Thursday, December 29, 2011

The cookie that made me happy today

Work has been very dull this week and the time goes by very slowly with only a couple of people in the office. After work today I had a doctor's appointment, all in all it has been a very dull week. I left the doctor's office this evening and headed to take the Metro home when I walked by an Au Bon Pain. I am not proud to admit this, but I saw a photograph of a cookie on their sign out front and immediately diverted my course into the restaurant in search of the cookie on the sign that I was determined to make mine. It was an instantaneous reaction and sudden realization that I could not live one minute longer without having one of these cookies. The advertisement was for two new filled cookies - one was two sugar cookies with chocolate hazelnut filling between them, the other was called Florentine with Caramel Creme. It was the sugar cookies with hazelnut that derailed my original plan to go home, so I sought one out and put it in a bag to take to the cashier. While carrying out my mission, I couldn't help but notice the Florentine with Caramel and that was looking even better but I have no idea what kind of cookie that is. It looked a bit like gingerbread so I was not willing to take my chances. I have to be in a certain kind of mood to enjoy gingerbread and I haven't been in that mood for several years.

I took my impulsive cookie purchase up to the friendly cashier and asked her about the florentine cookie. She was not a native english speaker, so we had a bit of a communication problem at first. I asked:

What is the florentine cookie like?

She responded: Yes, we have them. They are over there.

Yes, I saw them over there, but what do they taste like? [she looked very confused by this point, so I go with another choice of words] What flavor?

She says, "Oh, you can try one."
Me: "Oh - no, no. I don't know if I would like them, I'm just curious what they are like."
She says, "Try it."

Suddenly I am the one looking confused because I'm not sure how I am supposed to try the cookie when I don't see any samples or understand how I am supposed to do that. I respond as I usually do in awkward social situations, with an attempt at humor, "Just go up, take a bite and put it back down? Haha."

Completely serious, she says, "Yes."

And I don't know what to do. Certainly it can't be Au Bon's policy to allow people to sample the food and if it is, I suddenly have second thoughts about purchasing their baked goods from now on. But she sees I am confused, "No, don't put it back. But try one. If you don't like it, you can throw it away and I won't charge you for it." (but remember, she had an accent so it sounded much cooler, like "...throw eet avay...")

For some reason, this was a very difficult task for me. First of all, I wasn't ruling out the possibility that there was a language barrier miscommunication happening here, although it sounded pretty clear that I had her permission to take a cookie off the shelf and take a bite. Still, I couldn't walk over there. I had to take a step, turn around... "I'm going to do it." She smiles, "Okay." A couple more steps, "Seriously, I'm going to take a bite." She is now laughing at me, "Do it!" So I grab the Florentine with Caramel Creme and I take a bite and it was not like gingerbread at all. It was like sweet heaven. "Ooh, that is good! Thank you for that, I will take this one, too." And now I am buying two cookies because even though I was completely over the hazelnut, I already had one in my bag. She rung me up and said, "It is my New Year's present to you." and I'm pretty sure she didn't charge me for the second cookie.

I love this woman.

I know this is a silly story and over the course of a lifetime, we all touch the lives of others temporarily and everyone has a few anecdotes like this one where an everyday transaction is turned into a truly pleasurable experience. This was the best thing to happen to me all week. After waiting 15 minutes in the cold for a bus that was late, then another 15 minutes in a doctor's office waiting room, I was accustomed to being ignored. The cookie was such a small gesture, but this interaction with the Au Bon Pain employee brightened my day. Of course, a free cookie will often do that, but it was more than that - the whole interaction was a bit silly, between me thinking it was a miscommunication, to my natural inability to violate everyday decorum and take a bite off of something without clear intention to pay for it. It was fun. I had fun with her. Not to mention, that was a magically delicious cookie.

I thought about not mentioning the specific name of the restaurant because it did occur to me that she could possibly get in trouble for giving away a free cookie. But in the unlikely event that the Au Bon Pain corporate people happen to read this blog, I think they will understand the value of giving away one cookie when it results in someone telling anyone who will listen what a fantastic day she is suddenly having thanks to one kind person at an Au Bon Pain location. Even if it is a grown woman who doesn't know what florentine cookies taste like, yet allows photographs of baked goods dictate her every move. Yep, that's me in a nutshell. Mmm... nuts sound delicious right now. Gotta go, thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Diary of a sleep study inmate

I think it is a weakness of this blog that it doesn’t have any one common theme, it is just random thoughts about my life. I am always conscious of how much less interesting that must make it for people who have not met me personally and from time to time I consider what direction it would take if I followed one common subject matter. One topic that seems to come up far too often is medical problems. I wish that were not the case, but at least I can take comfort that once I reach senior citizendom, I will have found my niche and should have a very robust blog full of aches and pains and ailments. I will make a fine senior citizen someday. Of course, by then I probably won’t even have to type anymore, I will probably be able to hook some wires onto my head and a program will blog away with whatever is on my mind. It will probably look something like this photograph from my latest medical endeavor:

I'm a robot. Beep boop beep.

