Tuesday, March 19, 2013


By the time I got past my eye doctor’s appointment and looked in the down-the-hall washroom mirror, I saw a face like a big red tomato, dripping wet.  This was because the doc’s file on me did NOT say “eyes allergic to lidocaine, wash out immediately” as I have made him write in repeatedly.  I don’t know whether the page fell out or they made a new file or what.  It’s a new office, very nice.  Hung with fine art by a man who is the most striking colorist since a certain artist discovered Merlin Enabnit.  (Private nasty joke.  Enabnit's book on color sold in hobby shops.)  My face gets red when it’s sun-burned, wind-burned, very cold, or when my butt is chapped. 

If my eyes are not washed out at once, they will swell shut so I can’t drive home (80 miles) and, as I’ve told the doc only half-jokingly, I will have to stay at his house overnight.  He doesn’t laugh.  I had to grab his arm once to make sure he heard me before he put the drops in.  He doesn’t listen.   The sober quiet girls who used to do the washout are replaced by a young man who did not put in enough saline drops to wash out my eyes -- too little, too gentle.

The doc forgot to order certain glaucoma tests and says there was not time to do them, but the last two times I also had to return for them -- I don’t think he forgets.  I think it makes two appointments out of one.  (My glaucoma scores, each eye, are 19.  That’s below the alarm point which is 22.  I have no loss of peripheral vision.)  It costs $30 per drive to GF.  This time I used my Christmas money.  The doc is part of the “creme de la creme” of arty GF society, which revolves around Charlie Russell.  For them $30 is a lunch tab.

My friend has just had two cataract operations that went wrong, leaving him in pain and blind.  This doc does thousands of operations, so I asked him what might have gone wrong.  I said, hoping to make him stop his scribbling and look at me,  “I want to ask you a question.”   

“Of course,” he said, not looking up and still scribbling.  When I asked, his first reaction was alarm that he might have done the operation or be blamed for it.  Then he settled down and gave me a bullshit ratatat med school exam answer that boiled down to “not in my practice.”  Then he came to the conclusion that I was afraid to have a cataract operation but thought I ought to.  You know,  “I have a friend who. . .” when you really want to know for yourself.  This is the guy who sent me to the incompetent diabetes doc, simply because she was female and he assumed I would prefer a lady doc.

Great Falls is touting “medicine” as their primary “industry.”  Billboards proclaim “top ten percent of total joint replacement doctors” and “industry award winner among hospitals.”  I want you to know that my blog is among the top ten percent of blogs in Valier, or would be if there were any other blogs in Valier.   (Since there are no others, I also occupy the bottom ten percent.)  It used to be that doctors who advertised were openly considered quacks.  And before the sole existing hospital swallowed all the rest, there used to be two hospitals, operated by nuns.   There are two keys to this little gold mine:  one is an aging population that has lived hard, mostly outdoors, and the other is insurance, big ranch-financed personal insurance, plus some Medicare for the lesser folks.

While I was in GF, I stopped by the fabric store to pick up two yards to cover an ottoman.  It took 45 minutes to get waited on.  The management had decided it was a quiet day and had sent two clerks home to save their wages.  The remaining clerks were slowed way down by having to use little hand-held zappers to shoot the codes on the fabric bolts, and then having to double-check with pencil and paper because the machines got it wrong about every fourth time.  One of the sets of tests on the eye doc’s machine had to be done over because the machine didn’t register the first set.  “Shall I hit it hard alongside its head?” I asked the ranch girl giving the test.  “Please,” she said.

I hadn’t been up the main Central Ave of GF for a long time, partly because it’s a narrow street with diagonal parking which people are always backing out of without being able to see, so I puttered along at 25 mph.  (The posted limit was 30, which I think is high.)  Two different motorists behind me became enraged that I was so slow: honking, gesturing, hollering out the window, and finally pulling into the on-coming lane (double yellow no-passing line) in order to get around me.   At the next two red lights I pulled up right behind them, so I don’t know what they gained.

Dave Lull sent me a link to http://www.bryanappleyard.com/rage-against-the-machines/  It’s a review of two books about the increasingly robotic and machine-dependent society we’re creating.  But I live in Montana.  Despite ice on the road in the morning and high winds the rest of the day, the land saves me.  The drive home -- even with stiff red eyes -- was a series of grand baroque panoramas of sky, all purple gauze and glowing amber edges.  The fields are dull and dun, too dry and too often chemical fallow, but the sky show went on demonstrating what the billowing smoke would look like if the Rocky Mountains were on fire or became volcanoes.  I passed a bald eagle on a fence post, way out of his habitat.  If he was looking for road kill, he’ll be hungry.  They’ve poisoned out most ground squirrels and rabbits.  The law just changed to allow citizens to "harvest" the big stuff like deer.  He’d better stick to fish.

The best moment of the day was stopping out at Bundi’s nursery where I generally visit in June when the frosts are finally past.  The winter greenhouse was already June inside.  There was a gorgeous lemon tree with both lemons and blooms and a fabulous huge clivia in a tub.  I bought an amaryllis, which I normally do at Christmas, but somehow missed this year.  We had a nice talk about Agapanthus Africanus. (below)  These last three kinds of plants are bulbs from South Africa.  The cash register was not electronic.  The sound system was blasting Johnny Cash, but the young woman who waited on me (this town is swarming with pretty girls cheerfully doing low pay jobs) was listening on earbuds to “alternative music.”   She told me the name but I forgot.

My friend despairs at the cynicism and machinery of the world, so I am wanting to assure him that it’s not quite too late, that mixed in with the death and greasy steel there are still corners of the world where the sky is grand (no shrieking F15’s today) and gardeners still tend blossoms.   But I wish I could have gotten some good advice for his eyes.

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