THE REVOLUTION RESTARTS AT THE REGISTRY

RESTART – WHEN YOUR LICENSE EXPIRES


Some years back, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided they could save a few bucks if they stopped reminding people to renew their drivers licenses. We are all supposed to remember what year our license expires. Since drivers licenses are good for five years, pretty much no one remembers. If you miss the date, you can’t renew online. That means ONLY in person.

Registry of Motor Vehicles – Worcester

It doesn’t matter if it’s one day or 3 years overdue. If the license has expired, you must come to the RMV in person — to get an eye test. According to the RMV, there is a direct, if somewhat obscure and mystical connection between an expired license and failing eyesight.

Note: After 4 years, you have to start over as if you never had a license at all, including written and road tests.

To save us even more money, the Commonwealth decided to close down all the kiosk RMV (Registry of Motor Vehicle) mini offices at malls where you could get simple tasks completed quickly and conveniently. Then they closed more than half the local RMV branches, keeping only the main offices open.

Between one thing and another, the result is a guaranteed daily pile-up of disgruntled Massachusetts motorists at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Wait here!

Garry discovered his license had expired and came home upset. I tried to renew it on-line, but though it had expired less than two weeks earlier, he had to renew in person because he needed an eye test. A punitive eye test. It is your punishment for not noticing that your license was expiring. He wondered if he could defer it. No one wants to go to the RMV, but there’s no reprieve. Driving around with an expired license is not an option. Should something happen –even a minor fender bender — you would end up getting hit with a fine that would make your head spin.

We headed up to Worcester, which according to the RMV office was our nearest branch. That turned out to be untrue, but we needed to get it done and had barely enough time. Away we went. It was a trip backwards in time.

And still we wait.

I remember saying many years ago that when the revolution came, it will begin at the motor vehicle bureau where frustrated, tired, aggravated citizens get bounced from place to place in pursuit of accomplishing a simple goal in a reasonable length of time. That we were at the RMV at all was because some moron thought sending a postcard to licensed drivers every 5 years was costing too much money. I’d like to see a cost analysis on this brilliant piece of legislation.

There used to be dozens of queues at the RMV. In the bad old days, you waited on whichever line you thought was the right one until you got to the front, discovered you had been waiting on the wrong line, and were directed to some other place to restart.

After several hours of bouncing from line to line, with the queues getting longer and angrier as the day wore on, at 5 o’clock sharp, they’d close and tell you to come back another day. The new method eliminates lines. Not a queue in sight. The Powers That Be have used chaos theory and a non-linear approach to eliminate lines and logic simultaneously. It’s a new world, a science fiction world, a completely incomprehensible world.

To get you oriented, everyone starts on a single information line where you get a little deli counter paper ticket. On it is printed a 3-digit number preceded by a letter. We were I-256.

There are letter codes A, B, C, D, F, G, I and Z. I do not know what any of them mean or if they mean anything. I don’t know why those letters were chosen as opposed to other letters. It’s all part of the non-linear thing. In the front lobby, there is a single, rather small illuminated sign that flashes the next number up. There is no order to what combinations of numbers and letter might be next.

Any combination can be called any time to any window. There were about 24 queues, though not all were open. If you got lucky, you could hear a sotto voce announcement I’m sure Garry couldn’t hear at all and I could only hear parts of and only sometimes. There were words to the effect that “We are now serving A-132 at window 14” and that number would flash on the screen. Sometimes they would flash the number for a couple of minutes, sometimes for just a few seconds.

They might be serving Z-542 at window 2, followed by D-234 at window 17. Everyone hovered near the screen because the noise level precluded being able to hear anything. When finally your number was up, you had to dash madly to whatever line you were called, which could be a long run (in my case, hobble) to the other side of the building. No way to know how soon you would be waiting. You didn’t dare leave, not even to go the bathroom.

Garry was baffled. I said that the RMV had eliminated bourgeois linearity and gone to a non-linear chaos-based formula.

“What?” he said.

“Completely random,” I assured him. We were both having flashbacks to the near riots of the 1960s as the lines in the motor vehicle bureau would stretch into the street and around the block.

