I’m a little high-strung. Without medication, my blood pressure hovers around the level you expect to find in a hyperactive Chihuahua in the throes of an Adderall extravaganza. I keep it pretty well controlled with medication. However, when I get worked up about something, I could mainline industrial doses of vodka tonics and still be dangerously close to blowing a cerebral blood vessel harder than Mount Vesuvius.
That’s a problem when the outfit your company hires to administer your health and wellness screening pisses you off right before they test you for hypertension.
You see, I already did my screening. Weeks before, in fact. I passed my blood pressure check with flying colors the first time around, only to have the drooler doing my examination forget to record it. So, I got a call asking if I would be willing to submit to another BP check at another event. I said, “Sure.” Then I found out that it would be sixty miles away. On a Saturday. OK, that was not ideal, but it was not a deal-breaker. Shit happens, and it’s not like I’ve never made a mistake at work. Failing or not doing my blood pressure check will result in hundreds of dollars in increased insurance premiums. So I suck it up and go.
I woke up early on my day off, drove sixty miles to a remote location, and tried to check in, only to be snarkily told by the supervisor, an unhappy, impatient woman with an Uber-Karen hair-do, that I was not in the system. She told me that there was nothing she could do for me in a tone of voice that insinuated that I was the one who made the mistake. Now, I spent six years in the Navy. I am a fluent vulgarian. My first instinct was to let it all fly out and go all Full Metal Jacket on this woman, but after another look at her “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” cut, I doubted that would get me anywhere but fired. I had to adapt, to battle her on her terms. I told her that I needed to speak to her supervisor.
Because of my state’s Covid protocol, we were all wearing masks. I did not recognize that our Director of Human Resources was sitting right in front of me, watching this whole thing go down. She jumped in and very quickly got them to straighten it out. The damage was done, however. When the Alpha-Karen took my blood pressure, it was as if I had just finished hitchhiking across the Sunni Triangle wearing nothing but a French tickler and an “I ♥ Bibi Netanyahu” tee-shirt.
Karen tried to suppress her smirk but did not quite succeed. “I can give you ten minutes to settle down if you want to try again.”
I smirked back at her. “Yeah. We’ll do that.” When I was in the Navy, I spent more than two years living in Japan. For most of that time, I dated a Buddhist girl and caught a mild case of it myself. I knew how to meditate. I was going to go back to my car and get so chill on this bitch that it’d make her head spin. I meditate myself to sleep nearly every single night. I never realized that it is virtually impossible to sail seamlessly upon some serene astral plane while under pressure until then, however.
Shutting myself in my car, I put my seat back, closed my eyes, and began the process to enhance my mellow.
Breathe in deeply through your nose…deeply… and hold it in. Feel the tingle in your chest. Now slowly let it out through your mouth. Feel the air moving through your throat until all of it is gone. Do it again…in through your nose…out through your mouth. Concentrate on how the air feels moving through your body. Now, relaaaaax. That’s it. Relax your toes, one at a time. Start with your big toes. Good, good, now your middle toes Now your…your…uh…uh…
You don’t know what the next toe is called, do you?
It doesn’t matter. You know which one we’re talking about.
It does matter you hippy fresh air freak! You distracted me. I forgot what toe we’re on.
Oh, for Christ’s sake. It’s the one that had the roast beef!
The middle one?
No, the middle one is the one next to your big toe.
Hey, wait a minute! No, it isn’t! That’s not in the middle! It’d only be in the middle if I stepped on a land mine or something!
Goddammit! It doesn’t matter what it’s called! Just relax it! Now!
OK. There we go. Aw, man!
Now my big toe is all tense again!
*Sigh* OK, let’s start from the beginning. Breathe in deeply through your nose…deeply… and hold it in. Feel the tingle in your chest. Now slowly let it out through your mouth. Feel the air moving through your throat until all of it is gone. Do it again…
Now relax your toes. Relax the ones that went to the market…now relax all the ones that stayed home…now the ones that had roast beef…and the ones that had none. Now relax the ones that…the ones that…oh, for fuck’s sake. I can’t do this.
…come on. I’m getting there. Say it.
I’m not saying it.
Just say it.
Because it sounds ridiculous.
Look, man, you’re breaking up the whole cadence by not saying it. If you’d just went ahead and said it, I’d be relaxing my calves by now and…
No, you wouldn’t. You’d be laughing.
Come on, dude! We’ve got money at stake here! A lot of money! We need to get this done! Just do it!
OK! OK! OK! Relax your toes. Relax the ones that went to the market…now relax all the ones that stayed home…Now the ones that had roast beef…and now the ones that had none. Now, relax the ones that went weee weee weee wee all the way home!
See! I told you that you’d laugh!
Well! You weren’t supposed to do it in that silly ass voice! We’re meditating here! Not entertaining babies! Hey! What are you doing now?
Looking this shit up.
Seriously? You’re Googling what toes are called? Eight minutes before we have to go in and get our blood pressure checked again?!?
