Big giant head

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My daughter speaks kitty-cat. Unfortunately, we don't.

She usually does it when she's upset, although sometimes she does it when she's happy, and occasionally she'll do it when she's being cute, except for the odd occasion when she's doing it for completely unknown reasons.

The way it works is this: she loses the power of human speech. You can usually tell from her demeanor what her mood is, but the only vocalizations you get out of her are variations on "Meow."

"What's wrong, kitty cat?"


"Really. Do you have to go to the bathroom?"


"Oh. How about some water? Are you thirsty?"

"Meow! Meow!"

"Okay, here's some water. Anything else?"


"I don't know what that means, Zoe."

"Meow! Meowmeowmeowmeow!!!"

She'll go on these meowing rampages for an hour or more. I never have any idea what she's talking about, but she seems to like it when we call her Kitty Cat. And it really makes her happy when we start meowing back.

I've had entire meowing conversations with her, conversations that crack her up or reduce her to tears or make her angry. I never know why. I don't know what I'm saying. For all I know I could be ordering a grandmother smothered in cheese served in a dirty sock. But Zoe likes it, so that's what counts.

Sometimes I wonder what the cats think of all this.


Friday -- July 15, 1999
Most Wanted

I think I'm on the Weirdo Watch list at one of the hospitals I train in. I keep having unfortunate incidents with their security department, so now I think they're keeping an eye on me.

Today's incident was pretty minor, really. I took my camera to work with the idea that I'd wander around looking for shots on my break. There's a park right across the street with a jungle gym for the kids, baseball diamonds for the athletic types, and shaded benches for the seniors. Lots of good shooting material there. And then the hospital itself has some interesting architectural lines on the new wing, lots of glass, and a nice juxtaposition of the older wing. More good material. Wander around during the class breaks and at lunch, shoot some pictures that'll probably turn out bad anyway. No harm, no foul, right? Uh, wrong.

This hospital -- the entire chain, actually -- is having a little brouhaha with one or more labor unions. And it's a sectarian organization that's been buying up formerly public hospitals, which is causing concern in the community that the new owners are cramming their ethics down the patients' throats. Bottom line, they're getting a lot of bad publicity lately. Consequently, they're a little twitchy about anything out of the ordinary -- like union reps or reporters lurking around ... or weird guys with cameras.

I cranked off a few shots in the park, then did a few of the face of the building, and finished up with a highly suspicious close-up of some fire hydrants. I'm still learning how to use the camera and trying to remember everything I've forgotten about aperture vs shutter speed Vs everything else, so I wasn't exactly speedy about getting my shots. There was much standing around and fumbling and staring at what I was shooting. Someone inside must have seen all this and gotten nervous, because a security guard soon appeared.

"What are you doing?"

"Uh, taking pictures."


I felt guilty and on the defensive for about half a second and stammered something about making "pretty pictures," then reverted to my typical argumentative nature when he told me "You can't do that." That pissed me off, and I went off on a brief rant about "Bullshit I can't take pictures. I'm standing on public property and I can damn well take pictures of anything I can see from here and there's not a damned thing you can do about it. You can ASK me not to take pictures of the hospital, but you sure as hell can't stop me." Chuck making the guard his new best friend, in other words.

And then, when I finished ripping him a new one and he wanted to kill me, than I had to ask him to let me back in the gate because I'm a contract employee and so don't have keys or a security badge. (Observation: it's impossible to hold the high moral ground when you have to ask a favor immediately upon gaining it.)

This led to me being escorted into the building and to the security office, where I had to explain to the "Chief" what my job was, why I didn't have a badge, what I'd been taking pictures of, and why I'd exited a locked security gate in the first place. And of course the room was full of guards, two of whom recognized me from previous encounters.

The last incident happened a month or two ago. I was finished for the day and heading for the parking lot. I usually hit the can on the way out, but as I approached the final bathroom I saw that it was being cleaned. I had to decide whether to turn back to the last bathroom, half a mile behind me, or tie a knot in it for the ride home. I was in a hurry. I opted for the knot.

But then I saw an opening. The cleaning lady stepped out of the bathroom briefly, propping the door open with a trash can. I made my move. I sidestepped her, moving like a cat, and ducked into the bathroom before she could say or do anything to stop me. Yessss!

I went straight to a stall, unzipped, made tinkly sounds for a looong time. Then, observing proper personal hygiene, I stopped to wash my hands. Then I made faces in the mirror, slicked back my nonexistent hair, blew my nose, and generally wasted time. I was in there for a fair bit of time. Definitely longer than normal. I don't know why, I just was. It was innocent, but it sure made it look bad when...

Coming out of the bathroom I was confronted by the cleaning lady, two cleaning men, and a security guard. Trying to move like a cat, I tried to sidestep them but one of them moved to block me. I was cornered. I had no idea why.

"What were you doing in there, sir?" asked the guard, looking suspicious.

"What do you think?" I retorted cleverly.

"I don't know," he replied. "Most guys use the Men's room."

Oh, man. So that's why there weren't any urinals in there!

What do you do in a situation like that? What do you say? Answer: it doesn't matter. You're going to look like a perv no matter how innocent you act or how good your reason is. Most guys use the Men's room. Only weirdos use the Ladies'.

And then there was my first incident with Security, a violation of the smoking policy that probably put them on my scent in the first place. The hospital has a strict no-smoking policy, but hasn't bothered to provide a smoking area anywhere on the grounds. You have to go "off campus" to do it, even if off campus means standing on the other side of an invisible line.

So I'm standing out front one day, smoking, when the dorkiest looking guard you've ever seen came up and told me to put my cigarette out. Told me. I'll do just about anything if you ask me, but if you tell me to do something it's just about guaranteed it ain't getting done. I did what any red-blooded pain-in-the-ass Amurrican would do. I said no.

That led to some verbal jousting about hospital policy and no-smoking areas and what might happen if I didn't put the cigarette out. Meanwhile, I kept smoking. He finally backed down enough to allow that I could smoke if I went off campus ... which was about three feet to my left. I stepped two feet over, straddled the invisible line, and finished my cigarette. And then put it out on the hospital side of the line. The guard didn't say boo. I pass him in the hallways sometimes and he still won't meet my eye.

I don't know what it is about that hospital. It just brings out the jerk in me. It's my favorite site to teach at, oddly enough, and the students love me, but Security probably has an FBI style Wanted poster of me in their locker room. They probably track me on the cameras as I move throughout the building. They're probably hoping I work late one night so they can jump me in the parking lot without witnesses.

I can't understand why they've never signed up for my classes.


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Copyright © 1999
Chuck Atkins