Now is NOT the Time to Panic, Seattle.

This is definitely not the month you want to be living in Seattle.

Because of our geography, pinned in between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, with mountain ranges on either side of us for added complexity, we are already too many people in too small an area. We only have three major north/south traffic arteries, and one of them, the viaduct, is going to be closed for the rest of this month, until the tunnel that is replacing it opens up.

They’re calling it the Seattle Squeeze. Others are calling it Viadoom. Think about that for a second. 90,000 commuters use that viaduct every single day. Now they’re going to have to find other routes. And their options are going to be extremely limited.

Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, and prepare for a cluster of epic proportions. It reminds me of that scene in Monsters Inc. in which the reporter says, “It is my professional opinion that now is the time to PANIC!!!!”

And as a Seattle Department of Transportation employee, I’ve seen a lot of panicking going on, indeed. I think if the general public really had any idea just how much the City is freaking out, they’d be a lot more hysterical themselves. You’d think the apocalypse was nigh.

Yeah, it’s going to suck. People will be late. Road rage will skyrocket. Everything is going to be a lot harder than usual.

But you know what? Breathe. We’ll survive. The world will keep right on spinning. February will come. We’ll all look back at this and laugh the laugh of survivors.

I really don’t think panic will do us any good. Yes, I’m glad people are doing their best to prepare for worst case scenarios. I’m thrilled that many companies are making an effort to adjust their schedules and will be allowing their employees to telecommute when possible.

I think we just all have to hunker down, gird our loins, and try not to lose our tempers. If you know anyone in the Seattle area, give them a virtual hug. Maybe send them some cookies. But for heaven’s sake, don’t come to visit until at least mid-February. We have enough problems at the moment. Please and thank you.

seattle map

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The Alien on my Face

As if this Barbie doll didn’t already come with a ton of accessories (glasses, compression socks, night guard…) I now use a CPAP machine. Heaven help me.

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and it’s a device used to help you breathe at night if you have Sleep Apnea. Which I do. Big time. According to my recent sleep study, I stopped breathing entirely 8 times during the night, and I had 225 hypopneas, which are shallow breaths that represent an airflow decrease. Good grief. No wonder I’m always so tired. Every night I’ve been fighting for my life.

It’s not like I didn’t already know this. I snore. And I had a sleep study about 15 years ago that indicated that I had sleep apnea, but this was before Obamacare. I had no insurance and couldn’t afford the machinery. So I had to just take my chances.

That, and I’ve known a bunch of people that have gotten sleep apnea machines and given up on them in sheer frustration. One friend sleeps hot, and his mask kept filling up with sweat, so he was constantly waking up feeling as though he was drowning. Another was a stomach sleeper like me, and could not get comfortable. A third nearly strangled herself with the air hose. And a fourth had her mask destroyed by her dog.

I’ve been living with this alien on my face every night for about a month and a half now, with mixed results. Once, I woke up with my heart pounding, absolutely convinced that I was suffocating. I ripped the mask off, but I was awake for several hours before that sensation of utter panic left me.

Another time, I woke up completely unable to exhale. The thing was blowing so hard that my mouth was blown up like a chipmunk trying to carry too many nuts. Oh, I was getting air that time. Boy, was I ever. But you have to be able to breathe out, too. Again, I had to rip off the mask.

More often, though, it’s simply the fact that I’m not getting a good seal, and the air is escaping around the edges of the mask and blowing up into my eyeballs. That’s a weird way to wake up. That, and like my stomach sleeping friend, it’s nearly impossible to get comfortable.

Another unexpected side effect is that I no longer remember any of my dreams. I’m sure that has to do with the fact that I’m no longer waking up several dozen times a night. But I miss my dreams. I have a very rich inner world.

I hate this CPAP. I mean, I really, truly, completely hate it. So why am I still putting myself through this torture? Several reasons.

First of all, I’d kinda like to live. I used to think it would be nice to die in my sleep. That would be the way to go. But it turns out a lot of people have died in their sleep when they didn’t have to. I’d really rather not be one of those.

Second, I now have a husband, and he gets to watch me stop breathing. That’s got to be really upsetting. I’d like to spare him that. And he’s also a reason to try really hard to stick around for as long as I can.

But most importantly, I have to admit that I’ve never felt more rested in my entire life. Once I stop my nightly fight with the alien and allow it to assimilate me, I sleep soundly. (I don’t even have to get up to pee as often. That’s an unexpected bonus.) And when I wake up, I’m refreshed. That makes a difference. Such a difference.

So I’m going to try my best to adjust to this hateful thing. I need to be the adult in my life and make the effort. It’s for my own good. Wish me luck.

