I just can’t put my finger on it

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:25 AM

I love my friends, I really do. They are sweet, funny, generous, good-looking and fun-loving women. You’ll notice I never said “smart.” Although they are without exception off-the-charts bright, some of them are, as my grandfather once said, educated beyond their intelligence. I’m talking about common sense, not SAT scores. For example:

A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of my friends, a fellow teacher at my high school – let’s call her Tootsie – and I noticed that she had two fingers swollen to twice their normal size.  Always interested in my friends’ lives, I asked in my most concerned voice, “Do these shorts make me look fat?” 
After she answered in the negative (this is one of my dearest, dearest friends) I asked about her fingers. She said she’d gone to the recycle place and dumped her recycle bucket, but when she turned it back upright, she saw a bit of fuzz hanging on the side of it, which she just assumed was some hair from her dog, so she grabbed the fuzz with her thumb and index finger--
(Okay, at this exact moment, I lost all sympathy.  I mean, is there anyone out there who would just grab a fuzzy looking thing on a recycle bucket that had been in the garage?...THANK YOU!)
So, she grabbed the fuzzy thing and instantly felt a puncture or sting in the tips of both thumb and index finger, that hurt like hell … (and, we’re all thinking Duh).  Within the next 24 hours her fingers looked like Tootsie Rolls … hence my choice for her name. 
I gently responded with something like, “What a dumb thing to do!  You’d better go to the doctor and at least get a tetanus shot!” (I am nothing if not compassionate in a crisis.)
But Tootsie didn’t go to the doctor – too busy, too silly, it’ll be fine, it hardly hurts any more, blah blah blah. Days go by. It’s now 2 weeks later, and she calls my classroom one morning, to tell me that the end of her index finger had turned a very deep midnight-blue the night before and felt cold, and do I think she should be concerned. 
No, I tell her calmly, you don’t need that finger anyway, you only use it to shake in students’ faces. This apparently did concern her, and she called the doctor, who said go to the emergency room, you idiot … OK, he didn’t say that last part, but it was implied.
Figuring she wouldn’t be able to drive after losing her finger, I offered to take her, since I had two periods in a row free that day. (Thought I’d be back in plenty of time … evidently “idiot” applied to me, too.) I think Tootsie was getting frightened by the time we were called to the “Intake” office, because her blood pressure was 150/110, and she is normally the epitome of perfect health and fitness. (I don’t know where I come up with these fanatically-fit friends, but I need to re-think my friend-vetting process.)
When the “Intake” guy, Nick, heard the story of Tootsie touching the fuzzy thing, he actually stopped scribbling on his chart for a moment, and just stared at Tootsie … sort of the way you’d look at someone with three heads … or a midnight-blue finger. “Why would you do that?” he asked her. And I said, “THANK YOU!”
Then, he takes us to the back, but there aren’t any rooms available, so after telling every nurse he sees what Tootsie had done – which caused all medical personnel to be uniformly stunned – he leaves us at a gurney-and-chair right in the hallway in front of the main desk. This was totally cool. We could hear and see everything going on behind the scenes – all the doctors/nurses/med students/interns and their most intimate and riveting comments/intrigue/patter/flirting/joking. It was like “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” except not as serious. 
Plus, everyone medically related looked around 14 years old. When did this happen? When did my physician go from an older, wiser Dr. Welby to a perky little Gidget-Does-Neurology? Because it is annoying to hear grave medical pronouncements from someone who’s still wearing a retainer. 
Tootsie had to re-tell her tale to medical personnel at least five times – I think they all had bets going as to whether she would stick to her story, or whether it was just a stunt being pulled by the docs up in Pediatrics.  And, astonished to find out it was true, they would each inevitably ask, “Why?” To which one can only respond, THANK YOU! 
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com