A couple of days after Christmas one year, my dad made a beach-head landing in my bedroom wearing his classic red-and-black plaid wool bathrobe, no shoes and carrying a domino. He seemed vexed.
“If I step on one more of these in my bare feet I’m going to throw you and it out the front door.” To me the obvious answer was slippers but when the Emperor shows up in your bedroom it is one thing to tell him he’s naked, quite another that his robe is open and Little Homer has gone walk-about.
I held it together until he stormed out, but the Christmas bow stuck to his butt did me in. I rolled off the bed laughing and that was the last I ever saw of the dominos. To this day I can’t look a domino in the eye.
But the Homer Acton domino theory (“one damn thing always leads to another”) has proven uncannily accurate over the years – and caused me to buy extra large bathrobes.
All of which brings me to the point. Or at least the beginning of where the point ought to be, which is that I was standing in our kitchen eating a pickle when I realized that both me and the pickle were getting the same amount of air. Which is to say, none.
When they tell you something “went down the wrong way” that’s Mom Talk for, “Oh, dear, I see that you’re choking to death, let me beat the hell out of you.” On the other hand, if it’s just you and the cat in the kitchen all you get is, “When you get done spinning around on the floor like Curley Stooge, can you break out the kibble because watching this is exhausting.”
Next day I’m in my doctor’s office and he proclaims “you had an unremarkable larynx seizure.” Unremarkable? If my cat had been wearing a GoPro cam he’d have 250,000 YouTube views of my Curley Spin.
“Worse case scenario” says the Doc, “is that you pass out but then your throat will relax and you’ll be fine, unless you’re swimming.” Oh, snap – because what are the odds that something might “go down the wrong way” when I’m swimming?
Isn’t there some kind of epi-pen I can carry or a kung-fu throat clutch you can teach me? No, nothing like that, he says. “But I am worried that you may have sleep apnea, which might be causing your condition. Sleep apnea can be dangerous, even deadly.” Right about here is when I remembered: one damn thing always leads to another.
So let’s review: I nearly choke to death on a pickle, have an “unremarkable larynx seizure,” find out there’s no treatment for it short of passing out – which is sorta dangerous when you’re swimming, but – sidebar – not passing out when I’m supposed to be sleeping is dangerous as hell.
I used to think that a doctor who put his degree on the wall was showing off but now I realize that the Granada School of Medicine and Barber College probably has virtual degrees that don’t display well.
Next thing I know I’m talking to a sleep apnea doctor who confirms that I have low grade sleep apnea. Who woulda thought a specialist would determine that a referral needs specialty treatment? When I hit rewind on that whole day I don’t remember a diploma on that guy’s wall, either.
The best way to describe a CPAP machine is to think about almost any piece of equipment you would expect to find on Apollo 13 but without the duct tape. In an age of digital madness, this bad boy has got two big-ass dials you can find in the dark of space, a six-foot long flexible hose wide enough you could thread a garden hose through it, and a water tank humidifier you can stage margaritas in. I’m thinking all I need is a helmet and some space jammies and I’m ready to fly. And that’s when the technoid hauls out the “facial attachments.”
There are two basic models: one covers only your nose, the other your nose and mouth. And the way this gizmoid works is that you fire up Apollo 13 and it pumps air through the humidifier and down the hose forcing your air passage open. It’s like waterboarding, but with air.
I look at the “nasal appliance” and I’m thinking, “NFW. I am not wearing that contraption.” Besides I’ll suffocate when I catch a cold and snot up. That leaves the “full face appliance” which most people don’t like because it makes them claustrophobic. “Oh course,” he says, “if you’ve ever scuba dived, maybe it won’t bother you.”
Bulls-eye. I scuba dive – or at least used to. In fact I learned to scuba dive before I learned to swim. “Isn’t that dangerous?” he asks. Well, not really. I mean if you can’t swim having an air tank on your back and a regulator in your mouth tends to smooth out the overall panic of sinking in the water.
So I lace up the full face, feels just like a scuba mask and I have suddenly joined one of America’s fastest growing clubs: a middle-aged guy with a contraption next to his bed with the high hopes it will change his whole night. But I forgot about the cat.
Mister Mac is a 20 pound bruiser that retired from a life of crime when he switched sides from feral to domestic. But he’s territorial as hell, regularly gets to second base when he’s sitting on my wife’s lap and spends his free time on my desk watching me do this kind of thing. But he likes his routine and is suspicious of anything that breaks it. Oh, yeah. And he hates snakes. I mean, really hates snakes. You can see where this is going. I didn’t. And let’s remember: “one damn thing always leads to another.”
So I get Apollo 13 all set up, filled up, fired up and ready to go. The whole family is jungled up on the acre of bed that is a king. Ann is waaay over there on her ¼ of the bed; I’m waaay over here on my ¼ of the bed, and Mr. Mac is laying cross-wise on his ½ of the bed, just as God intended. Mac has drifted off and is snoring soundly, Ann douses her light and I’m reading “Winds of War” on my iPad for the 8th time. In short, it’s 11:30 and all is well, so off goes the iPad, on goes on the face mask and Joey is going nigh-nigh.
Reality is a funny thing. It tends to sneak up on you when you’re expecting something else. Especially in bed. And no matter what anybody tells you, no one wants reality in bed. Especially the kind that comes with a pissed-off cat stuck to your face.
What Mr. Mac saw – at least according to his statement – was a Dungeness crab clinging to my face and a snake wrapped around my head. When I woke up he was hissing, spitting and cussing at the top of his lungs shouting, “I got this boss, I got this!” That’s what I remember. One of us may have had a little too much chile and wine for dinner, but I’m sure about the hissing and spitting.
I can’t peel Mac off the mask so I hit the release button (very Apollo 13ish) and the snake goes dead, Mac backs off, and I roll out of bed like my dad just left the room. Mac gave it one last hiss, jumped down and we wandered out to the kitchen where we both had a snack, a good laugh and few paw bumps. The dude’s got my back, even when it’s my front.
I threw the pickles away, kept the machine, am sleeping fine and Mac has made his peace with the snake. Oh, yeah… Ann slept through the whole thing, doesn’t believe a word of this story and won’t let me have chile with wine anymore. It really is one damn thing after another.