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A BROKEN LEG FOR CHRISTMAS
It was just before Christmas, 1983. My friend, Shirl, her husband Wayne and I were ushering at the Alliance Theater in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, for a production of The Music Man.
We ushered at this theater regularly and at other smaller theaters occasionally. It was a way for the wife of a graduate student and mother of a preteen and teenager to afford theater tickets (price, free) while spending three years in that city.
This December day I’d dressed for the holidays, including high heel shoes. I was yet to learn I had high foot arches that made for ankle instability.
I’d seen the play—and the movie—several times before, but really enjoyed the story. The first part of the play was wonderful, as usual. At intermission the three of us joined the throng of theater goers descending the marble stairway leading to the lobby (we’d been assigned balcony positions). Shirl was behind me. I heard her say something and turned slightly to respond.
All of a sudden, I was descending the next few steps much faster than I expected. My backside was plopped on a step and my left leg was tucked under it! My eyes began to water, but I gained sufficient control not to cry, either from pain or humiliation. Others passed by, watching me and wondering why an usher was sitting on the steps rather than descending.
Needless to say, we never saw the second part of the production. I managed to get into the car after which Shirl and Wayne took me to one of the all day clinics, where they put a temporary cast on my leg and told me to get to an orthopedist the next day.
My husband, Monte, took me to the orthopedist’s office the next afternoon. It hadn’t been difficult to decide what doctor to choose. I’d met the doc a few days previously at a Hanukkah event hosted by the parents of my daughter’s first girl friend in Atlanta. The patient waiting room was small, the seats almost full when we arrived. Monte and I sat across the room from each other.
Being a new patient, I was given forms to fill out for the gorgeous, tall, red-headed physician. Upon reading one question, I slowly raised my eyes, glanced at Monte, then turned my eyes back to the form. I repeated this several times before catching his attention.
“You need insurance papers,” he asked quietly, trying to maintain the ambience of the room. He began reaching for his wallet.
“No,” I said, with a pregnant pause while feigning a questioning and puzzled expression.
People in the room politely kept their heads down, trying not to be “nosey.”
I looked up at Monte again.
“But I don’t quite know how to answer a question,” I said quietly.
He waited for me to tell him the question before asking, “What do you need to know?”
Everyone was listening (they couldn’t do otherwise) as I hesitated a moment before looking Monte in the eye and answering.
“Well, it says ‘sex’ here and I don’t know whether to say yes or no.”
The room, after a moment of surprised silence, burst into laughter. People began suggesting answers, breaking the typical waiting room silence.
“Perhaps yes.” “No way.” “In exchange for the bill?”
As the party-like scene continued, the doctor poked his head out to see what was happening.
Soon a young woman on crutches opened the door, poked her head in and then left. She returned a couple of minutes later saying she thought she was in the wrong office!
Someone explained to her what happened to raise the waiting room patients out of their malaise.
“Oh,” she said excitedly. “Have you seen the doctor? SAY YES!”
We recorded her address and acquired the medical equipment necessary for my ten-week recovery. After we picked up the crutches she didn’t want returned, we never saw her again, but we were grateful for her response to our waiting-room humor.
There was more humor in the office visit. In the room I was taken to, the nurse, as per usual during a doctor’s appointment, did a preliminary review of the problem and attempted to prepare my leg for the doctor’s examination.
She was asking “What happened,” when I suddenly gave her a swift kick, almost knocking her teeth out.
She looked startled.
“You cannot touch the bottom of my foot,” I admonished. “I have a reflex action for that!”
She backed off a little, allowing me to tell her what happened. I mentioned how embarrassed I’d been, sitting on the marble steps of the theater wearing my usher badge!
The doctor entered with a smile. The nurse didn’t have time to warn him before he touched the bottom of my foot. He too was given a swift kick, before he proceeded with caution while listening to my tale of woe about missing the second half of The Music Man.
“It’s a dumb and embarrassing story,” I said. “Can you suggest a better one?”
“Tell people this,” he suggested. “Tell them you were having a torrid love affair with your doctor during which you accompanied him to a medical conference in Switzerland…”
The doctor had my attention…every woman’s dream to have a torrid love affair with a gorgeous doctor! The ski patient in the waiting room was right—this man was a drop-dead gorgeous tall redhead.
The doctor continued creating a story for me.
“While you were in a fantastic Swiss chalet, you had the misfortune to fall off the balcony into a hillside slide of melted chocolate. It was oh, so delicious, but what a break you received from it’s slickness!”
Who claims doctors don’t have vivid imaginations?
The amazing thing about repeating this story over the next ten weeks (while on crutches) was the number of people that seemed to actually believe it! A few hearers gave me a scathing look when I mentioned the “torrid love affair.” Other hearers dutifully sympathized, looked a little shocked, then laughed when the light bulb lit up as I talked about the chocolate slide. Many swallowed the story like taking a drink of fine wine.
This ski accident patient was called into a patient’s room a few minutes after I was. She overheard the doctor tell me I would need crutches.
“Call me,” she yelled across the hall. “I have crutches you can have. And a walker.”
This, in Atlanta, a city that reached two million residents while we were there!
As I shared the story, it brought humor to a rough Christmas holiday experience, and smiles to the face of the doctor and his staff as I told them about people’s responses.
My final recommendation for December: do not break a leg during a holiday season (or any other time, either). It’s no fun. But if you do, ask your doctor to create a story for you.