Gallstones

14 June 2019

Since my first episode in 1974, I have been plagued by gallstones. For those of you who don’t know about gallstones, they are the mischievous progeny of the gall bladder. The gall bladder, a small organ tucked under the liver, holds the bile (a fluid) produced by the liver until the gut needs some for proper digestion. The gall badder contracts, delivering it’s content to the gut and proper digestion begins.

Marvelous.

Unfortunately gall bladders often times produce gallstones. The are made from stuff that finds its way into the liver and thence to the gall bladder and precipitates, forming stones, much in the way hailstones are formed. They grow with time, never stopping until they are removed. If that’s all they did, there’d be no problem, but they’re mobile and will on occasion, get stuck in the bile duct. The bile duct connects the gall bladder to the duodenum and when clogged by gallstone, the bile cannot pass and the backup pain is excruciating. It’s unlike any gut ache you’ve ever had. It feels like you’ve been rammed in the solo plexus by the blunt end of a telephone pole.

Such an attack is concluded — if it’s concluded — by a violet spasm of reteching whose force is sufficiend to peopell the gallstone down the bile duct and into the duodenum. You can feel the cool, happy gush of the bile and the blessed relief of the pressure. The gall bladder attack is over.

The next attack may never come. You may improve your diet. Exercise more. Drink and smoke less, or better. not al all. But remember the stones that are left behind still grow and one day, the duodenum asks for a sudden jot of bile just as an inadvertent movement — mayhap when extending your reach for the coffee creamer — maneuvered a gallstone precisely in front of he bile duct and, wham, in goes the gallstone and another season of pain is upon you.

You can always tell someone whose stricken by gallstone for they walk in an exaggerated posture; chest out thrust, head laid back as far it’ll go, and the face will be frozen in a rictus of pain, making little mueling sounds and the poor soul will walk like like he’s got a broomstick up his ass.

Lately, mine have become more frequent and worse. Last Thursday one was starting. I tried all my hard-earned tricks to stop it but nothing worked. Oh, yes, it reduced the attack’s intensity to a nuisance that spoiled the evening.

But it stayed with me throughout the night, waking me with heartburn at about 2:30 AM. A glass of milk and a cookie granted some relief and it was back to bed. I awoke at six. It was no better.

Friday is my day off and I had much planned but the gallstone said otherwise. I spent that warm, sunny day in my recliner, nursing by tummy. Friday night too. And Saturday. By Saturday afternoon I was miserable and began to feel the chill of a fever; sure enough, 99.7. Well I’d had enough. It was off to the ER. Jo drove.

The young doctor was dismissive. He thought me a hypochondriac or maybe some old disolute looking for drugs. He went through the motions, including a perfunctory ultrasound and a quick CT scan then came in to see me. “Everything looks OK but I’m going to give you something for the pain, then you can get out of here”, he said, then left. A nurse came in and gave me something for the heartburn (Maalox with lidocaine) followed by a massive hit of IV morphine. The nurse unhooked all the leads, pulled out the IV and put me out on the street. I did get a good night’s sleep. Fever? 100.2.

Sunday was truly a lost day. Blasted out of my head by the morphine, I shuttled between bedroom, bathroom and recliner. Oh, of course the pain of the gallstone was with me constantly. Sunday night fever? 100.4

Monday morning found me pale and hunched, sitting the the table picking at a fried egg. I really hand’t much to eat since the previous Thursday morning so you’d think an nice egg . . . Jo took a studied look at me and announced we were going to the urgent care clinic. We got there just after it opened at 7:30 AM and were shown to an exam room. A cheery young woman proceeded to take my blood pressure. She looked at the read-out and did a double take, then took it again. “I’ll be right back”, she said. In less than a minute she was back with a doctor. The both checked my blood pressure again. It was 73//35! I had sepsis! The doctor grabbed the phone, made a call and I was whisked off to the hospital by ambulance. The same hospital that blew me off Saturday night.

