Armpits & Other Questions

I’m reading a story to the three year old on the couch.  She slides down and goes to stand in front of the armoire mirror.  She holds an arm straight up over her head and looks at herself a good long while. 

“Hammy, do I have a armpit?”

“Yes,” I answer.  “Yes you do.”  (The story we’re reading has nothing to do with armpits.)  

“Is dis it?”

She indicates the small depression under the small arm.

“That’s it.”

“But I don’t see any hair.”

A grandma knows this is where adults tend to want to veer off into too many details.  Her Abba will be home soon and I’ll be sure to hand this one over to him.

She has a big crush on her Abba.  There are several hints.  She pretend-calls him on the phone and when I ask how Abba’s doing at work she flexes her arms in the classic comic book bodybuilder pose and says,

“Abba is a big strong man.”

Of course she also mimics everything her mommy does.  She’s just begun to notice the differences between an Abba and a Mommy.   Past the armpits, I will not venture.  This time it’s not my job.  I get to sit back and relax and congratulate myself on having raised the Mommy who will, along with Abba, be called on to explain many things in the near future, including the whys and wherefores of hair under the armpits of various people.  Some days it’s good to be the Hammy.

Ó By Anita Garner 2008

 

Science & Sales

I recently changed doctors.  In fact, I switched to two new specialists because the first two kept trying to sell me things.  It bothers me when I’m in a vulnerable state, which we always are in a doctor’s examining room, when after checking what I went there for, he/she suggests I partake of products offered for sale on the premises. 

My Dermatologist began to push expensive services which are cosmetic in nature.  I have nothing against cosmetic Dermatology, but that wasn’t the reason for my visit.  However, after he excised the suspicious sunspots on my skin, I asked about a reddish place on my face, wondering if it was anything to worry about, and by way of answering my concern, he said “Just a minute, let me bring in my laser people.” 

Before I could decline, the door to the examining room opened, the doctor exited, and a woman carrying laser brochures entered.  She looked me over and surmised that for about $5,000-$6,000 for several treatments, she could make the reddish spots disappear.  I asked, “But will they come back?” The answer was yes, “But you can always repeat the laser procedure again in the future.”

The other doctor I said goodbye to was my eye doctor.  He’d had a shop adjacent to his office for some time, but they’d never tried to sell me things, so I walked past his boutique  filled with designer eyeglass frames and headed to a less expensive dispensary to get my prescriptions filled. 

The last visit, though, consisted of one part exam and three parts sales.  First the receptionist pointed me to the shop and suggested I browse while waiting.  Then the doctor finished the exam and left the room, returning with several eyeglass frames from his selection.  I declined.  And then I declined to make another appointment there.

This isn’t new, but it’s recently begun to bother me more. It’s not that I resent doctors finding new ways to make money, especially with insurance companies paying less of the cost of care, but I want to feel that my health is more important to them than their sales.  I don’t even care if it’s true,  just so I can continue to pretend it’s so.  

Maybe you can separate science from sales, healing from hype, but I can’t.  For me, getting a sales pitch along with an exam is full-service intimidation and I’m not willing to participate in practices (pardon the lame wordplay) that make me feel unsettled when I’m trying to look after my health.  

I learned that you can Google doctors and read patient reviews.  Not that someone else’s opinion is the final word, but I did find some reviews that mention whether the doctor pushes products as often as medical care.

It’s not just doctors.  Decades ago, at a meeting with the minister who would perform our wedding ceremony, the preacher chatted with us for a few minutes, then handed us a packet containing brochures about life insurance.  He was pastoring full time, but selling insurance on the side.  We wondered, is he in touch with Someone who has knowledge of our future?  Does he know something we don’t?  There we were, young and in love, headed to our meeting with questions about the ceremony, but we left worrying about our beneficiaries.

I’m all for “additional revenue streams.”  I embrace our capitalistic society, but assuming I can find them, I’ll continue to seek out doctors (and ministers) who stick to the main product I’m there for. 

Ó By Anita Garner 2008

An Old Coot Ahead Of Time

I’m turning into a coot way ahead of schedule. 

First I had to look up that word to be sure it’s still the one I used to know and hasn’t turned into something dirty in the past little while.  Nope.  I’m safe.  A coot, according to Merriam-Webster,  is still a “harmless, simple person.” 

Back where I came up, in the Deep South, coots were a bit more complex than that.  I’m not sure they were all so simple, but they probably enjoyed being thought of that way, since it gave them greater freedom to observe the rest of us, without anyone giving a whit for their opinions.

It was a group of coots who gathered at the cafe in the morning, some of them with no place else to be and some who chose that perch because being a coot had become a full-time job and that was their workplace.

I’d call what they did gossip, except that most of them were men, and men don’t refer to themselves as gossips.  They might say they’re visiting.  Or getting together.  Or stopping by.  Or talking.  But never gossip.  

