Health care conversations: a midget’s perspective

Most of us are sick of the health care debate and just wish they would do something and shut up about it already. So when Troy and I were sitting in a Subway attempting to enjoy a healthy, Jared-approved lunch, we found ourselves seated behind a middle-aged, blonde, club-footed midget dining with a middle-aged citizen of the Wal-mart nation. I am not making this up. Anyway, she told her friend in a loud voice that she was opposed to health care reform because if everyone had health insurance, then they’d all get to go to the doctor and she didn’t want to have to wait for an appointment. She also thought it would cost her more money because then her doctor would have more patients to choose from and she would have to pay more to keep her doctor. I am unclear on this last point, but presumably there is a shortage of qualified medical care for the little people of the world or else she thought she was an undesirable patient and she would have to pay more to keep her doctor willing to see her. I think the latter is most likely given her charm.

This conversation terrifies for me two reasons. The obvious one is that I have seen a club-footed midget in a Subway in East Tennessee dining with a UT track-suit wearing companion which I think qualifies me to yell ‘bingo!’  The second and more ominous reason for my terror is that this person might vote, or worse, procreate. If she had mindlessly reproduced, she could populate the South with slack-jawed yokels with the power to vote.  Oh wait, we’re already overrun with slack-jawed yokels, some of whom voted to allow guns in bars. My bad.

My own personal Waterloo

We left for a quick three day trip to Great Smoky Moutain National Park which is an old haunt of Troy’s. I remind everyone that I married a man with a butt smaller than mine so what follows is a direct consequence of my failure to consider that a man who hikes is dangerous to a woman who loves fluffy mattresses and electricity.

Day 1. We arrive in the park late morning. It is seriously cold. The kind of cold it really doesn’t get in Tennessee, especially not in October. This is a bad omen, but I ignore it. I brought a coat! This of course is a no-brainer for a Yankee, but for a Southern girl, remembering to bring a coat gets you bonus points. I also brought cashmere gloves. More on this later.  The traffic was unholy and by mid-afternoon, the rangers shut down the road to Newfound Gap because of ice and snow. Again, really. Ice. Snow. In October.

Ice on Clingman's Dome road

Ice on Clingman's Dome road

Since our master plan to see the fall color at high elevations had been thwarted, we drove the Roaring Fork loop. I highly recommend this because it is absolutely gorgeous. Also, it is one area where you can see a lot of really interesting things road-side.

Roaring Fork in fall

Roaring Fork in fall

Having exhausted most of our plans for Day 1, I begged Troy to take me to the aquarium to see the sharks. I am a freak for sharks. I look forward to Shark Week. I would love to go cage diving with sharks if only I knew how to dive. Troy hates sharks. He believes sharks are overhyped and wants to know why the Discovery Channel does not have Bear Week. However, we had nothing else to do and so we forked over $45 to see the wonders of the Ripley’s Aquarium. In fairness, the shark exhibit was cool. You walk through a tunnel and the sharks swim over and around you. They had some nice sharks. We spent a grand total of 20 minutes in the aquarium while Troy grumbled. Then it was out in to the night. Which was cold.

The town itself is almost indescribable. Gatlinburg absolutely caters to the lowest common denominator. If you want to see wax figures, fake hillbillies, fudge shops, cheap t-shirts, bad wood carvings, go carts, Elvis, Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia, tacky jewelry and cheap handbags, this is your nirvana. I was shocked that people actually consider this a destination in and of itself and have no plans to see the park which it borders.  Think Graceland on acid meets Oktoberfest and you kind of have it. I could not wait to get back to the solitude of the park after passing through.

Day 2: Ramsay’s Cascades. This was my hiking Waterloo. I am turning in my hiking shoes and packing it in. Holy Sweet Jesus. Troy told me that this is a great trail and not that difficult. He lied. This trail, while beautiful, is not for anyone with any sort of knee or ankle issues. It is an 8 mile round trip trail and it has an elevation gain just shy of 3000 feet. Since it had snowed the day before, it was muddy and cold. I had cashmere gloves. Note the use of past tense. Over the course of four miles, I pounded my knees into oblivion and slipped multiple times until I resembled someone wrangling a pig. By the time I got toward the end of the trail, it was very obvious that I was going to have to die because what goes up, must come down. Considering my pain level, I was pretty sure that it was going to be much much worse on the way back down. I was correct. By the time I got down, I was crying for my dead mother. What galls me more than anything were the hordes of old people blowing past me. I hate every single one of them and wish them much pain and suffering on Christmas. I suppose the cascades were beautiful.

Ramsay's Cascades

Ramsay's Cascades

I mean it this time. I am done hiking. I will stay at the hotel and read trashy novels. Since this trip was supposed to be romantic, I will say simply that romance is not possible when you can’t think of even bending a knee, let alone consider any slightly more complicated posture.

Troy decided I could sit motionless in the car while he drove to Clingman’s Dome so we could watch the sun set. It was beautiful, but pretty much anything is when you have percocet.

Sunset at Clingman's Dome

Sunset at Clingman's Dome

By the time we got back to the hotel, I collapsed into a deep and narcotic-enhanced sleep.