Finally?

There were just as many people waiting now as then, but there were no lines, just folks sitting on hard benches with dull, blank faces or milling around wondering what happened to order and logic, and why don’t they simply send a postcard reminding you to renew your license? It took three and a half hours.

I took some pictures. Security concluded I was a terrorist.  I took the pictures quickly. By the time they told me to put the camera away because “this is a State building!” (what that had to do with anything I don’t know), my camera was out of sight and I was standing around looking bored, annoyed, and out-of-sorts. Like everyone else.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Finally, they called us. Garry got a new picture which is nominally less horrible than the one he had for the past 10 years. He passed his eye test, signed an autograph for the lady who served us (who became much less rude and more helpful after recognizing Garry as the TV guy), and we finally got out of there.

Are they really saving money? I don’t think they actually pay for official mailings anyway, so it this simply one more way to annoy us? I don’t believe for a moment the savings are not more than offset by needing many more people at the RMV  rather than letting us renew our licenses on our computers. At home.

PROCLIVITY?

I have not a single thought to go with proclivity as a prompt. I know what it means. Definition isn’t the issue. It’s just that my head is empty. Nothing pops up. Not a memory from way back when — or a line from a movie — or the title of a song.

Nada.

Nothing.

Zero.

Sometimes, the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Maybe next time?

I think the household is going through post-holiday burnout while we wait for a plow to dig us out. If we get dug out, I can call the oil truck. Right now, it’s all about waiting, while the dogs are sound asleep.

That’s probably what I should be doing, if I think about it.

WAITING IS – SEPTEMBER’S WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

WordPress WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: WAITING

The Weekly Photo Challenge is on a break this week. Since waiting was a great topic, I thought I’d add a new one to last week’s subject. After all, I am always waiting for something. When I finish waiting for whatever I was waiting for, I’m immediately awaiting something else.

Life. Is. Waiting.

Or, as Michael Valentine Smith used to says: “Waiting is.”

Even when the waiting is framed with positive anticipation, it’s still waiting. Waiting for the bride to walk down the aisle. Waiting for the show to begin. Waiting to get your hands on your new car. Whatever it is, first — you wait.

Waiting for Garry to come inside

Waiting at the Registry of Motor Vehicles

Waiting for the graduates to appear!

Waiting for the next guests

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

BEFORE THE FALL

WordPress WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: WAITING

Above and into the falls

We live in a region of rivers and dams. Back when this country was more a hope than a reality, this was the river where America’s transition to industrialization began.

According to the National Parks guide:


“The Blackstone River Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island is the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution,” the place where America made the transformation from Farm to Factory. America’s first textile mill could have been built along practically any river on the eastern seaboard, but in 1790 the forces of capital, ingenuity, mechanical know-how and skilled labor came together at Pawtucket, Rhode Island where the Blackstone River provided the power that kicked off America’s drive to industrialization.”


It’s easy to see our history when you live in the Blackstone Valley. There were 46 dams on the Blackstone River. There are some fewer now. They are trying to remove dams and let the river run freely. But wherever you see a dam, there was a mill, a factory, or both at that turning of the river.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Below the falls

The soil supporting these dams is terminally hazardous. Packed behind the dams, it can’t spread its poison downstream. Allowed to run into the rivers, it could easily poison the river that was saved from (and is still being saved from) some of the worst pollution anywhere in the world. In the mid 1974, the Blackstone was considered one of the three most polluted rivers in the U.S. Today, it’s a living river filled with birds and fish and even some humans enjoying its waters.

Waiting on the Mumford River in Uxbridge

Most of the remaining dams will stay where they are. The danger to the environment that would come with removing them is incalculable. Thus we enjoy the beauty of the dams. Swans, geese, ducks, divers and the occasional beavers enjoy the calm waters. While swimming is still forbidden both because of the still somewhat polluted water and the dangerous currents in the river, trout breed there and the river is open for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing along many banks.

Waiting and the rush

All the dams were built between 1789 and the early 1900s. Each dam is unique to its place on the river and built of natural local stone.

