Monday, October 31, 2011

How I Completely Suck At Life, Part II: In Pursuit Of A Shot In The Ass

So yeah, I meant to write more on this sooner, seeing as it was Part II and everything, but even though some time has passed, I'll just carry on. If you have loads of time on your hands, Part I might explain some things. Or it might not. Whatever. There's only so much I have control over, and apparently, it's not much.

Anyway. When the doctor told me the antibiotics were the injection kind, I had all this other stuff in my head. In this post, we shall take some journeys into my head so you can get an idea of what it's like in there at any given moment. At the time the doctor was telling me I'd have to arrange a bunch of injections for myself, it was looking a little like this:

It might look like this in there.
Maybe we can have English chat time with the doctor someday, what's our schedule like? Child is damn sick and tipping over and we've been at this hospital over an hour. Smells like cigarettes in here. Is Robitussin codeine syrup on that list of prescriptions? Coffee? I like coffee. Poor kid is so sick, this sucks. Get over this disease quickly, eh? Fuck our whole I don't take antibiotics for no reason thingy, it's boring. Is it for real English chat, or does he have ulterior motives? I am repeating back everything the doctor has said to me to make sure I've understood. Injection? How old is this guy, anyway? Maybe we can get the jab on the way out, shouldn't take long. Or tomorrow. The boy wants to go home. Hee, remember that bottle of Robitussin codeine we had that one time? Yes, the child speaks Turkish and English. Say the thing where he speaks Turkish better than I do, it always gets a laugh. Ooh, it's worked again, say Maşallah now. Smile politely and nod. Everything is going to be fine. Is this an adventure or do we suck at life?

Just shut up, fucking Brain.
Honestly, it's nothing but my own fault that I accepted the shot in the ass. I just wasn't paying attention. It was a hard day, all right? And it really troubles me, as I look at what I've written here, that some of the chatter in my head is first person plural. It should be singular, right? Unless my brain is somehow on a different team from me, which is entirely possible.

So I hauled the poor limp boy back to the counter at the front to get our receipt, and remembered there's the loveliest eczane just a few doors down from the hospital, where they actually went to the trouble to decorate the place like an old-fashioned apothecary, with wooden walls and cupboards and high shelves lined with old-fashioned jars labeled in Turkish and French. In my effort to get out of the hospital and through the eczane and back home as quickly as possible, I forgot to wonder why no one was giving me one of those miraculous Turkish antibiotics shots that make you better in like 20 minutes because you're American and haven't overused antibiotics your whole life for every sniffle.

At the eczane, there were stools and a flamboyantly dressed and made-up old lady who kept asking me where the child had gotten cold. I didn't really know how to answer that question because it was weird, but also I didn't want to insult the woman because in any other situation I would have thought she was super cool, like a washed-up silent movie star or something.

Say, why don't we take this party to the fucking eczane?
Besides the decor, the other reason I like this one eczane is because there isn't the usual horde of eczane groupies of both genders who hang out there all day and drink tea and bug customers about their illnesses. Try getting diarrhea or yeast infection medication from one of those places and you'll understand what I mean. The old woman lost interest in me after a few evasive answers, opting instead to talk to the pharmacist about the dangers of various types of air for small children. The pharmacist was taking a really long time to fill our prescriptions, even with me standing over him telling him we don't need this or that one. I found the shelf of painkillers and tried to find that great non-prescription  muscle relaxant slash anti-inflammatory I like using when my back is flaring up, but I've forgotten the name.

Stunningly useful.
He led me through our medications one by one, writing the dosages and amounts and special instructions on the boxes, as they do. I have a really hard time with medications in Turkey, actually. The instructions and warnings are written on a separate piece of paper inside the box, and the pharmacist writes more stuff on the box. Nothing useful is written on the bottle or box. This means if the box and medications and instructions become separated from each other, you have no idea what they are or how much to take. Wikipedia doesn't help because Turkish doctors apparently love off-label medicating. Why do we have that 1960s anti-depressant lying around the house? Why, it's a painkiller outlawed as a painkiller in most countries since 1985. Sweet!

Halfway through, he stopped and said in Turkish, "How shall I write this on here?" then in English, "Daily. One. Full," and I gently reminded him I'd been speaking Turkish with him for the last 10 minutes. He looked relieved and carried on.

In front of him, he'd neatly stacked 8 little boxes. "You'll have to have these injected," he said.

"Where...?" I asked.

