March 2000

Now that the laser-surgery event is over and my eyesight has stabilized, I’m pleased to report that I can see just as well now as before. Of course, that’s the idea but you always know that you can be one of the few for whom it doesn’t work.

I have hesitated to put the entire experience down for fear of sounding like one of those people like Mel’s late aunt who would regale us all with every detail of her visits to the doctor. Mel often has said I should thank my lucky stars that I am a male and was never invited to see her heart-surgery scar. As it was, I was only given a detailed account of her medications. Nevertheless, I am about to do just that and describe the trip to the LASIK place. Please feel to hit the DELETE button; that’s what it’s there for.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I was asked why I went to Toronto to have it done. The Canadians were just as curious as the Oklahomans and were surprised to hear that it came down to money. My local optometrist was no less interested; perhaps more than most. He still doesn’t believe that I paid so much less than his associates charge and I still got out alive. We seem to have a strangely uncharitable view of medical care outside the US and it is unjustified. My optometrist, of course, can see his own profits going down the toilet if I don’t keep my mouth shut so perhaps I should ask for a bribe. Not my style though. At any rate, he has refused to believe there isn’t a catch and so during my last checkup, he paraphrased the experience in his own mind and decided that my costs were due to my airfare discount. If he would do the math, he would see that I could have bought a first class ticket and still gotten out with half the cost.

Besides, it’s good for everyone go leave the country once in a while to see what the rest of the world thinks is important. The Canadians apparently think the sport of curling is important which I don’t get at all. There was a curling channel on the hotel cable. Nothing but big rocks sliding across ice all day long. I don’t get it. Makes me wonder what they think of NASCAR racing. The news was interesting. All the murders and explosions that were reported on seemed to have occurred down in the US. The worst thing that happened in the Toronto was two 11 year old boys who had been torturing puppies. The puppies were shown as the lead story on the evening news. They were subsequently adopted according to the news the next day.

They were filming a movie in downtown Toronto when I was there. It was apparently set in New York City judging by the sign outside the building that read “Precinct 23, NYPD”. The traffic cop didn’t know what movie it was. The funny thing is they had to bring in garbage and hire artists to tag the building with graffiti to make it look right. Unless they have police there to stop it, the Toronto city sanitation folks will clean it up overnight and they’ll have to dump more garbage. The Canadians joked that it was special garbage they brought with them. Must be an interesting trip through customs for them. I looked closely at one item of litter – it appeared to be a coffee filter with carefully applied color over parts of it.  It looked like dirty newspaper from a distance but I guess it blew around in the wind less than newspaper would.  Who knows? 

There were trailers all down the street with “Director”, “Producer”, and such on the doors.  There were also cops to prevent you from going up and knocking to ask for an autograph.  Other trailers had names on the doors:  “Mr. so and so”.  I didn’t recognize any of the names but that means nothing – I am not up on my celebrities. 

I wouldn’t recommend anybody going to have a procedure done on their eyes by themselves. I also wouldn’t recommend forgoing the little relaxing pill they offer. I just about worried myself to death. There were six of us in the little waiting room sitting in our little disposable hairnets and booties, drumming our fingers nervously on the armrests, looking out the window at the passing thunderstorm, and making small-talk. It didn’t help when they explained that they would be putting a mechanical contrivance on (yes, that’s *on* – as in ‘direct contact with!’) your eyeball and sucking the cornea up into it in order to make the *initial incision*. AAGGGHHH! They also calmly explained that my vision would go dark momentarily. Well, it turns out, that it’s impossible to keep your cool after news like that. It’s also not very studly to freak out so one just becomes quietly nauseated and sits in misery until the inevitable happens.

Of course, every instinct in your body says “stay away from my eyes”, so it’s pretty hard to just lay there and let the surgeon work away but if you don’t, he might miss his target. So you do what you have to do. It doesn’t take very long; I don’t know how many minutes it took, but it amounted to about twelve trips through the Lord’s Prayer. You figure it out. I also made good use of all those “deep-muscle relaxation” and “visualization” techniques that we learned in Melissa’s child birthing classes. I never thought I’d use that stuff again and realistically, it wasn’t much good.  Kids:  if you have your eyes lasered, take along a buddy and also take the Valium.

Not that it was the fault of the staff in the operating room; if they teach classes in bedside manners, I’m sure they all got A’s. I made it through though. I then had to stumble downstairs to buy eye drops. They gave us all those huge old-guy goggles that cover up most of your face but those were just too dorky for me.  I used my own sunglasses but my eyes were dilated so much that I had to wear them inside. Purchasing eye drops was interesting since the currency was foreign and my eyesight was blurry at the time. Much of downtown Toronto has underground passages between the buildings and these are filled with stores like a mall – it wasn’t hard to find a CVS pharmacy.  I half expected the cashiers to all roll their eyes and say “LASIK!” and point. They didn’t though.

I climbed the stairs and was faced with the prospect of walking back with blurred vision (not a good idea since you can’t read the names of the streets) so I hailed a taxi.  Actually, I just walked up to what appeared to be a taxi stand and a taxi pulled up.  Canada is good like that.

Then, it was back to the hotel for a several hours of sitting while putting drops in my eyes, not watching TV, not reading, and not playing video games. They didn’t want me to do anything that would make me stare and dry my eyes out. In other words sit there and be bored. There was a radio though as well as audio from the TV. I listened to A&E biography (John Wayne), Third Rock from the Sun, and The Drew Carey Show. Could have been worse.

There were no problems though. Not unless you count the fact that I mistakenly chose to leave Toronto right when their spring break started. Their airport looked like airports in the US do on Thanksgiving. Remember, I was traveling on the company discount; i.e., I was flying standby. I only got on if there were seats available. I knew it was going to be a bad day when all the lines switched back and forth through the ropes until they were out of ropes and then kept winding around and around the airport.  When I got to the check-in desk, the ticket agent looked at me with disbelief and said:

“You mean you’re trying to non-rev today?”

