Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cat Tails: My heart is a Flutter

This week has found me increasingly busy, with less time to recount the mundane details of daily life. Some highlights - I intubated about 10 people (4 of them successfully, 6 narrowly escaping death), ran into my ex-boyfriend in surgery (was able to hold his hand in the recovery room), saw some friends I haven’t seen in ages, and worked out like a ho. My appetite is also back, and that’s never a bad thing. Overall, it’s been a good time, and slowly but surely this kitten is finding all four paws planted firmly on the ground.

Today, I would like to share a tale from a call shift that I worked last week: There is this doctor in the ER at my hospital, and I swear to God I cannot manage to have an intelligent interaction with him. Every time we cross paths, I wind up feeling like an absolute tool. There are (unfortunately) a number of anecdotes I could relay, but I think the following one should sum things up nicely:

It’s about 8pm. I am working away on an admission. The paper work is abundant when someone needs to come into hospital. I am not working with Dr. X, but he is present and doing his job in the ER. His demeanor is difficult to qualify - kind of rough around the edges, a bit moody, and teeming with sarcasm, but he may have a soft side as well. We’ve already had a few run ins and he appears to think that my IQ is less than adequate for someone pursuing a career in medicine. Nevertheless, he seems to enjoy teaching, possibly because he derives pleasure from seeing medical students in emotional distress.

Right, so it’s around 8ish and he comes over to me out of the blue and says, “I want you to go over to curtain 15. There is a patient with an interesting arrhythmia. I want you to look at the heart monitor and tell me what it is”.

At this point, I am already feeling incontinent of urine. I abhor being put on the spot. Worse still, I am extremely poor at interpreting cardiac tracings. When I arrive at curtain 15, I find the woman within resting quietly. Not wanting to disturb her, I tip toe over to her heart monitor and begin deliberating over what I am seeing. Suffice it to say, I have no clue what I am looking at. Common things being common, I would like to see something I immediately recognize – nothin' doin’. So I start to ruminate over the rarest arrhythmias, and look for evidence thereof. I am at a complete loss.

As I quietly pee in my pants, the woman opens her eyes. She is a little startled, and I tell her that I am medical student and that Dr. X thought I should have a look at her heart monitor for teaching purposes. She’s a kind woman and we strike up a bit of a conversation. I ask her how she’s feeling, and she says “I’m just tired, and want to go home. Every time this happens, I end up spending hours in hospital”.

“Really?” I inquire. "This has happened to you before?” You already know where this is going…

“Yes” she says. “Just a couple of times”

Now bear in mind that at this point, I’m getting a little desperate. Dr. X can’t be far away and I know he’s gonna want answers any second. Ironically, the heart monitor is giving me no love.

So I get a little closer to this kind woman and say quietly “has anyone ever told you what it’s called?”

“Yes, but I can’t exactly remember”.

Think Goddamit! My whole future is on the line here. I throw out a couple of suggestions, but she’s not able to help. By now I’m totally frantic. At this moment, the curtain flies open and Dr. X say to me “so, what is it?”

“I don’t know” is my sheepish reply.

“Oh come on, it’s so obvious”

“I just don’t know. It’s not obvious to me”.

“Think about it. It’s so easy. It’s the only irregularly irregular tachycardia”

I rhyme off a few arrhythmias in vein, his frustration becoming increasingly acute. The patient is helplessly saddled to her stretcher, forced to watch this train wreck.

“It starts with A” he says. At this point, I begin some kind of a phonics exercise, repeating the letter A over and over at varying speeds and tones. He is not impressed.

Finally, he blurts out “It’s atrial fibrillation. How could you not know that?”

Now here is where things really go downhill…..

“It doesn’t look anything like atrial fibrillation” I fire back.

“What? It’s typical”

“Fine, but that is not what I thought A-fib looked like”.

So, he asks the patient to do a vagal maneuver, which sometimes will unmask the arrhythmia on the monitor. Sure enough, there is A-fib staring right at me.

Oh, but this story gets even worse….

As all of this is happening, the patient, my new friend, turns to me (in front of Dr. X unfortunately) and says “I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful”.

Dr. X turns to me, and I have never seen such a look of disgust before in my life. I think he might vomit as he looks at me and says, very slowly and quietly, with utter disdain in his voice, “you asked the patient to tell you the answer? Why would you do that?”

I’ve been practicing my water off a duck's back routine for several months now, so without missing a beat I retort “I’m a resourceful girl, I’m just using my resources”. I’m smiling broadly so as not to cry.

The lovely patient jumps in “I can tell she’s very resourceful and smart”. She’s trying to help smooth things over but it is just too late.

Dr. X sneers at me and leaves.

You’d think that would be the maximum embarrassment for one day, but I managed to pull off two more humiliating stunts before the shift was through. I inadvertently insulted his intelligence, and his handwriting.