The pool that forms in the pond before the waterfall is always as still as a glass mirror. It’s remarkable how clear and shiny that water is. Barely a ripple to announce the imminent falling of water over a dam that may be just inches away.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

THE PAUSE IN TIME

A pause in the timeline? How much waiting is good for the soul and how much makes you crazy?

In “Stranger In A Strange Land,” Michael Valentine Smith typically said “Waiting is.” It was a zen-like inscrutable comment. Like Bill Belichick’s “It is what it is.” Both translate loosely to “The moment contains what it contains. Since we can’t do much about it, we might as well shut up and go with the flow.”

The long pause of waiting doesn’t get you anything but a seat on the bus or maybe an opportunity to explain something to a bureaucrat when your numbered slip of paper is finally called.

Nor, in my opinion, do the meek inherit the earth, unless you count a grave as an inheritance. Waiting — a lack of activity or withdrawal from events in progress — may keep you out of trouble, but it won’t get you noticed. The doctor won’t come out and see you on the bench. It won’t make anyone pick up your manuscript and decide to publish it. It won’t get your job done — any job, anywhere. It won’t get you a job.

Sounds good on paper, but what does it mean? If it means “the baby won’t come until it’s fully developed.” That’s good. When it means let the bread rise before you bake it? Okay. These are not anywhere like being on hold while someone on the other side of the world finally gets around to taking your call … then disconnects you.

The pause is between times. A longer pause is stasis. Anyone been up for jury duty, sat in a big room with a lot of other people who don’t want to be there … and then get told you aren’t allowed to talk, read, or leave the room until someone says you can? That is waiting at it’s finest because 90% of the time, someone will come in to tell you to go home. You were paused. For nothing.

I wait only for things to bloom, develop, be delivered, cool, bake, dry, or land at the airport. Otherwise, there other things to do.

“Stranger in a Strange Lane” was a fine book in its day, but I will not grok at the motor vehicle bureau.

ACCEPTING WHATEVER IT MAY BE

ACCEPTING, ACCEPTANCE, AND MOVING ON

It’s one of the things you learn getting older. You really can’t fight all the battles because there are too many battles and too few of you. So you accept that the plow driver knocked down half a wall and dug up a big chunk of garden … which someone is going to have to fix because it’s like hideous mud and rock central on the driveway.

You look at the door, realize it’s begun to rot a bit under the sill. You shrug. It’ll get dealt with, eventually. Not by me, of course. I don’t do sills.

The garden is a mess. The trees are breeding caterpillars. The dogs need a haircut and, for that matter, so do I. It’ll get sorted out. Or not. The places I plan to go, but the drive is too long — or the directions too complicated. The places I  ought to go, but don’t want to, at least not enough to make such an effort.

When I was 30, I went. Regardless. For the adventure, if nothing else. At 70? Adventure is great if I don’t have to walk over rough ground to experience it. So I know in advance of plans that I might go, but maybe I really won’t. Even if not doing so involves guilt and regret.

There’s a lot of acceptance going around. It’s not all that bad. After all those years of doing everything I was supposed to do and 50% more because I believed I should go that extra “mile,” I would have expected the changeover from “must” to “I’ll get to it” to be … more intense maybe?

Turns out, many of the things I did were not half as important as they seemed at the time. Can’t even remember most of them. But my brain screamed: “YOU MUST DO THAT NOW!” Phumf.

Now, I don’t even think about the why of it all. If it’s a doctor, I will deal with it, though I may defer the visit a couple of times until I get to it. Taxes? Well, you have to do them, at least if you want your money back. Visiting friends or having them visit? No question, I want to do it … if it will just please stop snowing. Vacations if reservations are involved and dates for dogs to be attended get worked out. We go.

On the “it’s almost work” front, writing a piece that’s bouncing around in my head. Checking in on friends, internet and otherwise.

Wondering why Gibbs was staring at the wall in the kitchen and growling ferociously. What did he see that I probably should know about?

