Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mystery in the Night and Other Assorted Topics

Around 4:00 AM I heard a loud crash coming from the barn.  I decided I had better go investigate and make sure that there wasn't a mountain lion chasing the horses around.  When I reached the barn, everything appeared to be in order.  I shined my headlamp around and all the horses were acting normal.  No one was limping.  I didn't see any blood.  I shrugged and went back to the house to take the dogs out before they peed on the carpet.

Once the sun started brightening the sky around 4:45 AM, I went back down to the barn to feed the horses and clean up manure.  I was perplexed to find Bombay's fly mask hanging neatly from the stall door handle of Rock's stall.  I remembered removing his fly mask the night before and putting it in an old metal trough outside of the barn.  Bombay is fussy about when he does and does not wear his fly mask, and if I don't comply to his schedule, he teaches the other horses how to pull it over his ears and off his face.  Then he shreds it and dunks it in the water troughs.

I was baffled over how the mask got out of the container I put it in, and was now hanging from the gate handle.  I imagined a coyote getting it out of the container, dragging it around, leaving it on the ground, and then a trespasser finding it and returning it to my barn by hanging it up.  After all, that weird lady in the dress, church hat, and camel hair coat had been watching my barn chore routine the previous morning.  She trespassed in my neighbor's yard, so why not trespass in mine at some godawful hour?

I looked around for her, but didn't see her anywhere.  That theory didn't make much sense, because why not hang it from the main gate handle rather than to walk through the barn, past other stalls, and put it specifically in Rock's stall?  I reached for the mask and realized that it didn't even belong to Bombay.  Bombay's mask was still in the metal trough.  I looked around to try to figure out who was missing a fly mask, and saw Lostine's naked face looking back at me.  Ahhhhhh, that explains it.  She likes to scratch her face on the stall gate handles.  She probably got the fly mask caught on it, panicked, pulled back, and tore it off her head.  That's what the crash was that I heard earlier.

I went to go put the mask back on her face, only to discover that she pulled back so hard that she ripped the canvas right across the cheek.  It was hanging together by the fleece lining.  Wow.  That must have hurt.  She has arthritis in her poll.  Fortunately, I had a another fly mask in her size waiting in the wings, so all is good.

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There was a fun scene on the TV show The Bachelorette Monday night.  Rachel was on a date in which she and her man were horseback riding around Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  I was blown away by how crowded the streets were.  I grew up near there and remember just a few random people wandering in and out of stores.  But Rodeo Drive wasn't as famous back then as it is now, and the population of Los Angeles County was much smaller.

So, here were two people riding horses down the street with pedestrians, cars, tour buses, and motorcycles swarming around them.  They were having to do quite a bit of maneuvering to avoid running into things.  I was waiting for an accident.  You could tell that the horses were a little anxious.  Then they took it over the top by riding right into stores to go shopping.  Rachel's horse was hesitant about going indoors, so they had to get someone to lead it in.  She and her date sat on their horses while salespeople brought hats and boots and belt buckles to them to try on.  Then they went into another store and got jackets.  Rachel's horse finally let loose and left a thank you note on the floor of that store.  But what was really hilarious was that the horse was trying to kick it out of its space.  It reminded me of the way my Chihuahua Stewie kicks up dirt to try to bury his treasures.

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I hate to say anything, because I don't want to jinx it, but the horses are all getting along really well compared to last summer.  Last summer Rock kept attacking Lostine by chasing her into corners and repeatedly biting her on the rump.  She was so scared of him that she'd take off running blindly whenever he came near, and she cracked her hip on the stall door frame.  Then Lostine would get after Gabbrielle to discipline Rock and keep him away from her, only Gabbrielle would get so aggressive that she'd repeatedly injure Rock.  I felt like I spent all of last summer tending to open wounds and leg injuries.