On Wednesday afternoon I walked through a monsoon to arrive at the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders at 9pm. I did not leave until after 6pm on Thursday. I don’t know yet what the results were, but I sure hope they find something because that was a very time-consuming and unproductive amount of time spent in a doctor's office.

The reason the visit was so time-consuming is because there were two different tests. The overnight test was a Polysomnogram, which involved wires all over my body – mostly on my head, but also on my finger, face, legs, chest and I can’t remember where else. Throughout the night they monitored my brain waves (creepy!) and my movements to find out why I am always so damn tired. And I am tired all the time. I told them that, but they wanted more clinical information, which is why I had to stay for the entire afternoon.

After sleeping all night with all of the monitoring equipment, they woke me up around 8:40 on Thursday morning and removed all of the wires & sent me off to find breakfast with goop all over my head. I looked like a walking scene from Something About Mary. Yuck. Oh well, I’m sure they’ve seen worse at Whole Foods.

When I returned with breakfast and lunch for the day, they hooked me up to more wires and more goop. The second part of the visit was a Multiple Sleep Latency Test. This involved fewer wires and a series of five naps. Basically, they wait for you to come back from Whole Foods and set you up with a bunch of wires and send you to go back to sleep 90 minutes after you just woke up from a full night’s sleep. Twenty minutes later they interrupt you (either from your nap, or from staring at the ceiling b/c you can’t sleep) and they turn the lights on and make you stay awake for another 90 minutes before they send you down for another nap. Well, that’s not exactly true. They have to do some sort of calibrating before and after the naps, so you lay down and

“Relax with your eyes open. Now relax with your eyes closed. Without moving your head, look to the left, to the right, to the left again, to the right again. Blink five times. Grit your teeth. Relax. Grit your teeth again. Relax. Stick your chin out as far as it will go. Relax. Stick your chin out as far as it will go. Relax.”
This happened before and after every nap. It was weird and I had
these wires all over my brain and I kept thinking to myself, “Can you read my
mind? Are you reading my thoughts right now? Are you recording what I am
thinking? Stalker!” And then of course I couldn’t help but consider if they could read my thoughts, which led me to think of demented and gross things - like what I saw monkeys doing with their excrement at the zoo. Or horribly violent scenes from movies. I’m quite sure that they were not able to read my mind. Not only because I don’t think that sort of science exists, and if it does they’d have to inform me first (although, I was not very thorough in reading those HIPAA forms!), but also because they would have had me certified as insane if they had read my mind. I couldn’t help it. The more I tried not to think of crazy things, the more craziness that would enter my brain.

Anyway, after all of the blinking and the gritting, the lights went out and I put on my fancy eye mask to block out all the light and tried to fall asleep. The first three times, I fell asleep for sure. The last two, I’m not sure if I did or not. After 2pm and a full night’s sleep with repeated naps, it was harder to fall asleep, but when I heard a voice on the intercom telling me to wake up, I was not sure if I had been asleep or not. I suppose I was, or I would’ve remembered being really bored laying there for 20 minutes. I don’t know what they will find after they analyze the data, but I can’t imagine it is normal to get over 9 hours of sleep and still be able to fall asleep upon command. But what do I know? I’m not a doctor.

The weirdest part of the visit was the last dream I remember from my overnight study. I was sound asleep but in my dream I woke up and I was in a hospital. It wasn’t the same hospital bed I was actually in, it was more like a WWII-era hospital with nurses in crisp white uniforms and paper hats. In a movie, it would probably be the set for an asylum for the “Criminally Insane.” But a dream nurse woke me up into a dream world and sent me downstairs to join some other people. When I sat down with the other patients, another nurse came down to tell us that there was a tornado warning, but there was nothing to worry about. I looked out the window and saw a dark funnel cloud in the distance. I said, “Nothing to worry about? It’s coming this way!” and it was – the black funnel cloud quickly moved closer and I said, “We need to get down to the basement! Get away from the windows!” and some of the younger kids said, “Cool!” and ran outside to check out the tornado. I was freaking out and telling everyone I was from Iowa and I knew what a friggin tornado looked like and that was a funnel cloud. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts but I started running toward the basement as the dark cloud enveloped us and passed us. Nothing changed, the building didn't shake and suddenly there was sunlight. It was just a dark cloud. No tornado. As I sat there thinking, “What the f…” I heard the voice overhead, “Okay, it’s 8:40, we’ll be in to disconnect you so you can grab some breakfast.” Freaky.

Between my vivid dream and my crazy thoughts of having someone read my mind, perhaps this blog should focus more on psychological issues. Then again, maybe I'll just leave it alone. I'm too tired to think of a theme.