Punk’d by a Phlebotomist?

26 Sep

Funny Stool Sample

Apparently my Crohn’s took a turn for the worse this year without my knowing it. When I went for my annual colonoscopy in June, my intestines had narrowed significantly, indicating either some crazy amount of ongoing inflammation or the creation of scar tissue. Since I don’t experience symptoms on a daily basis, I was inclined to ignore it and carry on – but after the three doctors told me that doing so would likely result in my intestines rupturing and necessitating emergency surgery, I decided to listen.

As a result, they’ve started me on a combo of steroids and an immunosuppresant (6MP, used primarily as chemo for people with leukemia). Because of this, I need to have blood drawn weekly to check my white blood cells and make sure my liver isn’t short circuiting from the influx of chemicals it’s being asked to process.

I share this by way of explaining how it was that I found myself seated in the lab at GW Hospital, waiting for a large man who didn’t possess an “inside voice” to draw my blood Monday morning before work. The way the blood-drawing stations were positioned, I was in the awkward seat that faced out into the waiting area, so I had a bit of an audience.

I normally wouldn’t have a problem with that since I’m fine with needles, but it’s something of a game-changer when you’re facing an audience and the phlebotomist booms, “DID YOU BRING US A STOOL SAMPLE TODAY?”

“Um, no?” I tried to use a librarian’s voice to provide an example for him.

It didn’t work. After drawing my blood, he brought back four containers, a plastic bag and a sheet of instructions. Instead of discreetly handing them to me, however, he decided to give me a very loud lesson on what needed to happen.

I chose to bask in the awkwardness, so as he started yelling (“THE LID HAS A SCOOP FOR YOU!”), I glanced around the waiting room to see if any of the other patients found this as amusing as I did. The same strangers’ eyes that had been keen to watch my blood get taken were all suddenly boring holes in the floor. No one would meet my gaze – it felt as if I were wearing the human-equivalent of a dog’s cone of shame.

I’d half tuned him out in my assessment of my audience, but my head whipped in his direction to the tune of a mental record-scratch when I heard him say, “SO YOU STRETCH PLASTIC OVER YOUR TOILET BOWL…”

Excuse me? Are you reading a passage from “Pranksters 101?” I’d missed what he had said before that, but I couldn’t think of a single reason that it would be EVER a good idea to stretch plastic over one’s toilet bowl. Later that night, when I related this to my sister, she eloquently bottom-lined it: “Wait. So he wants you to shit on Saranwrap?”

Before I could even suggest that she’d missed her calling as nurse, she followed up, “Why is a phlebotomist giving you instructions for a stool sample anyway?”

“I got the sense that he was providing the instructions theoretically but had no first-hand experience with the collection process himself,” I told her.

“Right,” she responded. “He probably just makes things up just to see what he can convince someone to do. Did he wrap up by asking you to report back on how it goes?”

I could hear her wheels turning as she warmed up to the idea of a phlebotomist prankster giving ridiculous instructions. “If I were him, I’d tell people, ‘Listen, you’re going to shit on Saranwrap, so try to have a little fun with it. Roll out your yoga mat, grab the handle of your oven door…'”

Headshake. And this is why we’re glad my sister is not a doctor. Or a nurse. Or a phlebotomist.

Next week when I go in for my blood work, I’ll be prepared. When he asks how it went, I’ll say, “The trickiest part was getting the water out of the bowl before I lined it with plastic…”

Two can play at this game. Bring it.



I know this game!

1 Sep

Memory Game

“The first part of your memory to go,” my mom says, looking over the mug of her coffee one morning while I’m home in Michigan for a few days, “is the part in charge of names.”

She’s telling me this shortly after I witnessed my parents playing a game I’ve mentally dubbed “What Is His Name?”, during which they throw each other prompts to try to come up with the name of someone critical to a story one of them wants to tell.

Sometimes the game can be more like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” where they arrive at the person’s name by tracking back through kinfolk, neighbors, teachers and friends. “Remember that kid? He was in Sandy’s class in sixth grade… his mother was married to the brother of the owner of the Independent Dairy… they lived in the house that the Webbers now live in… and you’d see him out every morning walking his dog. What was his name?”

This morning though, it’s a more entertaining version of the game because it takes me to a place where my imagination is fully engaged:

“You remember – what was her name?” my dad began.

“They lived over on Anderson Street,” he continued.

“Oh, I can picture her,” my mom said, nodding like a psychic confirming her hunch.

“She’s the girl I squirted in the mouth with toad juice,” he added.

BOOM. Microphone drop. How often has THAT surfaced as memory-jogging detail in one of YOUR stories? I’m going to guess NEVER. And think of all the possibilities that it evokes. How do you squirt toad juice on someone? What scenario even makes this possible? Was it deliberate or an accident? What IS toad juice?

Regardless, while the part of the brain that’s in charge of names might be off on vacation, clearly the rest of it – responsible for managing all the other details accumulated over a lifetime – is ticking along just fine. If it were me, I’d just make up nicknames on the fly and rename people as I told stories. In this example, the protagonist would’ve been Toad Mouth out of the gate.

Speaking of, I better run. Gotta go see Tea Girl before I greet Eager Early Coworker at my office.


What the PHUCK?!

31 Jul

For the luddites out there who hate social media and proclaim it to be the end of meaningful discourse, I offer you this story, which to me summarizes all that is great about the Twitterverse (and conveniently omits all of the bad).