In order to prepare for a repeat performance this summer, I planted trees around the round pen to provide shade so that I could separate the horses.  However, so far I haven't needed it.  Lostine has learned to calmly walk away when Rock approaches her, Rock has learned to not pick on Lostine, and Gabbrielle has learned to discipline Rock in gentler ways like just chasing him off without all the kicking.  Gabbrielle has even settled down at meal times.  She stands back and waits for everyone to go into their stalls and doesn't try to chase them away anymore.  If Rock beats her to some leftovers, instead of her attacking him, she just thinks, "That's okay.  There are more over here that I can eat."

She used to be so bad that she would expend all of her energy chasing the other horses away from leftovers in an attempt to get them all for herself.  She and I had a serious personality clash over that.  If there are four piles of leftovers and four horses, why should one piggish mare get them all?  I don't like aggressively selfish individuals.  However, now that Gabbrielle has settled down and learned to share, she and I are getting along much better.  Bombay is still managing to just avoid the drama all together.

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I finally got my hair dyed and cut.  I got fed up with playing telephone tag for weeks in a failed attempt to set up an appointment.  I even left a message for the girl to just pick a time and day, leave me a message of when my appointment is, and I will be there.  However, she called me back and just left a message asking me to call her back.  No effing way.

I remembered seeing a salon while out driving, looked them up, and gave them a call.  I was thinking that if someone actually picked up the phone, they win.  They get my business.  Someone picked up after two rings and sounded both intelligent and professional.  She got me in the very next morning.  I couldn't believe that after working on my hair for two hours, she only charged me $72!  Most stylists around here charge $120 for the same thing.  I gave her a big tip.

I wasn't happy with the fact that the two stylists talked to each other the entire time gossiping about their clients in front of their clients, but that seems par for the course in all the salons around here.  It's not the highest class of neighborhood.  Some lady covered in tattoos burst through the door wanting her hair cut right then, and when the stylists said she'd have to wait half an hour, she threw up two middle fingers and walked out.  Both stylists clucked their tongues and said, "Now that was rude."

Yeah.  Not a great neighborhood.  I was asking them what was up with so many salons cutting back, moving, and going out of business.  They explained that this past winter was slow because all their snowbird clients who used to have standing weekly appointments were dying off, and the next generation does not have their hair done as often.  I do remember that my grandmother got her hair styled every week, while my mother went in once every couple of months.  I go in once or twice a year.  So, it makes sense that they are losing business despite the excess population growth in the winter months.  I guess I will have to start getting my hair done more often if I want to keep the local salons in business.

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My first physical therapy appointment was a bit of a disappointment.  For the first time in a long while, I didn't have any pain in my leg.  The therapist evaluated my range of motion, strength, and pain levels, and came to the conclusion that I really don't need physical therapy.  (That was a hard pill to swallow after struggling to just walk between the couch and the bathroom throughout the entire month of May.)

However, since my right knee and hip were weaker than my left, he gave me a set of exercises to do to build up their strength over the next few weeks.  The exercises were super easy for me, so I'm skeptical that I will benefit from them, but I'll go along with it since most people do have method behind their madness.  I actually went in there for a massage, but despite me bringing it up and the doctor ordering it, the therapist chose to ignore us and do his own thing.

Because I'm fat, people always assume that I don't get any exercise, but the reality is that because I live on a ranch, I am way more physically active from one minute to the next than most.  I'm constantly on the move going up and down rocky hills, trudging through thick sand, always climbing over objects, always lifting heavy objects, always performing acrobatic maneuvers, often risking life and limb.

He wanted to know how many times I've fallen down in the past year.  I said probably multiple times.  He wanted to know the reason behind each fall, but I couldn't even remember most of them because it happens so often.  I also have no sense of time and can't recall which falls happened in the past year.  I fall when I dismount my horses and come down on my painful leg, I fall if the saddle slips when mounting, I fall when I roll my ankle on rocks, I fall when my dogs get under my feet or wrap their leashes around my legs or pull me in opposite directions, I fall when I have vertigo, I fall when I step on a sharp object in bare feet, I fall when I slip on water after a pipe breaks or a toilet overflows, I fall when I don't lift my leg high enough to clear an object, I fall when I'm walking around in the dark in the barn and trip over a salt block, I fall when the horses stampede and knock me down...

