Sunday, April 9, 2006

You Give Me Fever

Hello, my babies; hello, my darlings; hello, my rag-time gals! I've been bizz-bizz-busy these last couple of weeks, and then laid out the last two days with a rather irritating flu; I just now have the energy to update you all on my nefarious doings, after so long a silence. Not that there's much to tell, but it's not like there ever was, and when did that stop me?

The last few weeks, Adventures in Temping has had me in some strange places. My stint at the Financial Giant ended rather ignominiously; I wasn't happy with the work (it was becoming physically taxing as well as boring), and my supervisor wasn't happy with my shoddy performance of the work, so she requested a replacement from the agency... and didn't request that I stay on to help train the replacement. Though I had become weary of the job and wanted out, this dismissal (and the mistakes that led up to it) rather hurt my ego. I'm supposed to be brilliant enough to perform even a job I dislike with brilliance.

This ignominy, paired with something going on in my family that I still don't feel comfortable talking about (too many of the people involved have access to this blog), sent me tailspinning into a serious depression. I haven't felt like that since I started taking Prozac back in September, and it caught me rather by surprise. I was not sleeping well (unless I took a sleeping-pill... OTC, but still), and my always delicate ego was battered bloody, and I was horribly angry at someone I couldn't even talk to about my anger without getting angrier: it was not a good combination for my mental health.

But I muddled through... or rather, coccooned through. I simply didn't go out if I could help it, I didn't call anyone, I didn't write anything. A daily dose of the Grandmother and hanging out with Caroline on Saturday was about all I could handle of Society. I even let myself skip AA meetings, which I'd never done before, even in the deepest throes of my old Depression.

And I felt better for it. I might have felt even better still if I had been able to reach out and discuss the situation with someone outside of my house, but the effort of picking up a phone was too gargantuan to be considered... and rather than force myself, I just forgave myself for the inability to reach out.

It occurred to me during this coccoon phase that it's possible that I am more introverted than I thought I was... that being alone is my natural state, and going out and being with people is a state I forced on myself because it's what I thought I was supposed to want. Perhaps it's just a side-effect of the Prozac, or maybe it's a part of myself that I had supressed for a long time and the Prozac has liberated... but I find the very idea of being around a lot of people simply draining.

I mean, I like talking to people, and I like going out and doing things and seeing things with someone, but I've found that it saps my energy, being involved and interacting with more than one person at a time. And most days I just haven't got the energy to do even that... after a day at work, interacting with uncounted strangers and near-strangers, I feel so drained by other people that I can barely stand to be in the same room with myself, much less with a friend or loved-one.

Anyway, I eventually got onto a new assignment, which I really enjoyed... even though it was only for three days. I worked as a word-processor at an educational-software company, on a team of four temps, merging and formatting several disparate documents (engineers' specifications, mostly) into a usable teacher's manual and answer-key.

It was challenging work, and a lot of fun as well, doing something interesting for a company that is doing something important (they operate on a neuro-stimulation method of inculcating literacy using sound and light patterns that help the child's mind create memory conduits to make learning easier)... also, the office was in an amazing building (the Rotunda Building, which used to be a department store a long time ago and was restored to unspeakable gorgeousness), and they even gave each of us a really neat pen (with an LED flashlight built in and the company logo on it) when we were finished.

Then it was on to an even shorter assignment, just one day, putting together a lengthy and complicated transportation grant application for a local senior center. That was immensely satisfying, not only working with a really nice lady who is the director for the center but also doing work that was worthwhile by itself. They also gave me a really yummy and nutritious free lunch of soup and chicken and rice and veggies.

Then for the last week I've been working at the Oakland Unified School District (I usually avoid saying where exactly I'm working, as I don't wish to reflect poorly on said institutions, but I cannot think of a generic way of describing the local public school district administration without saying it's OUSD), doing some of the most bizarre and confusing data entry I've ever encountered. The project I'm on is in the credentialing office, getting files together to demonstrate compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act.

Now, I'm all for auditing credentials and making sure all our teachers and paraprofessionals are up-to-snuff, but the paperwork generated by NCLB requirements is simply unbelievable! I mean, we have literally thousands of employees, all with varying degrees of contact with students, all of whom have to have their own separate files, both on paper and in the District's database; and it's all been done sort of helter-skelter by ever-rotating temps organized under a single permanent director. And the NCLB's credential guidelines are so complicated! Who knew there were so many different kinds of teaching credentials?

Still, I'm working on a team of really nice people, doing work that is important (if rather confusing and boring... an odd combination, to be sure), and the hours are really good (nine to five with a paid half-hour lunch). It's also really close; though I find myself once again within spitting-distance of Laney College, which was one of the reasons I wanted to get away from my last permanent job... I'd been working within a block of that damned campus for thirteen years, three as a student, three as an teaching assistant, and then seven more in an office that was right across the street from the campus. I'm sick of looking at it.

Besided, the OUSD building is unforgiveably ugly and quite possibly haunted (this picture is quite flattering, being dusky and unfocused... in broad daylight it looks like something out of a Stephen King movie). But that's the great thing about temp work... it's always temporary. If I don't want to stay there, I don't have to.