"In the ass," he replied. Actually, he said "In the hip," but it's funnier when I say "ass." At least I think so, because I'm such a fucking grown-up. Anyway.

"No, I mean, at which place should I have that done?" I asked, feeling ever so proud of myself I'd managed to use a causative verb.

"In the ass," he said, pointing to his hip. He didn't really say "ass" that time either.

"No, I mean, who is going to inject it?"

"Ah, they'll do it at a clinic or a hospital. The clinic at your school will do it"

Fuck you, George Lucas. Seriously.
Smile politely. Nod to the man and repeat all the information back to him. This interaction is going fine. These aren't the droids you're looking for. Stupid George Lucas wrecked the original films and the new ones sucked we waited our whole lives for that, our whole lives! Like 20 years! Holy shit, was it really 20 years? Wait, when did the first movie come out? 1977. We were four. We saw it in the theatre. Right. Okay. We understand the boy's medicine. Hey, that jar up on that shelf says "rezene." Wait, 8 shots? Where the hell am I going to get that done? We know "rezene."  Why do we know that? How are we supposed to get this sick child to someplace where we can get the shots? Quick, reject the medicine. Oh, shit, too late he's run the card already. Wait, seriously? The doctor saw this poor sick kid and expects us to trek around further for shots? What is it with men? Don't they notice anything? Greasy dishes, smelly towels. Fuck. Really? We're supposed to load this little boy onto a minibus to go up to school every 12 hours? After bedtime? WTF? Nod and smile, Stranger, nod and smile.

On the way to the taxi (A taxi! We have to take a taxi. Can't make the kid walk. Remember to apologize to the driver for going such a short distance, remember in Bakırköy when they wouldn't take us home because it was too close? Point out the sick kid. Use the kid, Stranger, the kid. Holy shit we just dropped 300 lira on medical care and now we're taking a taxi), I started trying to work out how many days it would take to get all the shots in the ass, and where I was going to go to get them done. I cursed the doctor some more, and the Turkish medical system, and the traffic and passersby, just for good measure. Then I cursed myself for stupidly agreeing to all of this because I suck at paying attention and I just wanted to go home.

It's really funny, trust me.
So I decided to hold off on my shots in the ass until the next day. LE and I watched cartoons and I assured him we weren't going to school the next day. I also told him that we'd have to get up early so I could have a shot. I'd decided this was a good time to get him warmed up to the idea of shots, because he's got another round of vaccinations coming up and is more scared of shots than he is of zombies. He was greatly concerned about my shot, so I told him I would be getting it in my butt. I didn't say "ass" this time because he doesn't exactly know that word. He thought that was pretty funny, because he's four and any sentence with "butt" in it is extremely funny. But then he got worried that I might cry. I assured him I wouldn't because I would power through the pain like Bruce Lee. I've been teaching him to power through the pain like Bruce Lee. It doesn't actually work, but believe me, few things are funnier than watching a skinny four year old power through the pain like Bruce Lee.

I messaged a friend of mine to find out if eczanes will give you shots in the ass. I've heard they do, and she confirmed it was true. The one near her house does it, but I bet they don't post it in the window along with the cellulite removers and hair growers. I decided to try the eczane up the street. LE's antibiotics were already working and he was rallying.

Please, my friends. There are nicer places to have tea. Here, for instance.
Bright and early the next morning (well, not super early), I packed up the boy and a box of antibiotics and we went off to the nearby eczane. I'd chosen this one not only for its proximity, but also for its lack of groupies. Turns out I was wrong on the groupies thing. I guess I'd only ever been there in the evening after the groupies had already gone home. I explained my antibiotics thingy to the girl there, but already from the look of her, I was shit out of luck.

In Turkey, there is a certain breed of 18-25 year old skinny, pretty, but-not-too-pretty tight-shirt-wearing girl who is, more often than not, a daughter of the owner, and who is also one of the most useless people on earth. She'll take one look at you and decide she is going to grasp whatever shred of power she has in the world by being as unhelpful as possible.

Nevertheless, ready for my shot in the ass, I powered through the pain.

"Hospital," she said. "You have to get that done at a hospital."

"Really? No one here can do it?"

"Hospital. You have to get that done at a hospital."

"Because look, my child here is sick and we already walked all the way down here, isn't there anywhere else I can get this done?" Again, these are my barbaric wheedling skills. Use the child. Rules mean nothing. Maybe there is another doctor nearby, like maybe one of those abortionists or laser epilation people upstairs who help in cases like these. A dentist even.

