Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Life and Long Halls

One evening in the early 70's the foot most damaged by polio and surgery started giving me fits. The only way to alleviate the pain was to walk. I started walking at 8:00 p.m. and I walked until I finally gave out at 8:00 a.m. the next day. I am supposed at wear at least a 2" heel at all times. My foot had been angled for 2" heels, but shoes have always been uncomfortable. The minute I would enter the house I would take off my shoes and put on slippers; with no heels whatsoever. I walked for 12 hours in slippers with no heels.

By the time that I gave up and went to the Orthopedists I was not only in trouble with the nerves on the top of the foot, I had seriously sprained all the muscles attaching my foot to my leg.

I don't have what you exactly would call a normal ankle; mainly because I don't have an ankle. I had what was called a drop foot. As I took a step the foot dropped and had to be thrown forward to land properly. The men in white coats decided that they had a new surgery that would bring me great benefits. They took the joint out of my ankle and inserted a very large staple; thereby stabilizing my foot at an angle. Man, has that very large staple caused me some miseries, but those stories aren't for telling today.

At any rate, beside all the nerves on the top of my foot going crazy, that staple and those muscles that it was stapling were sprained out of whack, so I ended up spending a week in a local hospital.

When I was released from the hospital the doctor gave me prescriptions for 100 Quaalude (for pain), 100 tranquilizers (because polio patients suffer without telling; (his words)), and 100 sleeping pills (because I needed uninterrupted sleep). I told him I didn't need any of it and he told me I didn't know what the hell I really needed (also his words). He informed me that I would either take all the medication that he prescribed or I would have to find another Orthopedist. Fine with me. If I stayed a patient of his I was going to end up an addict. I went home and promptly flushed them all down the toilet!

A lot of the men that I dated during the 70's experiemented with drugs to some degree, but mostly with pot. From lawyers to school teachers at some point they would extend an invitation for me to join them. I wasn't interested. I had had too many drugs pumped into me legally, and I didn't like the feeling. So I knew nothing about Quaaludes. I had no idea that it was a pill of popularity until I was grousing to a friend about the wacky doctor that had tried to make me a walking pharmacy. I told her what I had done to the pills and she took a deep breath and said, 'Wait here for a minute." A few minutes later she came back with several young men that we both knew well. One of them said, "You did what with the Quaaludes?"

"I flushed them down the toilet." I answered.

"Do you have any idea what the street value of those 100 pills was. You flushed a fortune down the toilet!"

He really set me back. I was raising a son by myself. Money had to be accounted for and I had flushed $1,000.00 down the drain. Remember this was the 1970's. $1,000.00 meant more then than it does now. I had the most expensive toilet water in town! I never would have sold them, but every once in a while I would step into the bathroom, look at the toilet, and marvel at all the money that one flush of the toilet had made disappear.

My roommate in that partiular hospitalization was a female that was a dwarf. She was very pretty. She had gorgeous hair that I would gladly have given those 100 Quaaludes for. One evening when her husband came to visit we all started talking and he and I discovered that we worked for the same large company. He was a drawf also and one of the most fascinating men that I have ever met. He was a very good looking man. He was just short. He had been raised by a German father that had given no quarter to his son's size and Bill had had to learn to deal with an oversized world in an undersized body without any help but his own ingenuity. He had run away to work for the circus when he was younger. He also had been the mascot of one of those clubs that are for the very tall. He bragged that he had slept with women that would make most men quake in their shoes. He was intelligent, he was funny and he became a very good friend. When our company went on one of those government crusades to try to force(encourage) all it's employees to ride the bus he and I decided to car pool. Neither one of us could get on a bus easily, but by car pooling we got one car off the highways and were able to satisfy our employer that we were co-operating with the plea (mandate?).