Well this was a different ER crew and in no time I hd IV’s in both arms, was being given two kinds if IV antibiotics, fluids, and meds for the unceasing pain of gallstone. Presently the surgeon came in. She told me I was being admitted and she’d already scheduled me for surgery the following morning, a Tuesday.

These, along with the ruined gall bladder, are the gallstones she removed.

Looks like I had a problem, huh?

This is Friday morning. It’s been a week. I’m on the mend.

-Merlin-

PS: I think I’ll go see that young quack from Saturday’s ER visit.

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The Changing Face of America

27 December 2018

The Changing Face of America.

The Hanukkah flames are gone, the Christmas tree lights are winking out and the world is once again quiet — well, sort of anyway.

I play Santa Clause hereabouts. I’ve been doing it for nine years now. 2016 will be my tenth. Sitting on my throne, I get to see a lot of people. And as I’m rotated between several malls, I get to see folks from different areas and demographics. Over this last decade I’ve come to notice America’s changing face. When I was a kid back in Minnesota seventy years ago, the only faces I saw were white ones; blond, blue-eyed with freckles. Oh, in the fourth grade there was an exception: A black girl who joined us in mid-year. She was in my class. She didn’t last long. A few weeks later I was walking onto the school yard one morning and heard frightful ructions coming from the front door’s vestibule.

It seems some of my classmates had the girl cornered in the doorway. This little mob was delivering vicious scurrilities, insults and racial taunts: Nigger, jigaboo, go-back-to-the-jungle-you-monkey . . . It was appalling. I elbowed my way to the front and there was my little classmate, hugging her books to her chest with a look on her face I’ll never forget. I tried to get them to disperse but they were having none of it. Their ringleader was a girl I especially didn’t like. She had one huge black eyebrow that ran across her face from one side to another. I tried to get her to shut up but she kept right on spewing and then turned her attentions to me, whereupon I drilled her right in the snot-locker. That had some effect so I got the door opened and helped the girl get inside. Making some awkward conversation, l accompanied her to the principal’s office.

We never saw her again.

Now it’s 2015 and what a difference. Helping me on the Santa set were “elves” — high school kids of every description and bent and, perhaps most happily, the children of mixed stock. Oriental, Negro, Caucasian, Semite, Native American, you name it. It was as if the adults had been tossed into a . . . well . . . a Melting Pot, if you will, and here were the children.

My elves spoke impeccable English. Their manners were exemplary. When there were dull moments, we chatted and I found all of them had aspirations way beyond pushing a broom in a downtown office building. I fancy myself to be a polymath and I could talk with my elves on almost any subject and they could respond in kind. When I offered new information, they didn’t sneer and turn up their noses as did so many young people of my day. No indeed. Also, as an added benefit, they were of comely appearance. Of course the tykes who sat on my lap to tell me their hearts’ desires were also cast from this same mold.

So then, it seems the “mongrelization of the races” so feared by the peckerwoods, rednecks and stump-jumpers has come to pass and it has turned out to be a wonderful thing! Give this trend two, maybe three generations more and their might well be only one race in this country; the American Race. A new people to be a lamp unto the nations.


Oh, Frosty The Postman

19 December 2018

This dates back to the time when postal workers were killing their co-workers.

Oh, Frosty the Postman was a very unsocial guy.
He liked to dis the girls,
Cut off their curls,
And tear wings from off of a fly.

Oh, Frosty the Postman, he’d never get a date,
For he’d pass some gas,
Then Pick his ass.
That’s not the way to win a mate!

His rented room was filled with trash and porno mags and more,
Like dirty shirts and nasty shorts
And pecker tracks galore.

Oh, Frosty the Postman, he really hated life.
`Cause as a sexless jerk,
The redhead clerk
Would never be his wife.

Oh, Frosty the Postman, co-workers teased him bad
Spit on his lunch
Pissed in his punch
And this really made him mad

There must have been some magic in the old carbine he found,
Cause when he brought it into work
They began to run around.

