I may not be Northern California’s answer to Ann Landers, but I think I provide my share of heartfelt and carefully thought out advice, gently telling readers to shaddup, get a life and never, ever mix gin and malt liquor during the dark of the moon.
Unfortunately, I seldom follow my own advice and my cavalier attitude toward my own quite reasonable rules for living frequently gets me into a bit of a sticky wicket.
How many times have I advised readers to never even consider going back to work immediately after dental surgery? How many times have I sagely pointed out that dental surgery usually leaves you numb, goofy and unable to communicate on even the most primitive of levels?
And how many times have I told myself, moments after leaving the dentist’s chair, that I ought to be able to slip back into work for a few minutes without mishap?
Alas, I should listen to myself sometimes.
Just last week my dentist was giving me the usual cautions after stomping around in my mouth for two hours – something about taking my painkillers and not moving.
But, hey, I thought, if I don’t drive or have to talk to anybody, I should be able to prop myself up at my desk for a short time and do some quality journalism before calling it a day.
Having gobbled a handful of prescription painkillers, I’d been floundering at my desk for only a few minutes when my unshaven, ham-fisted city editor demanded to know where I’d gotten attendance figures for an adult education story I’d written.
“From 400 to 12,000 students in five years?! Whadda they doing, givin’ away free toasters? C’mon, c’mon…” she growled.
“Goomph – ferhshu pthpour, loffguh. Caw-caw,” I responded.
“You are so weird,” she muttered.
There was, of course, only one way to remedy the situation – call the Vacaville Unified School District and ask for the correct figures.
No easy task, amigos. Let’s face it, obtaining information from any public agency in California on a Friday afternoon is kind of like spitting into the wind – it doesn’t get a helluva lot accomplished, particularly if you sound something like a crippled helicopter slamming into a hog farm.
And this is where I have to hand out kudos to the half dozen courageous school district administrative employees with whom I spoke.
Although I doubt that even I would have talked to me that afternoon, they listened patiently and somehow translated “Gurff thrffsnar thuh tippfo soussed freph, reepf a gorra treef ahchuff meh?” into “I think we may have a typographical error in the figure we have for your current adult school enrollment and I wonder if you could possibly check it for me?”
Not only did they translate, but the school district folks patiently pointed out to the crazy person with the mouthful of marbles that, yes, his figure were off by about 11,000.
I later told a colleague how helpful the school district personnel had been, but she simply shook her head.
“Helpful? I heard that conversation, pal, and if you ask me, they weren’t being helpful, they were terrified. You sounded like a really nasty combination of Humphrey Bogart and Cindy Brady,” she asserted.
Like I said, never even think about going into work after dental surgery. Really..
Originally published March 31, 2002