When we finished last week, I had worked an uneventful Friday evening, took a spill on the ice walking to my car, and was about to go to bed in a lot of pain. I’ll now pick up the story right where we left off.

I woke Saturday morning very sore, but with every intention of going to work that night. My wife was working all day at the hospital and I was home alone all day with the girls. I had neither the time to focus on my own pain, nor someone responsible enough at home with me to tell me I needed to get it checked out. Being a former jock with a pretty impressive resume of old injuries, I was pretty sure that I may have cracked a rib or two. I also knew that there was little if anything a doctor could do for rib injuries. With that in mind, I initially had no intention of seeking any professional medical help other than my own wife.

As the day progressed however, my pain reached a level I hadn’t experienced since the time that another doctor told me I had the worst case of shingles he had ever seen. At one point, I sneezed and I honestly thought I was going to die. Eventually, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to do something I had only done four times in my 32 year restaurant career. I was going to have to call off of a shift and get someone else to cover me. It goes against everything I stand for, but my pain was that bad. By the time my wife got home from work that night, I meant it with complete sincerity when I gave her instructions to shoot me between the eyes if I got the hiccups.

By Sunday morning, the pain was beyond excruciating and had reached a new level: unbearable. It took little if any convincing from my bride that I needed to go see a doctor. She was pulling another long day at the hospital, so my father in law was kind enough to come over and watch the girls while I went to get some x-rays. By this point, I couldn’t laugh, cough, sneeze, burp, fart, or yawn without debilitating pain.

I lumbered into the lobby of this facility clearly favoring my left side. I checked in, took care of all necessary paperwork, and found a seat in the waiting room as close to the examining rooms as possible to shorten my pending commute. I have a pretty high threshold for pain, but I’ll admit that at this point I was on the verge of tears. I gently nestled into my chair and got as comfortable as my pain level would allow. I was leaning towards my right like a gang banger with a bullet in his left ass cheek.

I placed my reading glasses on the tip of my nose and held my phone in my lap pretending to read a message on it. Truth is, I was slowly and subtly perusing the occupants of the waiting room. I did this for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that I am a perpetual studier of humans. They entertain the hell out of me and I thought I could pass the time by making up a story about each in my head so as to take my mind off my own issues. Though the cast was no ‘full moon Saturday night in the ER’ type cast, this snowy Sunday afternoon collection of characters did not disappoint. I’ll now introduce you to the cast of characters assembled in this waiting room as seen through my eyes.

First there was the couple who has been together long enough that they’ve achieved a comfortable level of disdain for each other. I can’t give their exact respective ages but I’ll venture to say that they were both firmly established septuagenarians. He walked with a cane, and she walked with the furrowed brow of approximately 50 years worth of marital misery.They spoke not a word to each other through the entire visit, and I never did figure out which of them was the patient. Within a minute or so of sitting down, he was sound asleep and snoring loudly. She sat glaring at him causing me to fantasize that there was a cartoon bubble above her head so I could read her thoughts.

Next came the guy I’ll refer to as Mr. Irony. He too walked with a cane, though he was probably at least 15 years junior to the aforementioned cast member. I believe his accessory was more of a kickstand to support his morbidly obese stature when he had to stop to catch his breath. He was fashionably adorned in an ensemble that looked as if it had been chosen for him by a blind man who lives in a boxcar. He had a fierce, disgusting, bronchial cough like that of a seasoned emphysema patient. Only a small percentage of these lung bursts prompted him to actually cover his mouth and lasso his plethora of germs. I can only assume that the cough was the reason for his visit, but there were so many possibilities that I don’t want to be presumptuous. Now here’s the part where he earned his moniker ‘Mr. Irony’, and I swear to God I can’t make this shit up! He was wearing a tee shirt (I guess to be size XXX) emblazoned with the words; “Buy this guy a cigar” and a large bright yellow arrow pointing to his fur and phlegm covered face. I actually started to take a picture of him because I knew that none of you would believe me. But in a moment of clarity, I took into account that if all went well I was only about an hour away from being heavily medicated. With that in mind, I was afraid I’d use the photograph for evil, not good, so I reticently refrained.

There were a handful of others in the lobby but fortunately for them they’ve been omitted in the interest of space. So I’ll now introduce the star of our show. Seated directly opposite me in the row of chairs arranged so that we were facing each other was a mother and daughter duo. The daughter was an attractive (for her age) and tastefully attired woman of nearly 70 who seemed to genuinely smile a lot and had an air of pure sweetness to her. The way she carried herself actually cheered me up a bit. You know the type. Directly by her side was her Mom who was flirting with 90 if not already there. Upon my first glance at her I quickly realized where the daughter obtained her kind demeanor. She was the quintessential ‘little old lady’ who could not possibly exude any more sweetness if she were the exhaust fumes emanating from a bakery.  She had perfectly silver, naturally curly hair. She wore cute little wire framed glasses on the tip of her nose. This part may be my mind embellishing it, but I’m pretty sure the frames were octagonally shaped. She had little color to her face except for her perfectly rosy cheeks. A natural, yet perfectly geometrical scarlet beauty circle on each side of her face as if applied there by her bingo stamp. To put it in perspective, if a marketing agency were to put this woman’s likeness on any product, I would by it. Though I think it would be best used on the packaging of pie crust or a jar of jelly. Her left hand and wrist were thoroughly wrapped in an Ace bandage though her ailment seemed not to affect her perpetually positive aura in the slightest. I loved this about her and it actually eased my pain slightly so I found myself sneaking occasional glances at her. I didn’t think she could possibly be more adorable, but I would soon find that I was wrong. She could absolutely be more adorable.

Periodically, I would get a severe stabbing pain in my left rib cage. When this would happen, much as I tried to control it, I would wince and grimace in agony. I didn’t realize how noticeable this was until Grandma Sugarbritches made a move. After unwittingly displaying my severe pain a handful of times, she slowly emerged from her chair and began shuffling in my direction at break-hip speed. After a few seconds, I realized she was coming towards me. Like anyone who hates human interaction as much as I do, I quickly started pressing buttons on my phone as if I were sending an imaginary text. Though the real estate separating the two of us was only about 7 feet, it took her a full, awkward minute to traverse the terrain. She approached me with the alacrity of a garden slug navigating a slalom course of salt shakers. As she was on final approach, I reticently came to grips with the fact that interaction was inevitable. With that, I reached to the chair beside me and removed my belongings as if to offer her the seat. Once she had breached my space bubble, we made eye contact and smiled at each other. She put both hands on my arm and leaned over so she could whisper to me and the following exchange took place;

HER: “Sweetie, are you having chest pains?”

ME: “No Ma’am, I think I just broke some ribs.”

HER: “Are you sure you’re not having chest pains? Because if you are, I want you to go in before me.”

At this point, I’m sure my face took on that look we all had when we first saw that Coca Cola commercial in the 70’s with the laughing toddler playing in the grass with the litter of golden retriever puppies. (take moment to either reminisce, or to Google). I then fought to resist the urge to lead my response with the word; “Awww”.

ME: “No, thank you so much for your concern. It’s just some busted ribs but I really appreciate that. You just made me feel a lot better.”

With that, she smiled at me, reached out with both hands as if they were being guided from Heaven by my own Mom, and gently touched both of my cheeks. Without a word more, she turned and walked away.

I genuinely fought back tears, my pain seemed to subside a bit, and if only for a moment, I had a renewed faith in humanity.

Thanks for playing along.

Until next week, Syd Nichols