Oh, Frosty the Postman was a very disgruntled soul.
The night shift gig
Finally blew his wig.
And really took a toll.

Oh, Frosty the Postman, it had been an awful day.
So he got the gun,
Then just for fun,
He blew them all away.

-Merlin-


A Christmas Letter

2 December 2018

Every x-mas season the world’s assholes send out newsy little letters about their families. These letters are filled with bombast and braggadocio designed to rub the recipients’ noses in the authors’ wonderful lives. If you know anyone who feels he or she is one up on you, you have gotten one too. Here is a letter I got in 1999. I thought I’d share it with you.

Happy Holidays, one and all:

Well it’s been another wonderful year at the Farquart house. So much has happened I scarcely know where to begin! How about January? That’s when Freddy was offered a job as CFO at that wonderful new startup, Penwiper.com. The day after New Years, he was approached by the VC underwriting Penwiper’s upcoming IPO. Freddy was first on the A-list of Penwiper’s search committee. Freddy had done such an outstanding job at his old company the president used to refer to him affectionately as “The Chef” because Freddy was so good at “cooking the books” (whatever that means, I’m so naive about all this business stuff).

The pay at Penwiper isn’t too good (only $1.5M/year to start) so the Chairman gave Freddy a $750k signing bonus, plus a contract where he vests immediately in a 8% share of the company and gets lots of options besides. Hoping for the pay-off later on, I believe we can get along on this for a while. (Freddy thinks the bonus might be enough to have Santa leave a mink coat for me under the tree, but we’ll see.)

As for me, my Lexus 400 Coupe acquired a funny little noise in the back somewhere. Freddy, bless his heart, didn’t want me to run the risk of having trouble on the way to Aspen (the kids are so looking forward to lessons from the nice European fellow) that he insisted I get a new Mercedes V-12 sedan. I can’t for the life of me remember the model number, but what’s in a name anyway? It’s just nice to have reliable transportation, let me tell you.

Oh, I almost forgot: The mayor gave me an award at the 4th of July hootinanny in Barfus Park. It seems all the work I did arranging for diaper cleaning service up at Sunny Acres Home for the Financially Disadvantaged made the local paper. When hizoner saw it, he called that afternoon. He’d already received several calls from the families of men who had lost control of their bowels at tax audit time, and who knew of my work – poor things, they even cried when they mentioned my name. I would have sent a copy of the article, but the photo of me wasn’t all the best; the Tiffany ring father gave me upon graduation from Bryn Mar was hidden behind that horrid little pink hat of Jackie’s that our little Jill insists on wearing to public occasions. (You remember; Freddy bought it for Jill on a whim from that dark-haired young fellow who looked so much like Richard Speck. The young man needed the money to buy an airplane.)

Speaking of our Jill, she received letters of acceptance to the pre-med programs at both Stanford and Harvard. Now we have to agonize over which one to accept. Freddie wants her to go out East as he wants to take motoring vacations through the fall colors each year when we drop her off at the dorm. I, however, opt for Stanford as it’s far closer to Aspen, where we can all vacation at Christmas time in the condo Penwiper is giving Freddy as a badly needed perk.

Only one dark blot: We have been having trouble with one of our neighbors. Earlier this year, just before Jill sent applications to a short list of med schools drawn up by our lawyer, she vivisected their wretched little dog. She wanted to have some first-hand knowledge of biology when she went before the application committees – how clever our little girl is – and the horrid neighbor called the police. I tried to explain to these small people just how important a medical education is to Jill, but they won’t listen to reason. As if to try making Jill fell bad about her quest for knowledge, they insisted on burying the remains of their little mutt in a tiny grave by their flower garden where it can be seen from Jill’s window – she gave all the icky stuff back to them without their even asking. I’m so proud!

