Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bubbles of Thought

We each have a filtering system that severely edits our thoughts on the way down to our mouths. Usually, what comes out of our mouths is the watered down, diplomatic version of what we’re thinking. But imagine if people were like comic strip characters with those funny bubbles over their heads. Imagine being able to observe an exchange between two people and look overhead to see what they’re really thinking. Now, that would be interesting!

My friend Jessi is from Brooklyn – she and I actually grew up on the same street. She’s not exactly the stereotypical Brooklyn girl like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, but Jessi definitely has the thick, unmistakable New Yawk accent, sharp tongue, quick wit yet is always a lady. Jessi left Brooklyn in favor of New Jersey, but Brooklyn never left Jessi. Let me tell you, we Brooklynites make for some great Bubble dialogue.

Enter the census taker who hails from God-Knows-Where, USA, and has arrived at Jessi’s door to fill out census forms. It was problematic from the start when Jessi explained that she kept her maiden name after she married. This is causing Ms. Census a great deal of confusion and distress. According to Jessi, she kept flipping her pencil from point to eraser and back, unsure of what to put or where.

Jessi’s Mouth: “No, it’s okay… take you’re time. That’s J-E-S…”
Jessi’s Bubble: “Holy Mother of God! This is who they send to gather vital info? No – No I didn’t take my husband’s name! He has his name and I have mine. Pardon me if I thought my marriage wasn’t merely a transfer of chattel!”

Jessi muddled through the rest of Ms. Census’ interview. After the seemingly endless questions finally concluded, Ms. Census asks, “Your accent – I can’t quite place it. Where are you from?”

Jessi’s Mouth: “Oh, I’m from New York. Most people pick up the Brooklyn accent right away.”
Jessi’s Bubble: “Where do ya think I'm from? The freakin’ Bayou!”

The truth is, Bubble dialogue is best reserved for sitcoms and arguments with your mother-in-law. But the desire to let my Bubble do the talking, can be almost irresistible at times. As a nurse, (or any profession that deals with the public,) my filter needs to be set to Ultra-Sensitive.

Last week, I treated Arlo, a 3-year old boy, who received three small stitches on his chin seven days prior. He’s here today to have the stitches removed. His parents are extremely over-indulgent and very over-the-top nervous. These three small stitches looked like nothing more than a scrape at this point, yet Mom and Dad are asking me a million questions – firing them at me – almost in unison, “Will it leave a scar? Should I rub it? Should I apply hot compresses? Cold compresses? NeoSporin? Aloe? Vitamin E?”

Mouth: “No, none of that is necessary. I’m going to give you an anti-bacterial cream that you’ll use once daily for two weeks."
Bubble: “You forgot about the urine of a wild boar in spring.”

“Are you sure?” Mom is second-guessing, “Arlo is so sensitive and I’m really afraid this will scar and stay reddened.” Mom seems to constantly refer to him by his first name, never once saying ‘he’ and, at this point, I’m really just choking on this kid’s name.

Mouth: “Yes, it’s quite small and it will be red for a while, but it will lighten. Arlo's only three and has a lot of growing to do. It will hardly be noticeable.”
Bubble: “Who names their kid Arlo? Where did they spot that name? An internet search of the Top 10 Hottest Civil War Soldiers?!?”

Now the doctor comes into the exam room and the process of holding down Arlo begins. Considering the doctor needs to use a scissor on his face, gentle restraint is necessary. The kids always protest, but it's for their own good and it's over before you know it - two minutes - tops. Arlo’s mother is extremely weak in the knees at the prospect of her precious Arlo being strapped down, “Do we really have to traumatize him like this?”

Mouth: “The doctor will be using a sharp instrument to pull the stitches. If he’s not restrained, he can get hurt. At his age, he won’t sit still on his own.”
Bubble: “No. We just like to do this. There’s nothing more enjoyable than a three year old screaming and snotting all over me at lunchtime. Really gets my juices going!”

Mom is now standing with her hand on Arlo’s feet and her head between her legs. She is actually more hysterical than Arlo. She is whimpering and moaning all the while, trying to soothe the sweet prince Arlo. Dad is standing in the corner with his hand covering his mouth. He is a peculiar shade of grey-green and looks like he’s just witnessed a train wreck on Christmas morning.

In what I maintain was the longest thirty seconds of my life, Arlo’s stitches are removed. He is unstrapped and sent to Mom’s arms, who is shaking. The child is still screaming beyond belief and Mom and Dad are promising him a new Rolls Royce by the end of business today. Mom reluctantly passes Arlo to Dad who makes a quick exit with the still-hysterical child. As Dad leaves the room, Mom reaches longingly for him. Her melodramatic gesture immediately conjures up memories of some tear-jerky Meryl Streep saga, the name of which escapes me, but I’m sure it was set during the Great Irish Potato Famine or some other historically atrocious time.

Mouth: “He’ll be fine, Mom. Meet me at the front desk for your care instructions and the anti-bacterial cream.”
Bubble: “Freak! It’s not open-heart surgery! What will you do when he breaks an arm playing football? Oops! Never mind - no one named ‘Arlo’ plays football.”

Mom comes to the desk for her instructions. Still visibly shaken, pale and disturbed she asks me, “Will Arlo be permanently damaged emotionally by having been restrained?”

I felt my face twist into a contorted shape of confusion mixed with near-laughter. I feel my filter gurgle and choke.

Bubble & Mouth: “No more than naming him Arlo.”

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