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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Did this ever happen to James Herriot?

Once before, when I was more overweight than I am now, there was a rather amusing incident that took place while I was at work. In fact, although I was able to laugh at myself at the time, this one occurrence served as a catalyst for me to finally get to work on losing some weight. The happy ending here is that I finally did get to where I wanted to be, which was after about 15 months I had gone from 238 pounds down to 184. It took a disciplined combination of regular exercise (swimming) with making dietary changes. Namely, I cut out soft drinks and started paying attention to my daily caloric intake. Having to think about each thing I ate and how many calories it contained really put things into perspective.

It's a few years on from that and I find myself needing to lose a bit of weight again, thankfully not nearly as much as before. I just hope that, unlike last time, I don't end up with another story like this.

It all started out as a routine veterinary consult. There was a rather large dog, a Siberian Husky I think, that had come in to have a certain lump on his belly checked. So I greeted the Husky and his attractive female owner in the consult room at the end of the hall. These rooms were set up in such a way that you come in through a door opposite to where the owner comes in, and between the two of you is the exam table.

So this dog, let's call him Lance for I have no recollection of his or the owner's actual names, is sitting on the floor on the opposite side of the exam table from me, behind which I am standing. As per usual, before looking at the dog, I got a good start on the nature of the complaint and the dog's history with the owner, which helps me sort out what the problem might be and also so that I don't miss any other important details.

After a few brief moments of this, I finished talking to Lance's owner. I then grabbed a needle and syringe and went around to Lance's side of the table.

Setting said instruments on the exam table, I asked the owner if she could get Lance to lie down on his side so I could better see and feel the mass and then, ultimately, aspirate it with the needle.

This she then did, and what happened next I found to be quite embarrassing. Mortifying, in fact.

I was wearing a favourite pair of work slacks which I owned from the time before I had ballooned out to 238 pounds. So they had been through quite a lot of strain over the years, not only from the routine wear and tear of working in a vet practice, but also lately through the additional strain of covering a huskier pair of hips and thighs.

As I went to kneel down beside the now-prone Lance, there was a very loud 'POW!' that startled all three of us, most especially the owner.

Both the owner and I shot upright, she asking in a bewildered state, "Oh my God! What was that?" There was a look of genuine surprise on her face.

I, feeling a sudden chill breeze blowing on my backside, immediately knew why but didn't know quite how to explain it. My pants had finally given out on their oppressive owner with a vindictive and thunderous retort.

Sheepishly, I started backing around the table, never turning away from the owner. As I fumbled behind me for the door latch, I offered some lame explanation that everything was fine, and I'd be right back.

Backing through the door and never showing her my (now-exposed) backside, she seemed less terrified but still wore a befuddled expression.

Once on the other side of the door, I thought I'd be safe but I realised my trials and tribulations were only beginning. Here I was, wearing a pair of pants that had split entirely from the base of the zipper right round and all the way up the back to the level of the belt loops. My boxer shorts and the backs of my legs were completely exposed as my pants had quite literally exploded off of me. So great was the strain on the stitching, under duress these many months, that it finally gave way with an apocalyptic rending. I never knew pants could or would do this, especially so loudly.

I was a long way from the office where any spare pants might be, so rather than stroll down the hallways in my exposed state, I decided to call for help.

I think it was Megan who was just around the corner in the lab who heard me first, and she came running. When she got to me, I explained why it was I was holding the door shut and not moving an inch.

She started to laugh, clearly making an effort not to laugh even harder, and then went off to search the office for a replacement pair of pants for me.

Thankfully Megan returned in due time, but by now others had become aware of the situation. There was a pants-less doctor in the hallway and this sort of low comedy was definitely not missed by my clever co-workers. As chagrined as I was, I couldn't help but laugh along with them but I still had a sticky situation with Lance's owner. She must have been wondering why I backed out of the room in such a hasty and red-faced manner.

Well, when I returned, she immediately knew why. The only pair of pants in the hospital that were clean were some of my boss's purple surgical scrub pants. I am taller and also broader of hip than Andy is, so the fact that I could get them up around my waist at all was an accomplishment. But they were so tight I could barely move my legs forward and back, so that when moving I walked like one of those poor Chinese women from ancient times who bound her own feet.

Shuffling back towards the door to the exam room, I realised another distressing detail: not only were these purple pants high-waters, thus exposing my black work socks, I had also chosen on that day to wear my purple scrub top. So now I was clad all in purple.

This detail was also not missed by the expert staff of crack comedians working at the hospital, as the very next day there was a picture of Barney the Dinosaur taped to the shelf above my desk.

Pushing back through the door to confront my embarrassing situation with Lance's owner, I could see that she was relieved to see me again and that I was all right. Almost immediately, though, her eyes shot down to inspect my new choice of leggings, and I could see a grin flash across her face that was quickly suppressed.

Awkwardly, I realised she now knew exactly what the 'big bang' was and why I had backed out of the room in the manner that I did. So I just tried to play it straight as if nothing untoward was going on here, and got on with the job of aspirating Lance's tummy mass. It wasn't easy, because as I knelt down again by his side to check the lump, a flash of panic ran through me. Yes I was wearing new pants but they were tighter on me than the ones I was wearing before. What if these pants exploded too? I'd not only have to go through the whole shameful experience as before but this time there was no hope of a third pair of pants without going home!

Thankfully somehow I managed to kneel down and aspirate the lump and tell Lance's owner that it was just a benign fatty mass (no irony there) and not worth any real concern.

