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The beige badge of courage

Barry Smith

Apart from a nasty run-in with a trampoline at age 8, most of my life I have been cast and bandage free. A few weeks ago, however, an awkward lifting of something not really all that interesting (or heavy) resulted in a loud snapping sound in my wrist, followed by pain. When I got home I wrapped it in an ACE bandage.Since I’m now all bandaged up, at least a dozen times a day I get asked the obvious question: “How’d you hurt your wrist?”I reply: “Bull riding.”This is meant to be a witty reply. I would think that even the most casual glance in my direction would lead to the conclusion: “This guy is not a bull rider.” So I figured “bull riding” would be the funniest thing I could say. So far no one has laughed, but I keep trying. Maybe I need to work on the delivery.”Bull ridin’.””Riding a bull.””BULL RIDING! YEEE HAAAWWW!”The truth is that the truth is quite boring. I was, as I said, lifting something. People lift things every day, so why go into details? I don’t actually care to discuss it with anyone, but there it is, my beige badge of courage, just begging to be inquired about. And my attempts to take the attention off of my injury by saying “bull riding” consistently backfire, because when I say “bull riding” people reply, “Really?” Then I have to explain no, not really, I was trying to be funny, then they point out that I wasn’t, and I say, yeah, I know, it never is, then they ask why I said “bull riding” if I knew already that it wasn’t funny, and I say that I don’t know, then they ask why I think I need to be funny all the time, and isn’t that just a form of insecurity, and once again the discussion has taken a nasty turn.A few days ago I was sitting on a bench drinking some coffee and having a pleasant chat with a gentleman who had hobbled by. He was hobbling because his foot was in a cast. I didn’t want to ask about it, because I knew he would probably say “bull riding.””Between your arm and my foot,” he said, “we’re a pretty sorry lot.”He held his foot up towards me, displaying his gnarled toes. I managed to swallow my coffee despite this. It was obvious that he wanted to talk about it, so I took the bait.”What did you do?””Well,” he said, “I wish I could say that I hurt it climbing Everest, but the truth is I was gargling.”I laughed hard, producing a fine latte mist. Gargling! Damn it, why didn’t I think of that? Brilliant. So much more creative than bull riding.He continued: “I was gargling and I tipped my head too far back, lost my balance and fell. Broke three bones in my foot.”Wait a minute. He wasn’t kidding. He had really broken his foot gargling! He had a substantially funnier response than mine, but he wasn’t even trying to be funny. He was being…what’s that word? Oh yeah…sincere. Where’s the justice? I quickly disguised my laughter as a coughing fit, as I certainly didn’t want to be laughing at his fate. I wished him a speedy recovery and away he hobbled.Now, I’m ashamed to admit that gargling isn’t part of my daily hygiene routine, it’s really only something I do when I have a sore throat. But even then I’ve never gargled to the point of dizziness, much less injury. This makes me think that either this guy is hardcore about his gargling, or that I’m too wishy-washy about mine. Apparently, if you aren’t on the verge of unconsciousness – if you aren’t willing to take a trip to the ER – then you ain’t gargling, punk.I sipped my coffee, pondering these new gargling discoveries until a friend walked up: “How’d you hurt your wrist?”I looked down the street, making sure the man with the broken foot was gone.”Gargling,” I replied.”C’mon…””No, I’m serious,” I said. “Gargling. While bull riding.” VTBarry Smith moves his lips while writing this column, and hopes you do the same while reading it. E-mail him at barry@irrelativity.com or visit his Web page at http://www.Irrelativity.com.


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