Monday, January 29, 2007

Mashed Potatoes

I’ve got a bad case of mashed potatoes. Before you think to yourself how could there possibly be such a thing as bad mashed potatoes – listen up – these are not your ordinary dinner table mashed potatoes.

Oh no, my friends, these are different, very different potatoes.

Let’s take it back to the beginning, to the origin of the term salty mashed potatoes. Like all good sayings (ie., “I’d touch her with all eleven fingers”), the term was first coined on Ragbrai.

It was approximately four days into the ride when something between everyone’s inner thighs went terribly awry. When fresh shorts in the morning and a shower every night didn’t seem to help anymore. When the surrounding regions started to read as a bad road map of saddle sores, red bumps, and other unmentionable, questionable finds.

I believe we were passing time in a pass through town when Tim mentioned something about his yams being cooked or some pain in his yambag. The yambag, the eleventh finger, the meat whistle, the salty stick, the whatever you want to call it is a frequent topic of conversation on Ragbrai. But that’s what you get when you voluntarily choose to spend a week in Iowa with ten grown men.

Being the only girl in the group at the time, I felt compelled to share my version of yambag pain. I had heard enough about rocking out with cocks out, touching unassuming women with the eleventh finger. It was time to pull my own trick out of my own box. No pun intended. And keeping it within the category of tubers, I shared my version of the barking yambag - the salty mashed potatoes.

Told you that you wouldn’t find these at the dinner table. And you probably won’t see potatoes the same way again.

But admit it – if you’ve ever spent more than 100 miles in a saddle, day after day, hour after hour, sweating it out under the summer sun after several days of so-called “showering” in the backyard garden hose of some farm couple in small-town Iowa – then you have also been intimately acquainted with the feeling I talk about. You have cooked up your own batch of mashed potatoes.

But like any batch of food, sometimes the ingredients go a little off. I mean, you’d expect to mash up your potatoes after miles of riding. But there’s always the chance that something will go bad, go sour, something’s been sitting out for a little too long.

And it seems that is exactly what happened to me. Somewhere between 7 hours of riding last weekend in the 65 and sunny San Diego climate, things went a little off.

It started a few days ago. You know the feeling – it’s that interminable itch. The itch you cannot scratch. The itch that turns you into a raving bitch because really how can you relieve yourself in a socially acceptable way without looking like a freakin’ chimp. Where in our world is it safe to scratch yourself to no end between your legs – at work, at the gym, even in your own home? Absolutely not. So you sit there with the word ITCH ITCH ITCH popping out of your crotch at least once every 5 minutes. And you can do nothing about it.

Enter one box of Monistat 3. Not 7, because really who the hell wants to drag this out any longer than necessary. You find yourself standing in the pharmacy with a smorgasboard of treatments on the shelf in front of you and you see the numbers 3 and 7. And you think to yourself, gee, I’d like to feel like I need to wear a diaper for the next 7 days while simultaneously feeling like I need to rip the walls of my vagina out. No thank you, I’ll take the 3.

Actually, it turned into Monistat 2. I believe last May, after my annual yeast infection (happens every May, it’s getting to the point where I feel I should have a welcome home party for it), I treated it for a day and it went away. Hence the remaining 2. And so, I set about for the next 2 days treating it.

Nothing happened. In fact, it got worse. Every trip to the bathroom felt like someone was scraping my insides with sandpaper. The coarse grade. The REALLY coarse grade.

Back to the pharmacy, staring at the shelf. Time to pull out the big guns. The 1 day dose. You might be asking yourself why I didn’t choose the 1 day dose to begin with. To me, it just sounded too good to be true. I didn't trust it. What have you ever cured in 1 day? Think about it. Nothing goes away in 1 day. Plus, who wants to spend 20 dollars on a suppository. Furthermore, who wants to take the risk at 20 dollars that you are just going to have to go back to the store and buy the 12 dollar package of 3-day treatment anyway. Do you see how much work it is to have a vagina? The thought processes involved? The time and the cost?

Well, my theory broke down because even with the initial “3” treatment, I was still standing there buying the “1” day treatment. So I guess there is no way around it – you are going to pay 32 dollars to treat it either way.

I hit it up with the big gun and waited. A day later, everything was going well. The word ITCH stopped flashing before my eyes and riding my bike became tolerable again.

But then, Sunday night, it returned. It was time to call the doctor.

Note: Having a doctor as a friend is perhaps the most valuable thing in the world. This beats having a money tree in the backyard. I don’t have a money tree in the backyard but I do think if I did it would come in very handy. The doctor, however, has knowledge. And knowledge is power, and it doesn’t come cheap. So having a doctor friend is like have a money tree. In a way.

