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Pushing My Buttons

If you didn’t live in central Pennsylvania in the last forty years, you may not know what a “bank button” is, or more specifically, what a “Penn State Bank Button” is.GettheGoat

It all started in 1972, when Central Counties Bank issued buttons in support of Penn State football with a weekly slogan to match their opponent.  The first button was simple and said, Get the Goat.  (Penn State played Navy, whose mascot is a goat, in case you are not college football savvy.)

The style changed slightly over the years, so that this is what it looked like 10 years later, when Penn State beat Nebraska en route to Joe Paterno’s first national championship.

AmaizeNebraska

Over the years, things slowly changed.  Central Counties Bank became Mellon Bank.  Mellon Bank became Citizen’s Bank.

The slogans evolved from simple two and three word phrases to more creative slogans as Sleepless in Ann Arbor (Michigan 1994, playing off the movie title Sleepless in Seattle,) Driving Mich Crazy (again, Michigan in 1997, playing on Driving Miss Daisy,) and Don’t it Make Your Buckeyes Blue (Ohio State in 1999 off the song with brown eyes blue.)  You can see the entire list of buttons ever made here.

But I’m not here to critique the slogans.

If you don’t know already, I am a Penn State fan, bleeding blue and white.  When we returned to Pennsylvania in 1994 after graduating from my residency program, we were faced with having to choose a bank.

Sure, I could have researched who had the best interest rates.  Or who has the most convenient ATM locations.  Or used any number of other pertinent criteria to choose the right bank for my personal accounts.

In the end, I chose Mellon Bank . . . BECAUSE THEY PRODUCED THE PENN STATE GAME BUTTONS.  I kid you not.

Been a customer ever since, even though the name changed to Citizen’s Bank.  Not a problem for me.  They still make the buttons.

Since 1994, I have always had a good relationship with my bank.  I am a good customer.  They may not pay me as much interest on my savings account as someone else, but come August, I could always count on getting a stash of the season’s game buttons.  It was like Christmas in September!

Someone at the bank–and we have moved since 1994 to another city–and a couple of branch offices have closed over the years–but someone always set aside a quantity of buttons for each game and I would pick them up before the season.  Most years they gave me an entire plastic sleeve (20 some buttons) for each game before the season started.  During the season, I would distribute the appropriate button to friends, relatives, fans, and my co-workers and employees the Wednesday before each game.  I never gave them out early to spoil the surprise, and I never charged anyone for the service.  It was a wonderful system that worked well for all parties involved.

Until this year.

When I called to arrange picking up my buttons, I was told they couldn’t do that any more.  There was a “MEMO.”  From “Corporate.”  Apparently, access to game buttons is now being regulated by the NSA.  It is frowned upon in their establishment.

Now let me tell you how this whole thing works.

The Wednesday before a given game, someone at the bank puts the buttons in a basket on the counter for patrons to take.  The button has the Bank’s name on it, so it is essentially free advertising for the institution.  If you have ever been to a Penn State game, you can see a lot of people wearing these buttons.  A fair number of dedicated fans “collect” the buttons, displaying them in various ways.

1981buttons

 

ButtonCoat

You do not have to be a bank patron to take a button.  They are free.  You can take as many as you want.  They won’t give me the season ahead of time, but I could dump the whole basket in my pocket and walk out if I so chose.  (I haven’t, but I do take a sizable handful because a lot of people want these buttons and have become dependent on me for their fix.  I had to go back to the bank today because I was short and one of our techs in the office didn’t get a button.)

The bank informs me that I can get a complete set by mailing a check for $10.00 to the bank.

Ah, the plot thickens.

That’s a set of one button per game.  Let’s see, 20 sets?  $200?  And I give them away free?  I don’t think so.  They want my business AND they want to charge me for advertising for them!

Company policy.

Is it company policy, then, to alienate a dedicated customer like this?  Now I have to make 12 trips to the bank in 3 months (I usually go once a month, and that is only because my paycheck exceeds the amount that can be deposited by their mobile app, or I wouldn’t even go then.)  As a surgeon, it is not always convenient for me to drop by the bank during the week.  And since I’m still getting handfuls of buttons (which I don’t get paid to distribute) each week, what difference would it make if my bank helped me out a little.  I suppose I should be thankful they don’t limit the buttons to one per customer!