CPAP

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Let Reality Be Beautiful

Things are good. Almost too good. So good, in fact, that sometimes I panic. That annoying little voice in my head whispers, “This is too good to be true. It can’t be real. You’re overlooking something. Or all the great people around you will finally see you for the inherently flawed individual that you are and disappear. Or a meteor is about to crush you dead. Or something. Because you can’t have the good things.”

If a pep talk like that doesn’t send me into a panic attack, surely it will cause me to dive headlong into a pint of Häagen-Dazs. Neither outcome is optimal to my health. But if I get to choose (“You never get to choose.”) (“Shut up, annoying little voice!”) I’ll take the ice cream.

I was talking about this to my dear friend Anju, whose blog I highly recommend. Of everyone I know, Anju is one of the ones I’d be most likely to consider an authority on this subject, because from what I can tell, she leads an amazing life. She takes risks. She sits down at the world’s table and she feasts of life like a fat kid in an ice cream parlor. No apologies. No prisoners. Her life isn’t always a bed of roses, but it is uniquely and undoubtedly hers. I admire her. I’d love to be her.

After listening to me grouse, she simply said, “Let reality be beautiful.”

Wow. If that doesn’t strike a chord in you, then you are tone deaf.

And you know, why the hell not? If things are good, then I should enjoy them. I need to live in the now, because the now, right now, is awesome!

I may not have any control over the meteors heading my way, but I certainly don’t have to poop all over my own party. I deserve as much beautiful reality as the next person. And so do you, dear reader.

Thanks Anju!

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First World Problems

Have you ever tried to find a last-minute dog sitter for a holiday weekend? Especially when you have a dog with a history of chewing on people? It’s no picnic, believe me. I asked 8 different sitters, and had no luck whatsoever. Come on. I just want a romantic weekend with my new boyfriend! Waaaaaah!

In times of great stress, that very boyfriend likes to remind me that the situation in question is a very First World problem to have. (See, that’s why I respect him so much. He’s pretty darned deep. And he’s great at calming me down.)

He has a point. Perspective is a wonderful thing. Relatively speaking I have very little to worry about. There have been no drive-by shootings in my neighborhood. I know I will eat today. It’s a safe bet that I won’t freeze to death. No armies will invade my city. I will very likely live my entire life without hearing an air raid siren. I’m safe. I’m secure. I’m healthy. I have options.

It’s those people who lack perspective who tend to succumb to road rage. They’re the mass shooters, the wife beaters, the conspiracy theorists, the Fox news viewers of the world. They are the ones who whip up mass hysteria about situations that don’t even exist.

I just need to remind myself that this is no time to panic. I’ll be fine. My dog will be fine. My romantic weekend will be fine. And if this is the worst thing that’s happening in my life, then I’m one fortunate blogger, indeed.

Perspective

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The Current State

Okay, so I have several theories about our current Grabber-in-Chief, and each one is scarier than the last. Specifically:

  • He’s a little boy who delights in kicking ant hills so he can watch all the little ants scurry around in panic and fury. Why else would he change his views so radically, from one moment to the next, without any reasonable explanation? Even his own staff does not know what the heck he’s going to do, or who he will fire, next.

  • He is so far gone, mentally, that he doesn’t have a clue about what he’s doing. He’s completely unhinged. He’s loopy. Mad as a hatter. He’s off his nut. Brace yourself, folks, because there’s nobody flying this here plane.

  • He’s the purest, most distilled form of stupid on the face of the earth. He makes W look like a genius. He has absolutely no concept of the consequences of his actions, and is utterly incapable of seeing that he needs to rely on expert advice. Never before has this country been expected to bask in the murky waters of such unprecedented incompetence.

  • He is evil incarnate. He doesn’t care who or what he destroys, as long as the end result is personal profit. He has no moral compass whatsoever. We are doomed.

Duck and cover, people, because my worst fear is that the real answer is: all of the above.

mushroom cloud

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Best Laid Plans

‘Twas a rainy Seattle morning, and I was looking forward to a nice quiet shift on the bridge. Most boaters would not be out in this muck. I planned to drink my green tea, write my blog, and just relax.

Then a maintenance crew showed up. I had forgotten they were coming. No big deal. They’re professionals. They know what they’re doing. They need very little help from me. I just need to ensure that I don’t open the bridge while they’re hip-deep in machinery. Easy enough. We have safety procedures in place.

Then I heard the skidding of brakes. That sound instantly puts me on edge. I looked out the window, and there’s a bicyclist lying unconscious in the middle of the street. Not good. In fact, very, very bad. A crowd is already gathering. Traffic is backing up. I call 911. The first responders arrive with lightning speed. Then I call traffic control to let them know the road is blocked. Then the paperwork begins.

All told, the situation lasted less than an hour, but I’m still rattled. Why is that? The woman is going to be all right, but from the looks of her, she won’t be eating soup for quite some time. She landed face first on the grating.