Better luck next time Tabby!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Most people are reasonable...

but sometimes I meet someone I want to punch in the face! I just had one such encounter with a fellow student. Our altercation was regarding the window in the student room:

dear colleague,

I don't think that this window needs to be wide open all fukkin day in order for the temperature to be adequate if and when you crash here tonight at like 2am. Open the window when you are going to bed cockwad. In the meantime, let's keep the temperature above zero kelvin. I have some chill pills in my bag if you need one.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I did my first toe stand. Though my form was probably poor, it wasn't very hard. This surprised me because I have had some kind of mental blockage around this pose basically since I started doing yoga. The moral of this story is that sometimes we build things up in our heads to be far worse than what they actually are, and we let our fear paralyze us.

My wish for you today is that you giv'er hard on something you've been avoiding (out of fear or whatever else). Just remember, the worst thing that can happen is falling out of the posture. If that happens all you need to do is laugh, take a chill pill, and everything will be alright.

have a good day,

Monday, January 23, 2006

Democracy at Work!

-----Original Message-----
From: Telltale Tabby
Sent: January 21,2006 8:41 AM
To: Hume, Peter E
Subject: snow removal

Dear Mr. Hume,

I am a resident of Alta Vista. In fact, I live right on Kitty Litter at Cat Nip Street. I have struggled with snow removal at the end of my driveway since I moved into my house about 3 years ago. The problem is rooted in the fact that my laneway is the first one after the intersection. As a consequence, the snow plow pushes all the snow from the intersection and about 20 feet before directly into the end of my laneway.

I am not opposed to the workout that comes from a bit of healthy shovelling; however, sometimes the snow at the end of the lane is so heavy and abundant that I practically blow myself out trying to shovel it.

Anyway, I heard on the news this week that Alex Cullen is working on this situation in his ward and I wanted to let you know that if you could throw your support behind this, you would pretty much seal my vote (and my heart) for eternity.

Thank you for all of your hard work. I enjoy reading your newsletter.

Telltale Tabby
(Alta Vista resident with a broken back)

Councillor Hume Replies...

Dear Ms. Tabby,

Thank you for you email and rest assured that I will be discussing this matter with Councillor Cullen and if a reasonable solution can be found I would be pleased to support it.

Peter Hume

p.s. I live just around the corner from you on Bruno Avenue.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Cats less fortunate

This cat looks royally pissed off. I can’t blame him. His owner is obviously a total freak show.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

I heard you already!

Today I met the world record holder for ear size. They were humungous. I was trying to inconspicuously measure them while the patient was talking to the doctor. My best guess is approximately 7 inches in length. They were wide too, like 2 giant plates mounted on the sides of his head. They did not stick out though, and he was very cute in every other regard. About 85 or so, and having a colonic polyp removed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tabby tackles your important medical questions…

Someone asked me the other day about the origin of the expression STAT. We all know what it means, but where does the word come from? Dear friend, here is the answer to your question:

"Stat" in medical parlance is actually not an acronym; it's short for statim, the Latin word for immediately.

In other exciting news, I found out on Monday that the manuscript for my thesis research has been accepted for publication. I was beginning to despair and wanted to send some vitriol-laden email to the journal editor, but thankfully my thesis supervisor and trusted mentor advised against. I will make the necessary revisions between, sutures, deliveries, and c-sections in the next couple of months.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Did you say Ray Hnatyshyn? No, I said bring the fish in!

According to Catherine, the gorgeous and kind hot yoga instructor, the dead centre of your forehead contains your ‘eye of intuition’. Tonight at yoga, with my head firmly planted on the floor, applying gentle pressure between my eyes, I was thinking about how yesterday afternoon I absolutely smashed my forehead on the door jam of my dad’s car. It is much lower to the ground than I am used to. Plus, hand eye coordination has never been my strong suit (ask the person whose bowel I nearly perforated in the colonoscopy lab today). Anyway, I pride myself on (usually) having pretty good instincts about people and things, and today I was wondering if maybe that is because I am constantly banging into things head first and inadvertently stimulating this hidden gem.

trucks can have 9 lives too!

Like a phoenix from the ashes, the truck is reborn. I just knew it wasn’t over for us. She’ll be with me again by the end of the week. In the meantime, I will keep the home fires burning.


(How "gift horse in the mouth" would it be to admit that I've really enjoyed the smoother ride and CD playing capabilities in my current ride?)

Monday, January 16, 2006

36 hour inventory

Cancer is shit. Dementia is worse. Everyone has an underlying psychiatric diagnosis. And the human spirit is wonderfully triumphant.

Off to bed now.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Temporary Insanity Vittles

There’s a certain comfort in hanging out with the people who know you best. Yesterday I dropped in on Pesto and her brother Prosciutto at their apartment. We were lying around on Pesto’s bed, as cats do whenever they have the chance.

Our convo turned to a severe neurosis that I seem to have developed of late. Unable to bear my own ridiculous cross any longer, I copped to one of the most humiliating things I’ve ever done. It occurred earlier this week. I won’t get into details as it is now in the past.

After they finished laughing their asses off at me, we discussed the new low to which I had sunk. Pesto pointed out how uncharacteristic my actions had been and that she was really surprised at my behaviour. I agreed that I seemed to have gone totally bonkers. The great thing is that over the course of this discussion we were actually able to pull some good out of something I had thought was a total washout.