It’s not like a convenience store or grocery, where a free coupon might draw other business while I’m in there shopping.  I’m not likely going to stop by and pick up a button and say, “oooh, that is a great rate on a loan.  Can I get one today?  Or how about giving me two of those Certificates of Deposit over there.”  Forcing me to enter the bank doesn’t generate any more business.  But the advertising might.  Isn’t that why they are still doing it?

I see a lot of people during the day, and have frequently fielded questions about the button.  One of the most famous was Forrest Thump.  Think about it.  It’s a play on Forrest Gump.  Penn State played Indiana State.  Their mascot is a tree–the sycamores.  Trees=forest=Forrest.  Tree falls–thump.  Team falls–thump.  It’s probably a little too complicated for a fan button, but it generated a lot of questions.  And that’s a lot of eyes looking at the Citizen’s Bank logo.

I’d close my accounts and switch banks as a protest if it wasn’t so much trouble.  But I think about doing that every week when I grab my handfuls of buttons which should already be in my desk ready for distribution.  I’m starting to hate my bank.

But alas, I still wear the buttons, because at the heart of it all, I am a Penn State fan.

I want the buttons.

I need the buttons.

I just wish my bank would stop pushing my buttons!

Golf Balls From Heaven

The call came at 11:45 p.m., waking me from sleep.

“I think your dad had a stroke.”

I don’t live far away, but that was a long drive, despite breaking speed limits and running a couple of red lights.

It took all of about two seconds to confirm my mother’s diagnosis.  I called 9-1-1 and the paramedics arrived shortly thereafter.

By the time we got to the ER, he could not move the left side of his body, and his left eye was drooped closed.  His speech was slurred and difficult.

They gave him TPA, a clot busting drug.  Within 15 minutes, he could move his left leg and within half an hour, he could move his left arm.  The facial droop improved, but his speech never quite recovered.

As we left his hospital room Friday night, he gave us a thumbs up gesture.  Perhaps our prayers had been answered and he would recover from this.  He was in the hospital in May with congestive heart failure, but had done well after that and was back golfing and teaching the residents at the hospital.

But at 4 a.m. Saturday morning, he went unresponsive and had trouble breathing.  They put him on a ventilator and took him for a CT scan.  One of the side effects of TPA is that you can hemorrhage at the site of the stroke.  But the scan showed no hemorrhage.  An EEG did not show seizure activity, but was markedly abnormal on the right side where the stroke occurred.  An MRI eventually showed bilateral cerebellar strokes and a new brainstem stroke.  There would be no recovery.

On the day we stopped the ventilator, I brought him a golf ball to hold, because he loved to play golf and I bonded with him playing that game, and a cold bottle of Sam Adams beer for the other hand. My dad was far from an alcoholic, but he really enjoyed a cold beer once in a while—something he hadn’t been able to enjoy since suffering heart failure in April.

He jokingly asked almost every person who came to visit him in the ICU last Friday if they brought him a cold beer. I couldn’t let him leave this world without his cold beer. So I swabbed it on his lips, and we all shared a Sam Adams. I left the golf ball in his hand.

The next morning, I went jogging, as I usually do about 6 days a week. I always leave my house, go down the back road of our development, and then take a trail that connects the cul-de-sac to the local high school parking lot.  I’ve run that trail for 14 years.

The day after he died, there was a golf ball. Lying in the road. Right in front of the trail. There is no golf course nearby. I have never seen a golf ball down there before.

Golfball2

golfball

I think somehow, some way, he left that there for me.

He couldn’t have left me the beer! My wife says that’s because someone else would have taken the beer, so I have to settle for the golf ball.

Sure, it probably fell out of someone’s golf bag–then out of their car.  But I suspect the odds of that happening on THAT day at THAT time after THOSE circumstances are worse than my odds of winning the POWERBALL tonight.

And even if there is a physical explanation, whose to say his spirit didn’t have a hand in making that happen?

It might not have materialized from Heaven, but my dad brought it to me just the same.

I miss you already, dad.

While eating at Friendly’s Restaurant tonight, we noticed an advertisement for a new concoction called a Sour Patch Splash.

SourPatchSplash

My son looked at this and quipped . . .

“What are those things floating around?  It looks like a unicorn pooped in a glass.”

Who Am I?