I’m sure part of my feeling is the aftermath of an adrenaline dump. That’s never fun. But there’s also this feeling of being uprooted. I expected to be in one place (a nice quiet control tower, with my green tea and my blog) and was instead thrust headlong into another (your basic SNAFU). I almost felt as though I’d been abducted.

In addition, my ability to plan and organize was ripped from me. I had no time to prepare. These are comfort zones that I dislike having to depart from.

I didn’t panic. Everything went as smoothly as it could, given the circumstances. And while I wish this hadn’t happened to that poor woman, if it had to, it went as well as it could.

And yet I’m still rattled. But I still have my green tea and my blog.

I think I need a hug.

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The Right to Breathe

When I was about 11 years old, a guy that had a crush on my sister went swimming with us. He was about 18, and his hormones were such that I’m sure he viewed me as a nuisance, just another obstacle blocking his path to the Promised Land. At one point my sister went off to get a snack or take a bathroom break or something, and this boy, who was sitting on the edge of the pool as I was clinging to the side in the deep end, put his hand on top of my head and pushed me under the water and locked his elbow.

I still remember this vividly– watching all my air bubble past my face, feeling my lungs spasm, hearing myself making primal animal-like noises underwater as I struggled and kicked and thrashed and panicked and clawed at his hand  and desperately tried to get to the surface. I got tunnel vision, and the tunnel kept getting darker and darker and smaller and smaller. It felt like it lasted for an eternity. I have never been so terrified or felt so helpless in my entire life. I still have nightmares based on that experience.

Finally he let go of my head because my sister was coming back. I burst to the surface, coughing and gasping and crying hysterically. He laughed. Given his reaction, and her assumption that I tended toward the dramatic, my sister didn’t take the situation at all seriously. I went home crying, and my mother didn’t take it seriously either. But looking back at it from an adult perspective, I’m quite certain that little weasel could have killed me that day. Thank God my sister came back when she did or things could have been quite different. He laughed.

There is nothing worse than not being able to breathe. Nothing. The fact that my boyfriend died all alone while most likely struggling to breathe is something I’ll never get over. I used to help him through his asthma attacks, and the worst part about it was the panic in his eyes. But that last, most critical time, I wasn’t there. He died alone in his truck, clutching his rescue inhaler.

So when I hear Republicans say that waterboarding isn’t torture, or that it’s justified torture, I take it kind of personally. Everyone should have the right to breathe. I don’t think these people understand the waterboarding concept at all. It’s simulated drowning. It’s the same as being held under water. Your air passages fill with water. And when you try to struggle toward the “surface”, that surface is covered in wet cloth.

I once saw an episode of Strangers in Danger where one of the hosts volunteered to be waterboarded to see what it was like. He lasted about 3 seconds, and when he sat up, he looked terrified. He said it was much worse than he thought.

I think every politician who says waterboarding isn’t torture should have to experience it, right in the middle of the rotunda of the House of Representatives. Call it a practical experiment. I strongly suspect that they’d change their minds about the practice right then and there. End of freakin’ debate.

According to The Guardian, a winner of the Pulitzer prize, the recently released Senate report on the torture committed by the CIA includes this description:

“At times Abu Zubaydah was described as ‘hysterical’ and ‘distressed to the level that he was unable effectively to communicate’. Waterboarding sessions ‘resulted in immediate fluid intake and involuntary leg, chest and arm spasms’ and ‘hysterical pleas’. In at least one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah ‘became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth’ … Abu Zubaydah remained unresponsive until medical intervention, when he regained consciousness and ‘expelled copious amounts of liquid’.”

The Guardian further stated: The CIA doctor overseeing the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said that the prisoner was ingesting so much water that he or she was no longer concerned that regurgitated gastric acid was likely to damage his oesophagus. But, the doctor warned, the CIA should start using saline, because his electrolytes were becoming too diluted.

My first thought is, what kind of a doctor would participate in that sort of treatment? Whatever happened to “first, do no harm”? And he or she was being paid with our tax dollars.

That there is even a question in any civilized human being’s mind that this treatment is torture makes me weep for humanity. And that’s but one of the grisly tales in that report. Standing on broken limbs, rectal rehydration, sleep deprivation, beatings, detainment in coffin-sized boxes, and hypothermia are only the tip of the iceberg. If this is what we are capable of as a society, then all is truly lost. I’m sickened.

But I’m hardly one to talk. What happened to that 18 year old boy who tried to drown me? He stopped coming around for some reason. It probably had something to do with the fact that he stopped by to visit my sister one day when I was the only one home, and I kicked him so hard in the stomach that I actually felt my toes going underneath his rib cage. As he stood doubled over, gasping for air, I quietly shut the door. I never saw him again.

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