According to Pesto, this “ostensibly pathetic behaviour marks a metamorphosis for [me].” Translation: sometimes acting totally nuts is actually a sign of being a little bit sane. Slipping out of reality for a week or two here and there really makes you thankful for your sanity the rest of the time.

- Tabby

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dear Seinfeld,

What I said was "how are you?" not "I love you." Are we clear on that?

- tabby

Tragedy Strikes Tabbyland!

I don’t even know where to begin….this morning my parents came into the city to do me a favour. They brought my beloved truck to the garage for a checkup. I had scheduled the appointment for no reason that I could put my finger on. I just had a feeling something wasn’t right. I guess my girl had the vehicular equivalent of “B symptoms” (weight loss, fever, night sweats), nonspecific red flags which raise the index of suspicion for cancer.

My mum dropped me off at the hospital this morning and my dad took the truck in for her appointment. When I called my parents mid morning for an update on the situation I immediately knew something was up. “It’s bad news” my mum warned. I braced myself. Would my girl require hundreds of dollars worth of repairs?

It was worse than I could’ve imagined. The truck would never again leave the garage, I was told. She was no longer road worthy. It was a miracle I hadn’t killed myself on the highway.

“She’s undeniably palliative” they told me.

Stunned, I asked about the nature of the problem: Metastatic illness! The tie rods(?) which coordinate wheel movement are holding on by a thread. The steering column is barely keeping it real. The back breaks went to powder in the mechanic’s hands. The gas line, brake line, and engine coolant thingy, all on the verge of being rusted right through. How was all of this possible?

The mechanic was amazed that my girl hadn’t been involved in a major accident. But I’m not surprised. He doesn’t know what she’s made of. For 12 years that truck started without fail, with no block heater, even on the coldest days. She never left me stranded, even saved my ass a few times in some pretty dicey situations, ran for miles on fumes on several occasions, and got me home relatively close to curfew so many times in high school. She moved me to Waterloo with ease and then moved me and my friends from student house to student house to student house over many years…I’ve laughed in that truck, cried in that truck, smooched in that truck….

I know it’s not normal to feel so much attachment to an inanimate object. Maybe I have some kind of autistic spectrum disorder or something? I can’t say. I just know that when I went to pick up my yoga mat, jumper cables, and window scraper, it was with a heavy heart that I bid my girl farewell. I guess I just didn’t think it would end quite this way.

We had some good times didn’t we girl? Thank you for keeping me safe and making my social life as a teenager just a little less traumatic. Goodbye my sweet little S10 extended cab. I will forever miss your pink and white racing stripe and all that heart under your hood.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Check Ça La

Old but still funny...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Oh the cockles of my heart…

I’m on call tonight. No big deal, but a little anxiety provoking for reasons I won’t elaborate on here. I just spent the last 30 minutes running around trying to figure out exactly who I would be working with. After going through all the regular channels (and even some irregular channels) and getting nowhere, I decided to go right to the source – the doctor’s lounge.

I was happy to find my doctor there. He is as cute as a button and nice to boot, about 5 feet tall, with a bit of a belly and maybe around 45 or 50 years old. Well anyway, as we were talking, he was intently watching the door. I was starting to wonder if maybe he thought I was an escaped psych patient, when the greatest thing happened….

The door opened and his face lit up. In walked a sweet-looking woman, about his age, carrying 2 big grocery bags full of Tupperware. It was his wife. She not only brought him dinner, but also had come to share the meal with him. There was no talking, but love was definitely all around.

As I stepped out into the hall, I realized that my own heart had grown to about 10 times its’ normal size. It's still pretty swollen.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Karate Yoga, DREs, and The Lighter Side of Snow Plows!

Last night while I was out shlogging away at the terrible mess left behind by the sidewalk plow,* I had a brief exchange with my across the street neighbour Peter, who was dealing with the same situation. “How’s it going?” he asked.

“Pretty good” I replied. “You?”

“I’m thinking about buying a snow plow.”

“Ha ha, me too, it’s a real chore isn’t it?” I’m not sure if that's exactly what I said, but something equally cordial and banal.

That was about it. He finished before I did. My roommate came home and helped out, as I went off to yoga, where the absolute highlight of my day was a guy I can only refer to as karate yoga man.

We were all working hard, but crimm, it was Monday night yoga; and it’s not like there was a scout there or anything. This guy was directly in front of me, impeding my mirror space even. So when came the time to fix my gaze and hold a posture, all I could see was him.

His intensity was…um... off the charts. I’ve never seen anyone busting it so hard at yoga. He was pushing himself so far that his postures and movement were totally sharp and erratic looking, like karate yoga, seriously. I loved every second of it...

Today I learned that practical application and replication really are the best means of skill acquisition. I performed at least a dozen digital rectal exams, on a dozen very different bums. I can honestly say that at this point I would be completely at ease with the prospect of performing a rectal on almost anyone, almost anywhere. Thank you Dr. D. for giving me this gift.

