My Week 51: Head Transplants, and Helping the Homeless is Hard

Monday: Scientific researchers will not want my body

On Monday morning, I went with a few colleagues to Loblaw’s to get coffee (hot chocolate for me, because coffee is gross. Maybe that doesn’t make me a “real” Canadian since I rarely go into a Tim Horton’s but I’m convinced that they put opium in their coffee and that’s why everyone is so addicted to it). Naturally, the subject of death came up. I say “naturally” because I’m being sarcastic—seriously, it was pretty early in the day to start contemplating mortality, but that’s what sometimes happens in the big city. One of my colleagues expressed that she had no interest in any of the fuss of a funeral and planned to donate her body to medical research. But I don’t know—isn’t having over-enthusiastic medical interns freaking out over your small intestine just as bad as people you barely know eating little sandwiches in your memory? As many of you are aware, Ken and I have had several discussions about our final wishes. Ken has his preferences, which I will most likely ignore, and will deliver a eulogy full of quotations from him that he never actually said, like “Cruise control is for lazy drivers”, “This isn’t really a shortcut—I just like to get lost”, and “Beets disgust me”. Ken, however, has promised to build me a mausoleum where I will be enshrined forever ABOVE GROUND. It will be glorious and most likely made out of barnboard, but that’s just fine, because barnboard lasts almost as long as marble and is hella cheaper. And the important thing is that I will be completely intact. Not because I don’t agree with organ donation; I just don’t believe that medical science would ever be interested in what I have to offer. I’m not even going to discuss my liver and kidneys, because it’s almost a certainty that they will be worse than useless by the time I kick off. There are a lot of other things that I COULD donate, but that no one would actually benefit from. Case in point—my eyes. A lot of people donate their eyes, but that’s probably because they can actually SEE out of them. Me, I’m almost legally blind. I once broke a toe when Kate was a baby—she woke up screaming in the middle of the night, I jumped out of bed to run to her room, and slammed into the doorframe because I couldn’t actually see where I was going, and in my panic, had forgotten to put on my glasses. Try comforting a screaming baby while you’re sobbing and bleeding all over the place. Of course, as my dad pointed out, I was lucky that my feet are so big; otherwise, I would have broken my nose. So I can just picture the poor blind person who got my eyes waking up from surgery and being like, “What the hell?! This is the best they had? Give me my f*cking cane back!” I suppose SOME vision is better than none at all, but I hate to disappoint people enough as a living person, and the thought of doing it when I’m dead makes me feel even worse. My hearing’s not great either—all those years of listening to loud music has taken its toll, that’s for sure. Can you even donate your hearing? I’m not sure—like what part of the ear would that be? Eardrum? Eartube? Inner ear? Again, I’m sure someone would rather have SOME hearing rather than none, but aren’t there better candidates than me? I’d just disappoint all over again, and these blows to my self-esteem aren’t doing my heart any good. Now, I DO have a pretty decent heart; it pumps and all that good shit, but if I give it away, would that make me like a zombie or something? Or the Tinman from The Wizard of Oz, wandering around the afterlife singing songs about the empty hole in my chest while I’m warding off flying monkeys/cherubim? See, the problem is that I haven’t yet resolved my feelings about an afterlife, and it occurs to me that I might NEED this stuff. How am I supposed to hear the choir eternal or eat the manna if I’m chopped up into little pieces? I’m not very religious, but I’ve always gone on the theory of being better safe than sorry, plus I can’t stand it when people touch my stuff, so how am I supposed to cope with them touching THAT stuff? When our cleaning ladies have left, I spend hours moving things back to where they’re supposed to be, so I sure as hell would have a problem with someone putting my pancreas in a jar. At any rate, it won’t be long before someone invents robotic eyes. We already have the technology to transplant all kinds of things from the animal world, like making new stomachs out of sheep and whatnot, and face transplants are an actual thing, so stop hounding me, Organ Donor Card.

