I am in desperate need of some light and cheery distraction (where’s Cath when I need her?!). For the second time in the past four months I am suffering from some kind of ergonomic misery that I seem to have inflicted on myself by over-indulging in computer-based work. The “phenotype” is severe neck pain that radiates down my right arm.
When this first began to bother me some time ago, I did what any busy scientist would do and ignored it, hoping of course that it would just go away. It did go, but not away–instead it went and migrated right down from my neck to my arm. At this point, the pain compelled me to finally see a doctor.
I happen to have a really great physician–one I arrived at through a rather difficult process of trial and error. My previous physician had scared the bejesus out of me by a number of rather “insensitive statements”, and I dropped him like a hot potato. My current physician, recognizing my complaint for what it is–personal abuse–sent me for physical therapy. Through an intense eight meetings, the wonderful and dedicated physical therapist was able to relieve my pain and get me back to the state where I could continue to abuse myself. And of course I did, which is why I am suffering a relapse far more painful than the original aggravation. This is despite the intense amount of strengthening exercises that I do daily–including the closing of a strong elastic strap in my office door frame in order to do rowing exercises in between bouts of writing on the computer. The former, by the way, has become an event of much merriment for my students, who come to watch and photograph me doing my exercises on their cell phones.
So by now, those of you who have reached this point without logging off your computers forever or tossing them out the window, you are probably wondering “is it worth reading on?” What kind of a “nudnik” is this guy? If your Yiddish is not up to par, a nudnik is a kind of irritating, tiresome type of person. Anyone come to mind? No, don’t answer–that was rhetorical.
There is a joke about how do you define a nudnik? The answer is: it’s a person who you ask “how are you?”–and he actually answers, in great detail.
After this rather long-winded beginning, I thought that I might finally focus on what I hope might be an amusing little anecdote. I was reminded of this as I suffered from some rather uncomfortable side effects from some of the pain medications that I’ve been taking.
This is a story about allergies and cats. Hopefully I won’t be offending anyone–as I know there are a lot of cat-lovers out there–but I’m a dog person and never really “got on” with cats. Anyway this goes back to my student days, when I shared a two-bedroom apartment with a mathematics student. He was a really nice guy–but well, a stereotypic mathematician. He often forgot to tie his own shoes, and he had some funny eating habits. For example, I guess no one ever taught him not to slurp his coffee. In the beginning I thought he was doing it as a joke, until I realized that “what you hear is what you get.” I thought it might have been more effective for him to put the powdered instant coffee on his tongue, and just pour boiling water down his throat directly from the kettle. But I digress.
One day I was asked to cat-sit for a few weeks, and I made the mistake of agreeing. This was a vengeful and unrepentant feline species, who being upset for being abandoned with a non-cat-lover, took out her revenge by crapping in every conceivable place in the apartment–except her litter box. To make things worse, she would sit on me when I was working, and when I need to get up to answer the phone or for any other reason, she would get angry and scratch me.
Soon after her arrival, I noticed that my flatmate began frequent bouts of sneezing and coughing. Immediately I suspected that he might have allergies to cats, but was afraid to make that suggestion because I had no solution if the problem was indeed the cat. After a week or so, he went to his doctor and the good doctor assured him that it was unlikely that he had any allergies to the cat.
The next afternoon when I returned home from classes, I noticed that my flatmate had forgotten to close his bedroom door. I walked over and saw the cat snuggled comfortably on his pillow. That night, I couldn’t sleep because of the incessant sneezing and coughing coming from my flatmate’s room. In this case, I knew that his physician was wrong.
Although in this case, my flatmate was not the cat owner and had no reason to overcome his allergies (once the friggin cat was gone), I have noticed that cat lovers will go to unusual extremes to maintain contact with these animals–delegating essential parts of their homes as “cat zones” and “cat free” zones, undergoing long-term
desensitization torture and exposure to cat dander, and so forth. Now why would any sane person do that?
But then I recalled that my father, a pediatrician, told me once about a former pediatric partner who loved chocolate, but was seriously allergic (poor guy). It turns out that he would occasionally give himself a shot of anti-histamine and then go binge on the chocolate.
And then there was this other unfortunate loser who would take pain medication and do physical therapy/torture for his neck so that he could continue to write silly blogs… I guess it’s not so different after all.