Apparently there is a regulation that healthcare workers wear an ID tag.  It is not clear whether this is to ensure the safety of the public, remind absent-minded workers who they are, or protect the innocent.

For 23 years, I have performed eye surgery at a number of hospitals and locations.  I have NEVER worn an ID badge at any point while operating.

For one thing, we wear sterile hospital gowns over our scrubs, which would cover any name badge.

For another thing, I do not operate on patients I don’t know or have never met.  I certainly wouldn’t want someone I have never met to operate on me.  All my patients have seen me at least once in my office before any surgery is scheduled.  They KNOW me.  Badge or no badge.

The staff I work with knows me.  I have operated there since 2003.  Sure, there are new people hired now and then.  They get to know me.  No badge required for that little exchange of information.  Some may regret meeting me, but that’s another story altogether.

So while this well-meaning regulation may have some use in certain situations–I fully understand that a patient or family member in a hospital setting might be interested to know who is coming into their room and for what reason–is this person a nurse, a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant, a respiratory therapist, or a janitor, or is it someone who just stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night?  I still think simply asking if you are curious would be sufficient, but no one asked me.

But there is no legitimate reason on God’s good earth, why I should wear an ID badge while operating at an institution that knows me, with people who know me, on patients who know me.  And for crying out loud, they have cataracts!  They couldn’t read the name tag anyway!

slapstupid

But today, the Board of Health (Bom, bom bommm!) came to our tagless institution for the supposed purpose of evaluating and certifying the place.  Basically this means they want to make sure that we are following their rules, even if those rules interfere with basic patient care.  None of this regulatory crap has anything to do with “patient care” anymore than Obamacare has anything to do with patient care (whereas it has everything to do with the government controlling your healthcare for better or worse, but again, that is a story for another day.)

But as I prepared to give patients the gift of sight today, I was accosted by a supervisor at our surgery center who insisted that I wear an ID tag–because the Board of Health (Bom, bom bommm!) is coming.

“Did we check the lights in the old north church?”

One if by land, and two if by sea.

The Board of Health is coming!  The Board of Health is coming!  (Bom, bom bommm!)

IDtag

Seriously?  Are you freaking kidding me?

And this serves what purpose in the treatment of my patients today????

The healthcare system in this country is sinking, and apparently the Board of Health is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I was not the only doctor wearing these make shift labels today–we all were.  Misery stupidity loves company.  None of us routinely wear ID badges. WE DON’T NEED THEM.  Doesn’t improve patient care.  And what’s to keep some criminal on the street from stealing a pair of scrubs and using a Sharpie pen to make his/her own name tag?

BTW–the Penn State badge is there because I am not allowed to wear my PSU scrubs anymore–only hospital issue uniforms.  Another brilliant regulation dreamed up by someone who doesn’t have a real job, doesn’t do my job, but knows they can do my job better, and has to justify their existence on this planet by enforcing said regulation.  The PSU badge does improve patient care–it makes me a happy doctor to wear it, and happy surgeons are BETTER surgeons.  Trust me on that one.  (Really, would you want someone unhappy to be putting sharp objects in your EYE!)

At least after I was done pounding my head against a wall in frustration, I could look down and remember who I was!

 

Education Success?

I had the opportunity, in the course of answering a math-related question for my daughter, to see her Probability and Statistics textbook.

Success2

Is this what we are teaching our young people?

Success is “a person being murdered?!”

Is this a new educational directive?

No body left behind?

Chinese Fail

A patient of mine brought me a Penn State lanyard, knowing that I am somewhat of a Nittany Lion Fan.

lanyard

But wait.  Let’s look at this a little closer . . .

chian

Made in CHIAN?

Where the hell is Chian?

Oh, here it is!

ChianMap

 

I guess they don’t type Engrish very good in Chian!

I don’t know which is worse . . . that Penn State lanyards are made in China, or that the quality control is so poor that they can’t even spell their own country’s name?  Of course, I am assuming that the label wasn’t made in the USA!

Come on!  You had ONE JOB to do, Mr. Sum Ting Wong.  One job!

OneJob

 

Wet Dreams

A long time ago (circa 1992), in a state far, far away (well, Ohio actually) I crossed the line.

Any man with opposable thumbs and a capacity for abstract thinking knows that line.  It is the line between a weekend warrior and a professional, be it landscaping, electrical wiring, painting, or building a space shuttle.

