Saturday, June 07, 2008

I Didn't Hurt Anybody

I am not a happy ClinkShrink right now. I'm a bit hot under the collar. In fact, I'm a bit hot everywhere right now.

I have no air conditioner. I know, I know, I should be used to this by now. I don't have a phone, I don't have a desk, I have to hunt for chairs to sit on every day. I should be used to this.

I am, I'm just not used to this at home.

This isn't something I typically blog about. I generally keep my personal life off the Internet and stick to mainly professional-type topics, but I promise I will make this relevant to psychiatry.

I called up the local heating and air conditioning guy, who took one look and pointed out what was wrong. He saw it immediately, and I can't believe I didn't.

Someone stole my copper freon pipe. It was four or five feet long, leading from the external pump up into the side of my house. It had been clipped off neatly at either end, so neatly I didn't even notice it was gone. I'm told it's going to take four hours of labor (at an hourly rate nearly 50% higher than what I make as a physician) and four gallons of freon (at $60 per gallon) to fix and there is no guarantee it will work. Depending on how long the pipe was gone, both my external compressor and internal unit may be toast. Replacing both units is ridiculously expensive, not to mention time lost from work and loads of inmates who aren't going to get psychiatric care while I'm out.

I'm going to think about this incident the next time I hear someone say drugs should be decriminalized because drug addicts are only hurting themselves. I will think about this the next time a non-violent substance abuser says, "I'm an addict but I never hurt anybody."

Horse hockey.

Like most people who live in big cities, I've been a victim of crime before. I've also had my car window smashed in by someone looking to steal a bag of used spark plugs (long story). Again, metal recycling is used to support drug addiction. (Maybe we need a registry of people selling metal like we do for pawn shops??) Once upon a time, someone even stole the brass doors off of our circuit court house (200 pounds apiece, metal value estimated at a quarter of a million). Drug addicts don't only hurt themselves and the most hardcore addicts need to be picked up involuntarily and taken off the streets to make them stop using.

So anybody who really wants to debate this is welcome to come over to my place this weekend. The forecast is for a hundred degree heat index.

Bring ice.


For more on the scrap metal theft epidemic, see also:

How hot are metals?

Note from Dinah: my guest room has a window unit. You're always welcome


Anonymous said...

Oh, i'm sorry that happened to you. Hope something works out - it sounds too hot for anything over there. We're in winter down here (Australia) There's definately not a 'hot' problem but the drugs?... oh well.


Alison Cummins said...

Oooh, Bubbles! (Are you a fan of The Wire?)

I thought one of the goals of decriminalisation was harm-reduction, not just to the drug user but also to society. If drugs are... oh, I see. You mean reducing the penalty, not actually making them legal. Ok, starting again.

Maybe decriminalisation is a wishy-washy compromise. Would legalisation be better if it meant that people didn't have to become criminals to sell drugs, and drugs became so cheap that users didn't have to steal to get them?

Anyway. I'm really sorry about your hot, sticky, expensive situation. (On hot nights I sleep in a wet t-shirt. But I'm sure you have your own strategies.)

Midwife with a Knife said...

I'm sorry about the theft. Metal theft is a huge problem where I live. People die trying to steal telephone and power lines.

And although some of this theft is used to support drug habbits, some of it is a result of desparate poverty in America's own third world country.

I feel your pain about the heat/ac. I grew up in Alaska. If it weren't for my 16,000 BTUs in window air conditioners, I would be miserable right about now in these hot, muggy, miserable midwestern summers.

Dr. Pink Freud said...

Well, we wouldn't want a favorite shrink to have a meltdown.

How to Cool Yourself Without Air Conditioning (from WikiHow)

Are you stuck on a sweltering summer day without air conditioning? Here's how to cool yourself down before the heat overwhelms your body.
[edit] Steps

1. Wet your wrists and other pulse points with cold water. Use a piece of ice wrapped in a face cloth, to continue after the coolness wears off. Constantly cooling off the wrists will also cool off the body. Never use just ice; make sure it is wrapped in a towel or something similar. Studies show that this will reduce your core body temperature by as much as 3 °F (1.5 ºC). The relief is almost immediate, and will last for up to one hour!

