Monday, November 23, 2020

It Just Ain't So

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published November 25, 2020] ©2020

Given the national despair over both election ugliness and the ever-worsening pandemic, I’ve tried to steer clear of both topics recently.  But now that the election is over, I couldn’t help but be even more dismayed by the warp speed the misinformation superhighway seems to be traveling these days.

At this point, politicians seem to be confident that they are preaching to a nation of sheep – and I say that with apologies to ovines everywhere.

Is curiosity dead? How hard is it to run information you read or hear through a quick mental filter of “Does this make sense?” “Does this ring true?”

It’s just so easy to check the veracity of information – for example, on the website  So why don’t more people do it? 

I wish the entire nation could get a Ph.D. in skepticism.  This whole year was a bottomless slough of disingenuous, invidious, dissembling, specious, obfuscating, fallacious perfidy and prevarication.  On top of that, there was a lot of lying.

I think the only thing that saved me from locking myself in a bunker and having my meals delivered by Uber Eats is that I’m not on social media. That would have pushed me over the edge. Still, I’ve received so many disheartening email internet rants – political and otherwise – from people whose intelligence I would normally respect but who seem inexorably committed to believe – and pass on – whatever shows up in their in-baskets.

Some time ago, I wrote a column called “Please don’t send anything to everyone you know” about the internet screeds that the wingnuts of the world forward to everyone in their address book without passing them through the most rudimentary filter of credibility.

One example: An otherwise-intelligent acquaintance from La Jolla had sent me (and about a hundred other of his closest friends) an email entitled “REFUSE NEW COINS!”  The all-caps subject line is usually a good tip off that it’s either an urban legend or some mass hysteria among the conspiracy set, which was only confirmed by the three-inch-high exhortation to ‘SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!!”  That always seals the deal for me.

In this particular tirade, “true Americans” (Strike 3) were implored not to accept the “new” dollar coins that were intentionally missing the words “In God We Trust.”  In doing so, the email rants on, “Together we can force them out of circulation.”

Actually, that won’t be necessary.  They were already out of circulation since they constituted some 50,000 incorrectly imprinted coins out of a batch of three million that the U.S. Mint struck in early 2007, and instantly became collectibles.  You should be so lucky to get one. I ascertained this in approximately three seconds by typing the words “US coins without in god we trust” into my browser and getting pages of articles about the error – and the ongoing annoyance of the U.S. Mint plagued by the dingdongs who have persisted in circulating this conspiracy story.

As the oft-quoted saying goes, “We are entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.” Or we used to be, anyway.  Apparently we are now entitled to our own facts. Alternative facts. Or, in fact, any “facts” that anyone cares to dream up and post.

So, here’s Inga’s short guide on how to recognized informational insanity:

1. Did the writer finish third grade?

2. If the bells going off in your head sound like klaxons, maybe it’s not true.

3. If there is even a single phrase in capital letters accompanied by more than one exclamation mark (“TOGETHER WE CAN STOP THIS!!!”, YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED.

4. Has the sender sent it to 150 of his or her closest friends?

5. If the conversation starts with “I heard,” stop listening.

6. Consider the source. The text of a hilariously clueless speech several years back that was attributed to Mitt Romney quoted him as saying that he could relate to black people because his ancestors owned slaves.  (They didn’t.) The “speech” was from a spoof article on the satirical website which, incidentally, proclaimed prominently at the top that is a satirical website and they were just funning you.  I guess they need to be clearer what the word “satire” means, as in, “We make up everything we put on this website for entertainment purposes and you should not believe any of it.”  But would that even be enough anymore?

As for the chronically-overused and abused Forward button, I think it should be programmed to give you three sequential prompts before it will actually allow your screed to contaminate the ether.  As in:

1. C’mon, really?

2. Are you SURE some yahoo didn’t send you this?

3. Do you want people to think you are a yahoo too?

It won’t help.  But I’ve done my best.