Please, sir! Don't go to the eczane!
"Hospital. You have to get that done at a hospital." The groupies stared and stared. What entertainment for a Tuesday morning! One of them stirred sugar into her tea, slowly, so the tinkling of of the spoon on the glass wouldn't cause her to miss one thrilling moment.

"Really? There's no other place?"

"Hospital. You have to get that done at a hospital."

"Can I do it myself? How hard can it be?" Now I'd shown weakness by revealing my Plan B, doing it myself. I mean seriously, hitting the gluteus maximus with a needle? With the help of Google? Child's play, I'm sure! I have a few friends who've given themselves shots in the ass during IVF treatment. It can't be much harder than taking a picture of my tattoo. Junkies manage to shoot up in their veins all the time and this must be way easier. It's not like junkies are rocket scientists or RNs, or even phlebotomists or silly eczane girls.

"Absolutely not. Hospital. You have to get it done at a hospital."

So I gave her my best angry face, and, failing to catch the eye of the proper pharmacist down at the other end of the counter so I could go over this girl's dumbass head, I gave up.

And there was snickering before the door hit my ass on the way out, so I slammed the door. Well, not slammed really. Just I closed it a little louder than necessary. But it popped back open so I slammed it again, a little more carefully this time. They were all staring and snickering and I had no way of knowing if it was because I was foreign with my hilarious Turkish, or because I thought I could get a shot in the ass at the eczane, or because I'd offered to give my own self a shot in the ass, or because they were all just horrible people who completely fucking suck, or because I was making a scene, but suddenly LE remembered he knows a bunch of swear words.

"Fucking people," he said.

I'll be honest here, one of the first things LE ever said was, "People, people, ah, people, fucking people," because you can be sure this is definitely not even close to the first time I've sucked at life and blamed it on everyone else. Plus, to borrow what my grandmother once said while we were watching a Pat Benetar video on MTV, "I'll bet she swears like a sailor."

I felt like crap the whole rest of the day, not only because I was still sick and hadn't gotten my miracle shot, but also because I'm foreign and we don't like making public displays of emotion. I talked to another friend on the phone that night who confirmed eczanes generally don't give people shots in the ass anymore, and she also promised me I don't suck at life by pointing out a whole bunch of ways I don't suck at life. Then she reminded me I could have asked her for help, which I never think to do because I feel like I suck at life even more if I don't try to do everything all by myself all the time. I seem to think I'm some sort of superhero or something. Who am I kidding? Still, it was nice to know she doesn't think I completely suck. I bucked up a little after that.

Then I told this story to my friend at school the next day, the one who told me the eczane near her house gives shots in the ass. And apparently, yes, only some eczanes give you shots in the ass but you have to know which ones. You have to be Turkish to know which ones, I guess. Or at least speak Turkish and have normal, easygoing relationships with the Turkish people around you, which I don't. As much as I'm improving at life in general, I still find interactions in Turkish with people around me, like neighbors and stuff, to be extremely stressful and time-consuming and confusing, plus there's that problem I have of paying attention. But she made me feel a whole lot better, as she often does when I confess having made a public spectacle of myself, by saying that the eczane girl was probably bitchy on purpose because there's something in her home life that is terrible and disturbing. I felt a little bit sorry for the eczane girl, but not much, not that it matters because I'll never set foot in that eczane again. My friend pointed out this isn't very good revenge, since I don't buy that much from them, and suggested we firebomb them instead.

So the next morning after the eczane day, I had to go back to work. I got up extra super bright and early (for real bright and early this time) and got to school and presented them with my my box of antibiotics and politely requested a shot in the ass.

"Do you have your prescription?" she asked me.

Of course not. Of course I didn't think I'd need to bring along the damned little piece of paper I'd needed to get the antibiotics, because how would I have gotten them in the first place without the prescription?

"Not on me," I told her. "Can I bring it tomorrow?"

"We can't give shots without a prescription," she said. "It's the policy."

Oh. A fucking policy. A policy I can work with.

"Please," I said. And I started begging. I used the child who was so sick I couldn't go out for two days and get the shot. I pointed out the stupidity of the doctor who'd prescribed me these. I said the pharmacy had told me to come here. I asked her to call the doctor who's prescribed the medicine. I had a coughing fit for good measure.

"I understand your situation," she said, "but this is our policy. What if you had an allergic reaction or something? We need to have the prescription of file for the insurance..."