Freddy wanted to sue them for “busting Jill’s karma” as he put it, but I am the voice of moderation so I vetoed the idea. Instead, Freddy pulled a few strings with another of the Premier Members with whom he golfs at the Skookumchuck Country Club, and got that loutish man fired from his job. I saw a “for sale” sign in their front yard yesterday so this problem should be going away soon. Maybe the new neighbors will do away with the little grave.

I should also mention that little Freddy (he’s is not so little these days), who has been on the accelerated program at Caltech, got his PhD in Astrophysics in June. As you probably remember, little Freddy had such a hard time deciding which way to go. First, Lou Gerstner, that nice fellow from IBM, wanted little Freddy to come to work for him after getting his doctorate at Princeton on a merit scholarship, but little Freddy wanted to give something to the world and just loved all that astronomy stuff. Finally, little Freddy persuaded his friend Lou that his talents can best serve mankind in the hard sciences. Lou was so impressed by little Freddy’s selflessness that he agreed to have IBM endow a chair in little Freddy’s name at a university of his choice. Little Freddy is now doing some post-doctoral research at a place called Sierra Tololo down in South America. He e-mailed us last week telling of this cute little local he met. She comes from a nouveau riche family from someplace in Columbia – a city named Cali, I think – and I understand her family is in international shipping.

Well, I have to get going. The man from the car dealer just called. The little red car I ordered for Freddy (I put it on my Platinum American Express card) has just arrived. I can’t remember the name but it’s Italian and begins with “F”. I hope Freddy likes it; he’s so hard to buy gifts for, you know.

I hope your New Year will be as wonderful as ours. Love and kisses,

Fanny


The Season Begins.

2 December 2018

Merry Christmas, one and all.

-Merlin-


The Christmas Season

20 November 2018

Every year for the past eleven years, I’ve played Santa.  You’d think sitting on your keister in an over-stuffed chair for a fer hours a day would be a walk-in-the-park.  Not necessarily  so.  Many ills may attend.

In the typical year, all goes well for Santa until the first snotter sits in your lap.  Red, watery eyes and green mucus running from his nostrils, the little mutt sneezes right in your face, spraying you with disease.  Or, sure, you got your flu shot, but this kid simply has the common cold — which will plug up your ears and sinus, making you a mouth-breather for the duration.  You hit the sack the moment you get home.  A low fever too.  Sometimes you get a chain colds, one right after the other until the season ends.

But for me, last year was different.

Last Christmas Season, while playing Santa, I got way, way dehydrated then contracted gastroenteritis thanks to norovirus donated by a pukey toddler (or was it the teenager who smelled vaguely like vomit?)  Sick as a dog, I’d spent the Thursday before Christmas shitting and spewing and really out of it.  That night, when Jo got home, she found me laying unconscious on the floor.  I could barely move and was unconscious most of the time.  Jo called 9-1-1.  As the medics were ministering to me, Jo  overheard one of them say my blood pressure was seventy-three over zero.  Not good.

I was whisked off to the hospital (via ambulance) where I was put in a nice warm bed.  As they were loading me into the bed, I caught sight of my legs; they were mottled with purple and pink splotches and looked like the skin on a three-day old corpse.  When this grim-looking RN told me I was a very sick man and probably didn’t know just how sick i was, I took her at her word.

The 9-1-1 medics had started IVs in both arms to get some water back in me so, rehydrated, I needed to take another loose and massive dump; I told the nurse  I needed a bed pan.  The nurse told me I was in a hospital and was therefore free to let it go right there in the bed.  Which I gladly did.  Later, I also saw a nurse with a very large shot needle empty its contents into one of the IV bags, “Antibiotics”, she said.

Long story short, a couple of days or so later, I began to come around and found I was in isolation in the cardiac ICU.  That was because of the heart attack I had.  Why did I have a heart attack?  Because of the sepsis that damned near killed me.  So, then, dehydration, norovirus, sepsis and a heart attack.  That covered all the bases.

