Last night I came home to find my brother heaving around things in his garage, which will become my storage unit in the imminent future. The garage wears other hats (if I can get away with that metaphor): home for his Harley Davidson bike, which is mostly a gorgeous knick-knack for him; laundry room; home for clotheslines; home of boffer weapons and LARPing gear; repository of strange aromas, empty boxes, clay pigeons, half-filled cabinets stuffed with the uncategorizable flotsam of a life lived with many hobbies; and coldest floor in the West. In this, it is like other Californian garages. My mother's is the front door to her home, which does not stop her from drowning it in clutter so that only the very tidy storage shelves full of plastic-boxed keepsakes around the edge and the exactly-her-SUV-sized space where she parks are vacant.
(The clutter in her garage is mostly food; I come by my strange purchasing habits honestly, as during the winter or when stressed I tend to stockpile staple foods and snacks, and so does she. I'm talking abnormal levels of squirrel-preparing-for-winter zombie apocalypse bunker stockpiling, here. My friend April once had a dream wherein my mom bought so much margarine she could neither fit it all in the fridge, the freezer, nor the freezer in the garage-- it was, she explained with uncharacteristically dotty dream logic, on sale.)
(While I'm on the subject of zombie apocalypse, even though I'm really not... I got lunch from the Cookie Crock Warehouse today -- which, some of you may remember, is on my just-in-case map -- and I can tell you there's hardly a more zombieable grocery store anywhere. To the good, it has an impossibly large selection of Asian and Mexican foods. It's also two doors over from my workplace. Handy.)
Back to Robert. Sorry about that.
So, we went inside, and sat down on the couch. He brought a big package with him. It's been a couple days of novel packages: the other day we received a box full of an empty box in the mail. Evidently this is how Comcast does its business... it mails you, fully assembled, an empty box so that you can mail back the cable-box. It does make for a damn entertaining package. Like Russian dolls, only with postage affixed, and not as pretty. Anyway, this was another package, NOT full of Comcast's empty box. No, this was a special box. It also had an empty box in it-- among other things-- but this one was a small, return-postaged carton addressed, rather cyberpunkishly I thought, to Diagnos-Tech.
Me, canting my head to read the upside-down little carton label: "Diagnos-Tech?"
Robert: "It's for the saliva and stool samples my witch-doctor wants."
Me: "Hahahahahahaha... hahaha."
It should be explained at this point that Rob's "witch-doctor" is a real doctor, or at least this one is. He is second in a series of two witch-doctors. The first one is a holistic medicine guy who may or may not have credentials. This guy, the second one, is evidently the holder of a doctorate from a fully accredited coven of witch-doctory: he is using science-- diagnos-tech, even-- to troubleshoot Robert's digestive tract.
Robert, offhand, while unfolding tightly folded, printed instructions he had extracted from a plastic baggie of small vials: "What's witch-doctor in Spanish?"
Me: "Actually cures you, or does hocus pocus and tells fortunes?"
Rob: "Cures you."
Rob: "And the other?"
Me: "Brujo. But that just means 'witch,' pretty much."
Rob, scowling at his instructions, and absently: "Hunh." Then he sneered. I should explain about Robert's sneer-- it is magnificently and regally scornful, expressive both of his sense of humor and his contempt for things he finds really stupid-- an impressive expression I have practiced before a mirror to duplicate, and have always failed at copying. "What the--"
Me, raising eyebrow: "Something odd?"
Rob, reading: "Rinse mouth in very cold water for 3-5 minutes, then place special absorbent pad, enclosed, under tongue and hold for 2-3 minutes. Place pad in saliva sample vial and return to Diagnos-Tech in enclosed package. Repeat four times." Then he railed against the prohibitions: no mouthwash, oral hygeine of any kind, gum, mints, antacids, vitamins, minerals, caffeine, onions, cabbage, garlic, marmalade, marmosets, oral sex, chicken necks, or auto wrecks for 24 hours before the test, and pretty much nothing at all for an hour before.
Me, snickering: "Sucks to be you."
Rob: "Oh, my God. They want me to do this at four different times of the day. But they only enclosed one sponge."
Me: "Maybe they want you to use the same one every time."
Rob, not so easily fooled now that he's a grown-up: "Ew. I'll just drool into their container."
I grinned. He shook his head in disgust and picked up the other package. This time, I was way ahead of him. Laughing: "Is that for your poo samples?"
Robert: "Yes." Reading. Then, the wince of disgust coupled with the sneer of disbelief. "Ugh." He held up a dinky vial. "How am I even supposed to get the sample in there?!"
Me: "No, no. You see, you drop a deuce on a paper plate. Then you get them a smear with their handy-dandy swab."
I wasn't far off. They suggest a layer of cellophane stretched over the toilet receptacle, under the seat. And it's not a swab, it's a card thingy. He made disgusted noises for a while between reading me passages and over the sound of my crows of laughter.
(I should probably mention the phrase, "don't discard the liquid," because they did. Hey, don't blame me.)
I thought he couldn't be more annoyed or grossed out-- annoyed, because if you think the prohibitions list is vexing for the saliva sample, as he does, the poo sample list is simply breathtaking in its sadism; grossed out, because, well, who wants to play in their own poopie? But then he found the kicker...
You take these samples over a four day period.
In the meantime, you store the previously gathered samples in the refrigerator-- but not frozen.
"I don't want my poo in my fridge!" he howled.
Me, still laughing although I was doing my best to look at my book and look serious: "I don't want your poo in your fridge either. How about you do this after we get our own place?"
Rubbing it in as only big sisters can do: "I do find it amusing. You won't even store garlicky food in the fridge because it smells things up."
Robert: "Gaaaah. That has to violate health code rules."
Me: "Nobody's inspecting your apartment, dude. Just sacrifice one of your veggie drawers to it. And it gives you a place to use one of your million pieces of tupperware." (He has the all-time biggest collection of mismatched plastic doohickeys I have ever seen. He's offered to pay me to sort them and toss the orphaned ones. It should give you insight that even as skint as I am, I have not yet taken him up on it.)
Robert: "That's it! I'll sacrifice a tupperware to that."
Me: "It has to be one with a lid, though."
Him: "Yes, a tight fitting lid."
Me: "And you have to throw it away."
Him: "Yes, of course I'll throw it away."
Me: "You going to do this?"
Him: "Of course. I want to justify the $1400 I paid this guy-- also, I have to send the crap out before I put this crap in." He went on to show me no less than EIGHT BOTTLES of different nutritional supplements prescribed for him to take every day. I'm all for health and I'm sure he's dedicated, but it's all I can do to take a multivitamin and a calcium supplement or two every day... I hope he can stand to dine on a full meal of pills daily, but he is the guy with the virgin Harley.
(Sorry, Rob-- let me show you my collection of half-finished paintings and you'll know I'm not knockin' ya.)
So he has to go a week without eating pretty much anything that would be a dietary staple, without taking ANY supplements or medication of any kind (even pain meds and analgesics), without drinking either the lemonade he loves or the caffeine he is trying to quit... in order to take eight bottles of pills he has been prescribed before Diagnos-Tech has had its cyberpunkish way with his spit and poo samples.
What comes after? What, what? I cannot wait to see. And part of me cannot wait to see what a witch-doctor charges for the real knock-down, dirty, spit-on-your-palms work, the real shit.
Viva el curanderismo!