The last 24 hours have seemed anything but.
Yesterday I woke up to a ringing phone -- not an unusual occurrence, incidentally, but yesterday it was my sister advising me that my mother was taking my father to the emergency room. Last week he had gotten sick after a not-brief-enough walk in the rain en route to Lincoln Center, and apparently he'd gotten a cold that, in tandem with his lack of sleep as of late, morphed into some sort of viral infection. Subsequently, he was prescribed Zithromax (aka the Z-Pak) and that apparently affected his stomach and not in a good way. So he had a few days of less-than-ideal stomach discomfort.
So yesterday morning he really was uncomfortable so they ventured to the hospital to insure it was nothing serious. My gut (no pun intended) told me it was some reaction to the Zithromax and his medicine (not to mention his feeling shitty to begin with), so when they advised us, after a battery of tests, that his heart was fine and his gallbladder was as well (they suspected there might be gallstones or a problem with his gallbladder, period), I was relieved. He's still in the hospital and he's being watched and prodded and poked a bit, but all in all he's going to be okay. Part of the problem -- with anyone in general, but him specifically -- is that he doesn't sleep as much -- or as well -- as he should. For some time now, he wakes up around 3 or 3:30 to go to the bathroom, and then once back in bed he gets some additional rest but the 3/3:30 zone is right smack in the middle of when his body should be hitting "REM" sleep, which is to say the most constructive, necessary aspect of sleep. Basically, if one takes a two-hour nap four times a day, that collective eight hours is more akin to four regular sleep hours; if a person manages only four hours in a night (without a break) that is better than the two-hour nap scenario because it gives the body a chance to not only get some rest but to go into a more deepened hibernative state. Sorry for the complicated explanation -- I don't make the rules, I just work here -- but the short and long is that he is not getting enough "productive" sleep.
In the meantime, we didn't know much of what was wrong -- or how serious it was -- until about 1PM. Thankfully, with respect to his health, I'm usually right -- I approach the situation logically rather than emotionally, so when I spoke to my mother yesterday morning and asked if he was having trouble breathing or if he was running a fever, she advised me that neither was the case, so I pretty much assumed it wasn't a cardiac issue. And while there still remains some unanswered questions regarding what is happening, I am confident and relieved knowing he'll be back to 100% in the next couple days.
Amid this backdrop was the usual pile-up of work; since I'm relatively organized, I managed to get most of the important stuff addressed and handled with his situation in the back of my mind, and once my mother called and let us know he was not in any danger, we opted to get out of the office for a few and get some lunch, so we hit a deli nearby and grabbed some salad bar fare.
Now normally, the collection of items at the various korean deli's salad bars are pretty safe, unless you head for the exotic -- they feature tuna, egg and shrimp salads, a variety of lettuces and vegetables, and a smattering of chicken, pork and turkey fare (both cold and heated) and a mix-em-up of fish/seafood and pasta and the quasi fake sushi (nori, aka seaweed, wrapped around rice and sliced vegetables). So I got some fresh plain turkey, some veggies (snow pea pods with straw mushrooms and broccoli) and some pasta. I didn't get a lot because I wasn't really hungry, but I figgered just in case that if I was, I'd grab a small bag of nachos. Sure enough, they didn't have any small bags thereof, so I was left with corn chips -- but instead of fritos, a childhood leftover favorite, they only had "Dipsy Doodles." So be it -- I grabbed the chips and my plastic food container and a 20 oz. Diet Coke and paid and we returned to the office.
Over the next hour I had most of the food but wound up tossing a little because, as predicted, I wasn't really hungry. However, due to anxiety or simply a need to keep my hands and mouth busy, I ended up chomping through the bag of chips. What struck me as odd was the fact that the bag of chips was stamped with the expiration date September 11th, and as I popped the bag open I mildly considered that it was not a good date to stamp on unnecessary snack foods consumed by Mr. and Mrs. America.
After mindlessly scarfing down three quarters of the bag -- it was a 4.25 oz bag, so you do the math -- I caught myself noticing that the chips seemed rather stale. Returning to my work, I was busy for another half-hour when I realized I had to hit the bathroom, so I hit a stall and did my thing. My stomach was bothering me a bit but I came back into the office and thought nothing more of it.
Until a half-hour later, when I had a recurrence of the same problem, so after a lather-rinse-repeat, I was back at my desk.
And then again.
In a three hour period, I went to the bathroom about five times, which is more than I usually go in a week.
Finally, after wondering when my next call from nature would occur, I looked in my under-desk garbage can and grabbed the nearly-empty bag of chips. I wondered if the staleness of the chips meant that the bag had been lying around and the expiration -- September 11th -- was referring to September 11th of 2005. Sure enough, the stamp indicated Sep1106, ie 2006. So I wondered if a snack company would stock their wares five months in advance -- that didn't seem likely -- and if that WAS the case, why would something with five months of shelf life remaining taste so shitty?
Then it hit me -- someone could have easily printed that bag, filled it with store-bought chips, sprayed something on them and then used some infomercial food sealer to get it onto market shelves, a la Tylenol from a long while ago.
And then, seeing September 11th on the bag, my mind began considering the possibilities. As I made another visit to the bathroom, these possibilities began pinballing around my head like a tic tac in the trunk of a car bouncing down a jagged ravine.
So once I was back at my desk, yet again, I called Wise in the hope that if this was not merely food poisoning but an actual poisoning issue, perhaps they could verify the stamp code and advise me how to proceed. Should I call a poison control center? Should I go to the emergency room? Should I see my physician? Should I drink a bottle or two of seltzer and go jogging? Who knew?
So I looked up Wise Snacks on the web, and sure enough they had a nice, shiny corporate web site -- without any contact phone numbers. So I used an Internet Yellow Page guide to find their phone number, and, not surprisingly, their Customer Complaint section had only a "leave a voicemail" response. I told them I was concerned this might be a poison/tampering issue, and that I needed to hear from them ASAP once they verified that code so I knew whether to go to the emergency room.
This was about 4:50PM yesterday -- and I still haven't received a call back.
I also e-mailed them and explained, in pretty polite, proper form, what I had explained in my voice mail.
I still haven't received a response from them.
So, inasmuch as I (and continue to) appreciate my father's situation -- it could be a lot worse -- yesterday was another roller-coaster ride, replete with more than my share of pit-stops along the way. He's doing well and will be back home in a day or two; and I'll be sure and thank Wise foods, by way of the FDA, for their courtesy and attention to my adventures in the land of the Dipsy Doodle.
But a word to the wise: never, ever, eat anything emblazoned with an expiration date of 9/11.
It's just bad juju.