In 1992, on a dark and stormy night, when my wife was away, I thought I could be a plumber.  Crossed that line; here’s my sign.

ProfessionalPlumbing

It was a simple problem, actually.  A clogged sink drain on the second floor that would not respond to Liquid Plumber.

I was not going into this unprepared.  I was armed and dangerous.  (I have arms, and I am certainly a danger to myself and apparently to pipes as well.)  In preparation, I went to the local hardware supply store to find the proper tools and ammunition.

I wandered aimlessly through the aisles of plumbing supplies for perhaps minutes—maybe hours—and I might have come back on other occasions as well.  Eventually, I came to a realization:  I did not know what I was looking for.

I stared at the array of pipes, valves, fittings, soldering guns and power tools, many of which were not designed specifically for plumbing tasks but which I thought I could adapt suitably given the correct circumstances and enough beer.

Eventually, a salesman tried to help me.  After I explained my problem, he asked, “Have you thought about a plumber?  You’ve been in here all day looking for something, and you still haven’t found it.  Worse yet, this isn’t even the plumbing section.  These are auto parts.”

Eventually, I left the store with a “snake” to unclog my drain.  He told me how to use it.  A little knowledge, though, can be a dangerous thing.

To make this long story a bit shorter, I couldn’t get the snake to work, even when attached to an electric drill.  Don’t ask.  Just keep on reading and don’t try to get a mental picture of that.  Then I thought I could unscrew the “J” fitting under the sink without a wrench.  Surely, a wood clamp would do the trick.  It did not.  But it did break the hot water pipe.  It didn’t take me long to discover it was the hot water pipe as I tried to plug the gushing hole with my finger.  By the time I raced downstairs with my scalded hand, heading to the basement where the water heater was located–as if I would be able to figure out what to do once I got there–the water had seeped through the ceiling light  into our kitchen.  I hit the wet linoleum floor at full steam.  I also hit a cabinet, I think.  My ear was bleeding.  I was dazed.

After the fact, I reviewed what had happened and made these conclusions:

(1) It is nearly impossible to retrieve twisted coat hangers out of a drain.

(2) Hardware store owners will sell you anything just to get you out of their store.

(3) Do not attach a drain snake to an electric drill.  (I should also note that it is not a good idea to operate electric equipment in a sink plugged with water.  Just trust me on that one.)

(4) If it looks like you should probably use a wrench, then use a wrench (although with a little practice and patience, I think you could get a clamp to work.)

(5) If you have to break a pipe, make sure it carries cold water.

(6) If there is water leaking through a light in your house, don’t turn it on.

(7) If you have to resort to abstract  thinking, or you are looking for plumbing tools in the auto parts section,  it’s likely best to just call a plumber.

YOU WOULD THINK I WOULD HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING FROM THAT DRAINING EXPERIENCE!

Au contraire!  (French for “I am an idiot.”)

It is now 2014 and I have a clogged drain that won’t respond to Liquid Plumber.

I look at the pipes under the sink, and I think to myself, “I can do this.”  (I am an idiot, hear me roar.  In pain.)

I cross the line once again.

I have a wrench this time.  I didn’t need it, though, since the “j” tube has convenient connections that unscrew by hand.

Water dripping!

I run and get a pan.  It’s a baking sheet of some sort, but my wife won’t know.  I only do plumbing when she’s out of the house.

Too much water!

I need a bigger pan!  Maybe a bucket.  Can’t get the bucket in, but a plastic container works fine.

The drain is indeed clogged and I am able to clean it out and restore flow.  Listen to that heavenly fanfare.

Now all I have to do is empty the pan and the plastic container . . .

. . . which I had to tilt sideways to get them into the sink cabinet . . .

[bleep]

It’s like some kind of macabre Chinese water torture puzzle!

Recreation of Plumbing Problem--do not try this at home.  or at work.

Recreation of Plumbing Problem–do not try this at home. or at work.

Sink_2

I was successful at removing the container and cookie sheet with a series of maneuvers–dumping water out of the plastic container into the pan, and then tipping the pan on an angle to allow water to drain out the door opening into another pan.

I managed to fix the clog without a plumber or a trip to the emergency room.

Chalk this one up as a success!

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