On Christmas day, I was discharged.  It took all of the following week to recuperate.

They tell me it was a near thing.  If Jo hadn’t checked on me when she did, I’d be taking the dirt nap.

Today?  All is well.  For now.

Ho, Ho, Ho.

-Merlin-


Night Shift Driver.

11 November 2018

Copied from the ebook “Trucker”.  I wrote it some years ago.

I want to play a game. Actually, I want you to play a game. It’s called Night Shift Driver. It’s what I do; I drive our rig through the dark of night. I want you to play this game so you can get the true feel of that “call of the open road” romanticized by country-western singers and teenie-bopper movies.

To play the game, you need to devote a 24-hour period beginning at about 6:00 P.M. on a Friday or Saturday night as you’re going to need the following day to recuperate. Also, be sure the night you select is one where you’ll be free of interruptions by family and friends – oh, you can make and receive cell phone calls, but no one comes to visit.

The best place to play this game is down in the basement where it will be completely dark and you can achieve a feeling of being totally cut off – just as in a real long-haul semi. Also, the make-pretend “road” which we will be driving this night will be I-94 from Miles City, Montana, east toward Fargo, North Dakota. I picked this stretch of I-94 because at night, you can drive on it for hours and never see a sign of life. Also, when you’re in eastern Montana and all of North Dakota, the land is fairly flat and the road can be as straight as a stick for miles. Also, I-94, being an Interstate, is 4-lane all the way so you never have to worry about oncoming traffic and head-on collisions.

You will be driving a 10-hour shift, though eleven hours is the legal maximum and the one your employer prefers you drive. Understand that this means ten hours behind the wheel, not just ten hours on-duty. For example, if you start driving at six P.M. and will need a half-hour for fueling and another half hour for potty stops, you will be going until five the following morning. If you choose to work the maximum allowed by law of eleven hours, you won’t be getting out of that seat and turning off the engine until six in the morning.

Because I drive with my wife as a 2-person team, I’ll be sitting up with you for a while, just as Jo does with me. You’ll find the company to be quite helpful.

Now, you’ll need a few things to get set up:

• A chair upholstered in cloth, no leather or plastic. Don’t want to get your hinder all sweaty and stuck to the seat. Also, the chair can’t be a recliner as it must keep you in a fully upright position and allow your feet to be flat on the floor. It needs to be a chair you can tolerate sitting in for at least four uninterrupted hours. This will be your “driver’s seat.”

• A large screen TV placed three to four feet in front of the chair. This TV needs to accept connection to a game-playing machine like an X-Box™. The set’s screen should be placed at eye-level to simulate looking out the windshield of a semi. This will be your view of the “road.”

• A video game that shows a road course which can be played in an endless loop; this will simulate your view out the windshield (HINT: Ask your favorite 14-year-old lad, he probably can name at least three suitable games).

• A ladder back chair, one whose uprights you can grasp to simulate the steering wheel. This should be placed at arms’ length between your driver’s seat and the TV.

• To the right of the driver’s seat, place a small table that can hold your night’s essential supplies. These include:

One non-alcoholic beverage, preferably two. Coffee is suggested.

Munchables – enough to keep your mouth constantly engaged to fend off sleep.

Smokes, if you use them.

A cell phone.

Something to make a constant, fatiguing roar at about 95 dB. Perhaps a large floor fan set on Hi. This will simulate engine and road noises.

Ready now? OK. Turn on the TV, pop the video game into the player and start it up. Turn out the lights and take your seat. Now this simulacrum isn’t true in one vital respect: the road course of the video game will probably be in daylight hours and may have other vehicles on the road with you, but for our purpose tonight, that’s OK. Also, you will see far richer detail on the TV screen than what is available to a night shift trucker on I-94.

Comfy? Good. Let’s begin.

