Ding Dong

I got a doorbell camera. There have been unintended consequences.

When I had it installed a few months ago I didn’t know about the alert feature that indicates when there’s motion near the door and records it. There had been some car break-ins and package thefts in my neighborhood, so I set the detection range from my car in the parking lot to my front door. This is what the camera has detected ninety-five percent of the time:

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Nothing. Nada. Not a thing.

The other five percent of the time it has detected the routine comings and goings of my neighbors. This has resulted in making me what my son calls “that nosy old woman”. I know what time everyone leaves in the morning and what time they come back. I know which people are frequent Amazon customers and who still gets old school newspapers. I know what time they walk their dogs and who doesn’t pick up the doo. If the alert chimes at an irregular time during the day I run to the window to see who’s up to what. Worst of all, I judge everybody. I’ve come up with names for them like, Mr. Back and Forth, The Phantom, Weird Guy, Crooked Parking Grandma…

Anyway, it wasn’t just the package thefts and car break-ins that prompted me to get the camera. I got it because I felt vulnerable. I developed insomnia from worrying that someone was going to break into my house in the middle of the night. I think that as I’ve gotten older, I feel I can’t defend myself the way I once could. It didn’t help that racoons were setting off the motion detector on my back slider every few nights. The point is that it was all in my head. I knew it was the racoons lighting up the deck at 3am but I couldn’t shake the fear. I imagined that someone was going to get in and something terrible was going to happen to me. What my doorbell camera has shown me is that nothing ever happens in my neighborhood and that my neighbors are just plain folks. It has shown me that the problem is internal not external. Security measures are a good thing, anxiety isn’t. My therapist daughter says that I need to think about that and for God’s sake stop watching people. I think that from now on I’ll only turn the alert on at night.

Stress Test

I told people I was having a simple medical procedure today. I was vague for a couple of reasons. If I’d called it a test I’d be risking being asked for specifics. Procedure sounds serious and personal, requiring a bit of indelicacy to press for details. Details were the last thing I wanted to talk about. This isn’t the kind of test I had as a young woman. Those were often tied to issues of sexuality and/or fertility. This is a different time and a different test. I’m uncomfortably close to the age where I’ll mark life passages by my medical record.

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As I sit here in the waiting room, I listen to the nurse give each patient the same information as we check in at fifteen-minute intervals. I have enough time before the test to wonder what health care would look like if our system wasn’t for profit. I understand that because of the costs of resources there would always be expenses involved. But what would it look like in a Utopian culture? Would nurses hold our hands? Would there be space for empathy by the practitioners and dignity for the patients? I think about this as a nurse younger than I am calls me “dear” while peering at a monitor. She asks me the same questions their office has asked me four times since they scheduled this appointment. I realize I’m in a bad mood. It’s because I’m about to be charged my entire insurance deductible for the privilege of having someone look up my butt.

Hospital Supplies

I am now awake from the anesthesia. Thirty minutes of blessed unconsciousness. The older woman to my left wobbles as she struggles to get dressed behind a curtain. I’m glad I brought flip-flops to replace my heels for the walk out. The African-American man to my right laughs loudly like a comedian on stage, while recounting an improbable anesthesia dream about being on Leave It to Beaver. Later, he speaks softly and tenderly to his wife behind his curtain. Each of us here in the recovery room attempts in our own way to deal with the reality of this stressful test. We use these thin, narrow curtains as shields to hide our vulnerability.  Right now, having by backside exposed and vulnerable seems like a metaphor for my life in 2018 America.