Two things happened to me yesterday--I experienced age discrimination for the first time, and I fell off the wagon after ten years' abstinence.
Twice a year, my job demands I visit Bethesda, Maryland--home to the National Institutes of Health. It gives me an opportunity to interact with my fifteen peers from around the country. But it's also a logistical nightmare--because of Tribble.
Now that my little Manx cat is over twenty and incredibly frail, leaving her when I travel presents problems. My vet does not usually offer boarding services although he has occasionally accommodated me. I try not to abuse him.
The easiest thing on a practical level would be to leave her at home and ask someone to check on her twice a day. But I have an unreasonable fear of leaving her there and having her die while I'm away. Every day when I return home from work, I have to steel myself to the possibility that I'll find her tiny cold body inside. I wouldn't want someone else to find her that way, and I wouldn't want to learn she died during the time I was out of state. I know it's irrational, but that's the definition of irrational--a fear that defies logic.
So, I've been boarding the three cats each time I traipse off to Bethesda--at a cost of $50 a day. It would be cheaper to leave Bob and Dinah at home, but I think Tribble does better surrounded by her homeboys.
Yesterday, I learned that Petsmart is now offering boarding services. There's a Petsmart on my way to the airport, which would save me nearly an hour in the round trip to my current kennel. I picked up the phone and called Petsmart to make a reservation for three nights in September.
Everything went fine until I gave Trib's age. The young woman taking the reservation was noticeably shocked. "Oh, we're not set up to give medication," she said.
"No problem," I replied. "Tribble isn't on any medication."
She paused. "We'll need a list of her health issues."
"Outside of drinking a lot of water, she has no health issues," I responded. Before she could jump in, I added, "I've already had her checked. She isn't diabetic."
"Just a minute, please." Without waiting for me to agree, she put me on hold. I waited for about three minutes for her to return. Since I was scheduled to be out of the office today, I was trying to finish a grant application before going home yesterday.
"I'm sorry," her voice made me jump. "We won't be able to board Tribble."
Of course, I asked to speak to the supervisor who had just discriminated against my little girl. Yes, I acknowledged to the supervisor, there was a distinct possibility that Trib might pick those three days out of the more than eight thousand she's been alive to shuffle off to glory. I was prepared for that eventuality.
Would I be willing to let them talk to my vet? Of course.
I didn't even argue when they asked to examine Tribble before mid-September. I said I'd be happy to bring her by for an audition. The supervisor reluctantly accepted the reservation.
Satisfied that I'd just simplified my life, I went back to writing my grant. As grants go, it's a small one, but it's dear to my heart. It's an epidemiologic and ethnographic study of the "cheese" heroin epidemic in the Dallas area. Twenty-four teenagers have now died from mixing black tar heroin with over-the-counter medication. The kids have mostly been Hispanic.
My cell phone rang. It was the Petsmart supervisor. The store manager had made the decision NOT to accept my three cats for boarding. My request to speak to the manager was rebuffed. Tribble and I were victims of age discrimination.
The rest of the day didn't go any better. It was nearly 7:30 PM before I was able to upload the grant to the university's internal grants management system. Grants Management will spend the day today obtaining all the requisite signatures before sending the grant off to Bethesda.
On my way home, I swung by my eye doctor's office where they'd left four boxes of contact lenses in their mailbox for me to pick up. That's when temptation hit.
Ahead of me stood the golden arches.
A decade ago, I'd sworn off fast food. I've mostly kept that oath--with a couple of exceptions. I still eat Long John Silver's fish fillets and, once in a great while, I'll eat a hard taco from Taco Bell. But I've avoided Mickey D's with a steely resolve that has frankly surprised even me.
Like most addicts who fall off the wagon, I yielded to a sudden, impulsive act. Before I could repeat my mantra, "Remember your arteries," I was in the drive-thru line ordering a fish fillet sandwich and . . . a small french fry.
In the last ten years, I've dreamed of McDonald's golden, salty french fries.
As I drove toward my home, I nibbled on the fresh, hot fries.
S-H-O-C-K!!! They weren't as good as my memory. I know they've changed the recipe in the ensuing years, but OMG. Here I'd been fantasizing about them for years and I didn't even want to finish the little bag. By the time I got home, I was happy to throw the rest of the fries and the fish sandwich away.
I guess it's true. You CAN'T go home again.
Unless, of course, you're Tribble. Then you can't LEAVE home.