When I arrived home just now Peter was outside, playing with (you guessed it) his new snow plow. He wasn’t even plowing his driveway, which he shovelled last night. He was plowing the snow bank into the road. I smiled in his direction, and he looked up with the biggest shit eating grin I have ever seen. He gave me two giant thumbs up, the look on his face reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s work in The Shining. Winter in Canada - scary business.

- tabby

*note - i am unsure of the spelling of the word plow. is it more rightly spelled plough? who cares i guess...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dear Sidewalk Plow...

you are ruining my life. if you ever come near my house again i will beat the living shit out of you.


French Toast

There are few more humbling experiences than putting a call through to the French Consulate. I thought medical school required you to be able to write fast, but nothing compares to taking down instructions from these guys. Not only do they talk a mile a minute, they also have a knack for making you feel unbelievably stupid for requiring information in the first place. Definitely do not ask them to repeat anything, as it is akin to insulting their mother or denigrating cheese.

I won the lottery

I woke early this morning from a fitful, anxiety-laden sleep only to find a snowstorm in full effect. Crimm sakes! (as they say in Saskatchewan). Unsteady and bleary-eyed in the shower, it occurred to me that I might never have the time or desire to shave my legs again. I was however, trying to be a trooper.

I got dressed, as I always do, with my friends Anthony Germaine and Lucy VOB. Then, school bag and coffee in hand, pager battery dangerously low, I decided to give my new preceptor a call before heading out into the arctic fury that was morning rush hour.

Imagine my delight when his secretary told me that he is away on vac (pronounced vake) until tomorrow. I asked her to repeat herself 3 times. I can scarcely believe this good fortune, and I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I'll take it, bask in it, and love every second of it. Thank you God – for making me a believer.

Bedtime Vittles

Instead of taking my chances skating through giant ruts in the dark, I decided to get some exercise with a run on the canal tonight. It’s my favourite: I like running along the edges where there’s just a bit of traction. I especially like the canal at night because it has a really romantic feel about it, something about the lighting...I ran down a good chunk of it and the conditions actually didn’t seem that bad for skating, although one guy I saw bit it really hard.

I was thinking about all kinds of things tonight, but two themes prevailed:

1. I am so happy to have gotten my orthodics adjusted because, unlike so many runs of late, my feet were not in extreme pain, nor were they shredded and bleeding when I got home. I felt like I could run for a year or more.

2. I was also reminiscing fondly about childhood winters on the canal, which is unusual for me since I tend to summarily dismiss my childhood as unpleasant. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic - much of it unpleasant.

Anyway, I passed by one of those little side canals, and got to thinking about how they used to put that little winter village in there with the petting zoo, and one year during a Winterlude class trip I lost these navy blue earmuffs that I had just gotten (and I was sure I had left them in the petting zoo area). In hinsight, it was probably the best thing that could’ve happened because I think earmuffs were already well on their way out of style by that point. Well despite the earmuff fiasco, I have many very fond memories of class field trips to the canal and how fun it was as a kid to just be set loose to skate around and eat beavertails with (seemingly) no supervision.

I was also remembering that slide at Landsdown park. Does anyone else remember it? Or was I hallucinating? I think it was called “The Avalanche” and it was a giant slide rigged up on the side of the bleachers. We would go on a class trip every year. It was so fun and seemed incredibly dangerous. In fact, I think it was super dangerous and one or two kids a year used to fall off and be seriously injured, but for a number of years it seemed like the mentality was that a few kids could be sacrificed for the amusement of all of the other children in the city of Ottawa and environs.

Probably the city got sued one too many times because one year the party was over, and The Avalanche was no more. It’s a wonder it went on as long as it did. I loved that slide….

In other news, in about 7 hours I have to go back to school and my heart is heavy. Two weeks of unscheduled bliss has really agreed with me. It’s gonna be hard to get my nose back in the books.

goodnight friends - tabby

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rideau Canal Skateway Open - Hooray!

Tabby tackles your important medical questions…

A friend has asked me a couple of times how vision testing is undertaken in babies. I kept promising to look it up. Below is the answer, pilfered from various websites and reformatted to better meet our information needs:

Formal testing of visual acuity is usually possible once a child is three years old, although 2 year olds may be able to be tested with picture cards. The Allen chart includes easily recognized pictures, including a cake, hand, bird, horse, and telephone.

In very young children, vision evaluation usually consists of an examination for the red reflex (checks for cataracts and retinoblastoma), eye alignment (misaligned eyes may indicate strabismus) and eye movements. A child may also have a phoria, with eye deviation only when one of the eyes is covered or when he is tired or sick.

Until formal vision testing is possible after three years of age, younger children's vision can be assessed by observation of how they fixate and track objects and by the history of the child's parents. Visual milestones for infants include being able to follow an object to midline in the first 2-6 weeks, past midline by 1-3 months, and follow an object 180 degrees by 3-5 months.

Other testing may include the corneal light reflex test, in which a light is directed at the bridge of the nose and the light reflex is examined to make sure it is symmetrical or shines in the same spot on both eyes. If the light reflex is off-center or not symmetrical in both eyes, then it might indicate a misalignment of the eyes. This is useful to identify pseudostrabismus, a condition in which the eyes appear to be misaligned because of prominent epicanthal folds or a broad nasal bridge.

