utilware.com - art, technology, productivity, language
homegetting sh-t donetoo damn tallabout/now

Slow-motion smackdown.

One summer when the boys were little, my wife planned out a Route 66 vacation for the two of us. We met her parents in Las Vegas, where we handed the boys over to them for safekeeping, and then we rented a convertible PT Cruiser and set out on the open road.

As with pretty much any good Route 66 trip, we quickly got into the flow of things: long, open stretches of highway punctuated by kitschy roadside attractions and "Stop stop stop! I want to take a picture" moments. Our travels eventually took us to the Grand Canyon and onwards to a tony little resort in the outskirts of Phoenix. We drove in 116º heat with the top down and the air conditioning blasting, we had big meals and wine for dinner, and we generally just ran ourselves ragged while having fun.

So when I ended up feeling worn out towards the end of our journey, I chalked it up to living the good life for just a little too long. I started cutting back on wine at dinner, started passing up steak for the chicken, or – shocker! – ordered just a salad and a glass of water.

Even when we got back home, I still felt out of it. But still, I assumed that it was just the tail end of an extravagant adventure.

(As an aside, around this time my wife was a part-time professor, teaching evening classes. The building where she taught was a massive concrete-and-rebar monolith, meaning that her cellphone had no signal whenever she was at school.)

One evening, about a week after we got back to town, my wife left to go teach her evening class. I made a simple chicken dinner and sat down with the boys to eat, but even chicken felt like ‘too much' for my body, so I took a few bites from a fresh California roll from earlier in the day.

Suddenly, it felt like someone had stabbed me in the mid-section with a knife. My back stiffened and my eyes widened. The boys noticed. Stab, again. And again. I couldn't help myself and ended up slow-falling to the floor, doubled up in fetal position. Stab, again. I told the boys that daddy was going to be ok, but that it just hurt all of a sudden. I made my way to the couch, and laid down. Stab, again. Stab stab.

I tried calling my wife, but her phone went straight to voicemail. I didn't leave a message, not wanting to worry her. Eventually, the pain subsided enough that I could crawl to the phone to ask our neighbor to come over and watch the boys.

By the time he got to our house, I was feeling a bit better. However, I decided I should still get myself checked out, so I drove to the emergency room. Once I was admitted, I finally reached my wife, told her where I was, and told her not to worry because ‘everything would be fine and I would be home shortly.'

However, that's not how it turned out. Sometime around 2 am the ultrasound technician finally made it in and waved her magic wand in the general direction of my pain. Sure enough, she declared, it was gallstones.

Drawing of the gastric system, with callouts indicating ‘Evolutionary fail of a gallbladder’, ‘Stupid duct’, ‘Squishy poo thing’, ‘Bicycle seat’, and ‘Yellow tube with varicose veins’.

Two days later, I underwent surgery to remove my gall bladder. The surgeon was younger than me, which made me (briefly) consider that at that point in our respective times on this planet, she had learned how to open a human being, rummage around, fix them, and return them to the street to live a full and productive life ... while I had learned how to push buttons on a laptop so companies could sell more crap.

Months later, I was talking with my wife about the wall of pain that I felt when my gallbladder started to fail. She countered that childbirth was ‘way worse', and that was that.

But later that year we went to a party and I got to chatting with the host's sister. She told me that she had both given birth and had her gallbladder fail. I asked which was more painful. Her reply? "Oh, the gallbladder. Most definitely."

I probably should have kept that little data point to myself, rather than introducing it into casual conversation at home a few days later.


» See what else there is is on útilware.com