Once upon a time, I was volunteering in an emergency department and I met this very friendly 7-year-old blonde girl, Dana. My job during this 12-hour shift was to run around the emergency department (ED), talk to people, take vitals, start IV’s, bandage stuff, take people to rooms, help the nurses, do medical TV show-esk things, and to be entertaining (Ok, being entertainment wasn’t on the job description. But why not put on a show, right?). Pretty much, I was a glorified gopher (go-fer, go for this, go for that) and second set of hands for the nurses and ED techs.
My shift started at 7 am, and sometime in the afternoon this woman in her 40’s came in with some sort of belly pain. She also brought in her 7-year-old daughter, Dana. Dana brought her stuffed hippopotamus, Hippy, in with her too, who also had belly pain of unknown origin.
I helped the nurse start an IV on mom, and then I started asking Dana questions about Hippy the hippo while the nurse was asking mom questions about her aching belly.
I still have no idea what the mom’s abdominal pain was; I missed that part of the story. But I do know that Hippy had belly pain because he (Yes, Hippy is a boy name) ate too many brownies.
I told young Dana that Hippy looked stuffed, *ba da tss* and then gave her my professional, as-seen-on-Animal-Planet expert amateur veterinarian advice, which was to not feed Hippy any more than 5 brownies.
She giggled—which was more like a snort—at me, and said that he can’t stop eating them because he’s addicted to them.
First, what 7-year-old knows what an addiction is?
Secondly, of all the things to make a stuffed hippo addicted to, why brownies?
Thirdly, it’s possibly that the mom was hooked on brownies and the daughter was projecting or something… But that doesn’t make sense; the mom was a slightly obese diabetic woman, and can’t have stuff like that. And diabetics never eat things that they aren’t supposed to.
I could tell that this conversation was about to get really odd and/or awkward really quick, so in typical Adam fashion, I abruptly changed the subject.
I held my hands out and said, “Wait, wait, wait, I almost forgot. I have a question for you! Now, I ask this question to everyone, even old people, but they look at me funny when I ask it, so don’t look at me funny because you’re not super old and cranky like they are. Ok?”
The mom cut in, “Dana, sit Hippy down and listen to the handsome young man.” (I didn’t make that part up. Maybe she should’ve been at the ED for vision impairment or something.)
Dana sat the hippo down.
I said, “Aight (in a gangster voice), this is quite possibly the most important question you’ll ever be asked in your life. More important than what college you’re going to go to, which boys you’ll date, what kind of car you’ll drive, even more important than the kind of ice cream you’ll have later.” I gave mom a smirk when I said that last one. They were in the ED for several hours; the small blonde person deserved some ice cream!
I continued, “Dana, if you could have a tail, what kind of tail would you have?”
The mom gave me an odd look and started trying to hold back laughing at me.
Dana put her hand on her chin and thought for a few seconds, then jumped in place and yelled, “An eyeball tail!”
The mom and I said/yelled in shocked unison, “A what tail?”
“An eyeball tail!” She exclaimed.
My inquisitive side kicked in without warning. I said, “Okay, what kind of eyeballs? Big ones? Little ones? Elephant-sized? Penguin-sized?”
She said, “Big ones!” She looked at Hippy, “Hippo sized ones! The size of the world!”
I looked from the mom back to Dana, squinted dramatically, and said, “I’m not sure how plausible that would be…Can they blink and stuff? Or are they just stuck to each other, unmoving?”
Dana said they could all blink, and that none of them needed corrective lenses or contacts of any kind.
The mom and I just kind of stared at her with ambivalence plastered on our faces. Then the mom suddenly said, “I think she gets that from her father.”
I said, “Don’t they all, don’t they all. 7 is such a fun age!” (I said it in a tone that implied I have kids.)
Mom replied with, “It is sometimes. How many kids do you have?”
At that moment, my mind said, “Uh oh. The mom thinks I have kids. Do I really act/look like a dad? My beard isn’t nearly thick enough for that, nor is my voice deep enough. And I don’t even have the Volvo yet!”
I just laughed and said no. She didn’t believe me at first. We talked for a few minutes longer and I asked Dana some more trivial questions about the eyeball tail thing, as weird as it was, and then moved on to pester other people.
An hour or so later they were discharged. I still don’t know what was wrong with the mom, but I’m guessing that Hippy got feeling better as well.
Oh, and then a while later one of the nurses came up to me and said that as they were leaving Dana was going around asking the hospital staff and the patients in the waiting room and triage area what kind of tails they would all have.