The unilateral cover test can be used to determine if an infant or young child will follow an object while one of the eyes is covered. If he gets really fussy or refuses to follow the object when you cover one of his eyes, then that may indicate that the vision in the other eye is reduced.

In older children, the unilateral cover test is also useful to check for strabismus. While the child is looking at a distant object, such as an eye chart or toy, cover one of his eyes. If the other eye moves outward or inward, then that might indicate that his eyes are misaligned and that he has strabismus.

Other problems that suggest the need for further evaluation include parents noticing that their child's eyes are crossing, that their eyes aren't straight or if they just don't seem to be seeing well.

hope this answers your question,


Friday, January 06, 2006

An Anti-Rape Condom: How Romantic

Check ça :

very controversial, kind of like a penis taser. i actually think it should snap the guy's penis right off - why stop at barbs!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cat Tails: Hot Dog Day at Holy Cross School!

This one’s going out to my old roommate and friend Lindsey, a real peach of a girl. It’s her favourite story. I hope the text version will not disappoint, and I’m uber excited to attend your nuptials in March…

Everyone remembers hot dog day from their elementary school years. Ours was every second Thursday. A group of benevolent mums would arrive mid morning and slave away in the school kitchen, lovingly boiling hundreds of dogs and warming an equal number of, enriched white bread, buns in the oven.

For obvious reasons, cats love eating hot dogs, and we don’t turn up our whiskers at chocolate milk either. My mom, God bless her, did not make very good lunches (the all time worst was a spam sandwich once), and so I really looked forward to hotdog day. I always ordered two hot dogs and two chocolate milks (cost 2,25$).

Sometimes the milk came way before the dogs, which created problems. In the interest of fairness, the teachers would start milk dispensing at one end of the class list and dog dispensing at the opposite end. This system, though well-intentioned, really sucked because you’d either have your milk gone before your dogs even came, or the reverse. Either way, you often found yourself choking down dry dogs.

My most memorable hot dog day took place in the winter of grade three. The teacher I had that year was not a particularly kind woman, and she didn’t think all that highly of me. It’s hard being a newcomer in a small town school, especially when you are French and your mother is a no-nonsense, opinionated, fireball, with a highly sensitive bullshit detector.

My desk was at the back of the room. Last row. I sat beside Kyle Murdock, one of the taller kids in our class, who in retrospect might’ve suffered from selective mutism. Either that, or he was extremely shy. Dude did not speak. It’s funny actually, because he was in school with me until at least grade 8 but, aside from this incident in grade 3, I have no memories of which he is a part – not even a cameo.

This hot dog day started out like any other. We all placed our orders, waited patiently all morning, and then enjoyed our dogs at lunch time. Then we went out for recess and probably rolled around in the snow, or tried pushing each other off the monkey bars, or whatever.

After lunch was over we all strode back in (in boy and girl lines) and took our seats. Everything was fine. The class was quiet. It was those 10 minutes after recess where you pretend to read quietly at your desk. Then, completely without warning, Kyle leaned over and vomited the entire contents of his lunch on to the floor between our two desks.

Good Lord! I’ve never been very good with vomit. The smell really gets to me.

So there we were. Kyle had just puked up 2 chocolate milks, 3 hot dogs, and all the fixins that had adorned them. A wave of excitement began to push through the class, with curious 8 year-old voices speculating on what was going on.

The teacher, mortified and irritated, sent little Kyle to the bathroom to clean himself up and ordered the class to be quiet and get to work.

I didn’t care about any of this, because I had my own problems to deal with. The vomitous odour had really begun to spread and I was fighting hard to hold it together. I don’t know what pants I had on that day, but up top I was wearing a white, thinly-ribbed rayon turtleneck. There is a story about the turtleneck, but I won’t share it here…

So, in an effort to keep from starting a full on puke-orama, I pulled the neck part of my shirt up over my mouth and nose to try and filter out some of the smell. It was working more or less well, and I was averting my eyes and actively gagging into the turtleneck when the teacher caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of her Cyclops eyeball. Apparently she thought I was laughing uncontrollably and hiding in my shirt. I guess in her spiteful way, she decided she’d make an example of me. So, she stated loudly “oh, Tabby thinks this is funny.”

To which, I panic-strickenly replied “no I do not think this is funny at all. I’m not laughing.”

She hadn’t even heard me. She came back at me immediately with “well, since you think this is so funny, you can clean it up.” I begged her to reconsider, but she was having no part of it. She ordered me to get some paper towels and start working. I was 8 years old, frightened, and humiliated.

I laid one or two paper towels on the puke; but, by then had turned sufficiently green, and was heaving enough that she was probably worried that I would throw up too. So she told me to sit down and scolded me loudly for laughing at someone else’s misfortune.

It was the first time in my life I really remember feeling like a grave injustice was being committed against me. It's a funny story now, but she had really terrorized me. I can’t imagine any teacher pulling a stunt like that now, but back then things like that still happened.

