Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rolling Cigarettes In the Dark

For those who feel some completely inexplicable and obscure need to read my blog -- search-engine traffic outnumbers "real person" traffic by about 50 to 1 -- I should provide some narrative.

Rolling cigarettes in the dark is not something most people will want to try for themselves, and in fact, most people would simply give up or cheat. I didn't have a choice; I had to keep my eyes shut and not peek. No, the lights weren't out. However, opening my eyes would have been a true adventure in irritation which I would would classify as epic. It was easier to just think about what I was doing, and enjoy the infallibility of good understanding and lots of practice as well as thinking things through in advance, and paying attention to sticking to the plan.

Why bother, the Astute Reader might ask?

Sometimes you can just do whatever, whenever, and sometimes you have limitations. My limitation was that I was in the first 12 hours of recovery from cataract surgery.

I was recommended to a very good doctor and took the recommendation. Unlike quite a lot of my recent encounters with the Medical Industry, this was a private practice almost of the old school, where you get the specialist that you need, rather than the staff physician the Health Maintenance Organization's beancounter administrators decide they can afford.

Intake was tolerable, probably actually better than that, as I am generally nervous as a cat and the less people I have near me the better I feel. Yet being treated as if I were something other than even more meat to be processed, this was very settling. These folks exuded professionalism and competence, and it's hard to say which was the more reassuring of those two qualities; the combination is a winning one.

Surgery itself? After prep, and some discussion with the anesthesiologist, off we went to the operating room and away we went. This was far different from my horrid experiences with dental anesthesia in earlier years, which experiences were so horrid that I preferred to get a recent liver biopsy with only a local anesthetic, and was perfectly conscious for the fascinating experience of tonic spasm as the diaphragm was penetrated. No, those old dental anesthetists might have not had the right juice to work with, or they were being a little sloppy. When the dentist knocked me out for my wisdom tooth extractions, darkness dropped onto me like being in a car wreck, and the way my face, jaw, and neck felt when I awoke, it felt like I'd been in a car wreck. This experience yesterday was far different.

I'm not sure how happy I would be about having an anesthetic sneak up on me with little cat feet, anyplace outside of a surgery. However, in surgery, it's probably best that it sneak up on you rather than smash you down like you ran your car into a wall. I have to admit that listening to the conversation during the surgery wasn't something I was expecting, but the local anesthetics in the eye were quite effective so I just lay there, which was clearly the best course of action.

Post-operatively, once home, I sat around and tried to watch TV for a while, but the anesthetics wearing off in the eye were doing very weird things to my receptor nerves -- weirdness about equivalent to the special effects in the "trip sequence" in 2001: A Space Odyssey -- I figured I might as well take my tired self off to bed.

One little thing, though... when the local anesthetics wear off, about 4 hours post-operative, the incision (through which they vacuum out the old lens and insert the new one) in the eyeball isn't healed. The nervous system interprets it, at least in my case, as a tiny ball of steel wool rolled up somewhere under my upper eyelid.

Let's just say of this experience and situation, that sometimes it is not just appropriate, but truly good to cry. And, if you smoke them, to smoke a cigarette... to give you something to do with your hands other than try to hold them still and away from your eyes.

But lo and behold, I am down to the very last of my hand-rolled cigarettes. That means I need to roll more.

As it turns out, trying to open one eye while experiencing the "squeeze and cry" reflex for dislodging foreign object is not something one can do without increasing that reflex. You can use your hand ot hold open the lid of the unaffected eye, good for finding your way around, but you can't do anything two-handed that way. So I just got all of my necessities into place, took a final look, and then did everything by touch.

Use a large box top as a rolling surface. Rub a handful of tobacco between the palms, and anything that's left in the palm gets snipped up with manicure scissors, and repeat rubbing and cutting until all of the shake is about the same grain and size.

Now we're ready to roll. And what do we know about our brand of cigarette papers? As you open the pack, you can peel off a dozen or so sheets at a time, and if the packet was opened upwards, the gummed edges of the paper will be downwards. Peel off a sheaf, place the packet to the side, and flip over the sheaf to leave the gummed eduges upwards to the ceiling and towards the top-left corner of the boxtop that's keeping everything in one small work area on a footstool.

Noted in passing, all of this is done with both eyes closed, weeping copiously from the one eye, which still feels like there's a little ball of steel wool up under the eyelid. Yay. As long as I don't move my eyeballs, or try to open the lids, at least it's a little ball of steel wool that's just sitting there, rather than scratching.

Peel off one paper, carefully, setting back the sheaf exactly where it was. The thumb holding the single sheet has the index finger on the gummed side, so set it down and pick it up the way you'd hold a curved paper ready to roll. Curve the paper. You've done this so much you hardly need to look at it anyway.

You know the size of the pinch of tobacco, so you pick it up and place it in the paper. From there, it's more about feel and practice, anyway. Repeat as necessary. Hey, almost forgot about the little ball of steel wool, right?

Keep on going until you run out of tobacco. You've been laying down finished "rollies" in a column in the right lower corner of the boxtop, so pick one up from one end of the column, and trim off a millimeter or two from one end, and set it in another column. Once all of the "rollies" are in the second column, turn the boxtop 180 degrees and repeat the process.

Now that you've got all of your cigarettes trimmed at both ends, carefully feel for their center point, and cut the cigarettes in half and line up the cut segments. By the time you're done, you have about30 "half-smokes", and can start transferring them to a carry case.

Now, it helps that I don't have a beard, because these things are too short to light without singeing your nose hairs. Also, I get about three drags off of them before I douse them.

Of course, this has taken up a fair amount of time, working blind, and the horrid itching is almost tolerable. And if I should find myself waking up in the middle of the night and need to calm my nerves, I can do that by smoking; doctor's orders included "no alcohol and don't sign any legal documents for twenty-four hours".

In bed, not that I'm sad or anything, I cry myself to sleep. At least the one eye cries as I eventually fall asleep, and then I wake at 2:30AM. Itching slightly less. Have a smoke. Go back to sleep. Wake at 3:30AM. Have a smoke, itching is slightly less. Go back to sleep. Repeat every hour on the hour until about 6:30 or so at which time I can actually sleep a few hours straight through. Amazingly, when I wake up, the itching is almost completely gone, my pillow is literally almost soaked through with tears, and when I turn on the light -- at low intensity -- I can actually see through the new lens.

The new lens is plastic, and it is transmitting far more light than the old one did, not surprising as the last lens was getting so fogged over that it had to be removed.

Differences between the old lens and the new one include: much more light is getting through. The light is far more blue, about the same degree of change as between a room well-lit by warm yellow incandescents and a room grossly over-lit by old-school florescent tubes. I think this right here could save me a lot on the electricity bills.

This being merely the first day after surgery, there is nothing so near nor so far, nor anywhere in between, that I can get to focus. According to the doctor, in about two weeks this should be all settled in to wherever it's going to be, and whatever lenses will be needed can be fitted at that time. Meanwhile, I need to learn to forget the whole notion of focusing that eye on anything at all, since the inserted lens is not flexible and no amount of trying to focus will work. It'll be all in the external lenses. If all went as hoped, I'll only really need glasses for reading, and if I can read again anywhere near as well as I could only two years ago, that'll be just fine.

And of course, the really important thing: I can save lots of money by hand-rolling my cigarettes, even if I can't look at what I'm doing. Even in my 50s, it seems, I can learn a new skill, or how to exercise an old skill in a new way, or under a new handicap. I already learned how to do it one-handed back when I broke my hand during the 2008 District 4 MoCo Special Election.