Of course, what he really needed to know was if I ever feel unbalanced, but he didn't ask that, so we had communication problems and he ended up doing all these exercises to improve my balance.  Interestingly, he deduced that I have excellent balance.  I'm guessing I got that from riding horses.  They aren't even exercising my left side, because I don't need to build up those muscles any further.

He said he wanted me to start riding my horses and keep track of how long I can ride before I feel pain.  I informed him that it's too hot outside to ride horses, with it getting up near 110 during the day and not cooling off much at night, so he said I can measure how far I can walk before I feel pain.  He asked how far I can walk now without pain, and I thought about the last time I took a walk in a straight line.  I went about half a mile, but felt pain all the way home on the second quarter of that mile.  I wasn't cuing into the most important word in the question, which was "now".  Now I can't take walks at all.  When I simply walk from the house to the barn to do my chores, I'm in pain.  I limp or hop on one leg all the way back to the house.

There were a lot of miscommunications.  They had me fill out a questionnaire that listed common activities that the average person does and asked me to rank my pain during those activities.  The only problem is that there is nothing common or average about my life.  I can't do mundane things that most people do, in part because the dogs keep me going in circles, and in part because I'm stuck at home all day alternating between cleaning up dog accidents and horse manure.  They wanted to know if I can get in and out of a bathtub.  I don't take baths.  I only have the time for three-minute showers before another dog needs to go outside.  Still, they made me answer the question.  I had to guess on how much pain I would have if I tried to climb in and out of a bathtub.

The questionnaire and the therapist asked all the wrong questions.  They wanted to know what I do for my job.  I said I was a writer and photographer, because those are the last jobs I've had.  They wanted to know what kind of activities and movements I had to do for those jobs.  I answered, but didn't see how that was going to help them, because they were assuming that I am working right now.  I'm not.  I haven't worked on my latest novel or had a photography gig in months.  The dogs won't let me do anything other than take care of them and their health problems every second of the day, and my health problems prevent me from doing photography jobs.  In fact, I was surprised that so many of the questions focused on the patient's "job" or "career" when the majority of their patients are retired.  What they needed to ask was what kind of activities the patient is doing most often most days.  I didn't make that connection until later.

These people have no idea that I haul hundreds of pounds of manure around in a wagon each day, I move hay, I push wheelbarrows, I carry 50 to 80 pound bags of grain around, and I walk in circles for hours.  I can't measure how far I walk when I'm just going back and forth between the house and the dog yard and the horse barn and the hay barn and the tack room.  Or when I'm spinning in a circle in the middle of a round pen, for that matter.  As I was analyzing my daily activities, I realized that most people have a much more sedentary lifestyle than I do.  I brutalize my body in my effort to care for animals, and therein probably lies my problem.

I felt just as fine after the workout as I did before.  Then I got home and the dogs swarmed around my feet, tripping me, and I instantly started getting zapped with nerve pains.  I took them all outside multiple times and got no more than five minutes to sit down to relax before I had to run outside to do barn chores.  Then all the aches and pains in my right leg came flooding back, and I was unable to put any weight on that leg.  I hopped and hobbled back to the house, laid down, and the pain just got worse.  I couldn't get comfortable lying in any position.  My knee was throbbing.

I can see how they would think that I don't need their help, because I'm much stronger and better balanced than most patients.  However, I still have crippling pain that prevents me from doing both the things I love and the things I have to do because they are my responsibility.  I can't just stop feeding and cleaning up after my dogs and horses, because I'm in pain and can't walk.  Hopefully, after a couple more sessions the physical therapists will learn more about my lifestyle and start making connections on what my real deal might be.

One new side effect to my leg pain is that it hurts to drive a car since I have to use my right leg to press on the gas pedal and the brake.  It hurts to pull my leg away from one pedal and move it over to the other pedal, which is scary.  My muscles just lock up because of the pain.  I really shouldn't be driving when I'm in pain.  So, that's a common task that I need to be able to do, but struggle with.  I'll bring that up to them on my next visit and see what they think.