I’ve never been one to laugh at someone else’s misfortune, but can I say with absolute certainty that the hot dog day incident didn’t teach me anything about respect for others. It taught me that even grown ups could be complete turkeys.

To this day, I have no idea what impelled Kyle to throw up his lunch. I also have no idea where he is, or what he is up to. I wonder if he still eats hot dogs once in a while, or if that event turned him off of them completely.

- tabby

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On understanding object permanence

I think most kids begin to grasp the concept of object permanence around the age of 2 or so. For me this milestone was somewhat delayed. I am thus fortunate to have a vivid memory of the day I figured it all out…

I think I was around 4. My parents, brother, and I did a brief stint in a rented townhouse in the south end of Ottawa before moving out of the city. The townhouse complex backed onto a K-mart and was home to many broken families, and dare I say…broken dreams.

My parents were both working, and my brother was in school full days, but at that point I guess I must’ve been in JK or maybe SK because I had to go to a babysitter’s place for a good part of the day, which I really hated – mostly because she was a total bitch. As an aside, I don’t think she did a very good job of child supervision because her house is where I swallowed a penny and nearly got my arm bitten off by her savage niece, whom she also babysat.

Anyway, it was winter and I had a pretty snazzy, one-piece, brown snowsuit that had an attached striped brown and yellow elastic belt with one of those metal clips like on the old K-way jackets.

The snowsuit looked like a million bucks, but it was a real chore to get in and out of.

On the afternoon in question, I was playing in the backyard, near a wooden fence that had been erected by an insightful contractor to keep the individual families’ dysfunctionality contained.

It occurred to me that I really had to go pee. Really bad. But, for whatever reason (maybe I’d had a hard morning), I didn’t feel I had it in me to go inside, take off my snowsuit and sit my ass down on the toilet. I distinctly remember then thinking to myself that maybe if I just peed in my snowsuit, it would disappear and no one would be any the wiser.

I thought about it for a while, and then, never one to shy away from an experiment, I decided to giv’er. The total relief from extreme bladder distension was cancelled out by the almost immediate realization that pee was soaking through my suit, staining the affected areas a much darker shade of brown. Oh, the horror. I will never forget it.

In an attempt to preserve my dignity for as long as possible, I stayed outside playing quietly in the snow. Hoping the evidence would evaporate or something. That is, until my ass began to freeze. Then, with few remaining options, I shuffled inside, tail between my legs.

At the tender age of 4, concepts such as object permanence, melting and boiling points, and the law of conservation of mass had become deeply entrenched via one act of deliberate incontinence.

I never peed in my pants again.

Tender Vittles

Many interesting things on the go tonight at my local coffee brewing establishment...Oh, I know what you're thinking, "cats don't drink coffee do they?" Most cats don't actually, but occasionally I like to pop in here and press my ear to the ground...

At the moment, on my immediate left, a man and woman are having a hushed voice discussion regarding someone's ex-wife. The woman just started a sentence and the man stopped her, firmly stipulating "I don't want to know. I've heard it all already", Well frick, I want to hear it. Spill the goods.

The man has some sort of strange compulsion. He just can't stop touching his face. He has now dragged the woman into his freakshow, and is pointing out the inadequacy of her bone structure. His fire engine red buzz cut would seem to indicate that he has some inadequacies of his own.

Now they are talking about durian, a very smelly Asian fruit. It’s a delicacy in Malaysia, but so stinky that you are not allowed to eat it in public places. I’m not joking, and five years ago I might've found this interesting, but at this point in my life durian is passé. They’ve lost me.

On my right, three people. Two francophones and one anglo, with some rudimentary french skills that he just briefly tried to show off. The francos quickly shut him down and the whole convo switched to English. Why does that always happen? I can't help but wish they had forced him to muddle through his entire organic food store business plan in French. Perhaps it's for the best. It might've been too distracting. As it stands, they've just lost me...

Oh boy, things have just heated up considerably. In from the blustery winter wonderland outside has walked Troy (I don't even have to invent an alias for this cat). This is a tom that I met about 15 months ago, right here in this very coffee bar. I was sitting one seat over studying with my then roommate. Troy walked in, and we made eye contact. I watched him give his muffin away to a homeless man who had asked him for money. It was really very sweet.

Then he ordered his coffee to go and left, only to return about 5 minutes later. I swear on my life, he came right over, told me I had great energy and asked me out on a date. Flip sakes. Stunned into stupidity, I sat motionless, staring at him with my jaw firmly planted on my thyroid gland. Eventually (like probably 15 seconds later), the silence was too much. He blurted out that I should stop by his place of work if I was interested (also an organic food store incidentally) and left.

He was pretty hot, so I did check him out the next time I was in his hood. I gave him my number and we made plans to meet for coffee.

Within about 4 minutes of meeting, it became purrfectly apparent that we were from different worlds. Actually, I don't think it's a stretch to say that he was from a different planet! He'd been a bit of a drifter and his current life was an unstructured mix of very early morning yoga and part time jobs at several organic food establishments (I should introduce him to the people sitting next to me). His most redeeming quality was that he was an adoptive father to several wayward cats.