First, getting a semi up to 65 m.p.h. takes less than a minute and once you’re there, you simply set the cruise control so don’t be worried about playing with a shift lever and stuff. What you need to be concerned about in our little game is rolling down the road and staying awake.

I must caution you to keep both hands on the “wheel” as much as you can, for a semi has a mind of its own. In a car, you can be cruising along at freeway speed and still watch interesting things as they pass by: “Gee, Blanch. Lookit that!” you say, pointing out the passenger-side window, “A bucking bronco trampling its rider.” Some seconds later, you return your gaze to the road ahead and find you are pretty much where you expected to be. Not so with a semi. They constantly want to go off the road – into the oncoming lane or over the side and into a ditch, it makes no difference – and the wheel needs constant and massive corrections to stay in your lane.

Do you recall movies of the black & white era showing someone behind the wheel of a car? The driver is constantly thrashing the wheel right and left to control the car? Well, that’s what it’s like in a semi. Except the thrashing a semi driver has to do is far more sudden and violent than the gentle rocking motions we see in those old movies. Even with today’s power steering systems, it’s like wrestling a boa constrictor.

But this is only a game, so you don’t have to be flailing the ladder-back chair around the room. Just hold onto the uprights, that’s good enough. And keep your eyes on the TV screen – remember it’s your road for the night. Taking your attention away from the endless pavement long enough to give your behind a good scratching can get you killed.

We will start promptly at six.

6:09 P.M. ==========

We’ve been cruising along now for ten minutes or so. How do you like it so far? Good. I knew you would.

6:35 P.M. ==========

What’s that you say? The chair isn’t as comfortable as you thought it would be and your back is starting to complain? No problem, just scrunch around and shift positions. It’ll be OK. Also, remember you are on cruise control so you can move your feet around all you want.

6:51 P.M. ============

HEY!! WATCH THE FRIGGING ROAD! {*Stomp* *Stomp*} Goll-dang it! You were looking at the goodies on the little table and took your eyes off the road for three whole seconds. I told you that’s enough to send you out of your lane. You drifted off to the shoulder and if it hadn’t been for the rumble stripe – that was me stomping on the floor as a sound effect – you’d have gone into the ditch and probably rolled the rig. If you had drifted off to the left, you’d have crushed that little red VW that was passing you, the one with the two college kids inside.

OK, the kids are past. But that doesn’t mean you can inspect the table, looking for a particular morsel. You just reach over and feel around for the thing you want.

Oops? What do you mean “oops?” Oh, you knocked the thing you wanted on the floor? No problem, when you stop for fuel and potty, you can pick it up then. Content yourself with Choice NO 2.

And keep those eyes on the road.

7:17 P.M. ============

What do you mean “It’s boring.” You mean the sameness of the road? Well of course its boring; you’re on a lonely stretch of Interstate in the bowels of the night.

As I have often remarked to friends who ask about the driving experience, one mile of pavement looks pretty much like any other mile of pavement. True, isn’t it? Yes, and especially so at night. You can look out the windshield and what you see could be anywhere in the country anytime of the year. All there is ahead of you are:

• The endless unwinding strip of pavement.

• The same mesmerizing dotted lane divider.

• The low indistinguishable stuff on the shoulders which could be wintertime snow or summertime weeds.

• The same little white posts topped with reflector tape,

• The same white-on-green signs and mile markers.

• The same inky black sky.

• The protruding hood of your rig.

Except, that is, for the bugs. Bugs are the big difference; your windshield doesn’t get covered with bugs in the winter.

Have another slug of coffee.

7:36 P.M. ============

Are you sure you’re all right? I thought I just heard your wheels nicking the rumble stripe again. Keep those peepers on the road now.

7:38 P.M. ============

What? Of course you can turn on the radio. Hit the scan button and let’s see what’s playing tonight.

7:39 P.M. ============

Huh. Nothing on but that radio preacher. The one ranting about the “hummasexalls” ruining the institution of marriage. Out here on I-94, I’m afraid there isn’t much else.