Ah. The insurance. Now I knew I had a fighting chance because it wasn't a law. It was something no one gives a fuck about in real life once they're off campus and everyone remembers it's not Stanford.

So I began the same begging rant again. I was fucking tired of failing at life. For once in this goddamned week I was going to make someone do what I wanted. I could see her weakening. I promised her the prescription was on my kitchen counter and I'd bring it the next day. I reminded her that I'm foreign and couldn't possibly know about these kinds of rules about bits of paper. Just give me the shot in the ass already.

"In America," she asked, "Do they let you have antibiotic shots without a prescription?" She looked all triumphant with that one.

"In America," I replied, "Doctors just give you the shot right then. They don't generally give sick people a bunch of medicine and then send them off to find a way to get it injected, especially when they've got sick children with them. And the prescription is attached to the package."

Oops, bad move. She started to act all refuse-y again. I had two weapons left in my arsenal at this point. One was that I was going to march down to the eczane and buy some needles and ask Dr. Google how to give myself the shots. The other was one I hadn't tried yet.

Just give it already.
I started crying. Totally lost it. It was a little bit fake and a little bit not, because I had pretty much had it with doctors and hospitals and sickness and money and the fucking shots in the ass.

And you know what? It worked. And they were even nice to me after that. The next day I had the prescription on me and no one asked for it. The following day I asked the woman if she would like to photocopy it and she was all, "Sigh."

In the room where they gave me the shot in the ass, there was a little sign that said, "We ask that you not insist on getting injections for which you don't have a prescription." If I'd been in a better mood, I would have told that nurse that it was clear she didn't know that much about America because if she did, she would have known she could have just pointed at the sign. I'm American and if it's written on a sign I give up immediately.

So now my ass is like a pincushion and I don't feel too terrifically better sickness-wise.

But I feel a hell of a lot better for having managed to get myself some shots in the ass. I like to think of them as Victory Shots.
Now I need eight of these.
That's the thing. Set the bar very, very low and you'll always manage to impress yourself.


Sean said...

Find out if the eczane girl has a dog. If she does, kill the dog. It's great for revenge.

A Seasonal Cook in Turkey said...

What can I say except geçmiş olsun all over again??

Stranger said...

Thanks, Cook!

Actually, I could probably make the eczane girl's life miserable by turning up there once a week and making her fetch me stuff I know she has to give me, then smiling politely yet imperiously while she works...

Anonymous said...

You poor dear. Go to the crying immediately!

I've been here 25 years and have never heard of an eczane that didn't give shots or that required a prescription-- and for that matter, any antibiotic available as a shot also is available as a pill. (I have a long, extensive history with injections and antibiotics in Turkey, my immune system having collapsed twice).

I'm oon good terms with my eczacıs. My approach in the neighborhood is to be really nce to everyone beause when you need something doone, then they are eager to help. At the ecazane I limp in, say I need a shot, go into the back room and bare my butt and Hilmi Bey comes in and we talk about horses and vacation while he administers the injetion. These days I have a cocktail of Volataren and Muscoril (antiinflamatory and muscle relaxant) for my herniated discs.

Hilmi did offer to teach me to self-inject. I might take him up on it.

About those medical inserts. You can go online and get the Turkish version in bigger print, or you can search for the chemical name and get the English version. I am grateful for the inserts because a few times I have caught doctors prescribing things I have just told them will shut down my immune system, like just told them, incredible, but your own advocate. Read everything.


Stranger said...

K., I should be telling you geçmiş olsun!

I think this eczane girl was one of those folks that no amount of being nice would have gotten through to. If I'd had more patience, less sickness, and a not-sick boy by my side, I would have just tried the eczane across the street. Or the other 5 in a one block radius until someone did what I wanted. But I just wasn't in the mood.

It's from reading those online inserts (and assorted forums) I've learned about all the crazy off-label prescribing that goes on here!

And of course, you can have all the antibiotics you want without a prescription here. It's just that, for most folks, I'm not sure we should all be able to have them. So theoretically I'm okay with places starting to get stricter about this, just not when it's really fucking inconvenient for me.

Anonymous said...

Hey - just a dime's worth - self-injection is a piece of cake - no brains to it - just gotta learn how to relax your ass muscles while twisting around and shoving a tiny piece of metal into your muscle. Other than that, it's pretty much idiot-proof. Oh - and I love your writing, darlin'.