Just the other day, I read an article on an actual legitimate internet site about Russian researchers who are on the brink of being able to do a head transplant. They even have a patient lined up for the procedure, believe it or not. This, of course, led me to wonder though–under what possible circumstances would you EVER need a head transplant?! How the hell did you manage to get yourself decapitated in the first place? And if it were possible to re-attach a head to a body, wouldn’t you want your own head back? Where would you EVEN find a body that had also lost its head so you could put the two of them together? Kate says that it’s for people who are quadriplegic, so that they can have functional bodies, but in that case, wouldn’t it be a better use of medical research to figure out how to fix a spine, rather than aspire to be Dr. Frankenstein? Trust the Russians to do things the hard way—this is why they lost the war. (Which war, you ask? Take your pick. I did some internet fact-checking because as we all know, historical accuracy isn’t one of my strengths, and it turns out that they lost almost every war they’ve ever been involved in. Sorry, Russia. They DID win the space race though, so hats off for that.)

If there WAS something I could offer to medical science, the only thing I can think of that I would never need again is my uterus. It’s in pretty good shape, I know for a fact that it works just fine (or at least it did 17 years ago), and I don’t plan on using it ever again. So give me a call, Russia—maybe we can work out a deal.

Wednesday: The homeless are making it very hard for me to help them

Last holiday Monday, I went back to Toronto for work. I had no food, and the Loblaw’s down the street was miraculously open on Labour Day, so I decided to pop down and at least get some things for the morning. On my way, I saw one of my “regular” homeless guys, Dan (not his real name, but that’s what I call him), who I hadn’t seen for a while. I stopped to give him a toonie and said, “Where have you been?” He told me he’d been sick, so I said, “I’m going to the grocery store—can I get you anything?” He thought for a minute, then answered, “I’d really like some juice,” so I said I could do that and I’d be back in a bit. It wasn’t long after that I started to get anxious. “Juice” is a very vague thing—what KIND of juice would he like? Peach-mango seemed a little too exotic, and apple seemed too much like I hadn’t given it any thought. And the container was a problem. He had a cup, but he used it for the change that people gave him, and it looked pretty dirty. So I was tasked with choosing an appropriate juice for a homeless man that I barely knew. I finally settled on a litre of Oasis orange juice (no pulp—a safe choice) in a container with a resealable spout. The line-ups were insane though, since no one in Toronto seemed to remember that school started the next day, and I was surrounded by parents getting lunch stuff for their kids. When I finally got out of there, I crossed the street and Dan was gone. What the hell?! I couldn’t see him anywhere, and now I had all this juice. And then I was wracked with guilt. What if he thought I was just shitting him about the juice and he gave up on me? I am NOT that kind of person—if I say I’m going to do something, I do it, and the homeless people in my neighbourhood should know that about me by now.

I didn’t see Dan for the rest of the week, which made me even more worried, because maybe he was sick again, and he would never know that I had followed through with the juice. Then it was one frustrating incident after another this week. Every time I saw a panhandler, I would go to bring them some food or whatever, and by the time I got back, they would be gone. There was the couple from Nova Scotia with a sign that said they were hungry and tired who missed out on the granola bars I was bringing them, the kid outside Bulk Barn who disappeared before I could give him a bag of trail mix, and the woman who I was GOING to give a bottle of water to, until she pulled out a cell phone, and lit up a cigarette from a pack hidden behind her back. I hate to be judge-y, but if you can afford a cell phone plan and smokes, you can buy your own damn water—I’m not that gullible.

But then on Thursday, the tide turned. I was on my way to Metro, and I passed a young guy in front of the 7-11 with a little dog. He looked pretty done in, but he was cooing to the dog and cuddling it, so I bought some dog treats for him. When I came back, it looked for a second like he wasn’t sitting in front of the store anymore, and I was like “Are you f*cking kidding me?!” Then the crowds parted and sure enough, there he was. I gave him the dog treats and he gave me a beautiful smile and thanked me. As I walked away, he’d opened the bag and was giving one to the dog, petting it and talking to it in a really loving way. And as I got closer to my condo, I could see Dan sitting in his usual spot. I ran into my condo and grabbed the juice. Now I could finally fulfill my promise, relieve my guilt, and let the homeless of Toronto know they can still count on me, even when they make it really hard. They might not want my eyes, but they damn well better take my food.


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