2. Use perspiration to cool the body down. Water vapor produced by sweating actually takes heat away from your body if it is exposed to air and allowed to evaporate. The best thing to do is to put your sweaty self in the path of a cool breeze or fan.

3. Wear a short sleeved shirt and put water on the sleeves. If there is a breeze or fan blowing on you, you can actually get cold. Use a squirt bottle, the sink or hose if outside to keep your sleeves wet. If you are outside and wearing long pants and you put water on your legs, the water will cool your legs.

4. Glass of water,
Drink water, even if you are not thirsty! You must replace fluids lost in perspiration to prevent dehydration. Oral re-hydration may be accomplished by drinking an electrolyte-balanced beverage. The electrolytes help to make sure you don't lose vital minerals through sweating. Adding ice will also help cool you off. Avoid lemonade, iced tea, and other sugary drinks (see the Tips below). Ice does not actually help you cool off if it is in water you will drink. Cool water does, but the colder the water the more energy your body spends making it body temperature so that it can use it.

5. Wide-brimmed hat
Avoid direct sunlight. Stay in a shaded area if possible. Exposure to direct sunlight increases the heat index, so that your body may experience temperatures even higher than the air temperature! If you must go outdoors, go in the morning or evening. Wear clothes that cover up your body. A wide-brimmed hat is good. Light-weight, loose-fitting cotton clothing should be worn. It is better to wear a shirt with long sleeves and a collar to prevent any exposure. Some people (for example, Bedouins - In arid, low humidity climates) believe it is even best to wear 2 or more layers of clothes.

6. Go downstairs. Warm air is less dense than cooler air so it ends up layered on top of the downward moving cooler air. If you're in a house, for example, get lower than the roof. Make your way to the basement or lower level. It will be cooler there. Position a fan in an upstairs window to draw off heat collected in upper rooms--set it up so that it sucks air from indoors and pushes it outdoors.

7. Keep the air flowing. Turn on the ceiling fan or box fan in the room. Do not make a fan out of paper and use it to wave air past your face and neck. Contrary to popular belief, the activity created by waving actually burns calories and raises your core temperature.

8. Prepare your home against the heat. In the evening, open windows and use fans to create a cross-breeze, circulating cooler evening/night air through the rooms. As soon as the sun hits the building the next morning, close all windows, blinds, and curtains, and keep doors and windows closed throughout the day until it is cooler outside than it is inside. Then you can open everything up again and cool off to be prepared for the next day. Leaving kitchen cabinets open all night helps too; if you leave them closed, they store the heat and your house won't cool off as much.

9. Turn off the stove or other sources of heat. Incandescent light bulbs also create heat. Turn off your lamps, as well as your computer.

10. Cooling off in the water
Get wet! Take a cool shower or bath. Wet your hair. Fill a basin with water and sit with your feet in it. Go swimming in a pool. Use a wet cloth to keep your skin cool. Put a wet bandanna around your neck. Fill a spray bottle or squirt gun with water and spritz yourself. Run cool or cold tap water on the inside of your wrists. The water will cool down the blood flowing through your veins and arteries.

11. Eat less. Smaller meals with less protein will reduce metabolic heat. Whatever you do eat should be cool and not require heat to be prepared (e.g. salads, sandwiches, etc.)

12. Try a few minty products to cool your skin: slather on lotion with peppermint (avoid your face and eyes); shower with peppermint soap; use a minty foot soak. Mint refreshes the skin and leaves a nice cooling sensation.

13. Place wet towel on the back of your neck and also the top of one's head. Athletic team doctors have used this for years!

14. Take a glass and fill it almost to the brim with ice cubes. Then hold it up to your mouth and blow gently into the cup. The ice causes the air you are blowing into the cup to cool down drastically, and since the air only has one way out of the cup (the hole which should now be aiming right at your face) the cold air is forced out over your skin. This is a great alternative to air conditioning and is very simple.