It was the old coots around home who often came up with the greatest wisdom and when they upped and said something smart, everyone acted surprised.   I don’t know why.  Certainly they’d observed more of human nature than most of the rest of us.  

My favorite neighborhood visiting buddy these days is a man and I don’t want to call him something he doesn’t want to own, so let’s just say we talk about nothing in particular.  Still, when our brief visits are done, I always feel better informed.  When he brings up a topic, he compares it to other things he’s witnessed in his lifetime of observing and then he draws conclusions.  Opinionated gossip is my favorite kind. 

Today I’ll phone him to ask what kind of trees are those on the corner that the trimmers are lopping off?  And does he think they’ll survive?  He’ll have an informed opinion about the way the tree-trimmers are handling the job.

Recently he asked,    

“Did you hear about the two widow ladies next door to each other who passed away one right after the other last week?” 

The second lady, he said, had just returned from a memorial service for the first and was still in the clothes she wore to the event when she expired. This week, two families are over there packing up two houses next door to each other, where two ladies who were friends and neighbors for decades both departed within a few days.     

We’ll drink coffee for a bit and then my friend will offer some pearl of wisdom about life in general based on these specifics and I’ll go back to my routine still mulling over the significance of those trees and those ladies around the corner.    

Ó By Anita Garner 2008

   

Toddler Focus Group

My favorite toddler arrived for a visit, packing her portable DVD player and a stack of choices.  Among the titles,

Barbie Mariposa And Her Butterfly Fairy Friends

Where the heck did that title come from? A visit to a Toddler Focus Group may shed some light. 

In the room with a one-way window, the table and chairs have been removed.  Twelve toddlers sit on the floor.  They’ll help marketing executives and manufacturers name a new product.  No adults are allowed in. Parents join executives looking through the glass and see that all toddlers have the perfect tool for making choices.  Each holds onto a remote with big colorful buttons.  Toddlers completely understand remotes.   They can delete anything within seconds.

A voice through speakers in the room coaxes the little ones to push buttons. Do you like butterflies?  They push the butterfly button.   Do you like fairies?  And on through a series of questions that correspond with pictures on the remote. 

Oops – some of our toddlers appear to be trying to push the buttons on a neighbor’s remote, but a few are still listening.

Do you like Barbie?  Yes.  How about friends?  That gets the biggest reaction so far.  Preschool and play-dates have already taught them that friends are the best new things of all.  They quickly push the button with the colorful outline of children holding hands. 

Wait now.  The group is drifting.  Only three toddlers are still interested in the remotes.  The rest wander around, poking each other, getting acquainted.

The voice continues to ask about magic toddler words, but all order has been lost and at the end of a session that only lasted five minutes but seemed to go on forever, advertising people string together a bunch of words and declare this new DVD title will contain several things kids seem to like. (How did “Mariposa” get in there?  I’m not sure.  I haven’t watched it yet.)  What does the title mean? No one knows.   And does it matter, really?

One very smart executive/parent asks shouldn’t we add ladybugs?  Toddlers like ladybugs even more than new friends.  Oh, all right then, maybe next time.  In fact let’s commission a script right now that includes the words Barbie and Ladybugs.   

Parents are allowed in.  A few toddlers run to them, while others act as if they’ve never seen these adults before, and continue what they were doing.  Somebody finds a Goldfish cracker in his mommy’s purse.  Now everybody wants one, but there aren’t any more. Crying begins. Another parent produces Cheerios from a baggie that will be carried everywhere until the toddler starts college.  All are pacified with the wholegrain O’s.

While the munching toddlers say goodbye or ignore each other, let’s consider a point that focus groups need to spend more time with.  What kinds of toys do grandparents want?

Here’s the Grandparent Focus Group.  Table and chairs are restored and a variety of diet and regular colas, coffee, decaf, and teas in all kinds of flavors are offered.  Treats are on a side table.  Some of the grandparents choose M & M’s while others go for the nutrition bars.  New toys to be tested are on the table.

The voice in the speaker asks, “Does the ratchety-ratchety sound of this toy lawnmower seem authentic to you?”

It does and is that absolutely necessary?

“How about the humming noise on this pretend-vacuum cleaner?”

That is way too realistic.  Here’s an idea.  How about you make this toy with a grandparent control, an invisible one I can push from way over here so the toddler can’t see it?  When a complaint arises from the shorter person in the room, I am prepared to lie.

No, honey, I have no idea why your toy stopped working just now.

Question from the Market Research team:

“How about this pretend-cellphone/camera that rings and also makes a loud clicking sound when the toddler puts it right in your face?”

A hidden on/off switch would be good.  I’m prepared to look surprised.  

Oh, your cellphone won’t ring anymore?  Really?  I’m sure the camera still works, honey.  It probably doesn’t feel like clicking every single time.

And what of the sad little toddler face?  

Darned cellphone.  Here, give it to Hammy.  I’ll fix it later.  Let’s go eat some strawberries.

 

Ó Anita Garner 2008