We car pooled for a long time often teasing about what the hell we would do if the car broke down. Neither one of us could walk for miles to get help. He used to say that we would probably grow old and wheel off into the sunset in our respective wheelchairs. He was in a wheelchair because he had fallen on some stairs at work and had broken his back. He prophesized that I would some day need one. Very smart man! He had had a hard time getting back into the world of the workers, but he was a determined man and he finally wheeled his way back into productivity. He may have been short, but he was one of the tallest men that I have ever known.

Once we decided to take an after hours class together. I was in trouble with that 'large staple' again. The doctor had decided to put a walking cast on my leg to relieve the pressure that walking put on the muscles on that foot and non-existent ankle. He felt that if he could relieve those muscles it might extend the wear I would be able to get out of the foot. So Bill was in a wheelchair and I was hobbling along in a cast. Two determined people that had been remade and recycled by numerous doctors. We operated as if we were just part of the work force. Maybe we were a bit unique, but on the whole we were just two people climbing the so called ladder of success; even though we did it with a limp or two here or there. After all we were out there hustling, even sticking around after hours to learn something new.

There was only one problem. The class was being taught in a very large complex that he and I had never been in. We pulled up in front of the building and he whipped out his wheelchair. I tossed my walking casted leg out the other door and off we went. We had a room number. Surely that would be enough. We were both intelligent people. We could read rooms numbers and find a room that we had never been in. We started off smiling and laughing. We went down one hall, turned down another hall, went up another hall, turned around and went back down that hall, turned the other way and went down a new hall. And on we went. There was something ominously disturbing about all these halls. Generally, there were a few people working late in the halls of the buildings that we worked in. Where were the overtime people. If we could find a human we could ask them if the hall we were in was anywhere near the hall that we needed to be in. But we weren't any better at finding a random human then we were in finding the right hall. We trudged up, down, around, and over until I was dragging. That friggin cast was heavy and it was getting heavier with every step I was taking. Also, having the cast on my right leg was throwing my back into an angle it wasn't accustomed to and I had developed a lower back ache. He was sitting down, but his arms were beginning to give out. We were pooping out! And still we couldn't find the hall that would take us to the hall that we needed. The place was down right spooky. Where were the after hours people? Finally, I balked. I hobbled over to the wall of the hall we were in at the moment, braced my back against it and slowly slid to the floor. I sat there with one leg and one heavy cast sticking straight out into the middle of the hall. He sat there in his wheelchair. A drawf in a wheelchair with aching arms and a woman splayed out on the floor with a cast on her leg. THEN we saw a woman start out of an office doorway. We were saved! Except she paused halfway through the doorway, took a startled glance at us and darted back into the office. We heard her say, "Have you seen what's in the hall?" For some reason it hit both of us the same way and we started laughing. You know when you laugh so hard that you can't stop laughing, evenif you need to breath. We laughed so hard that we were doubled over. When one of us would try to stop the other one would start again and that would start the whole cycle once more. We could see people peeking out of offices and darting back in. And we'd start all over again! They may not have thought we were funny, but we sure as hell thought they were. We finally got ourselves together enough to get me back on my feet and we slowly approached one of the offices. I stuck my head in and asked where room so and so was and the person was so intimidated by the look of the two of us that all she did was point. We got the idea and headed in the direction she pointed. Each of us on the edge of starting the laugh festival again. We finally found the room number in the direction that she had pointed, but by the time that we got there the damn class was being dismissed. That started us laughing all over again!

We didn't get lost getting out of the building. We just followed all the people that we should have been in the class with. He and I used to enjoy our time together. Both of us had spent our lives being different but we had matured to the point of not letting that stand in our way of enjoying life and it's long hallways!

And the Orthopedist that had given me all those pills? 10 years later my present Orthopedist asked if I had ever been a patient of Dr So and So. I said that I had, but I hadn't done what he wanted so I was told to go away. My present doctor said, "Well he went away too. He had a massive nervous breakdown and has never recovered." My answer? "God Bless him, but if I had taken all the pills that he had wanted me to I probably would have had one with him."

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