Here’s the story…

A few weeks ago, I raved about seeing a fantastic movie called “From This Day Forward” that I had funded as part of a Kickstarter campaign. In that same post, I said it was especially cool to see a crowd-funded project succeed in real-life, unlike most of the projects I’ve backed. Then in passing, I mentioned another project I’d sponsored (elegantly designed profane greeting cards) that actually seemed to have gone on to great success – though somehow my donor gift got lost in the shuffle.

Mind you, I wasn’t complaining. I was just bummed I’d never received a set of four profane greeting cards, but I was mainly excited that the company (Calligraphuck) seemed to be doing well. Fast forward a week, and the following appeared in my Twitter feed:

Twitter Calligraphuck

This is great for three reasons: 1) He owns that he was googling himself, 2) Nice customer service. Don’t you wish Verizon or Comcast would approach you proactively like this? (“Sorry we blew the service window by more than four hours – we’ll waive your bill this month!”), and – best of all:

3) I just received a package of notecards in the mail!!!

If you’re scratching your head, wondering what, exactly, constitutes a profane greeting card, keep reading.

If you’re opposed to swearing, you probably won’t be a fan. But Linus (the owner) is a talented calligraphist and his hand-inked designs are silk screened on to high quality paper, so it’s a nice juxtaposition of high- and low-brow rolled into one package – irony at its best. And we all know he offers tremendous customer service!

In case you’d like to offend your holiday distribution list, you can buy his designs at www.calligraphuck.com.

And if you’re struggling to come up with appropriate uses, here’s a quick list of suggestions I created:

For the office Secret Santa… 

Holiday Gift Tags from Calligraphuck

For the wedding you suspect will end in divorce…

Congratulatory card by Calligraphuck

For a neighbor who threw snow into your yard when shoveling – used ironically:

Thank You card - by Calligraphuck

A card all mothers should use when corresponding with their sons – just to keep them guessing…

Magnificent Bastard - by Calligraphuck

And I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to use this one to recognize the anonymous office worker who insists on peeing on the toilet seat every day:

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.43.48 PM

Check out his inventory at Calligraphuck – and let me know if I’ve missed some key uses.

Live from DC… it’s EQUALITY!

26 Jun

copyright pithypants 2015

I was home on my couch, nestled in for the night, when I heard a rumor that the White House was rainbow-colored. So I had no choice but to change out of my pajamas (and into my only marginally more appropriate workout clothes) and walk the eight blocks down to the White House to witness history.

I may have shown up alone with only my iPhone for company (and documentation), but the crowd was INCLUSIVE. People were welcoming, joyful and celebratory, handing off cameras so strangers could help each other get better angles than traditional selfies would afford.

I saw women jumping, men hugging, and more than a few people squealing. I took my share of photos (and helped others with theirs), then stood quietly under a tree, taking it all in. There may have been a few tears as I marveled that for once we got it right.

In a week that has contained much pain, it was a balm to see LOVE come out on top.


See This Film: From This Day Forward

23 Jun
Title Art - created by Trisha Shattuck

Artwork by Trisha Shattuck – pending permission for use

Last week was the AFI DOCS Film Festival in DC. If you couldn’t gather it from the name, it’s a documentary film festival.

Friday night, Alan and I made a beeline for the theatre on E Street so we could screen, “From This Day Forward,” which is described on its website this way:

From This Day Forward is a moving portrayal of an American family coping with one of the most intimate of transformations. When director Sharon Shattuck’s father came out as transgender and changed her name to Trisha, Sharon was in the awkward throes of middle school. Her father’s transition to female was difficult for her straight-identified mother, Marcia, to accept, but her parents stayed together. As the Shattucks reunite to plan Sharon’s wedding, she seeks a deeper understanding of how her parents’ marriage survived the radical changes that threatened to tear them apart.

In the wake of Caitlin née Bruce making headlines, it’s a timely topic, but that’s not what drew us to the screening.

It was on my radar because – some years earlier – my sister  told me that one of the students she had become friends with through her job at the University of Michigan was using kickstarter.com to raise funds to make a documentary about her family, focusing on her father’s transgender journey in northern Michigan.

I’m something of a kickstarter and gofundme junkie because I believe there’s not enough art, beauty or understanding in the world, so if I spot an opportunity to help reverse that, I do what I can.

Admittedly, most of my gambles have not paid off – aside from Calligraphuck, which seems to be thriving yet somehow lost my donor gift of profane greeting cards so I still haven’t actually handled the product. (Probably for the best or half my Christmas list might disappear in one year!)

So imagine my joy when I learned that a film I had contributed to actually made it to the big screen! There was no way I was going to miss it – and since Alan is pretty much the best partner ever, he accompanied me without even knowing what we were going to see.

Turns out? Incredible movie. Not only did Sharon Shattuck (the director) do a fantastic job with the images and videography, she also crafted a clever backdrop for the story by using her father’s artwork and her own wedding to unravel the threads of her parents’ marriage and their family dynamic.

Early in the movie she quotes her dad, Trisha, as saying, “Sharon, whenever you get married, I hope you’ll let me wear a dress when I walk you down the aisle…” The rest of the movie then builds to her wedding day, with the suspense of the reveal (will her dad wear a dress?!) flowing like an undercurrent, subtly tugging us forward as we learn about her parents’ marriage.

I won’t ruin the reveal. I will just say this: the film is loaded with gorgeous imagery – both in the form of Michigan landscapes and Trisha’s artwork; even so, the most beautiful part of the film is actually the message – that a marriage unfolds in many unexpected ways, and love actually can conquer all.

Needless to say, I wasn’t the only person wiping at my cheeks when the credits rolled. And I’m probably not the only person now trying to get one of Trisha’s paintings in my house.

Check out the trailer here, and see if it’s coming to your city soon – you’ll be glad you did:


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