Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Make 'em laugh

While a lot of you were posting touching and inspirational tributes to yesterday's historic inauguration, I was having a bad day. I did manage to watch quite a bit of the coverage, but mostly I was just dealing with one disaster after another. You know that saying about when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade? Well, screw that. I'm sick to death of lemonade. I hope I never see lemonade again. It's winter, for heaven's sake, and not lemonade weather. ENOUGH WITH THE FREAKING LEMONADE.

So, instead of writing a new, inspirational post, I dug up this story that I wrote about something that happened back a million years ago when I was in college. It is my go-to story. It ALWAYS makes me chuckle a little bit to myself. I hope you enjoy it.

The Incident

When I was in college, a terribly embarrassing thing happened to my friend. I was a witness to this thing, and let me tell you, it was pretty bad. At the time, I was in absolute sympathetic horror for her, but as the years have past, it has turned out to be one thing that can always make me smile in remembrance. I am sharing it with you in hopes that it will make you smile, as well.

My friend and I, being young ladies of a certain age, decided it was time to go get ourselves some birth control. Not that we needed it, of course. Well, okay, we did. Or we were going to need it very soon! We were both in our first year of college, and giddy with the freedom of being away from the family doctor (who was completely un-trustworthy and would certainly have tattled on us to our mothers!).

At the University, there was a oh-so-inviting Student Health Center – essentially a basement under the Arts and Sciences building – where you could get health screening, diagnosis and care FOR FREE. And nobody would tell your mommy.

After a month or so of getting our courage up, we set off – me to get signed up for THE PILL (because I was all about the “NOT EVEN A TINY CHANCE YOU COULD GET PREGNANT” part of the contraceptives). My friend, Cindy (not her real name – well, not exactly her real name) was very concerned about the possible weight gain she might experience from birth control pills. And she was a lot more adventurous than I. Cindy wanted A DIAPHRAM.

We tried to pick a time we thought the place might be deserted. Friday afternoon seemed like a good bet. Everyone would be busy getting dolled up for the weekend parties, out finding someone over 21 to buy beer, busy filling the frat bathtubs with ice, you know – typical college stuff. Unfortunately, we were completely wrong. Turns out Friday afternoon was filled with desperate students. Some were those who had been sick since Monday, hoped it would go away, and were finally coming in to get some real medicine because they called their mom and she told them to get their butt to the doctor. Some were, like us, in for the super-secret birth control reconnaissance and not happy to find out the place was packed. PACKED.

Picture, if you will, the dark, scary basement of the Student Health Center. The all-fluorescent lights gave a yellow pallor to the place. This was back in the pre-HIPPA days, when the receptionist’s idea of confidentiality was not to shout out your last name, only your first. Anyway, this stellar establishment was set all in one big room, with chairs forming a U-shaped waiting room on one side, The other side consisted of three curtained stalls, for lack of a better word. No walls. Just curtains. Curtains that didn’t exactly meet. We stood there and stared, open-mouthed in horror, for a few minutes until the receptionist finally greeted us, “Can I help you two?”

We stammered out our names in stage whispers, one at a time as the other one of us snuck glances to see two things: one – did we know anybody there, and two – did anybody notice us? Nobody we recognized. So far, so good. Instructed to take a seat, we did, sharing one chair so that nobody had to sit in between strangers. Solidarity was all we had.

The wait was long, filled with really old magazines, trying not to look anybody in the eye, and avoiding being seen looking at the STD posters too long (heaven forbid anybody suspect that’s what we were there for!) Cindy and I had a hushed conference where we decided to try to exhibit head cold symptoms so that people would assume we were sick. I thought this a brilliant plan and proceeded to sneeze and sniffle for the next hour.

I got called first, and submitted to a fairly humiliating exam (hello, stirrups!) and thanked heaven repeatedly for the butterfly mobile on the ceiling (you gotta have something to look at), the female nurse practitioner who did the exam (a little Nurse Ratchet-y, but she was a girl!) and the fact that I got the curtained cubicle on the end, farthest away from the waiting area. I got my coveted pills, along with the disappointing instructions that they were not effective for 10 days (there went my weekend!) and some brochures for the prevention of a bunch of diseases I had never heard of before.

