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Thursday, June 18, 2009

The truth about scallywags

Coffee had always been one of Ramona’s dearest friends. It had gotten her through many a life crisis, and it helped her to work hard and be more productive.

But Ramona also knew that coffee had become the death of her. She wasn’t sleeping well, and no matter how hard she tried to be diligent about her work and her increasing workload at The Office, she knew her company was a sinking boat and that all she could do was bale out water over and over again. Sure, there were different strategies, so the buckets were thankfully a different color each time, but in the end, she know none of it would matter and that she had to start looking at her life differently. All that coffee she drank just to stay aboard had taken it’s toll healthwise. So she wasn’t surprised on the day her doctor said. “Ramona, you need to get off the coffee.”

Ramona cried, just literally fell apart, right there on the little crinkly paper sheets while wearing her ridiculous looking paper gown.

There’s a reason you’re having heart palpitations and anxiety, her doc said. It’s all that caffeine. Why do you drink so much?”

“Because I think too much,” she says, “and I have to stay awake to finish all the stuff I gotta do. It’s not like life used to be, where at 5 p.m., you just go home and call it a day. And f I lose this job, there’s not another around the corner waiting. The manager down at my neighborhood Quik Stop advertised a clerk job and 200 people applied. So now, even though I’ve worked hard all my life, I’m not sure I could even get a job at my neighborhood Quik Stop, because I’d have to compete with 200 people, and I have bills to pay.”

“Tell me about it,” the doctor says. “I basically work for your insurance company, and as you may know by now, they’re not that generous.”

“Yeah, I do know.”

“Look,” the doc says, “You can still have a cup or two of coffee on weekends, but you gotta seriously cut back. I know your having anxiety about issues beyond your control, but here are medications that can help take the edge off, so you can function, just while you are going through this period. Why don’t we give that a shot and we’ll see ya back here in a few months to discuss the results.”

“I don’t know,” Ramona says. “I hate pills.”

“Alright, well, you could just continue self-medicating with those giant coffees and we would talk further after you keel over at their counter.”

Ramona laughed, but only because she could imagine that actually happening, that somehow it would all unravel down at the coffee shop one day. She accepted some samples of the magical pills and began the drive back to office hell. Along the way, she called her big brother, who knew better than to ever expect a call from his little sister in the middle of the workday.

“What the heck ya doing, scallywag?” he says.

“Did you seriously just call me a scallywag, you eejit?”

“Yeah, I did, he says laughing. “That’s what mom used to call ya … So why ya calling me, scallywag??”

“Cause I just got out of the docs and they gave me anti-depressants.”

“About damn time someone gave you some meds,” he said, laughing.

“Yeah, I know, but I’m not sure I wanna take them,” Ramona said.

“Well,” he says. “Do ya need em? I mean what did they say when they gave em to ya?”

“They said no more coffee, and then when I cried, they said I could have it on weekends. Only.”

Wally laughed really hard at that, but Ramona explained that even though the withdrawals might kill her, she was kinda sorta OK with the coffee thing, since having it every day made it feel not so special anyway, like something she needed rather than just wanted. She was afraid, she told Wally, that the coffee was becoming less of a treat and more of a crutch.

Whadda ya need a crutch for?” Wally asked. “Can ya not walk?”

“Of course I can walk,” Ramona replied.

“So what’s the problem?”

“The problem,” she said through her tears, “is that I don’t know where to go.”

“Ah, I get it. But those pills will help you to figure all that out, right?” he asked. “They must be those ones they advertise on TV, he says, where at first people are holding their head in their hands all slumped over with the weight of the world on their shoulders and then they take the pills and suddenly they’re jumping through the air on a spring day catching Frisbees and throwing their heads back and laughing … while a summer breeze rustles the leaves of a big oak tree and people drink lemonade on front porches. Did they give ya that pill? Huh? Huh? Because I want some of those. I wanna catch Frisbees and drink lemonade too.”

Ramona laughed again, while crying. “Yeah, I think that’s the one,” she says. “I got a buncha samples right here, undoubtedly delivered to my doc’s office by a pharmaceutical rep who took the entire staff to lunch at whatever play place they demanded to be taken to.”

“Probably threw in a big old wide screen TV, too,” Wally said. “So you gonna take the pills?” he asks. “Start catching Frisbees?.”

“Whatever,” Ramona said. “I don’t really care about Frisbee. “I’m just tired of feeling like I’m ready to fall apart.”

“Yeah, you know what really sucks about feeling that way?” he asked. “That you have to eventually do something about it in order to stop feeling that way. But now that they have these pills, you don’t really have to do anything,” he says laughing. “That’s great! You could probably, in fact, go through the rest of your life without ever having to make decisions. That really will free you up, for Frisbee and lemonade and stuff. Maybe this whole thing is a blessing in disguise because once you feel the magic of these pills you could probably just quit your job and devote your life to something meaningful. You could become a pharmaceutical rep. … distributing pills and Frisbees to all who need them, and taking people to lunch … not a bad job if ya think about it. Hey, could you send me some pencils and clip boards and some of that other free stuff you guys always get? …. My little sister, a pharmaceutical rep ….. Wouldn’t mom and dad be proud? Maybe they’ll send you to one of those seminars or continuing education things they organize for doctors in Hawaii, or wherever they hold those things. That’s probably where your doctor learned about these pills. And if she says you should take them, you definitely should, ‘cause she wouldn’t prescribe pills you didn’t need. Just do what she tells ya.”

“Hey, did you take the first pill yet?”


Whatcha waiting for?”

“OK, I’m not taking the damn things,” she said rolling her eyes. “I’m just going to continue instead to feel like total and complete crap. Isn’t that what you’re suggesting I do?”

“Exactly, Wally said. “But remember that every time you cry or get angry or feel frustrated or uncomfortable ... it’s just a growing pain … If you continue to do nothing about the pain, it will become unbearable and you will eventually be forced to do something … that’s how life works. All the unpleasant things that you don’t want to feel right now, are also the very things that bring you closer to making a needed change.

“You are not broken. Frustration and despair are like the indicator lights on your car … they tell you when something is wrong and needs to be fixed. Your indicators are working fine. Maybe you don’t know how to fix everything yet …. But taking pills to mask your feelings is like seeing your check engine light come on and putting black tape over it so you can forget you’re having a problem.”

“By the way, is your engine light still on? Did you get that timing belt yet?” Wally asked.

“No, you said to do it by 70,000 miles,” Ramona replied.

“I did, but here’s a little secret,” Wally revealed. “You don’t have to wait until things break down completely to fix them …. I know you don’t have time to deal with this stuff …. But if you do it now, it will save you lots of time you don’t have later …. It’s kinda like life that way … you can rush through all your stuff till 3 a.m. every morning and keep doing that till ya keel over or your can save yourself from eventual breakdown by taking the time you need right now to think and listen to the voice deep inside you …. The one that goes, what the hell are ya doing, ya little scallywag? are ya in there somewhere?"

Ramona is at the Dunkin Donuts at 1579 S. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale ... on a shelf in the ladies room .... unraveling.