Did you bring any CDs? No? Aw, too bad. Well, try the radio again in fifty miles or so. You might have better luck further down the line.

7:56 P.M. ============

What’s that? You say your backside and thighs are starting to get hot and sweaty? Yeah, no doubt they are. I warned you. But, hey, I have a nifty comfort tip for you, though it won’t stop your hind end from sweating: Undo your belt, unbutton your pants and pull down your zipper. It takes a real load off the guts. It also helps you fart – sitting in one spot like this tends to retain the gas, and that gets to be uncomfortable. And it gives you the opportunity to easily twiddle your johnson, if you have a mind to do so. Or your thingy, if you’re a girl.

8:13 P.M. ============

You say your feet feel like sausages? Yeah, sorry. I forgot to tell you to untie your shoes. Better yet, kick them off and drive in your stocking feet.

8:33 P.M. ============

Got to pee now, huh. Well of course you do; we’ve been on the road close to two and a-half hours now so it’s time. I was just looking at the road atlas and it looks like there is a rest area about seventy miles up the road. You can pull in there.

9:03 P.M. ============

Here comes the rest area and … Oh, oh. Sign says it’s closed for renovation. Bummer. But the atlas shows another one in maybe half an hour or so.

What say? You don’t think you can hold it that long? Well, you have to. You simply can’t pull off on the shoulder and get out and pee. If a highway cop catches you, you’d get two citations for sure. One for illegal parking and another for public indecency. Just pull the puckering string; it’s only another hour. Besides, the discomfort helps keep you alert.

9:10 P.M. ============

{*Stomp* *Stomp*} Hey, I heard that rumble stripe again. Mind what you’re doing.

9:49 P.M. ============

What? You say you feel like you’ve grown into the chair and that you are stiff and sore? Welcome to the club. And wait until you try to walk around and find out how wobbly your legs have become. But you’re new to the job. It’ll get better in six months or so.

10:03 P.M. ============

OK, you’re finally at the quote/unquote “rest stop.” Put the video game on Pause and go hit the can. Stop by the kitchen for some refreshments too, if you’d like – after all, the rest stops usually have vending machines of junk food and bad coffee.

10:12 P.M. ============

Got to get back in the truck now. We can’t be late for our delivery. All comfy? Take the video game off Pause and let’s log another 250 miles. It’ll be time to fuel then and you can also have dinner.

11:30 P.M. ============

Getting a bit sleepy after that snack are we? Well here are a few truckers’ tricks for staying awake.

• Open the window and let in some fresh air. Works best in the winter.

• Play the radio way loud.

• Sing at the top of your lungs.

• Turn on a talk show and argue with the host.

• See if you can find someone to talk to over the CB. Your chances are best when you’re out east on the heavily-traveled I-95, but out here? All you’re probably going to get is static.

• Play mind games with yourself: relive old experiences; imagine bedding that hottie you saw yesterday at the Starbucks; role-play a favorite hero – Captain Kirk, maybe.

• Stamp your feet.

• Slap your face.

• Pinch some part of yourself. Hard. Or bite yourself – cheeks, knuckles, tongue. Whatever you can put in your mouth.

Remember, if you fall asleep you’ll get in a smash up. Game over. If you really can’t fight it off any longer, find a place to pull over and nap – I do believe I see an exit ramp up ahead. You can pull off there. In this game, simply put the video game on Pause and you can snooze in the chair. But before you take that snooze, turn on your cell phone alarm and set it for no more than half an hour. You have a schedule to keep.

12:06 A.M. ============

There, that nap felt good, didn’t it? What? You say your eyes feel like two piss holes in the snow? Yeah, I know; rub them around a bit. And if you’re like most people, you have to pee as soon as you wake up. I keep an old CranApple® jug behind the passenger’s seat for this but you can get up and use the toilet.