Cindy got called in just as I returned, red-faced to the waiting area. I wanted to bolt, but, being a loyal friend, I settled down in ‘our’ chair to wait. I picked up a two-year old copy of Good Housekeeping magazine and pretended to read. Cindy had the misfortune of getting the middle curtain, which was much too close to the people for my liking. There was a gap where two of the curtains met, and though you couldn’t really see into it, it was a gap, nevertheless. I felt totally sorry for her, but, looking back on it now, that was just the beginning of her troubles.

Her nurse practitioner was also a female, but she was very very old. And hard of hearing. The entire waiting room could hear one side of a very personal conversation. And Old Nurse was of the school of thought that the patient was soothed by having her describe everything she was doing. In great, gory detail. Imagine all the things your gynecologist says. Now imagine that there is just a curtain between you and 15 of your peers. Boys, even. Now, honey, just scoot your bottom a little closer to me. Now relax your muscles a bit. I’m going to insert this….well, you get the idea.

This is where it gets ugly.

After the exam, Old Nurse began counseling Cindy on her chosen form of birth control. She described how it worked, and gave a lot of instruction on how to use it properly. All of this was completely audible to all of us in the waiting area. Did I mention that some of the guys were smirking and chuckling at this point? I was horrified to hear that Old Nurse was also going to insert the device a couple of times for demonstration purposes and then have Cindy do it herself to make sure she knew how. The minutes spent listening to Old Nurse’s instructions were some of the longest of my life, and I desperately concentrated on my magazine.

Then it was Cindy's turn. Now, for those of you who may not have used a diaphragm, let me take a moment to explain the device. It is a round, dome-shaped rubber thing, with a metal spring in the rim. In order to insert it, you have to squeeze it from the edge between your thumb and forefingers, essentially making it skinny enough to fit where it has to fit. Once it has been inserted, it springs back into its round, dome-y shape, sealing out the swimmers and preventing pregnancy. The spring is pretty strong, so you have to really squeeze hard to make this all happen.

Oh, and did I mention that you have to put a bunch of slippery spermocide on the rim of it first? Now, don’t get ahead of me…

Evidently, Cindy had a little trouble with her turn at the thing. The reason I know this is that after a couple of minutes, while I assumed she was giving it a try, something terrible happened. It must have been too slippery for her inexperienced hands. The lovely pink diaphragm flew through the opening in the curtain, past the people sitting in the middle of the waiting room, and hit the wall. THWACK.

That bugger could really fly.

The looks on everyone’s face could not be described, but they all stared, first at the little pink evil thing, which clung to the wall for a millisecond before it fell to the floor behind the magazine table. Then they stared at the wet mark on the mint green walls.

Then, almost as if they were all given a signal, their gaze shifted to the curtained area where my dear friend could be heard muttering something unintelligible (my best guess was something like dammitalltohell or something along those lines).

The silence was deafening. For a really long time.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur. I don’t really remember much about it, but Cindy tells me I rushed to her aid and gave up my hooded jacket so that she could escape relatively incognito. Oh, and she also ended up with a little paper bag of birth control pills.

I never, ever cracked even a little smile that day, nor did we ever, ever bring it up again until we were both out of college and married. A few wine coolers brought the subject up many years later, and the laughter that should have happened that day finally spilled out of us until our sides ached.

Sometimes I think that was the day that cemented our friendship. After you share that experience with someone, you’re bonded for life. To this day, Good Housekeeping magazines and mint-green walls still make me smile.

31 comments:

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Thank God it wasn't the SPONGE that she so casually flung aside. Cuz there are so few of them left in the world and not many are sponge worthy. Just ask Elaine...

H :)

Dave King said...

Lovely story. Reminded me of my medical for the forces way back in another life: they sent me to see the medic at an anti-natal clinic. The story is too long for a comment; I may post on it one day!

Laura ~Peach~ said...

OMG... I am crying ... FROM LAUGHING SO HARD!!!!!!!!I can so understand this and after working in a family planning clinic... oh the tales I can tell... and after the last two trips to the gyno with both martha and stephanie... I am so glad I did not read this yesterday I would not have been able to spend 3 and a half hours in the gyn office without spontanious bursts of uncontrollable laughter.

Lemmie tell you ... I can not watch a nuva ring comercial with out laughing... some of the people who choose it and their tales of horror with it...more HYSTERICAL laughter!!!!

Under the Influence said...

That is one of the BEST stories I have ever heard! I have similar stories from college involving birth control, but they don't top this!

for a different kind of girl said...