Would you rather spend the next eight minutes arguing about it?
You know, we’ve…I…whatever this is…we’ve been doing this for almost thirty years! Why the hell is this issue suddenly coming up now?
Because you won’t let it go! There! That’s it! The big toe is called the “hallux!”
I’m never going to remember that.
Fine! We’re going to stick with the big toe! The next one can be called the “long toe,” the “pointer toe,” or the “index toe.”
I vote for the pointer toe.
OK. Like anybody ever actually points with it but whatever…
I’ve done it before.
No, you haven’t. It’s physically impossible.
No, it ain’t. I can do it. Watch…
That’s your hallux…
Hmm. You’re right. Hold on. Let me…
We don’t have time for this. Stop it before you end up getting…
YEEEEOOOUCH! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!
GODDAMN! THAT FRICKING HURTS!
You might want to keep your voice down. People are looking at us.
OWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW! Owowowowowow! Ooooooohhhh! Gah! Jesus Christ, that smarts!
I know, asshole. I felt it too. You ready to move on?
OK. I’m going with “middle toe” for toe #3. You satisfied?
Yes. I told you so.
Toe number four is the “ring toe.” The last one is called the pinkie.
The pinkie! Come on, man! We knew that shit! You know, all this trouble could’ve been avoided if you’d just called it that in the first place.
What?!? Are you trying to say this is my fault?!? LOOK, YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH! I’M DOING THE BEST I CAN TO GET YOU THROUGH THIS BLOOD PRESSURE CHECK AND YOU’VE WASTED IT TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOUR GODDAMN TOES ARE CALLED! YOU NEED TO TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY, GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER AND CALM THE FUCK DOWN!!!
I’m calmer than you are.
GAAAAAHHHHH! I AM YOU, YOU MORON! Jesus Christ! Hey…you didn’t just…did you…did you just work in a “Big Lebowski” quip?
Like a boss, I did.
I thought you’d appreciate that.
You should. You’re me. OK, we need to reset here. Taking it from the top. Breathe in deeply through your nose…deeply… and hold it in. Feel the tingle in your chest. Now slowly let it out through your mouth. Feel the air moving through your throat until all of it is gone. Do it again…
Now, relaaaaax. That’s it. Relax your toes, one at a time. Start with your big toes. Good, good, now your index toes Niiiiice. Now your middle toes. You’re doing fine…take another deep breath…let it out…now relax your ring toe…and now your pinkie.
“Yeeeeaahhh. Now, relax your ankles…let it go…your calves…your knees…yeah, your thighs now…you’re doing great…and now your buttocks…
What the hell was that?
You know damn well what it was. You felt it, too. It happens sometimes when I relax down that way.
It happens EVERY time you relax down that way. And every time you don’t. Face it! You live in a near-constant state of rat-gagging flatulence! Maybe if you watched what you ate a little more, you could lower both your blood pressure and the reek of that butt-trumpet of yours!
Come on, man. It’s just gas. It ain’t that bad.
The windows are all fogged up now! We’re trying to get your mellow on and you feel compelled to fart in a closed car!
Hey! I’m putting this check in the “positive” column! What do you think’s going to happen to my blood pressure if I fire off an ass-canon while in line to get my screening done? Or in front of the HR director?
Actually, that’s a good point. OK. Let’s start at the beginning again…
Hold on. Do a time check.
When do we have to be back in there? Do we even have time for this?
*sigh* Not really. We’ve got, like, four minutes.
We need to look for another alternative. You know, I think I read somewhere that masturbating can relieve tension.
IN THE PARKING LOT AT WORK?!?
No! I didn’t mean like, right here, right now. I wasn’t proposing it as a solution for this particular situation,. I was just making a general comment.
Thank god. It’s not like I could pull something like that off in four minutes, anyway.
Sure, you could. You’ve done it before.
I’m sure our wife would beg to differ.
Hmmmpf. Whatever. What else you got?
Not much. Just about ninety seconds. I think we need to call this and go get it over with.
I did. After ten minutes, I walked back into the building and had my blood pressure checked again. It was about four points higher than it was the first time they checked. The Uber-Karen said all the right conciliatory words, but the tone in her voice was dripping with celebratory vindication. Knowing my health insurance premium just sky-rocketed higher than my hypertension, I walked out of the office emotionally capable of strangling an Andean mountain llama in the nude.
My inner hippy meditation guru got indignant about that. You can never achieve peace through violence.
Really? If I remember history correctly, we bombed pacifism right into the Japanese three-quarters of a century back. They’re still pretty mellow.
You understand what I mean. You know, I have to give us credit, though. I don’t think there are too many people on the planet wired to get twice as agitated trying to calm down and meditate than they were before they got started.
Yeah, that was quite an achievement. How do you want to celebrate? Rice cakes and tofu?
Fuck that. The damage is done. I say we just blow this joint and go get sideways on tequila and White Castle.