After 18 years in the ER I’ve come to recognize something. I’m sick. Not ill mind you, just not quite conceptually concentric. I never pondered the word “Eccentric” before but I think I am described obliquely within its circumference. I actually knew it long before now, but reflecting on my experiences and how I got to this moment I see it is a striking feature of the landscape. Inescapable really. That’s why I thought it would be appropriate, and honest, to give fair warning that the musings herein could be called “Astigmatic”.
My eye doctor once asked me how old I was when I first got glasses. I was fifteen. I had just recently gotten braces as well, but that’s a different story. He said I probably needed glasses much younger than that based on my astigmatism. He’s a charming man. But to the point, my vision doesn’t work properly and needs a lot of help. Optical Physics can correct physically for the visual (must I use the word?) defect. For those formative fifteen years though my mind was told by my eyes that the world was a certain way. What did that do to the shape of my mind?
My eyes could not conform to a uniform shape to bend light without distorting it. Is it possible then that my mind had to bend to try to effect some sort of post production image manipulation? Was I destined to have a warped view of the world? I don’t know, but it’s interesting to turn the idea over. It is one of those physical fact versus perception philosophical questions like the tree falling in the forest: if there is no-one there to hear it does it make a sound? Is the world the way I see it because my seeing it that way makes it so? Does my perception shape the world, or does the world shape my perception?
Just a few days ago a coworker and I were laughing about a situation she had gotten into. She was in trouble with her adult daughter for a gift she had given her. I don’t have permission to give specifics of the event, but the gift, given as a joke which was funny to my friend was received as distasteful and insensitive. On hearing the story I thought it was a great gift. Very humorous. It had to do with a hard time this person’s daughter had gone through. For sure it was inappropriate, but that’s where the fun lay…for some of us. That’s the thing, every job has a personality type or range of personalities that suit a person to the work. In the ER you have to be able to laugh at things that get pretty dark. It’s either get chewed up and spat out or find a way to laugh in the face of some ugly situations.
I can’t even count the times I’ve heard, “That’s not funny Dad!”, or, “Miguel, can you please keep your work humor at work?”. It’s hard to do. In a sense, I live in two worlds that are very different from each other. They require two different ways of being, of facing and responding to situations. Sometimes I get home and haven’t yet shifted gears from gritty grunge, prickly shield Miguel to quiet listening, okay to be around little kids Miguel. The Fight or Flight option hasn’t defaulted back to Harmonious Home life, softer quieter mode and I’ll easily say something inappropriate. The same words coming out my mouth which would have been met with appreciation and gratitude an hour before will l and me in the dog house if I don’t reset in time.
Here’s a true story: A young man in his early twenties, was brought in by ambulance having been saved from drowning by his girlfriend. She had hauled him out of the water after he had fallen in head first off a rock jetty. She really did save his life. But here’s the (funny) part. The reason he fell into the water is because he fainted. So why did he faint? Well, you know those rock jetties, covered in barnacles and what not. It can take a little scrambling on all fours to navigate the boulders. In the course of this recreation the strapping buck got a scrape on his hand from a barnacle. He felt it and looked and saw a tiny ribbon of blood, became light headed and fainted right into the water. She rescued him, revived him a bit, called 911 and little while later I was hearing this timeline of events. While I’m hearing the report from the paramedics it pops into my head what a shame it was she didn’t just cut her losses right then and let him go. I mean he was fine. No head injury. No serious wound. No water in the lungs. Fine. Of course I wouldn’t literally advocate such a proposition, letting him drown to save a lifetime of dreary, mollycoddling, but the inkling of the idea had popped itself into my head an struck me funny. So much so that when I got home and the boys asked me what the funniest thing was at work that day, I just blurted out the story. They were horrified and said so. Damn kids.
Sick, inappropriate, funny? Who is to say? Where do you draw the line? And how well do you see the spot where the line is to be drawn?