This absolutely makes my horrifying feeling of walking through the college town grocery store, feeling like all the security cameras and patrons, were staring at me as I was in the 'personal care' aisle for birth control seem like nothing! Absolutely hilarious!

Joanie said...

Oh my God! I am laughing so hard I'm crying!!! I used to use a diaphram. The first time I inserted it, it took me 20 minutes, and I was soaked with sweat from head to foot when it was finally in. I came out of the bathroom SNARLING, "You BETTER still be in the mood!!"

My husband and I decided that when we were married for a year, we'd start a family. I found out at a company picnic that we were waiting another year. Needless to say I was PISSED!! I went home, poked holes in my diaphram, stopped using spermicide, removed it immediately after sex. The gods were against me... I never got pregnant like that, but when HE decided it was time to start a family and the first time I didn't use the diaphram I got pregnant. figures... he always got his way.

Joanie said...

Hey! You got spammed!!

My Metabolic Rate is Stuck said...

OMG! LMAO THat would have been a KODAK moment! I am laughing so hard here!! GREAT story to reflect back on! THANKS SO much for sharing with us! :)

Liz said...

I needed a good laugh this morning!! Thanks!! That sounds like something out of a sitcom or movie... classic!

Sue said...

So perfectly written, it was like I was there! I should write about my first experience to the Health Center at College. It's not as good as yours, but is horrifying.
Thank you for the good laugh (sorry at Cindy's expense)!!!!
Oh and want some lemonade? It's really good with vodka! :)

Paintball Dude said...

Oh My Heck! I almost peed in my pants laughing! Thanks! I needed that!!!

Paintball Dudes Mom (not the actual Paintball Dude)

Becca said...

OH MY GAWD that made me laugh. thanks, I so needed that today

Abby Reed said...

That was hilarious! You need to send it into Good Housekeeping magazine... I bet they would publish it!

Midwest Mommy said...

Oh my goodness! You waited this long to tell us this gem.
What a horrible experience. I cannot even imagine. I was terrified the first time I went let alone everyone hearing everything, lol! Poor thing.

Alice said...

That. was. awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. Oh my side hurts from laughing!!

Sarah Laurence said...

Hilarious! You told it so well. Laughter is the best medicine.

My dog once interrupted a dinner party with something in her mouth. I made her drop it and out popped my diaphragm. Very funny in retrospect.

American in Norway said...

I love it.... As you know, I like to humiliate myself once a week with all of the horrible things from my ast...which are funny NOW...
Thanks for sharing!

Just Joni said...

This is such a funny story and the way you tell it I can actually FEEL the embarrassment...my goodness...you've certainly accomplished the smile you were after, my cheeks hurt from chuckling...

Odette said...

Oh thank you so much I really needed that! I cannot even imagine how mortifying that would have been... well actually I can IMAGINE, but man that's pretty bad!

Lanny said...

That is hilarious! Thank you for sharing it--I haven't laughed that hard in a long time!

Robin said...

oh that was good! too, too funny! and poor cindy.....

Andrew Scott Turner said...

I am picturing this with the cast from Animal House, and I can't stop laughing

Holy. Shit.

I don't know how, but this is going in your novel.

I insist.

kim-d said...

Where are you this morning, ME? Finishing up "Blind Faith" I hope! I just can't wait to discuss with you!

And listen to the person who suggested a little (or a lot) vodka with the lemonade. NUM.

Merrily Down the Stream said...

Oh, that is soooooo priceless! Tears streaming down.

katy said...

One of those stories that you will always remember. Priceless!

Janette Kearns Wilson said...

I have just laughed so much, I guessed from entering the surgery, having been familiar with the little bugger (perhaps the wrong word)
How clever of you to evoke such fun to a woman on her own just needing a laugh

Tonjia said...

OMG! what a great story!!! I am still laughing...

Reddirt Woman said...

You told that story so well that I was having visuals... Wonder if anyone at the school talked about seeing a UFO, saying "I must have had a really high fever and been hallucinating, but I saw a UFO inside the Health Center, Dude"...

I love it!!

Helen

Anonymous said...

You deserve some kind of an award for that blog. I have read it over & over and LMAO every time. Thanks for sharing!

Sue in WI

Barb said...

It's really bad that I was laughing out loud at this, right? I mean to the point that my chldren asked me what was so funny?

Vegas Princess said...

This has to be the best story in the entire world.