’ve accumulated with United Airlines/their travel partners, this indeed could be the trip that my oncologist encouraged us to take when he first delivered the life-changing/life-ending prognosis: “13 months to two years” back in late February, 2009. Further adding that, before starting chemotherapy, was as good as I would likely feel for a long time. And as I have come to learn, the quality of my life is very important to my oncologist.

At that time however, I didn’t feel the need and/or wasn’t motivated my oncologist’s suggestion; I wanted to get started on my treatment. Now, eight and half years later, perhaps the timing is better, especially given that it presents itself at the beginning of a new Redskins football season. And if I may quote the late, great, former, head coach of the “Over the hill gang,” George Allen: “The future is now.” So let me sift through the offers this week and see if can indeed take the “trip we’ve always dreamed of.” I know it’s often said that you can’t go back. Maybe we can still go forward.