Thinking I’d like to buy a video game, but wondering if I’d have the time to play it because my hobby (Serendipity) has become increasingly intense as the years have marched on. Or, as I said to Garry just last night: “Yes, it is a bit like work, but it’s writing. If I weren’t writing for Serendipity, I’d be writing for no one. I am going to write. Might as well write so other people can read it.”

Everything else can wait. Possibly until the next life rolls around.

WAITING FOR SOMETHING

As Michael Valentine Smith used to say, “Waiting is.” Because we are all waiting for something or someone.


Bonnie and Gibbs are waiting for me or Garry to give them their next treat.72-bonnie-scotties-10172016_08

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I’m waiting for Garry to rise and shine.

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It’s my day to see the doctor, so he is waiting for me.

Death cust serv

The guy with the scythe is waiting for all of us … and Halloween is just around the corner!

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WAITING | THE DAILY POST

I NEED TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET THROUGH VOICE MAIL

Of all the skills I never acquired, the ability to cut through the dreaded recorded message: “The staff are currently assisting other customers. Please hold on. We appreciate you patience,” is a major failure.

telephone hold

I would have more patience if I weren’t trying to reach my doctor’s office. Because I’m not feeling well. I figure I shouldn’t need an hour plus who-know-how-long to get a live person on the telephone.

waiting for

Then there’s the muzak. I know offices buy special music so they can leave their customers — in this case patients — on hold indefinitely. They count on the music to soothe the savage beast slowly boiling over at the other end of the line.

To me, it’s closer to fingernails on a blackboard. Each unmemorable phrase makes my blood pressure rise.

Customer Service waitingWhy am I calling? Because my doctor is an arrogant prick and I need a different doctor. ANY different doctor. I’m not that picky. I just want a doctor — or nurse practitioner — who won’t blow off my medical issues because he has decided — without reading my medical history — that I’m just an old, hypochondriac looking for drugs and attention.

This is a stunning leap of logic.

What gave him the clue that I’m nothing more than a crank?

Was it the bi-lateral mastectomy? The heart valve replacement or the implanted pacemaker? The emergency bariatric surgery? The spinal redesign and subsequent massive arthritic takeover? Does he think such procedures are performed to satisfy the morbid neuroses of one demented old bat?

Whatever his reasoning, it has to end. My trip to the oncologist a few days ago (he is one of the good ones), revealed I’m now seriously anemic. Been here before, but I’m back and shouldn’t be. Simple monitoring of blood vitamin levels and appropriate vitamins could easily have prevented this.

I haven’t been able to get this guy to even acknowledge there is anything to monitor, so I’ve been trying to figure out what I need to take to fix the problem. From information I found on the Internet.

insane doctor cartoon

Suddenly, in a blaze of clarity last night, I realized I have no way to know how much B-12 I need. I used to get monthly injections and I shouldn’t be self-medicating while my hair falls out and my skin dries up and tries to leave home without me.

It’s 10:29am and I’m still on hold. I have been on hold — off and on because I’ve called back several times — since 9am. I can tell by the clock on the computer.

waiting

I wonder which will run out first? The battery in my telephone or my patience?

Garry says I can’t give up, that this asshole is going to kill me.

The good news? It’s pouring outside. Finally, the rain has arrived. It was late, but this morning, when I got up, it was raining and since then, it has gone from raining moderately to a blinding downpour.

I sit here. Listen to soothing music and the recurring “The staff are currently assisting other customers. Please hold on. We appreciate you patience.” I think how all this water will seep into the aquifer. The well will fill with fresh water. I will be able to take a shower without fearing it’s my last.

There must be some magic formula that gets a person through the wall of electronic non-answering. I need to learn this skill. Soon. Today would be a good time. Before I got completely postal and rip out someone’s throat with what are left of my teeth.

I don’t believe for a single moment that they really appreciate my patience. But I’m such a cynic.

WAITING ISN’T

Waiting Room – “Good things come to those who wait.” Do you agree? How long is it reasonable to wait for something you really want?


96-Waiting-Worcester

In “Stranger In A Strange Land,” Michael Valentine Smith typically said “Waiting is.” It was one of those zen-like inscrutable comments. Kind of goes well with Bill Belichick’s “It is what it is.”

