In Four Etudes Divertimento
Yep, that’s it up there. Why my posts have been slow. I even tried dictating and cut n paste. It wasn’t so much typing without a digit as typing around it.
Part One: Rejection
After I received a few semi-annual freezer burns and a scrape (If you’d leave it alone, it wouldn’t do that) I showed the dermatologist my middle finger. “I’m just doing my job. Save it for the parking garage,” she said. On closer inspection, “Oh.”
“Well, it could be from overuse. It’s a myxoid arthritis cyst. At your age, these are common.”
Okay, a kidney bean sized bump on the terminal knuckle of my middle finger is de rigueur for geezers? When I have full control of my digits except for occasionally my left thumb? Well, yeah, my middle finger stays cocked and tied directly to my internal bullshitometer, but it bends and flexes and can still hit whatever note I tell it to. Within reason.
“Can you do anything for it?”
“No,” a dismissive drop of my hand. “You need a hand doctor. Those things start down in the joint and sometimes they need to dig them out.”
“I’ll send a referral. D’Kwandita will have it in your exit paperwork.”
Part Two: Cross Cultural Contamination
In my ‘Your Next Appointment is April 17’ paperwork, which is also in the online portal and there’s no need to waste more paper, is 1/3 of a tri-fold, or twice a bookmark, for the “Hand, Shoulder and Upper Body Specialist”
Whiplash Backstory. I speak and read enough Spanish/Spanglish to get in trouble. If I woodshed for a week (not full time) I’m semi-competent. I can get through a synthesizer or Pro Audio clinic, airports, restaurants, hotels. Mostly rehearsed. Conversationally I listen for the verb(s). I once helped a non-English speaker get his boarding pass in an American airport (this was in an airport far enough away from the border that the airline needed to send for an interpreter). I used my poquito Español, along with a lot of pointing, to manage my way through Italy. I had to learn the word for underwear as Delta had lost my luggage, and, of course, musicians being what they are, they taught me slang for female tart undies just to fuck with me. That’s another story…
Why all that? Because I live in Texas. El español está en todas partes. Menus, street names, advertisements. Everywhere. It’s built into the daily ambience. So, upon reading the handout (first name changed to protect the innocent) I read Miranda Y Chu. I see the headshot of a smiling Asian woman. I go directly to wondering which partner is she? Miranda, or Chu?
Part Three: Middle Finger, Huh?
Dr. Chu’s assistant is very thorough. I hand her my paperwork from reception, which is ridiculous because it’s all in their portal. I mention that. She laughs and says, “I don’t know why they do it. Maybe so while you’re filling it out you don’t know how long you’re waiting, or to see if you know who you are today.”
“You get a lot of that?”
“You’d be surprised. Like the chart says Robert, the paperwork says Robert, I go out front and call Robert and nobody gets up. I go out and start knocking and a lady elbows a man and says. ‘That’s you’ and he says ‘Who’s Robert? My name’s Bob!’” She is a black lady, in her fifties if she’s a day. “Middle finger, huh?”
She laughs. “Don’t I know it.” She makes the salute, rotates it. “I always wear the polish off this nail first. Xray tech will be with you in a minute.”
A young-ish female child begins screaming just outside the door. It’s obvious she doesn’t want to go, or do, anything her parents or anyone else wants her to do. Hollering her head off about all of it. The Xray tech shows, a young, six-foot Hispanic guy who doesn’t have too much shit in his hair or like the cologne counter at Macy’s. We walk out in the hall where the pissed off kid, though not visible, is considerably louder. “Somebody’s not happy,” I say.
“Yeah. Sorry about that.” Like it’s getting on my nerves and here comes the one star review.
“I ‘d probably be hollering too, if I could get away with it. Besides, my daughter broke a finger in a bike wreck when she was 10. I get it.”
“Cool, you’ve been there. You can holler if you want ‘cause I can’t hear anything in the booth.” Grin. “We’re doin’ a middle finger, huh?”
“I sprained it drivin’.”
“I was about to ask. My cousin, he drives for FedEx? He says he has to rub CBD on his middle finger after every shift. Step over here for me?”
Part Four: Door Number Two, please.
Dr. Chu is petite. Not what I expected. Her head shot makes her look like a member of the Chinese female basketball team. She’s all business, and has a roll-around table laid out with pre-packaged scalpels, sutures and syringes in their own stainless-steel bowls stashed under the computer and paperwork counter.
“Middle finger, huh?” She’s seen the x-rays and doesn’t look at them on the laptop monitor. “The good news is I didn’t see any notable deterioration for overuse. This is one of those things that happens.” She pulls my hand out to study my finger. “There are three things we can do. Leave it alone, I can drain it and shoot it full of steroids, or we can operate. The simplest is do nothing.”
“But it creeps me out. It looks like monkey pox or some giant wart bubble. I’ve been using my debit card left-handed.”
“How is that working for you?”
“I’ve only gotten locked out twice.”
“Not bad. Unless you’re left-handed. Then you need help we don’t offer. Option two happens here. Option three means we book a surgery room next door, set it up with local anesthesia unless you’re a real crybaby, assistants, hook you up to a bunch of monitors…” Pauses, continues to hold my finger in an iron grip. “Either procedure runs a ten to fifteen percent chance of recurrence.”
“How soon on the recurrence?”
“Next week? Ten years?”
“You can do something here? Now?”
“I can.” She reaches under the counter, wheels the towel covered microwave stand full of goodies over, plops my hand on top, grabs two syringe packs. “Just a minute.” She returns with one syringe barely loaded with something and the other one full, gloves up. “You okay?”
“As long as I don’t have to look.”
“I usually have a view of downtown from up here, but the rain has done a number on it today. Over there,” head points, “is a poster of all the bones and muscles in your hand. Or you can close your eyes and imagine none of this is happening. This one is just a sting… This one is going to hurt.”