…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

the third rail

My driving privileges have been revoked. Again.

They were revoked last year as well, after my first blackout (a.k.a. “the precipitating event”), though only for a few days. “Standard protocol,” my neurologist said. Doctors are required to instruct patients not to drive and to report them to the DMV after any unexplained loss of consciousness—pending diagnosis. Happily an EEG was scheduled lickety-split and I received my results the following day, after which I was free to drive all the way to China if I so chose. Sure, the loss of consciousness remained unexplained, but the EEG pronounced my brain sound, so…

I went almost a year without another loss of consciousness, then I had a minor lapse in February. No big whoop. I was hungry, I thought, and tired. Then one morning a few weeks ago I entered a kind of catatonic state, eyes wide open, muscles tensed—or so I'm told. My partner reported that I seemed to startle awake then lapse back to my lights-on-nobody-home status. I remember dreaming, but I don’t know what about, nor do I recall coming to at any time during the episode. I fell asleep afterward and slept hard for hours; when I awoke I felt as heavy as I’ve ever felt, as though I were sewn to the mattress.

My GP thought this last episode sounded more seizure-like than the blackouts I’d previously described to him, prompting him to think the other episodes were also seizures. So off I was sent to the neurologist, another one this time. My GP thought I was entitled to a fresh perspective after having spent the better part of last year visiting with a neurologist who did his level best to convince me I’m a head case.

I saw a lovely doctor last Wednesday who put me through the neurological paces then said she was referring me for a 24-hour EEG.

The first EEG I had was the regular snapshot variety, with only about 30 minutes of monitoring. They tried to provoke my brain into doing loopy things by making me stay awake for 30 hours prior to my appointment, but, resentful at having its integrity called into question, my despotic encephalon saw right through their tricks and held steady, bitterly asserting its soundness.

This time they’ll check me into the hospital and get a 24-hour reading, which I at first took to mean that I would be hooked up for 24 hours then discharged, but when I Googled “24-hour EEG” I was alarmed to discover that the “24-hour” part merely connotes continuous monitoring, with average hospital stays in the three-day zone. Oh. Sounds like something I’ll want to clarify when we set up my appointment.

I haven’t been scheduled yet, and if I don’t hear from someone soon, I’ll start agitating, ’cause, you know, I can’t drive in the meantime, which is inconvenient for a person with a full-time job and such, especially in Los Angeles. You’ll remember Dale Bozzio singing “Nobody walks in L.A.” That’s not strictly true. Mentally ill homeless folks—thank you, Ronald Reagan—they walk in L.A. As do recent immigrants, seniors whose declining eyesight or mental faculties have triggered their delicensure, truant gang-kids-in-training, repeat DUI offenders, and I: We all walk in L.A. Later in the song the lyric becomes “Only a nobody walks in L.A.,” and we’re all pretty much nobodies, my aforementioned pedestrian friends and I, at least through the eyes of those who would oppositionally define themselves as somebodies.

I’ve been taking advantage of L.A.’s limited subway system and its “improving” bus system. I’ve also been taking advantage of my partner, whose shuttle services are timely, friendly, and free. As I waited for her on Wednesday night to pick me up at the Universal City subway station a coworker came up behind me. “I didn’t know you rode the train to work,” he said. “I don’t normally,” I said, “but my driving privileges have been temporarily revoked.” He grinned and asked conspiratorially, “Wow, what’d ya do?”

While riding public transportation has its advantages—I’m catching up on unread back issues of The New Yorker and arriving at work in a state that’s downright Zen compared to the defensive stance required of morning commuters—its disadvantages are many and loud. A day or two of bus riding supplies colorful stories with which to entertain my partner, “The Moaning Man” and “The California Hater” being two recent favorites. But the genres wear thin, so a story about a man who from the origin of the subway line to my stop relentlessly shout-performs an extended profanity-laced monologue about, say, his dislike of police officers, well, it just seems tiredly derivative of my California-hater story.

So I’m hoping for an end to my public-transportation adventure before my stories become stale, and I know that my partner would appreciate same. I mean, she loves me and means it, but a tiny part of her must fear that I can collect only so many anecdotes about Metro Rail lunatics before my stories resemble the very rants I lampoon. And that fear is prudent. Crazed Metro passengers are not born—they are made.


Blogger sporksforall said...

I like the accordion orange buses you ride. I will continue to advocate the use of your ipod for sanity.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Slangred said...

Your list so far:
"The Moaning Man"
"The California Hater"

My list so far:
"Jesus (Ed)"
"Pee Lady"
"The Walrus"
"Fake British Accent"
"Baby Names Guy"
"Man with one eye and one empty socket whose one eye doesn't see well, and who has about 90% hearing loss, and whose breath smells as if he is rotting from the inside out"--but if the rotting is gangrene, we're in luck!

Hmmm, scout, your description of bus-riding humanity is starting to sound awfully familiar.

4:04 PM  
Blogger alice, uptown said...


Before you sign yourself into the hospital, make a list of questions and get them ALL answered by your doctor beforehand. I say this having been told I would be hospitalized for 24 hours worth of drugs, then sent on my merry post-migraine way. Five days later, I finally figured out that if you tell the interns what they want to hear, that is your get-out-of-hospital card.

Granted I was doped to the gills, and I don't know why my answers were considered trustworthy. Then again, I don't think very hightly of neurologists, all 27 years worth.

As for the public transit issue, here in Wonderland (Manhattan), everyone takes various forms of public transit -- the downtime to read is really a plus, and if you use earplugs, you might not hear so many of the crazed passengers. Or, you might become one, enough so that everyone else leaves you alone. That has been my strategy for 25 years, and I'm sticking with it.

Wearing oven mitts on the subway in winter to cover my hand splints was the ultimate entry in my getting space-to-spare seat race. Did I care who thought I was crazy? Nah...I was too busy laughing at myself.

4:26 PM  
Blogger bryduck said...

Geeze, I would have thought passing out while driving wouldn't cause any restrictions at all in your legal ability to drive--heck, most of the people out there are driving while unconscious anyway. I wish I were joking . . .

5:56 PM  

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