12:12 A.M. ============

Well, you seem to be doing pretty well now so I’m going over to the couch (it would be the sleeper berth in a real semi) for a couple hours of shut-eye. You’re on your own. If you start getting sleepy again, though, just call and I’ll come up here and keep you company.

Meanwhile, take a caffeine pill and wash it down with some Red Bull.

What’s Red Bull? Dude, it is just the hottest thing to hit trucking since Benzedrine and you can get it at truck stops everywhere. Red Bull is an energy drink that’s got some stuff in it to give you lots of vim and vigor – plus a good hit of caffeine. Chug one of these little suckers after a caffeine pill and it’ll keep your peepers wide open. It gets me through nights like this. But it’s spendy; a little six-ounce can costs almost three bucks and to tell you the truth, I think the caffeine is the real effector here. But the combination works, so … Of course there are other brands if you don’t like the cherry taste of Red Bull.

Anyway, time for my nap. See you in a couple of hours.

2:06 A.M. =============

I’m back. Didn’t hear any rumble strips so you must be doing OK but remember, you still have a while to go so let’s think about taking another break. This one is for fuel but feel free to hit the head and go by the kitchen for some grub. Of course the restaurants and deli counters in many truck stops will be closed at hours like this so all you can count on is prepared stuff – oh, there might be a lunch counter, but that gets expensive so it is best avoided. But this is just a game, so, please, feel free to raid the ice box. Take half an hour.

2:36 A.M. =============

Dinner was good, wasn’t it? Nice of your beloved to leave us those turkey and cranberry sandwiches. If this were a real truck stop, you’d have had a stale precooked cheeseburger from the cooler that you’d have nuked for a few seconds to enhance its palatability. Maybe a Snowball for desert.

Did you get some more Cheetos? Swell. We truckers love Cheetos. Good-and-Plenties are nice too. Actually, we like anything that is sweet or salty. But never veggies or fruit. They’re too hard to keep. Besides, they’re like all that yucky stuff mom made you eat.

2:37 A.M. =============

Conversation helps keep the mind alert. Want to talk about religion or politics? Politics? Good. Well, that ass-wipe Bush, he …

JESUS H. CHRIST! Will you keep your eyes on the frigging road? You were looking at me and not the road and you drifted way over into the left lane. Just about hit that other semi that was passing you. Yeah, I know I told you there wouldn’t be much traffic this time of night but there’s some and it sneaks up. Check your mirrors every minute or so. (Newbies. Honestly.)

2:52 A.M. =============

Well, I am glad to find you too think Bush was a destructive moron. How about we try religion next?

No? OK, fine by me.

3:00 A.M. =============

Bored out of your skull? Yeah, sitting in one spot watching the same-old-same-old for ten hours can get to be a drag but that’s how you earn your 39 a mile.

Tell you what, keep your eyes open until 4:30, then I’ll take over. Now, according to the Federal government’s Hours of Service rules, I’m not supposed to do that; you’re supposed to drive the whole gig yourself but, hey, let’s be human about this.

3:30 A.M. =============

Well, here we are at a rest stop and, saints be praised, there’s a parking spot just waiting for you. Hey. Watch it; you weren’t paying attention to the trailer’s off-tracking and you just ran over a road cone that was set out by a pot hole. Not a problem, though. Almost everybody hits them once in a while.

4:32 A.M. =============

Ah, it is finally the end of your shift. Pull off on the next exit ramp and we’ll switch. Actually, I’ll be going home, but if we were in a real semi, I’d be taking the wheel for the next ten or eleven hours while you sleep. After you update your log book – it only takes maybe fifteen minutes or so – you’re done.

Why don’t you shut off the fan and the video game and I’ll get the lights. Then let’s us go outside to stretch our legs and get some air. The sun should be coming up about now.

Oh, one final jolt of realism: instead of going off to your bed, go sleep on the couch. It’ll be more like a semi’s sleeper berth.

Fun, wasn’t it? Want to do it again tonight?