There was very little said between us after that, as I think the owner was too busy stifling the urge to laugh and any attempt to speak would cause the dam to burst, so to speak. She thanked me and retreated with Lance back to the reception area. I noticed she had been blushing the entire time since my return.

At least for the rest of the evening I never had to back out of any more rooms as the undersize purple pants held true for me. But they probably made more than one client wonder at my fashion sense - let alone why I was walking so funny.

Weeks later, three of my good friends took me out to a small birthday dinner after work. I was presented with a small wrapped present. As I opened it, I beheld a very useful gift that could only have one meaning: it was a miniature emergency sewing kit, such as one might need for those times when a button is lost.

Or, more precisely, for when one must deal with the humiliation of an exploding pair of pants.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A very Brooksie update

Once again it's been a while since I've penned an entry for this blog of mine. I blame the enthralling fortnight-plus that was the Beijing Olympics for getting me off track here.

OK so I'm not one for excuses, but watching those events really was an attention-grabbing, time-sucking experience as I'm sure it was for the rest of you who enjoy that sort of thing. My routine was such that I'd watch the main broadcast on TVNZ and when they'd either go to commercial or to an event I wasn't quite keen on, I'd swivel around 180 degrees in my chair and focus on the computer. There, I had TVNZ's website loaded up where they had four different channels streaming events not on the main television broadcast. Between the two mediums of internet and television, I was pretty well unable to focus on anything but the Olympics. Often, before I knew it, it would be well-past midnight on a work night!

Now that a sense of normalcy has returned to my life, lately I've been trying to go to as many improv shows as I can, since I am unable to join the Troupe for training until probably next year. If I'm not at one of WIT's shows on a Wednesday night I'm in yet another acting class I've signed up for on Monday nights. I've taken all of the improv acting classes WIT has to offer, so I've found another set of night classes offered through the Wellington Performing Arts Centre. These are mostly dance classes but they also have a few levels of theatrical and screen acting on offer. We are nearing the end of the First Level of the 10-week course, with our last class slated for this coming Monday night. It's been a good experience and luckily I'm able to continue with it for a second 10-week session, as we are all about to become 'Level Two' actors.

Sweet! Get me Spielberg on the phone. I think that's what Level Two must mean, right?

Yeah, right.

For our next block of classes, and I think all of us are staying on for it except for my Dutch friend Dana who is sadly leaving New Zealand, we are going to go about it with the goal of putting together a scene or a short one-act play at the end of it. This is rather ambitious, given that we only meet once a week and even then for only 90 minutes. But we will see how it goes and I'm sure we'll learn a lot along the way. As with the other classes I've taken since moving to Wellington, this one is filled with people of several different nationalities. There are about a dozen of us regulars, and amongst our lot we can count two Irish girls, a Dutch girl, a Chinese guy, a British girl and I am the only American this time around. The rest are all Kiwis and at the beginning we had a guy from South Africa but he decided not to stay with the program.

For the next part of this update, please take sixty seconds to watch this here clip from 3rd Rock From The Sun:

Lately I've become a little too much like Dick Solomon in that clip. Unlike Dick at the end of the episode, I'd like to fit better in my pants again by actually losing the weight and not just buying bigger pants, as he did. Wish me luck. I know it's going to take a while but I've gotten into a good routine lately. What with daylight savings on the way here soon, I'll be able to walk up Cannon Point again after work without having to bring along a headlamp, flashlight and walking stick just to try and avoid massive injury. I want to exercise but I don't want to risk life and limb in the process!

There are no more operas or symphonies for me the rest of this year, but I will certainly be a supporter of the New Zealand Opera again next year. I'm looking forward to seeing Chris Brown (from Tappahannock, yo!) and Rihanna in concert together at the end of October. Should be a great show and tickets for that sold out very fast so I was lucky to get them when I did.

My friends Sarah and Simon are getting married the weekend after that concert and soon after that they're off to England for an OE (Overseas Experience - it's a Kiwi thing) for a couple of years. Although I've not seen them much lately as Simon's been working in Aussie the past few months I will certainly miss their company when they go, and we'll miss Sarah at work for sure. But they promise they are coming back and, hopefully, they'll decide to come back to Wellington. We'll see.

Well that's it really. Nothing terribly exciting but life is good and interesting and I have absolutely no complaints. I've also been Warcraft-free for almost a year now, so that is also a good thing. Great game, but it demands far too much of your free time so that it becomes your so-called social life as you will have no time for a proper one outside of the game. If many of your 'real-life' friends play and enjoy it, then by all means sign up! As nobody I know here plays Warcraft, and as there are far more engaging things out there for me than a computer game, I have relegated the game discs to 'coaster' status and it's nothing but an anxious memory for me.

All right, I'm gonna go see if I can find some free dance lessons on YouTube or something. I don't want to make a complete jackass out of myself at Sarah's wedding reception, so I need to be able to 'bust' at least two or three moves to maintain a respectable presence on the dance floor. I could dance OK back in college but that's been an uncomfortably long while ago, and what with all the acting classes lately it's left precious little time in the schedule for dance lessons. So I need to brush up on my coordination, preferably in the privacy of my own home behind drawn curtains. Maybe I can improve my abilities (such as they are) from 'Frighteningly Bad' to 'Mildly Humourous' on the dance floor. I am hoping for lots of strobe lights, as they make everyone come up aces out on the floor. A good crowd into which I can blend myself would be a welcome bonus, too.

God help us if they have a karaoke machine at this reception.