Both translate loosely to “The moment contains what it contains. Since we can’t do much about it, we might as well shut up and go with the flow.”

Waiting doesn’t get you anything but a seat on the bus or an opportunity to explain something to a bureaucrat when that little numbered slip of paper is finally called.

Nor, in my opinion, do the meek inherit the earth, unless you count a grave as an inheritance. Waiting — a lack of activity or withdrawal from events in progress — may keep you out of trouble, but it won’t get you noticed. The doctor won’t come out and see you on the bench. It won’t make anyone pick up your manuscript and decide to publish it. It won’t get your job done — any job, anywhere. It won’t get you a job.

It’s an expression which sounds good on paper, but what does it mean? If it means “the baby won’t come until it’s fully developed” … okay. If it means you need to let the bread rise and bake before you can eat it? Fine. Both these are active attempts to create something which coincidentally requires some waiting. Not like being put on hold while someone on the other side of the world finally gets around to taking your call … then promptly disconnects you.

The baby didn’t self-create nor did the bread. Nothing gets started by waiting. Waiting is stasis. What you do after you’ve acted, implemented, and are passing through an interval necessary for fruition.

Hey, anyone been up for jury duty, sat in a big room with a lot of other people who don’t want to be there … and then be told you aren’t allowed to talk, read, or leave the room until someone says you can?

75-WaitingHPCR-7

That is waiting at it’s finest. 90% of the time, someone will eventually come to tell you to go home.

I won’t wait on lines in restaurants or at movies. If the grocery is very crowded? I leave. I’ll shop tomorrow.

I wait only for things to bloom, finish developing, be delivered, cool, bake, dry, or land at the airport. Otherwise, there are lots of things to do. I’ll always prefer to do than wait.

UPDATES AND NEW PAGES – WAITING ISN’T

My surgeon bumped me to next Tuesday, so Monday will be the catheterization and Tuesday, surgery. He has a couple of emergency surgeries on Friday and it’s hard to argue the point. If it were my emergency, I’d certainly want my life saved.

waiting for

Is there some sort of symbolism to going in on St. Patrick’s Day? If there is, I’m having trouble finding it, but you’re welcome to draw any inferences you like.

For those who wonder where the menu went, there’s a little square at the top of the site that contains three horizontal line. When you click it, the menu appears (click again, it goes away). Check it out!

I’ve added two new pages: one each for Garry and Rich. I’ve renamed my page to (tada!!) The Marilyn Page. Garry’s page is (you can jump in any time …) The Garry Page and Rich’s page has the shockingly original name, The Rich Paschall Page.

Both Rich and Garry will probably do some editing to make their pages more personal, but in the meantime, at least you can find some basic information about them. I should have done it sooner, but I didn’t think of it. I worked this blog solo for a long time. Now that I’ve got co-editors (and I hope to have one more soon!), I need to rethink a few things.

And I’m thinking. Can’t you smell the smoke?

Blood, Gore, High-Tech and Architecture

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I knew it was going to be one of those days from the moment I got up this morning. There was no guesswork involved. It was all arranged, scheduled.

  1. Drop terriers off for grooming.
  2. Come home, drink coffee.
  3. Drive to Dana-Farber for a day of tests.
  4. Be reassured I’m not dying of cancer.
  5. Drive back home.
  6. Pick up terriers.
  7. Eat!

Those of you who suffer from serious medical problems that don’t go away and can kill you, know what I mean. Regular checkups are high stress events until you (hopefully) get the word that all is well.

75-WaitingHPCR-7

Even though you have no immediate evidence that anything is wrong above and beyond the “usual” which is something like a Chinese menu of interrelated ailments and conditions, you always harbor a not-so-secret belief that something ugly is going on and you just haven’t found it … or it hasn’t yet announced its presence.

There are people — Woody Allen leaps to mind — who feel this way through most of their lives with no evidence that anything is wrong. The good part of this approach is when something ugly actually does show up, they can say “See? I told you! I KNEW it!”