The conversation eventually rolled around to the fact that I was studying medicine, at which time an unmistakable look of shock and pain grew on his face (in a split second, my perfect energy had become to him a repulsive poisonous force field) and he started to verbally free flow about his disdain for, and concerns about, the western approach to medicine. I can handle differences of opinion. In fact, I think they are the spice of life, and I was happy to discuss and extol the virtues of Chinese medicine. I tried to explain that I wasn’t like that, that I hoped to be an open-minded physician with a more holistic view of the body and health. I also explained that he’d probably be pretty happy to land on a Western doctor, when he fell off his bike and busted his arm one day…

Unfortunately, Troy could not reconcile my association with the big bad world of the “body as a sum of its parts”. From that point on, I got the feeling that every time he looked up from his decaffeinated tea, all he could see was me in scrubs, brandishing a huge scalpel, callously performing some type of unnecessary, invasive surgery, whilst disrespecting the sanctity of the body, and verbally abusing patients and their families.

Our coffee date ended, and I hoped I would never hear from him again. He did call me a couple of weeks later to invite me to a potluck dinner at his house. The details seemed a little sketch and fearing a lynching, I lied that I couldn’t make it. From that point on, I never heard from him again.

I’ve dodged him twice over the past year; once at a vegetarian restaurant here in the city, and once at yoga. He probably has dodged me a few times too. Today when he walked in, I noticed he has acquired very long dreadlocks. I don’t think he’s seen me, as he is glued to his laptop and talking on his cell phone: Kind of ironic for someone who was swimming in a giant bowl of puritanical granola just about 1 year ago. But I guess that’s the pace of change these days…

In other news, fire engine hair guy had gone out for a smoke. He has returned and smells like complete shit. Maybe I should ask Troy to talk to him about not poisoning our environment?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cat Tails: Stories from a past life

As most of you know, cats (the lucky ones anyway) are said to have as many as 9 lives. I don't want to date myself but, suffice it to say, I've been around the block a few times. As a result, I've built up practically a litter box full of funny and educational experiences.

Cat Tails, a recurring feature here at Fancy Feast, will be used as a forum for sharing some of these tales for your reading pleasure and general enlightenment.

My post earlier today might’ve been interpreted by some as something of a disgruntled rant, so in the interest of keeping things light, I will share a story that I’ve affectionately titled “Pride Goeth Before the Wall”. It’s a long one, so grab yourself a cup of coffee and a biscuit:

Several years ago, I dated a lovely brown tom named Eldon. He was an outgoing and friendly cat, a few years older than myself, and we shared many laughs and good times. We were rarely at odds. Anyway, Eldon’s best friend lived out in Vancouver and so for our Christmas vacation one year we decided to make the trip out there to visit and check things out. We spent about a week out there, staying with Eldon’s friend and taking day trips to this or that tourist attraction. It was fun.

Now Eldon’s friend lived with his girlfriend and several other roommates in a rented house out in Burnaby. These fine people earned a living by landscaping in the summer months and collecting unemployment insurance during the harsh Vancouver winter. They also had a fairly sophisticated hydroponics operation running out of their basement, which supported both their needs and those of several others in the neighbourhood. But I digress, back to my story.

So, Eldon and I had been rocking out in V-town for several days, taking hundreds of photos of ourselves tackling the slopes, crossing scary suspension bridges, teasing sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium, and befriending prostitutes and IDU’s on the downtown East side. Needless to say, we were feeling a little under stimulated, so we decided to take a day trip over to Victoria.

We figured it would be a long day, and we were right. After waking before dawn to ride several buses and trains, we finally arrived at the ferry terminal, where we embarked on another long journey. Victoria was nice, if not mind numbingly boring, and by the end of the day, we were both tired and ready to head “home”. We caught one of the last ferries and sat in relative silence for most of the trip. There is only so much to talk about when you are with someone 24/7. I may have had a nap, I can’t recall.

Upon arriving back in V-town, we had another couple of hours of bus and train riding to contend with before getting back to the burbs, and at some point, like maybe on our 4th bus or something, I asked Eldon (not for the first time) if he liked the new jacket I had gotten for Christmas. Admittedly, this was a pretty inane question, probably very irritating to an exhausted boyfriend at 1 o’clock in the morning.

Well, my otherwise good-natured companion had reached his breaking point, and replied by pausing, taking a deep breath, and asking me if I took swimming lessons as a child. Curious and excited about where this was leading, I replied with an ambitious “yes, of course. Why do you ask?” To which he replied, I bet you were one of those kids who was always yelling “mom, look at me, look at me!”

Needless to say, his comment left me with a hair ball lodged firmly in my throat; in part because I was not one of those kids, and in part because I too was extremely tired and somewhat caught off guard by his gratuitous, smarmy comment. He immediately realised that he had hurt my feelings and the balance of the trip was spent with him asking if I was angry. I sat in silence denying the rage that was bubbling inside of me, citing extreme fatigue as the reason for my aloof demeanour.