I allowed as to how I had no place else to go. I thought to myself that I would just hang out at the airport until the end of the day and if nothing presented itself, I would find a hotel nearby and try again tomorrow after all these people had gotten out of town.

I just got lucky and got on when a few people couldn’t get through customs in time. The plane backed out of the gate by about 10 feet and then paused for a long (30 minute) de-icing wash. The whole time, I expected that family who had been delayed in customs to show up and demand their seats. I could imagine the gate agents saying “OK what the heck, the plane’s just right there; we’ll drag that Westbrook guy back off and you can have his seat.” They didn’t though. I have obviously used up my entire allocation of good luck after this so I guess lottery tickets are pointless.

Then there was the mandatory 8 hour layover in Chicago during which we changed gates 4 times. It was like in that movie “Airplane” with the big crowd of people dashing from one gate to another as the plane taxied past each one in turn. I could imagine the American Airlines people watching us on the security monitors and laughing like in a “Far Side” cartoon. “Oh Oh, I think it’s time for *another* gate change! HAR! HAR!”

Imagine the irony when I left Toronto during record high temperatures (near 70 deg in March) and landed in Tulsa during a heavy snowstorm. I never expected to be scraping snow off my car at midnight when I got back. It melted during the night and my family didn’t believe me. Of course, why should they? – I had just had my eyes operated on.

Once again Erin has made an impression on everyone.

Last night at the dinner table, during the report of what happened during the day, Erin announced

“We played Inky-Binky-Bonky on the bus and now Clayton has to skate with Katy.”

Melissa and I exchanged one of those looks that said “I heard that but I didn’t understand a word of it.” Ignoring the obvious impropriety of “skating with” someone at the tender young age of six, I was first to speak and focus on the more interesting method she described:

“Wait a minute…What is Inky-Binky-Bonky”?

It turns out to be a variation on the old “One potato, two potato” decision making tool. It goes:

Daddy had a donkey,
Donkey died,
Daddy cried,

Cool huh? I guess “One potato, two potato” has gone the way of the stone knife and this is now the new millineum version an old classic. Perhaps you’ve already heard it or perhaps it’s just an Oklahoma thing but I’m pleased to usher in such a glittering addition to our playground lexicon. Evan seemed only marginally familiar with it but then he’s moved on to bigger and better things.

It seems there is another popular decision making tool as well. It starts out:

“Mick – ey Mouse
peed on a house.
What color was it?”

It goes on from there. This one suffers from the obvious ambiguity of deciding what ‘color’ refers to. The kids inevitably take the low road and say ‘yellow’. Kids will be slobs I guess. This one is less popular since it tends to divert the decision-making process into a giggle-fest of bathroom humor.

Oh, and by the way, it turns out that Clayton “lost” and the punishment was to have been having to skate with Katy and hold hands while at the school skating party last night. Like any normal six-year-old, he weaseled out on the bet and refused to go within 10 feet of Katy. 10 years from now he’ll probably be sorry, but last night, things worked out just like they always have.

Another interesting day.

(transferred from old blog)

Our spring break is this week so Mel decided it would be fun to pack up and take a quick weekend trip. So we took off for Dallas to see Six Flags before it got hot and to do whatever else we had time for. The kids are a bit unusual in this regard; they don’t really want to get up and take a trip on the spur of the moment like that but when we do, they enjoy themselves tremendously. We’re able to have a bit more fun now that Erin is old enough to walk all day on her own and now that she can read, she is that much more entertaining. For example, she observed that a hotel in Henryetta had free hobos. “No, Erin that’s H-B-O, not hobos”. She also got quite worried when one of the rides had a door labeled “briefing room”. She thought it said “barfing room”. She was getting worried about what the ride would entail.

Evan had a good big-kid time. He swaggered up to any and all roller-coasters and took them on. That’s more than I can say I ever did. I’m riding some of them for the first time just so I can go with him. He enjoyed them all – especially the biggest one of all that made Mel wish she had stayed home – The Texas Giant. It’s a toss up as to which is worse; enduring the roller coasters or enduring Erin’s griping about not being big enough to ride them.

The grand finale consisted of riding all the water rides and going home drenched and dripping. The last one was the one that gets renamed every year but which consists of the boat-like thing that slides down the ramp to make a gargantuan splash at the bottom. Part of the ride is to get out of the boat and stand on the bridge over it and get splashed by the next boat. I had seen the spray while waiting in line and it looked fairly sprinkler-like and so I was totally unprepared for the wall of water that pounded me and knocked me backwards into the fence. It was a sunglass-removing, hat-grabbing drenching that left us dripping all the way to the car. A deluge of Biblical proportions.

For the record, six flags is its old stagnant-pond, green-water-in-the-log-ride self. What the heck, the kids had fun. Spring break is a good time to go – short lines and cool temperatures.

We also took them to some of the museums in Dallas and finished off with lunch at the Trail Dust steakhouse which has a big slide inside the place. So we ate and the kids went down the slide the whole time.

One museum we visited was the railroad museum. They’ve got a few railroad cars there (sort of interesting), several steam locomotives (interesting), and one of the few remaining examples of the biggest steam locomotive ever built (now we’re talkin’) – The Big Boy. This thing is as long as a city block and has wheels that are bigger than some of the smaller exhibits. Now, this is a real-man’s train engine!

Not surprisingly perhaps, we got home to Tulsa to find hailstones in our yard and roof shingles in the driveway (someone else’s thank goodness). We had missed a tornado-packin’ thunderstorm by just a few minutes.