Then on Friday I got sick. Actually, it was Thursday night. I was really tired after getting home from work, so tired that I decided to skip my home-group meeting (again); but when I got into bed, I couldn't go to sleep. I just hurt all over, with gas cramps in my belly and pain in all my joints; I tossed and turned until about two in the morning, when I had to run to the john for a bout of explosive diarrhea.

I figured at that point that I was having an allergic reaction to something I ate for lunch... we'd all gone out together for dim-sum, and I'd ingested a couple of different things that I wasn't too sure about (they give you a dish and say one of the things that's in it, shrimp or pork or whatever, with an accent that disguises the simplest meaning; but there are always a hundred ingredients and you don't know exactly what any of them are). After that, the cramps were gone, but not the pain and nausea, so I took some Advil and some Pepto, and managed to get to sleep at around three.

When my alarm went off at six, I kept hitting the snooze button, hoping that nine more minutes would somehow miraculously make up for five lost hours of sleep and render me capable of taking on the world. When I crawled out of bed at nearly eight (I'm so near to work that it takes only ten minutes to get there, so I had time) and tried to get dressed, though, I realized I simply wasn't going to make it... this was not a simple shit-and-you're-done allergic reaction and the discomfort of a sleepless night: this was either food-poisoning or the flu. And since I hadn't thrown up, food-poisoning was unlikely.

Whatever it was, I wasn't going to risk infecting anyone else, nor risk shitting my pants in public. I had to call in sick. But I didn't actually know how.

I tried calling my supervisor, wasting time trying to find a direct phone number for her before I gave up and called the main line from the phone book and asked to be transferred; but I wasn't sure I'd gotten through to the right department, the message was electronic and anonymous, and there was no way of knowing. Then I went hunting for my cell-phone to find the phone number so I could call the temp agency, just to see if they could get through to her on my behalf; that little task accomplished, I took another fistful of Advil and went back to bed.

When my agent called back about an hour later, she was pretty miffed that I had waited until nearly ten a.m. to try and get hold of her (I'd wasted over an hour looking for phone numbers, I was so slow) when I was supposed to call her first, and a lot sooner, giving her time to round up another temp for the customer... hadn't anybody told me that was the protocol?

Well (I explained pitifully), I vaguely remember somebody telling me about the sick-call protocol, but that was months ago, and I hadn't been sick in the meantime so hadn't ever thought about it... and I am sick now and incapable of thinking clearly. She was nice about it and all, she told me that the customer didn't mind and they wished me a speedy recovery and would see me on Monday; then she explained the whole protocol to me again so I would remember it in the future. But I felt bad for screwing up... my ego still hasn't recovered from my experience at the Financial Giant, and every time I fuck up even a tiny bit, I want to lacerate myself.

And I don't know if you've ever lumped self-pity on top of a flu, but it ain't a pretty sight.

I spent the rest of the day either in bed with Antinöus clutched to my aching belly (how I lived the first twenty-eight years of my life without a teddy-bear is beyond me), or on the sofa with my furry blankey and the remote in my hand, suffering and aching and running off to the toilet every couple of hours and forcing fluids and nibbling toast. I had a low-grade fever, nausea, aches, and the flop-sweats. It was super fun! And I simply could not sleep, no matter how hard I tried. When night finally fell and I went back to bed, I took some Tylenol PM to help me sleep through the night, and brought a bottle of water and my Advil and Pepto and a bedpan into the bedroom in case I needed anything in a hurry.

I got almost fourteen hours of sleep, eight of which were completely uninterrupted, and I awoke fairly refreshed, blessedly free of nausea and joint-pain. After washing off the old sweat in a long hot shower, and getting into fresh clean jammies, I was still a little achey, and still had the low-grade fever; and though I wasn't trotting off to the potty every couple of hours and having to hold on to the seat to keep from getting blown across the room by the force of expulsion, when I did go to the bathroom, it was liquid and (how shall we say...) pungent. So I kept to the fluid-forcing and the bed-rest and the every-four-hours-fistful-of-Advil. Spent the whole day in front of the TV, too.

It was there that I discovered my new favorite TV show, which I love so much I'm sure it will be cancelled shortly: So NoTORIous, the wonderfully fictionalized episodes from the life of Tori Spelling, starring Tori Spelling herself, on VH1.

I never really liked Tori Spelling before, but she is utterly delightful in this show. I love a celebrity who can laugh at him- or herself, and the tone of this show is one of mordant self-deprecating wit. I doubt she has much say in the writing, which is probably a good thing, but she is perfectly willing to lampoon herself almost viciously, yet with unexpected charm, and I have to respect that.

Loni Anderson plays her wonderfully self-involved mother Kiki, and her father is a Charlie's Angels-esque voice in a box; she lives with a bunch of amusingly pointless and attractive friends in a condo, dresses up her adorable little black-faced fawn pug Mimi La Rue in tutus and argyle sweaters, has funny little adventures in the worlds of Hollywood, romance, and made-for-TV movies, and gets sage advice from her caviar-addicted Nanny. There are hysterical flashbacks to Tori's tortured fictional childhood, and enough celebrity cameos to keep your eyes glued to the screen waiting for them.