We disembarked from the last bus and I hoofed it up the hill to the house, with him lagging several steps behind. A quick, polite summary of the day was offered to our curious hosts, and we both indicated that we would be heading to bed.

One of the roommates had gone away for the holidays, and had graciously offered his room to Eldon and me. We brushed our teeth and disrobed in silence. Eldon was feeling pretty badly and I was employing the age-old silent treatment method to let him know that he was not off the hook.

The truth is, at that point I had cooled off considerably and was more than ready to make up. I mean, it was such a petty argument, born entirely of fatigue, and who wants to go to bed angry anyway? But for whatever reason, I was being increadibly stubborn and I just couldn’t let it go. So I continued to stomp around a little, aimlessly reorganising the contents of my suitcase, while he quietly got into bed.

The layout of the room was such that the bed was pushed up against the wall, and Eldon and I had a system. Actually, I had a system. I liked sleeping on the inside, mashed up against the wall (still do). He accommodated by taking the free edge (which I think he preferred anyway).

The light switch unfortunately was located way across the room, next to the door, nowhere near the bed. Now in the infinite wisdom of my snooty, snotty, pooping in my pants kind of mood, I had decided to try my best not to touch Eldon whilst getting into bed. So, I uttered goodnight, turned off the lights, and proceeded to carry out my no touch plan. It seemed so simple and sophisticated. I would reach the edge of the bed where he was lying, plant my feet and launch myself, something like a superstar gymnast, directly onto my half of the bed. No contact would be made with Eldon. That would teach him a lesson alright.

It sounded so good in theory, but something in my execution went terribly wrong. Being unbelievably tired and in unfamiliar surroundings, I grossly misjudged the distance between the edge of the bed and the wall. As a result, I had launched myself head first, at full velocity directly into the wall, perpendicular to the wall if that helps you with the visual.

The resulting crack was something to behold, as was the sound of my limp body hitting the mattress several feet below the point of impact. Eldon jumped out of bed and hit the lights, only to find me half-dazed, with an instant goose egg in the dead centre of my forehead, tears pouring out of my eyes, accompanied by hysterical laughter. Eldon kept saying “Tabby, are you laughing or crying?” And through my sobs and asphyxiating laughter the only response I could muster was “both”.

I was crying because I had drilled my head full kilter into the wall, I was laughing at the sheer hilarity of where my silly prideful, behaviour had landed me.

You can guess the rest. We made up right then and there, applied ice packs to my forehead, laughed our asses off, and finished out our holidays in wonderful style, parading around Vancouver hand in hand – with a giant red lump on my forehead.

Looking for a new drycleaner

This morning I popped by the drycleaners to pick up some stuffed mice and a satin collar that I had dropped off for cleaning last week. Now, the drycleaner I frequent is a bit out of the way for this four-legged feline, but it is a small ma and pa operation, run by a feisty little lady whom I thought was kindred and cat-friendly. As a consequence, I've gone out of my way to support this local family-owned business for years, despite some inconvenience and added cost to me.

This morning's visit started out like any other. I walk in and am greeted with New Year's cheer, which I reciprocate. Then, instead of exchanging pleasantries about the weather, or something comparably light, this woman decides to have a go at me: Completely out of the blue, she says to me "maybe this year you will get married". To which I light-heartedly reply, "the stars would really have to align for that to happen this year". I feel I am being polite and diplomatic.

Sensing that she hasn't drawn enough blood, she continues "you're not married are you?" a slight look of disdain graces her lips. I shake my head, looking as indifferent as possible. "No shit", I'm thinking. She then says, "well maybe this year you'll meet Mr. Right". I begin to shift uncomfortably from one leg to another, trying desperately to pay my bill and get out of there. I reply, "perhaps" still smiling.

Then, she really decides to go for the jugular. "You know, there might not be much hope. At your age, all the good ones are taken and what's left are the losers". Are you fuckin' kidding me? Is this conversation really happening? I don't even know this woman. So I say "well, I guess we'll see what surprises this year brings"; at which point, I throw 30 bucks at her and get the hell out of dodge.

W.T.F.? kiss my ass lady

- TT

Monday, January 02, 2006


This is the freak cat Pesto was dating. I don't like his brown coat and his eyes are huge and too close together. God, what were you thinking?

Kudos to Pesto

I have this friend Pesto. She is a spunky Canadian-born kitten, with Italian roots. Here she is featured on the right:

Pesto is a serious catch. She is smart, good-looking, well-educated (for a cat anyway), and has a heart the size of a lion. Until today, Pesto was dating a total dud of a Tom. He was issue-ladden to the point of being abusive. I won't get into the details, but in my opinion, Pesto's mate had Borderline traits. And poor Pesto was trying her ass off to rescue him.

Well, I'm happy to report that today, Pesto cut that cat loose! Now she is free to be herself again, and get back to basics. There are many eligible Toms in this neighbourhood - well adjusted, nice ones. No cat should stay with a mate that doesn't accept them for who they are and sucks the life out of them.

So, kudos to Pesto for being a chilled out cat, with a backbone and fabulous ass to boot.