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I find myself getting frustrated with the automation in today's society.  If you've had to call a lot of customer service lines recently, like I have, you know that you have to spend the first five minutes on the phone pushing buttons to get routed to the right department.  Then when a real live person picks up, they won't let you speak.  They cut you off immediately and fire off twenty questions at you that they are reading off their computer screen.  You can easily spend twenty minutes on the phone going through their process when you have one simple question that has nothing to do with the questions they are asking you.

I'm not sure at what point in history that businesses decided that most people are not intelligent enough to communicate their reasons for calling, but I sure get tired of being treated like I'm in a cookie cutter machine when my batter makes cornbread.  I also get tired of having to constantly fix other people's mistakes.  Nine times out of ten, if I'm calling customer service, it's because they screwed something up for me.

So, our ice maker on our new refrigerator finally got to the point where we had to run a hair dryer on it every day in order to keep it working.  I decided that was ridiculous, so I tried cashing in on our extended 5 year warranty that we bought.  I had to go through the Lowe's automated routing process and ended up in the wrong department.  Of course, I didn't find out that I was in the wrong department until after I answered the live person's twenty questions and he asked me for my credit card information.  I refused to give it to him, because the warranty was supposed to pay for the repair.  Then he told me I was connected with the wrong department.

When I found the right department, they did see that I had a 5 year warranty and they set up an appointment for a repairman to come out on Saturday between 1:00 and 5:00 PM.  Then the repairman's company's automated machine called and told us he would be out between 4:00 and 6:00 PM.  I was kind of irritated, because I'm busy doing barn chores and feeding animals at that time, but my husband was home, so I decided to let him deal with it.  Next thing we knew, the repairman called to say that he would be showing up around 1:00 PM.  I had to feed the dogs their lunch super fast, take them outside to do their business, and then herd them into a back room with a bowl of water and a fan.  Of course, I forgot the most important thing, which was to cover Midge's open tumor with a bandage.  Since I forgot, Scrappy licked it to death and any fighting chance Midge had of getting skin growth to cover it up was now gone and sitting in Scrappy's digestive tract.   This happens every time we have someone come to our house.  You'd think I'd learn from it, but I don't.

The repairman fixed the problem, which was a water hose that was pointed in the wrong direction. It was spraying water all over the ice box, and then the water would freeze, and none of the mechanical parts could move to make, crush, and dispense ice.  He told us that this was a manufacturer's defect.  Argh!  We bought one of the most expensive refrigerators on earth!  How can it have such a dumb defect?

Anyway, the repairman then wanted to give us the bill.  I showed him my receipt for a 5 year warranty and told him that Lowe's customer service told me I would not have to pay for any of it.  The repairman said he couldn't get into their system to correct it since it was the weekend, and he would need us to call them to have them correct it on Monday.  Argh!  Like I've got time for this.

So, I called them and went through their routing process again and answered the twenty questions that had nothing to do with my reason for calling, and finally got to the part where I got to tell them why I was calling.  Fortunately, the person I got connected with spoke English well and immediately understood what was going on.  He corrected it, but then put me on hold for five minutes while he called another department to make sure that they were on the same page and did not bill me for the service.  So, another small chunk of my life was lost to fixing problems caused by other people.

My point is that sometimes customer service reps and people in the medical industry need to just shut up and listen, and then they would save everybody some time.  Especially when it comes to my health, I'm tired of being misunderstood and being treated for the wrong thing, or having to spend hours correcting clerical errors that could have resulted in me either being treated for the wrong health problem or not being treated at all when I desperately need treatment.

I'm continually astounded by how many things get screwed up thanks to processes and procedures put into place by people who make assumptions and don't consider special cases.  We are headed into this society where everything is treated like it is black or white with no gray area in between.  People who answer phones are trained to follow a script, and if my reason for calling is not within the range of their script, I blow their minds and they don't know what to do.  That's sad.  Employees should be encouraged to use their brains, not be limited to automated responses.  If automated responses are what the employer wants, then he may as well use a machine instead of a human being to communicate with clients.

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Sorry for jumping around among so many topics.  I've been working on this post over a period of several days between taking the dogs out and going to appointments.  I'll hit publish before I think of another story.

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