Thursday, August 20, 2009

Now that's what I call service

I had planned to meet a friend in Los Feliz on Tuesday night so we could walk together up the hill to the Greek Theatre for the Elvis Costello show.

The Greek is just a short hike from the the intersection of Vermont Avenue and Los Feliz Boulevard, but my buddy told me to make sure I was well hydrated. After parking my car on a side street off Vermont, I sent a text message to him to let him know I was going to sit in my car long enough to slam a bottle of water and a liquid Extra-Strength Tylenol chaser into my belly before meeting him on the corner.

I poured the Tylenol into the measuring cup and placed it on the dashboard, and unscrewed the bottled water. Then I opened a few buttons of my shirt and pulled out the G-tube, drawing some curiosity from a woman walking her dog on the sidewalk.

The dog yipped a few times and the woman looked at me funny. I can't imagine what she thought but a man feeding himself with a G-tube may not be the element that she wanted to see in her neighborhood. But hey, I wasn't the one pooping on the sidewalk.

The woman hurriedly moved on —possibly to ring Chief William Bratton's doorbell— and I starting digging around in my backpack for my syringe so I could get the fluids down the tube and meet my buddy.

In my backpack, I found loose change, a few unpaid bills and a packet of mayonnaise from 2008, but no syringe. I left it behind on my desk at the office.

Driving back to the office or going home to get another syringe wasn't a practical option —both destinations were at least 10 miles away and I didn't want to miss Elvis' opening act. Then I remembered that there was a service station with a small market at the corner of Vermont and Los Feliz.

Surely the service station would sell me a plastic funnel that I could use to pour my fluids into my belly, I thought.

I scampered up the hill toward the service station. After spotting my friend sitting in the grass waiting for me across Los Feliz, I shot a text to him to let him know that I needed a few more minutes.

I walked into the service station market and scoped the shelves for a funnel. There was a rack of motor oil, but no funnels to use for pouring it.

I opened my note pad and drew a sketch of a funnel. Below the drawing, I wrote "You sell these things here?" and handed the note pad to the attendant behind the counter.

He stared at my drawing, took a glance at me, then looked again at the sketch. Then a broad smile came to the attendant's face.

He took an empty Marlboro carton and tore it in half. Then he shaped the cardboard into a cone, and punched a few staples into it to hold it together.

I could tell just by looking at it that the tip of the cone wouldn't fit into my G-tube. Even if it had, the home health nurse who told me to use my G-tube only in sterile environments would be appalled if she knew I would even consider contaminating my tube with cardboard that was laying around on a service-station counter. But I was certainly impressed by the attendant's ingenuity, and I hope you are, too.

I accepted the makeshift syringe, gave the attendant a buoyant thumbs up and walked out the door.

If he had known that I needed it to shoot fluids into my belly, I bet he would have called on Chief Bratton, too.

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