Pessimism saves you from a lot of disappointment. It also keeps you from enjoying the good stuff that happens along the way. I guess for the hard-core pessimists, it’s a small price to pay. Fear of fear, fear of bad news, fear of being too happy then being let down? I can almost (but not really) understand.

Days like this always starts at the lab. This is the scene of my first battle of the day, as I try to convince them to treat my one working vein with gentleness and subtlety. Do not attack it with a spear. Cajole it with a tiny pediatric butterfly needle because if you blow it, finding another live one will consume half the staff of the labs of two hospitals. They got blood, but it took two nurses and a lot of jiggling that needle around to find the magic spot.

“You think maybe it’s deeper?”

“Let’s try going deeper.”

“Ouch”

“Sorry”

“Ouch”

“Hey,, I think I see a flash … ”

“Grab it before it rolls”

“Ouch”

“Blood!”

Phew.

I frequently slice pieces of my fingers off while preparing food. I bleed like mad — blood on counters, floor — blood everywhere. I suggested to the nurses that next time, I bring a kitchen knife and slash myself, like I do at home. There’d be more than enough blood and it would be quicker than all this probing with needles. For some reason, they didn’t think it was such a good idea, but I thought it was brilliant.

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I had brought the little Canon Powershot S100, my Kindle, and more importantly, Garry. They are my defense against losing my mind. This is how I avoid excessive cranial activity, i.e., thinking. Usually I’m in favor of thinking, but under this particular circumstance, nothing good can come of it.

As you can see, I shot a few pictures, some of which turned out rather interestingly.

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Blood having been taken, it was time for the long wait for the CT scan. I was originally supposed to drink some kind of dye solution, but I can’t because I have no stomach and I’m not up for massive nausea today. I’ve gotten to the point where they say you have to do “this” and I say “No, I don’t.” We go back and forth and eventually, they acknowledge that no, I actually don’t have to do it. But they really wish I would.

They were determined to get dye into me one way or the other. After taking a look at my so-called veins, the CT tech sent me to the chemo people who presumably can put an IV into a turnip. The lab had already mutilated my good vein, so it was now a retired vein. Even using the newest, grooviest high-tech equipment, they couldn’t find a live vein. An electronic vein finder is totally cool. It looks like a flashlight, but when they point it at you, you can see all your veins like a blue network under your skin.

If you want to distract me from pain and misery, give me a high-tech toy to play with. I’m like a kid at Christmas. So they let me point the light and together we hunted the elusive usable vein.

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High tech tools notwithstanding, my veins defeated the chemotherapy staff. No small achievement. After a full hour and three nurses poking holes wherever they thought a vein big enough to take an infusion might be hiding, they gave up.

The CT scan was performed sans dye.

Then, off to the oncologist. He looked sympathetic. He always looks sympathetic. Only psychiatrists and oncologists ever perfect that look of total sympathy. I often suspect it covers a deep ennui. Best not look too closely.

Mine also looks sad, perhaps slightly troubled, but deeply sympathetic. Oncologists are always very nice.They speak softly, gently, kindly, not wishing to upset you since they figure (true) that you are upset anyhow. He looks at my labs, tells me everything is absolutely normal. (Yay!)

He looks at the CT scan, which was a big one, chest to hips. He says nothing is there that shouldn’t be. Lungs clear, everything clear. Except my spine. Which even Garry and I can see is so encased in arthritis it doesn’t look like a human spine. No wonder it hurts.

The dogs weren’t finished at the groomer when we arrived at home, so we had to make a separate trip to get them. Worth it. They look so much better and incredibly cute. More importantly, they smell better. They had gotten seriously stinky.

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Eventually, I get my reward: a big family dinner featuring a roast leg of lamb. This doesn’t happen very often. Even when we weren’t quite so poor, it was a rare event, but these days? It’s an “almost never” event.

We, the couple who traveled the world and hung out with stars mostly now hang out with doctors and sit, waiting in sterile rooms. What’s wrong with this picture?

Oh, right. It’s the getting old thing.

Have a nice day, y’all.