My favorite bit so far is in the second episode... Tori has gotten involved with this sort of cult called "Wholeness," based a little on Scientology but lampooning all such organized quasi-religious self-help movements, in order to get closer to a guy she likes; there's all this talk about being "Relevant" (rather than "Saved" or "Elect," I guess) and a lot of ex-Gay parody and little bits of blind-item (cough-cough-tomcruise-cough) celebrity-bashing. At the end of the episode, when the guy turns out to be an asshole and Tori has had enough of him and his Wholeness, she screams into the closing elevator: "I'm Tori Spelling, I don't need to be Relevant!" It was classic.

So if you haven't caught it yet, I heartily recommend So NoTORIous to you. A new episode is coming on tonight at 10 pm, check your local listings for reruns. If you don't like it as much as I do, there's something wrong with you.


So anyway, that's my life lately. To update you on the loose ends from previous posts... let's see...

That broken tooth thing turned out to not be a broken tooth after all: it is a loose tooth. The gingivitis I have been battling (admittedly not with any great zeal) has finally progressed to the point where there is very little solid gum tissue actually holding my front lower teeth in place. The gum around that tooth that felt loose had simply deteriorated farther away; and though I can have that replaced with a bridgework, my dentist didn't think that would be a very good investment for me: "Much as it pains me to say," Dr. V. sighed dramatically as if his heart were breaking, "you'd just be throwing good money after bad." Meaning that any tooth he anchored the bridgework to was going to fall out eventually, too... and sooner rather than later.

The upshot is that, since gingivitis is essentially irreversible, and I have a family history of early tooth-loss (I'm the only person in my immediate family who has any teeth, both my parents and my younger sister have full dentures), my choices are limited: I can have a partial bridgework denture now and a complete denture later, paying out the nose for each separately, or I can just skip ahead to a full denture now and save myself some money in the long run.

Fortunately, I have some time to think about this. The loose tooth has firmed back up again after the intial trauma (though I avoid biting into anything with my front teeth), and the dentist polished down the chipped tooth so it didn't cut my tongue anymore. Still, I'm looking at a full lower plate this year and a full upper plate in the next two or three years. And it might be better to do it all at once.

However, I have to consider that, in my line of work, being toothless for a few days will make me virtually unemployable for those days... and when I don't work, I don't get paid. That makes me very uncomfortable right now, since I have no savings, I'm in credit-debt up the wahzoo, and I've already dug into the Grandmother to the tune of about ten thousand dollars this last year. A full set of dentures can cost as much as five thousand bucks, or so I'm told. It makes me distinctly uneasy.

I've also been driving around with a broken rear window for over a month now, the only step towards healing since that miscreant broke it to steal my bag is the piece of thick plastic my sister helped me tape on, which keeps most of the rain out but rattles madly in the wind and blocks my blind-spot view. It also looks tacky as all hell, and I expect to find my car gone every time I leave it parked in an iffy neighborhood (such as the one where I'm working now).

I tried to get it fixed, but I kept getting blown off by the people who I asked to fix it... first, at the body shop I usually go to, after I had driven out there twice in one rainy day without ever finding anyone in the office who would give me an estimate, the receptionist finally referred me to an independent glass man who could come out to the house; and then when I finally got hold of him, after a couple of days, he said he'd call me when the glass came in, most likely in the next two days, and arrange for the installation. I haven't heard back from him since, and it's been over a week now.

And though my stolen bag was found and rescued by a very nice man, that very nice man is going through a lot of troubles of his own right now (he struggles with depression, too... and just had oral surgery which he thinks makes him unsuitable for viewing), so he keeps putting me off about meeting up to get my bag back. I don't mind, really, since I was resigned to never seeing my bag again, but it's still a Loose End and maddens me a little bit.

So everything remains all sunshine and lollipops as always. I'm no longer feeling depressed, which is a good thing, though I still feel like coccooning most of the time. I'm getting steadily fatter, I'm almost 240 lbs now, almost into yet another pant-size and just a hairsbreadth away from being clinically obese; I'm trying to get together the money and gumption to rejoin the gym... though it seems easier to just accept and adjust to the concept of being overweight and (to my own admittedly overstringent aesthetic principles) ugly. I'm practicing my Charles Nelson Reilly laugh, anyway.

And my fever finally went away today, I'm back down to my normal 97.5 degrees (I'm naturally one degree colder than average, so the 99 degrees I had yesterday was equivalent to 100), though still a little achey...but I think it's more due to two days of inactivity than the remnants of the flu. Still, I'm not taking any chances... staying in, staying warm, staying still, drinking lots of fluids, and eating only the blandest and simplest of foods.

And now (seven hours after starting this post), the only things giving me fever are guys like this, for whom I can now search again, as it no longer causes excruciating pain to sit up at my desk for more than ten minutes:

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