15. Try the yoga practice of shitali pranayama. Sit down cross legged and take a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Roll your tongue into a tube with the tip outside the mouth. Continuing slow deep breath, breath in through the tube and then move your chin to your chest as you breath out through your nose. Do that 5-10 times and you should start to feel cooler. Dogs often use their tongues to cool themselves, perhaps this yoga practice comes from noticing that.

16. Take off your shoes or hat while indoors! Much of the body's heat is released through the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, and the scalp. Keeping these areas cool makes a surprising difference.

17. Eat spicy food. It's not a coincidence that many people in hotter regions of the world eat spicy food. Spicy (hot to the taste) food increases perspiration which cools the body as it evaporates. It also can cause an endorphin rush that is quite pleasant and might make you forget about the heat.

18. Run cold tap water over your wrists, right where you see the vein.

19. Go to a pool and just relax in water. This will cool you down instantly.

20. Ball up and soak a t-shirt in the sink, wring it out, put it on and sit in a lawn chair (or other chair that lets air through to you) in front of a fan. Re-wet as it dries. Works over 110F.

21. Take ordinary rubbing alcohol and a wash-cloth and pour some alcohol onto the cloth and rub it onto your face, being careful not to get any in your mouth or eyes, and stand in front of or under moving air and the evaporating alcohol makes it feel around 30 degrees.

22. Go barefoot. Going barefoot will cool down the soles of your feet.

23. Fully drench a paper towel and stick it in the freezer. This takes about an hour to fully freeze so it is best to do this beforehand. Then take the frozen paper towel and lay it flat on your face. This cools down your face a lot without feeling any burn of ice.

24. Get a 1 or more 3 liter bottles, fill them full of water, FREEZE them but in a manner to not damage them (H2O expands on freezing), then place them in a LARGE bowl(To catch condensate water). Position a fan to blow on these blow upon them. Make sure the fan is solar powered/battery powered, in case you lose power due to a heat wave. As the ice in the bottles melt, the air cools around them. The fan will blow that air at you. The bowl full of condensate water can be used, if clean, for non consumption use. The water in the bottles can be frozen overnight and used again, repeatedly, unless you lose power due to the heat wave. This will supplement your AC if you have it, and will serve as a ad hock AC until you can get a decent AC system.

And a thought to end with. Has anybody done a study regarding whether clinicians without air conditioning are more likely to tag patients with personality D/Os. Perhaps increased irritability translates into more Axis II Dx?

Anonymous said...

I am SO sorry that happened to you! How AWFUL!

April said...

what makes you think it was a drug user?

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your commentary generalizing your personal loss to society as a whole. Of COURSE we do not know if it really was a drug user who stole it, but some drug user is doing something similar right now without thinking it is a personal attack against an individual. Once again: So sorry for your loss and inconvenience.


What a GREAT photo! Wonderful low angle across the silverware, fabulous backlighting capturing condensation on the glass, illuminated lemon slice, nice color combo using complementary colors yellow-purple, the use of negative space . Wonderful mood.

Anonymous said...

I told you so.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Pink: Thank you so much for all the suggestions; that must have taken some time to put together.

TP and April: Thank you for your sympathy and support. I know it was someone with a substance abuse problem because of my experience with all the prisoners I treat; they tell me how they support their habits.

I'm going out for spicy food now.

April said...

just thinking that there are all kinds of people who might want to steal copper...

(hahaha word verification: semun)

Awake and Dreaming said...

I feel your pain. I don't have air conditioning either, and have never. All the long hot summers I suffer with a fan, wishing I lived in the arctic.

People will steal anything to make money for drugs; at least in my experience. bah. drugs.

Doc said...

Think cool thoughts, and then drive your AC car to a friend's house with AC. Or catch a movie.

Sucks, indeed. The heat index 110 here in VA, and I've had to do an outdoor volunteer project all day. I would be a forensic case if I had no AC to come home to.
Good luck.

Roy said...

Good link, April. I wondered how many of those mentioned "air conditioner", as well.


Anonymous said...

If someone is stealing in order to get money for drugs, then they are, by definition, committing crimes other than substance possession/use/abuse. They are also committing theft. I don't think anybody suggested decriminalizing theft.