Monday, November 16, 2020

Never A Dull Moment

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published November 18, 2020] ©2020

 A few months ago, I wrote two columns regaling my readers with stories about how my older son, Rory, managed to terrorize me repeatedly by re-enacting scenes from horror movies he’d been allowed to watch at his father’s.  (I personally think my ex hoped I would suffer a heart attack and die, thereby absolving him from further child support payments.  He denies this.)

 Multiple readers asked, “How did you not kill this child?” Well you should ask.  

 Rory was a diabolically creative child.  There was nothing he liked better than an audience so he looked for – and invariably found – public places to create excitement.  He was adopted so I was hoping to live long enough to meet the woman who had spawned him. Mysteriously, when I finally met her 10 years ago, she turned out to be totally normal.  So…Dad?

 Rory cut his creative eyeteeth at the supermarket as a toddler maneuvering half gallon glass jars of apple juice over the side of grocery carts. He graduated to punching holes in an entire display of off-season tomatoes with a caramel apple stick. Buried his three-year-old brother under a five- foot display tower of stuffing mix by pulling out the bottom box. Pasted “100% pure beef” stickers from hamburger packages on my rear end. (I was always suspicious when everyone was smiling at me.)

Restaurants were another favorite place.  At his 10th birthday celebration at the Reuben E. Lee sternwheeler restaurant, a waitress carrying a huge tray of dinners over her head somehow encountered Rory’s foot. At the Mandarin House restaurant on La Jolla Boulevard, Rory managed to surreptitiously grease the water glasses with pot sticker oil so that they slipped out of the waiter’s hand and splashed all over the table.

 If I sent Rory to his room, he’d open up both his windows and whack on his bed with a tennis racket screaming “Please don’t beat me, Mommy!”  Or worse:  “No, no, don’t touch me there!”  (Those stranger awareness classes in grade school were perfect fodder for someone of Rory’s imagination.)

 His hand-made Mother’s Day card the year he was 10 read:  “You’ve been like a mother to me.” 

 My car radio stations were perpetually changed to Mexican polka music with the volume turned up high so that it would scare the bejesus out of me when I turned on the ignition. 

 Over the years, he evolved into more sophisticated but always unpredictable pursuits, even after he left home. In college he wrote his Abnormal Psychology term paper about me. And sent me a copy.

 In 2009, during a weekend visit, Rory appropriated my 14-digit library card number sticky-noted to my computer and ordered me up a long list of books including The Book of the Penis (it came with an 8-inch ruler along the binding); The whole lesbian sex book: a passionate guide for all of us; and Coping with Your Colitis, Hemorrhoids and Related Disorders. He was aided and abetted by the public library website’s then-policy of announcing “your password is the last four digits of your phone number,” a policy now changed, presumably at the behest of other mothers with prankster sons. But once these titles were on the reserve shelf with my name on them, there was nothing to do but take them home and read them.  And write Rory a book report on what I had learned from each of them. 

Soon after my 65th birthday, a woman called our home from an agency called A Place for Mom which services the severely memory-impaired.  She asked for my husband Olof, and when told he was at work, was greatly dismayed to learn that I had been left unattended. Puzzlingly, she seemed to have a great deal of information about me. When I adamantly insisted “I do not need institutional care!” soothed, “You seem to be having one of your good days, dear.” I don’t know why I didn’t suspect Rory immediately.

But it’s only fair to note that Rory can also channel his creativity into forces for good. Once when we were traveling to a family reunion on the east coast, our bags were lost when we arrived in Philadelphia. The baggage lady expressed total ennui until 11-year-old Rory, who had been entertaining himself wheeling around the baggage area in a wheelchair, rolled up to the counter, and feigning a pronounced facial tic, whined “Mommmmmmmy, I left my medicine in my suitcase.” The baggage lady’s eyes suddenly got big and she began typing faster and faster. Rory, thrilled with his success, began flailing in the wheelchair, finally falling out of it completely onto the floor. Our bags were quickly located and we had  passes to the VIP lounge while we waited. 

So what does Rory do now, you ask?  He’s a therapist in private practice with a waiting list a mile long. And it’s exactly the right job for him. 



Monday, November 9, 2020

Worst Patient Ever

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published November 11, 2020] ©2020

What is it with men, anyway?

