Tuesday, April 13, 2010


And in most ways I'm no different than I was before the surgery.

Except the occasional lapses in my right hand motor skills that caused me to see a doc and get diagnosed with a growth in my brain is gone.

And I still have no compulsion or even inclination to make lists in my head or on the computer, a compulsion I've had ever since I was a kid until the operation.

And I still find Meryl Streep attractive, which I didn't before the operation.

And some other people I found either attractive before the operation or unattractive have reversed.

And my taste in food has changed too somewhat, oddly, or interestingly.

And I still have trouble with typing on the computer in ways I didn't before the operation, though writing by hand has become more consistent though also more illegible (I wrote the first poem I've written since the operation the other night by hand and couldn't read some of my writing when I read it later).

And I still forget things and have trouble sometimes figuring things out. This a lot of people do so it doesn't seem like a big deal to some. It isn't to me in terms of my feeling badly about any of it. I view it all as a writer, finding it compelling and engaging but not bad or sad at all.

But like the incident I wrote about a few posts back with the vending machine at that skate park. Picture standing in front of a large vending machine, taller than you. You look through the glass case and see rows of drinks in plastic bottles. Each row goes to the back of the machine and is tilted down so that the bottle in front will fall when you press the buttons for that row. They start at the top with A1 A2 etc. and go down to let's say F or G etc.

To the left and flush with this vending machine is another vending machine of an entirely different kind. No glass case to peer into, a curved metal front brightly colored (predominantly a vibrant red) advertising RED BULL. You notice the slot to put bills into to the right of the glass in the first vending machine, the one you're standing in front of. Under the slot there's a little LED lit screen with a message rolling repeatedly by saying something like "PUSH BUTTONS FOR DRINK" or a similarly simple instruction.

The drink you want is right in front of you, bottled water. There are four rows in fact of bottled water. So you look again at the slot to your right for this machine, but the lit up ticker tape style message running through the little screen under it confuses you, while to your left, in the bright red curved machine there's a slot for bills that simply says "$2.50" so you open your wallet.

There you see only two singles but you put them in the slot anyway until it says "$.50" and then you think, "Why did I do that when I knew two dollars wasn't going to be enough." You search your change pocket but there's nothing there. You see that the next smallest bill you have is a five and think about going to the desk and asking for change but somehow that feels like giving in to failure so instead you take out the five and add it to the seven.

Now you move your hand to the right, to the machine you've been standing in front of with the bottled water and other drinks visible behind the glass and you press the buttons for "B1" but of course nothing happens. You press it again, still nothing. You try hitting the coin return button but that doesn't do anything either. Finally, you go for help.

The young manager returns with you with a key that doesn't work so he pushes a button for red bull and when the can drops he pulls it out and hands it to you and then retrieves the the four and a half dollars in quarters that is your change. But you tell him, that's not what you were trying to get, you want the bottled water in, you suddenly realize how obvious it is, this other vending machine you're standing in front of again.

You go back with him and he gives you your seven dollars and you return to the original machine and finally read the instructions and push the buttons for "B1" and the little screen beneath the slot says "$1.50" and you put in two singles and get two quarters in change and your bottled water. But when you open the water and begin to drink you realize it smells and tastes like perfume, so you look at the label and it's "wildberry" flavored water with different colored berries very obvious on it.

You go back to the machine and look through the glass and see that the next three rows of bottled water—B2, B3 and B4—all contain bottles with plain labels on them, no pictures of colorful berries and no colorful wording that declares "wildberry flavored" etc. You realize you never looked at the label just the colorlessness of the liquid inside the bottle and it's familiar water bottle shape etc.

Now, this can happen to anyone, certainly, but it never happened to me before the brain surgery. I'm someone who generally tries to make sure his next step in any public situation is not going to make him look like a klutz. A fool is fine, an oddball an eccentric and crank a free spirit a guy who doesn't give a damn etc.—that's all okay. But I rarely let myself get into a situation where I can't at least appear cool, even if it's only an illusion, in whatever context I'm in. That's ingrained.

I would never, before the operation, even consider putting money in any slot without figuring ahead of time what the next step needs to be. In this situation, I actually noted the proper slot for the money and then ignored it! That's the unusual brain misfiring that occurs since the op, though more and more rarely as time goes by. I actually realized which was the right money slot for the machine that held what I wanted and then ignored that information and deliberately put money I knew wouldn't be enough into a slot I also knew somewhere in my brain was for the wrong machine!

That kind of mind trick happened constantly in the first weeks and months after the surgery. I would realize something in my head but couldn't execute what my brain knew. Sometimes just slowing down helps, though in this instant it didn't. The whole experience took quite a while to act out. But the good news is, like I said, that's becoming the rare occurrence rather than the rule and for the most part I'm functioning as "normally" as I ever do.

More will be revealed.


-K- said...

For what it's worth, the other day I swiped my parking validation ticket thru the handheld ATM scanner.

The receptionist went," Uh, sir?...No."

I felt like Mr. Magoo.

Jamie Rose said...

I cut up a perfectly good credit card the other day because for some reason I decided it was expired.

But I get your point about the soft drink machines. And the fact that your put your money in the Red Bull machine and then expected to get a drink out of the other machine clearly shows that there is something off.

But want I really want to know is, do you still find me attractive?


Elisabeth said...

Despite all these tiny aberrations, I'm the first to say you're 'normal' now, Michael. And I should know, I've been following you blog post surgery assiduously.

Lally said...

K, that was funny. Rose, Hubba hubba. Elisabeth, you should seen me before.