The world can be a funny place, made more so by assumptions. It lights up water cooler chatter and keeps The National Enquirer presses smoking.
Assumptions also make for great fire-side stories that frighten children but not so much on the travesty that is the word “assume.” Instead, it is the worry over how soon one will end up just like dear ol’ ma with each outrageous tale. The horror!
This assume-riddled story begins one afternoon at a red light. I noted a car traveling at a fast clip towards my bumper in the rearview mirror. There was nothing to do but hope for the best, my shoulders to my earlobes for the inevitable CRUNCH. The ensuing jolt threw me forward with the seatbelt taunt but no damage to either vehicle. Not an airbag deployed, not a scratch to be found. It was an odd, head-scratching stroke of luck.
However, I should have known better because, by the following day, I was in miserable pain with every turn of my head.
After much debate, ibuprofen failing to take the edge off, I called the husband for an opinion. Do I suck it up, or does he dispatch me old Yeller style? He, always up for a grand adventure as opposed to the task of burying bodies, suggested the ER and all-too-readily left work to cross counties to pick me up.
It was with much reluctance, like a petulant child, feet dragging and exaggerated sighs that I went to a hospital for tests. I felt foolish and guilty, sure to be wasting everyone’s time. Babies were being born, and life-saving transplants were underway in this hospital, my neck was small potatoes.
Once in an observation room, my guilt grew, and I began to make assumptions on staff tone, answering questions with a short, snappy yes or no, in return. My face on fire when asked where I stood on the pain scale poster. The progression of miserable faces printed on the laminate board stuck out their tongues to mock me. I chose the 7 to 9 but immediately regretted it. Perhaps I should have chosen the less hysterical 4 to 6 with the rolling eyes? You know, the one with a speech bubble that reads: So, why are you even here?
I barely spoke to my husband, who sat in a chair near the door, my arms crossed. This behavior comes honestly. My mother was once terribly ill and surprisingly agreed to go to the hospital. However, I nearly had to hog-tie her to the gurney once she was admitted. She blew off the physician after one test, declared herself cured, and is a walking, talking, and surprisingly fully functional zombie today.
On a serious note, women have a bad habit of viewing their pain as invalid. We allow weeks, months, maybe even years, to pass with a health issue, ignoring the pain. We assume we will be OK while everyone else is surely dying. Or perhaps it is because my husband can visit the doctor with a hangnail that is treated as a three-alarm fire. Meanwhile, I bet (AKA assume) I could walk in with my detached head tucked beneath an arm, blood spurting out the stump of my neck, and told to eat an apple, lose some weight.
You’ll be fine in the morning, Royer. You’re making a molehill into Mount Everest.
It seems easier to put up with the pain for as long as possible with the hope it will go away on its own or take me out in my sleep. At least the latter will earn me the right to have my gravestone read: I didn’t tell you I was sick, but you should have figured it out anyway.
In short, I am a terrible patient and even worse advocate for my health. If it is my kids, a spouse, my mother, anyone else, I tell them to behave, listen to what the doctor has to say. For goodness sake, be nice to the nurse!
After the bumper car incident, long after an X-ray, a nurse came back into the room all seemingly (AKA assumedly) tense shoulders, not meeting my eyes. That’s when — all assumptions the staff thought me stupid aside — I looked down at my casual attire then over to the hub in his deputy uniform. I ran what he said to the doctor and nurse through my head – motor collision, the scene, followed by the identification of the other driver as female. The general lingo law enforcement would use as opposed to, you know, his words somewhere along the line, including “my wife.”
“I’ll have you know, I’m his wife,” I blurted. It was the first and only full sentence I had managed to articulate during the entire visit.
The nurse notably relaxed, a slight smirk playing about her lips. “Oh, thank goodness, I’ve been trying to figure out what you did for hours.”
Oh, assumptions, you old devil you.
Bethany J. Royer-DeLong is a reporter for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird and a life-long resident of Darke County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in work psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership because she’s a sucker for all things jobs. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.