No, don’t even try to answer that. It’s just one of life’s imponderables. But obviously some anomaly in the Y (Why???????) chromosome.

Over the last 11 years I’ve written countless columns about my wonderful husband Olof who is the easiest guy on the planet to get along with. Well, until he is sick or injured.  Then he becomes the worst patient ever

This was definitely true after his heart attack in 2018.  We were 12 hours away from leaving for a trip by airplane when I noticed with concern that Olof appeared to be in considerable pain. Not, of course, that Olof would ever admit that he was minutes away from a massive near-fatal cardiac episode because that would make it far too easy for anyone, like his soon-to-be-formerly adoring wife, to actually help him.

When queried, he maintained he’d eaten a restaurant lunch that was giving him heartburn (he had never had heartburn in his life) and would I please not make a big deal out of it!  He was fine!

To prove this point, he then decided to stand up (very very bad move) and promptly keeled over, doing a full-force face plant into an armoire, sustaining a serious brain injury in the process. For the first time ever, I wished I’d had a shorter husband than my 6’3” spouse who would have had less momentum on his way to the ground.

The irony is that that brain bleed and facial and neck injuries took far longer to heal than the heart attack.

I confess that by the time he was fully recovered, I hated him. Yes, I know that sounds mean.

His neurosurgeon had only released him home if I would be constantly monitoring him for a specific list of danger signs that could indicate impending stroke or seizure. Or death.  Trying to nurse someone back to health who is utterly uncommunicative about their physical condition is exasperating.  In Olof-Land, if you don’t admit it, it’s not happening. 

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” I said to Olof at the time, “but only one of us has a degree in nuclear physics. The other one is actually intelligent. And cannot keep you alive without your verbal participation.”

It was incredibly stressful.

“Surely,” I’d implore, “there is some middle ground between denial of discomfort, and paramedics resuscitating you?” 

Fortunately, he did make a full recovery, thanks to excellent medical care and his sainted wife. (That would be moi.)   I even, ultimately, came to be fond of him again.

But I did feel compelled to observe to him that he was such an impossible patient, if he should develop a long-term malady, I was putting him in a home. And not necessarily a nice one.

Fast forward to October, 2020.  Olof is limping. Badly. But he denies anything is wrong.  The next day Olof has fished the crutches from a long-ago sprained ankle out of the hall closet and is using them.  He is wincing painfully and becomes perilously close to falling on multiple occasions, especially when navigating the steps down to our bedroom. His knee is significantly swollen. But he is “fine.” 

No, he insists, he didn’t actually “do” anything to it. (Do I believe this?)  It just got sorer and sorer.  He’s sure it will be fine in a few days. 

I, of course, suggest Advil and ice and elevation.  Olof is willing to consider elevation, but not the Advil or the ice.  Especially not the Advil.  That stuff isn’t good for you, he insists.  Neither is falling on your recently-healed head, I rejoin. 

Olof’s theory is that if you take pharmaceuticals or other amelioratives (ice) then you won’t know when you’re better.

“Actually, Olof,” I countered, “when the Advil wears off in eight hours and the pain returns, you’ll have a pretty good idea.  And you will have suffered less in the meantime, never mind reduced a lot of potentially-joint-harming inflammation.”  (My first husband was a doctor.)

But Olof was stoically refusing all treatment, including and especially a trip to Urgent Care.

“Just so we’re clear,” I announced to him on Day 5, “I do not respond to medical emergencies after 9 p.m.  So if you fall after that time, I am merely putting a blanket over you – a scratchy one if it’s between 1 and 4 a.m. – and leaving you until morning.”

After a week, Olof’s knee started to get better and after ten days it was pretty much fine.  During this time he had never ingested a pharmaceutical or seen an ice cube. In his view, this was perfect vindication for his “do not feed the lions” “it will heal on its own” approach to medical care.  Don’t ask, don’t tell, and whatever you do, don’t admit pain. 

OK, not my philosophy. But from now on, you’re calling your own paramedics.


If you think you are about to have a heart attack, do NOT stand up.