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You Don't Have to Catch It!

by Kathryn Lerro
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I was having the most perfect day. Believe it or not, this most perfect day included having a diagnostic test that I’d been told was dreadful—an EMG, or electromyogram. My doctor warned me not to read the horror stories about it on the Internet, so I didn’t.  I did ask my daughter if she could get time off from work to go with me. I was having the test done at the University of Pennsylvania, where she works. She made arrangements to take a few hours off; I picked her up first thing in the morning and we drove to West Philly together. 

Conversation in the car was nice. I hadn’t gotten to spend much time with Lexie recently, and catching up on the latest events of her life kept me from worrying about the test. We easily found a spot in a bright, new parking garage and then laughed at ourselves as we comically navigated our way through a construction zone, nearly tripping over one of the workers napping on the sidewalk. When we entered the hospital, I didn’t have to stress about how to get to the Neural Science Center because Lexie travels those corridors every day; I just relaxed and followed her lead.

The wait was short and I already knew my daughter would be allowed to be with me during the test. A technician led us to an exam room, got me settled on a table and began the first portion of the EMG, which was comprised of a series of electric shocks—some as mild as I’ve experienced when taking a hat off on a dry winter day, others strong enough to make my feet jump off the table. The tech was friendly and kept me talking to keep my mind off the proceedings. I asked her about the worst reactions the test had elicited from other patients; Lexie and I laughed at stories of wall pounding, wall scratching and LOTS and LOTS of colorful swearing!

The tech left the room after this first section of the test was finished, and soon came back with the doctor who would administer the rest. The doctor asked a lot of questions about my injury, then poked and prodded and tested the strength of various muscles by having me push and pull against his grip.

The final portion of the test involved being stuck with thin needles, which relayed information about my nerve activity through wires to a computer. Every time the doctor stuck me, he whispered “ouch,” which I thought was funny—like he was saving me the effort of saying it myself. The needles were thin enough that they really didn’t hurt—the only discomfort being when they had to be moved around after they were under my skin. That part I didn’t like, but overall—not bad, not bad at all.

Before I knew it, the test was complete. The doctor gave me a preliminary diagnosis and said I’d get my final results in a week or so. I floated out of the clinic—everyone had been so nice and I felt victorious that the dreaded EMG hadn’t bested me.

Lexie had a bit more time before she had to be at work, so we made our way to a kiosk cafe in a bright atrium, where we enjoyed a good strong cup of coffee and more of the kind of conversation the two of us just don’t get enough of.

When we finished our coffee and reluctantly agreed that it was time to get on with the day, I walked my daughter back to her office and we said goodbye. The weather on this spring day was gorgeous—about 70 degrees and sunny, so I took my time meandering back to the car. As I drove out of the garage, I learned that because it is brand new and management is trying to get drivers accustomed to using it, there was no fee! (A little more icing on my happy-day-cake!)

I pulled out of the garage and onto the street. As I approached the intersection, I got into the right hand lane so I could make my turn, and pulled up and stopped behind a school bus. I couldn’t see the traffic light up ahead, but that didn’t matter—I’d move when the bus moved. As I waited, I thought about what a great morning it had been; it didn’t really occur to me that I (and the line of cars behind me) had been waiting for an unusually long time. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man wearing an official-looking blazer came up alongside my car, banged on the window, and—while rolling his eyes and sarcastically turning his palms up, yelled, “Go around!” (Duh!!)

So I did go around. I went around the bus—actually two buses which for some unknown reason were parked on a main thoroughfare with no flashers going. I should have just happily gone on my way but it made me so angry that this blazer-clad clod was rude to me. Couldn’t he comprehend that there was no way I could have seen around (or over or through) those huge yellow buses? Couldn’t he have calmly explained to me that the buses were parked and that I should go around? Couldn’t he have simply waved me through?

And just like that, the magic spell of my perfect morning had been broken.

Author Richard Carlson’s words come to mind:

            If someone throws you the ball, you don’t have to catch it.

Well, I caught the ball and the ball was foul.     

I reacted to blazer-man’s nastiness and by doing so I gave him power over my peace and my happiness—and the quality of the next few hours of my life. 

I should have stepped out of the way, let the ball hit the ground, then went on my merry way.

Next time I will. I hope.