Friday, October 1, 2010

Another One Rides The Bus

Today I had to go to do something I loathe:  Go to the ophthalmologist (try spelling that one without a dictionary).

My optometrist again thought that I may have a hole in my retina, and wanted me to go back and get checked by a specialist again.  Of course he first had to dilate my eyes, which is always a pain in the ... eyes ... for me.  As if this process weren't annoying enough, he poked on my eye with an instrument while looking into my eye with a scope trying to determine how the gel-like fluid in the eye called the vitreous was interacting with my retina.

The good news:  I don't have a hole in my retina.  The "spot" is still a thin spot of my retina.  The bad news:  Apparently the vitreous in my right eye sometimes does something to the retina where it sticks to it kind of like tape and then pulls on it (as best I can understand it).  The danger here is that, over time, the retina could be pulled loose, or worse, could tear (as in rip).  The doctor suggested a laser surgery to fuse the retina to the eye in the place where the retina is being pulled in order to reinforce it (turns out to be in a place in my far peripheral vision).  Now I know some of you are saying, "Cool!  Lasers!"  For me, not so cool.  I mean, lasers are cool, but shooting them in my eye isn't.  Oh, and did I mention that the doctor said, "Before we start the procedure we use a needle to numb the eye in a couple of places so that the process won't hurt so much?"  Uhhhh...put a what in my where?  As in, "Cross my heart and hope to die?"  Needless to say, this is one surgical procedure that I'm going to think about and get a second opinion first, and hope to heck that they give me some serious drugs that'll put my mind into a "special place" while they perform a procedure that resembles medieval torture (or, perhaps, something from Guantanamo Bay).  Thankfully the situation right now isn't urgent...and hopefully will remain that way while I weigh my options.

A new experience that was a lot more pleasant was my travels getting down to the doctor's office.   There is a CapMetro (short for Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority) bus stop right outside the building where I work. Looking at Google Maps showed that there was a bus stop right outside my ophthalmologist's office.  Since I had to be there for an 8am appointment, I didn't much feel like driving down to the medical center area in rush-hour traffic, looking for parking, that I would have to pay for.  Then I would also need to drive to work afterward with my eyes dilated, which isn't the safest condition to be driving in (although I have successfully done this before).  It turns out that there was a bus route that ran from where I work to where I needed to be, and my job allows me to ride the city bus for free, sweetening the deal.  So I figured, "Let's try the bus."  I never really used Austin's public transportation system before.

It was actually a pleasant experience.  The bus arrived at the bus stop on-time at around 7:04am as scheduled, and arrived at the stop right outside the doctor's office building at 7:30am (also as scheduled).  The ride was comfortable and stressless (minus the anxiety over pulling the "stop cord" at the right time to signal a stop at the place I wanted to go).  Likewise, when I finished my appointment, I got to the return bus stop across the street right as the bus arrived, and ended up across the street from where I work.  No fuss, no grumbling at stupid drivers, no driving with dilated eyes, no finding and paying for parking in the med center area of Austin.  Now that's cool.

Unfortunately, Austin really isn't set-up well for a mass transit system that everyone can ditch their car for, like the ones in Manhattan or Washington, DC.  I should also add that the weather was beautiful outside today - not 98 degrees in sweltering heat or pouring down rain.  In this case the bus probably wouldn't have felt so convenient, and to me this demonstrates two of the less important reasons why Austin, TX isn't really the kind of city where you can give-up driving.  Additionally, Austin is less of a large city and more of a small city with a very large and sprawling suburbia.  This is the reason I am against the idea of a rail system in Austin.  I'm not against public rail transportation, but I don't see where it will work well in Austin.  A bus system, on the other hand, is a reasonable solution since routes can be modified as population and transportation trends change.  While it is still hard to modify bus routes, it is much harder to move train tracks.  Suburban sprawl and gentrification kind of by definition causes these kinds of changes.  In any case, the bus system here works, and it seems as though it gets plenty of use.  Even if it weren't free for me, I think the normal $1 each way to avoid the hassles of driving to my appointment would have been well worth the money.

So there you have it.  I have been agonizing over this appointment now for the past couple of weeks, which is why I haven't been writing much.  I have been busy at work too, which is another situation entirely.  Stay tuned:  The Great NY Road Trip is on again...and this time, it's seriously looking to be happening.

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