Enter our doctor friend, who shall remain nameless. Together, he and I have cured a variety of conditions in a single call; ingrown toenails, acne, sinus infections. I tell him the symptoms, he writes me a prescription.

This time, however, I was asking him for help on his home turf. You see, this doctor friend is not just any doctor – he’s a urologist. And since urology entails everything down below, I felt very much at home with calling him and asking him for help. I have no shame. I will talk to him about anything.

There I was, Sunday night, sitting in the car with Chris – bitching and moaning about the bitch of an itch between when my legs, when I said that was it, it was time to call doctor friend. Now since I was driving, and driving my car involves shifting gears, I pulled out perhaps the most valuable wild card of all – again, more valuable than the money tree. The old “I’m shifting gears so you’re going to need to make this call for me” wild card.

And so the husband made the call. He was delighted.

The conversation went something like this…

“Liz has a case of bad salty mashed potatoes.”

That’s all it took. It was like some sick code that only our Ragbrai team could understand and since this doctor is part of our Iowan cycling circle, he knew how to crack the code.

From there, they talked about Monistat 1, 3, 7, and every other oddity of vaginal suppositories and discretions you could think of. But the conversation could only go so far because there was only so much information Chris was privy to. We share a lot, but we certainly don’t share a vagina so it was time for the vagina to speak for itself.

By the way, if you have a weak stomach or you are sensitive to the word vagina I probably should have warned you that this blog may not be for you.

Anyways, on the phone, talking to the doctor and he asked the specific name of the specific doses I took. Huh? You mean, there’s more than one kind? I confessed - it wasn’t Monistat, I was just using that as a filler because I actually bought the generic kind. So who knows what I was putting into my neverworld via little plastic stick.

In his doctorspeak, the doctor starts rattling off the names of a dozen different types of creams or suppositories or ointments you could use.

“It started with a T?” I guessed. That didn’t help. Because there were about 3 different versions that started with a T. He suggested I take a trip to the pharmacy to see exactly what I had used.

“Just give me a call back quick because I’d like to wrap this up before dinner,” he said to me – politely, of course, but still I had to laugh and then agree. After all, when was the last time your dinner topic of conversation was about yeast infections? At the very least, it might keep you from eating a lot of bread and potatoes at the table. But that’s neither here nor there.

There I was, Sunday night, driving to the pharmacy to look at boxes of yeast infection treatments. Again, having a vagina is priceless in this sense. Tell me the last time you called someone up about your penis. Or made a trip to the store to see which “ – azalone” derivative you shoved inside of it?

Quickly, and really, who wants to stand in that shelf for more than a split second, I scanned the choices in front of me. This is where you realize the paradox of choice – how something so simple – treating an infection – can become something ever so complicated by choice. In front of me sat at least 20 different versions of vaginal treatments. Each looked as effective as the other. How do you go about making a choice like this? Price? Box design? Ease of pronunciation in the name?
This is like buying Gas-Ex. You’re standing there thinking quick, grab a box, any box right within my reach, I don’t care what it’s called or how much it costs I just want to buy the box and get the hell out of here before anyone notices me walking around with a box of Gas-Ex. Following that same logic, I tried to reinvent the situation where I chose a yeast infection treatment box. And you know what? I quickly identified the two treatment boxes I used and called him back.

Much better. Reading the names right off the boxes, the doctor and I were finally speaking the same language. And so he asked if I wanted to treat this vaginally or orally. Really? I get a choice. Well, let’s see. Walk around for the next 7 days, again, feeling like I need to wear a pull-up full of lumpy mashed potatoes, or take a pill and wash it down with water. I’ll need to think about this for a few minutes.

Of course, there is a cost. I mean, nothing in life is for free. He began to explain how the oral route is not as effective. Something like it goes through your liver so maybe only 20 percent passes on down. But the suppository – well, it hits the infection right at the source.

But I’m willing to take the risk and treat it orally. For now. After all, what’s another $32 dollars when you’ve already spent over $40 on your vagina at this point and counting.

So here we are with yet another lesson learned. Heed my warning – the hazards of training are more than just the traffic, the weather, the costs. At any given moment, your body is sitting there waiting to respond to the slightest change in training techniques, climate, diet, or equipment. And revolt might arrive in the form of ingrown toenails, or swollen armpit glands, or saddle sores, or heat rash, or trenchmouth. All things I’ve collected over the years. But like I said, nothing is free and everything in life comes with a cost. Even the pure enjoyment of exercise. And as expensive as some things in life can be, I’d like to think that payment in the form of potatoes isn’t so bad after all.

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