Tag Archives: public

The Uncooperative (and Partly English) Patient

The lowly has risen. This isn’t quite as marvelous and self-aggrandizing as it may sound. I just went from being a person with a lifetime of low, sometimes unusually low, blood pressure, to a person who was trying to calm down, so that I could go home instead of to the hospital. I guess 160/100 is no big deal…unless your normal blood pressure has been 110/60.

Was it the coffee I drank? Just those few sips? Normally a drinker of strong English or Indian tea, it was, if so, not caffeine but some other alkaloid contained in coffee.

Suggestions on what to avoid if you happen to have a sudden spike in blood pressure: self-righteous relatives who choose that moment–when you just want to avoid the dreaded hospital, to go home, and to get something to eat–to tell you how “lucky” you are. I am perfectly aware that I am fortunate not to be in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, or war-ravaged Syria, or drought-and-strife ravaged nations in Africa. And while I am not making the ultimate sacrifice of going there as a foreign aid worker–with no special medical training, I would merely be in the way–I am one of those people who broods over the terrors, natural and man made, that befall people whom I have never met. Hunger is perhaps the curse I brood over most because it is almost one hundred percent preventable. And I am almost always hungry, despite not suffering want.

Not that I am unusually generous, but I give as I feel able, and as thoughtfully as I am able, pouring over Charity Navigator, and over articles on how to help the most people with whatever (small amounts) I have to share. MSF, Oxfam, an UNICEF are usually the international aid agencies I choose for crises. There are also organizations such as FINCA, that provide small business loans, usually to women in third world countries. (Is “third world” not an outdated expression? Non-industrialized nations might be better, but even wealthy industrial nations like Japan suffer tragedy and require aid, as we saw two years ago.) I do not neglect local needs, the people who are my neighbors, either. But I could most certainly do more–much more. As I have written before, the word “charity,” except in its biblical meaning of “love” rankles. Who am I to have money and time that I choose or don’t choose to share with someone else? Lucky, that’s who. Not to mention a bit selfish.

Wherever I go out, I make my best effort to smile to someone who may be having a worse day than I am, even though I naturally tend to be on the morose side myself. Or even to smile at someone who looks like he or she is having a marvelous time. We can all be masterful at deception when we are in public. Yes, this is terribly trite, yet I hold fast to the truism that a smile can “brighten someone’s day.” My smile is probably my best feature–isn’t it everybody’s?–and it is a daily miracle to watch someone become happier simply because I have made eye contact, and smiled at them, without regard to age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic, and all those other statuses. Sure am lucky. If I didn’t have teeth, for instance, I doubt I’d be smiling, and able to make even that small contribution.

My other suggestion: Don’t answer the phone. If it is urgent the caller will keep trying. One doctor’s office called the other, and while I was sitting there, head and chest pounding, sweating, being quite amazed that I had been able to negotiate the heavy Friday afternoon traffic while feeling distinctly light-headed, another doctor’s office called. What was I thinking? I normally do not answer the telephone. The telephone is my least favorite mode of communication. That’s what voice mail is for. I think my mother is starting to understand that you don’t leave a message except in urgent cases: You call, hang up, and the person you have called will call you back if he or she is able and so inclined. I was in no mood to be told to make an inconvenient drive next week to have my blood pressure checked. Every pharmacy has a cuff, and I know to check both arms, and so on. So…I was not impolite, but I was very definite in informing the receptionist that I would not be coming in for a blood pressure check because doing so would raise my blood pressure. Being even mildly terse with the receptionist, and probably labeled an “uncooperative” patient, made me even more stressed.

My blood pressure was perfectly normal at the gym yesterday, at the gym this morning. I like going to the gym: the people are friendly, and if I can’t be playing a real sport, I at least want a good daily sweat. Once I arrived at the doctor’s office, I suddenly felt strange. So I am not going to repeat that exercise unnecessarily. Yes, if I check my blood pressure at one or more pharmacies and it remains high, I will go to my GP, but until then….

It’s Friday evening. Happily, though caffeine was forbidden, beer was not.

I’m really very annoyed at myself for missing the GSW (Golden State Warriors) buzzer-beating game last night. (The GSW are an NBA basketball team based in Oakland, California.) Maybe I can find a replay on ESPN2. This is probably a good day to abandon my usual schedule.

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No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service

And at last no arrest either! Women as well as men have the civil right to bare their breasts in public in New York. Why is this important? So what?

Be advised: those seeking titillation will be sorely disappointed in the content of this post about desexualizing women’s breasts.

The Memorandum, or prepublication synopsis of law defining this right is from 1992, so this should not be news, but it is (http://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/I92_0160.html.) The 1992 law grants women in New York the right to be show their breasts anywhere that men may show theirs. The language of the memorandum makes clear why this is important despite being contrary to public sentiment. Whenever an issue has to do with race, gender or other category protected by civil rights, the law may diverge from public sentiment and common social practice.

Even many of my most liberal friends think I am wrong-headed on this point. But though Ms. Van Voast is not directly doing the work of an organization like Amnesty International, her annual ritual of breast-baring and arrest is not unlike acts of protest against Jim Crow laws. She is advocating for women to have equal the same rights and privileges that men have.

As many of us read in a May 15, 2013 New York Times article by J. David Goodman, Ms. Van Voast will not be arrested this year. NYPD officers have now been trained not to arrest women merely because they are topless from the waist up.

Typically wrapped up like a mummy, this will only have an indirect effect on me. A friend at a recent gathering laughed at my son’s XL hooded Carhart coat and my Ugh boots donned on top of several other layers. I looked, she said, like the character from the movie Nanook of the North. However swathed and swaddled I may be, I applaud this step toward equal rights.

This weekend’s hate killing of a gay man in New York, and crimes committed worldwide against oppressed groups, are true tragedies. One important safeguard against tragic oppression–when upheld–are laws guaranteeing equality. Such laws are steps toward ensuring a greater measure of safety for all.

An earlier generation of women abandoned its bras. That era has passed, and we are more conventional now. However, in a limited area and arena, we have the freedom to peel off our t-shirts wherever men may legally do the same. This practice will probably remain rare, but its significance lies in its extrapolation to far more serious injustices.

Acknowledging the anatomical similarities of all human breasts must be liberating to men who have breast cancer as well as to those whose hormonal or genetic conditions cause them to grow larger-than-average male breasts. It should also serve as yet another liberating force in the LGBT community and for intersex persons.

Thank you, Ms. van Voast. My kids are grateful to you, too, as I have made idle threats of taking on such a campaign. Though suburban New Jersey does not seem ready for topless women at parks, pools, and playgrounds, hopefully fewer nursing mothers will be subjected to harassment. Then again, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not believe in waiting for the right time to fight for civil liberties.