A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sometimes It's Best To Say No

A rerun from last year.  But every bit of this is true...

I have always found humor in the absurdities of life.  That's a good thing, since my life tends toward the absurd more often than not.  I'm thankful to be healthy, happy, and loved.  Healthy, in spite of a few minor glitches that often accompany people at this point in life.

Several months ago, I had an incident of arrhythmia.  I'd had one six years before, but nothing in the intervening years.  The second one cleared up after about a day, but my cardiologist diagnosed it as atrial fibrillation and told me that, should I have another incident, I should come to his office while it was going on so that I could get an EKG.

Then, a month after the second arrhythmia, I had another one.  It came at a most inconvenient time, right in the middle of Final Exam week, as I was monitoring exams at the university where I work. But, dutifully, I immediately headed over to see my cardiologist as instructed, to get the vital EKG performed while I was fibrillating all over the place.

But when I got there, my cardiologist was on vacation.  And his nurse, evidently recognizing a Golden Opportunity when she sees one, had left for the day.  And when I explained what was going on, the attendant at the front desk, demonstrating the compassion of Nazi concentration camp guard, kindly offered to take down my phone number.

"You don't understand," I pleaded.  "I'm supposed to get an EKG while this is going on!  Can't someone back there at least do that?"

"We'll have to get the OK from your doctor first," replied Frau Spreckels. 

"OK.  I'm having atrial fibrillation, so I'm going to go to the emergency room now," I retorted, anticipating an immediate groundswell of sympathy.  But, nothing.

Then I remembered the 24-hour walk-in clinic that was downstairs, below my cardiologist's office.  "Well, I guess I'll go to Pro-Med.  They can probably do an EKG there, can't they?"

Frau Spreckels nodded in agreement.

So, I and my distressingly erratic heartbeat headed down the elevator and out of the building for the short walk over to Pro-Med.

But, the minute I walked out the front door, I heard someone say, "Excuse me sir.  Can you help us?"

I turned to see two nurses, or perhaps janitors, I'm not sure (who can tell; everybody wears those scrub things...), attempting to load a rather large elderly woman into the front seat of an SUV.  The dear lady was in an untenable position, suspended halfway between being seated in her wheelchair and fully upright.  When I was a little kid, we used to sing a song in the Booster Band at Waldron Assembly of God Church.  The song had to do with being fully committed in your Christian walk, and contained the lyrics, "Now when you're up you're up, and when you're down you're down, but when you're only halfway up your're neither up nor down." 

And that was exactly what was wrong with this dear, large, elderly lady.  She was neither up nor down.

And so, the nurse/janitors who were on either side of her, tugging vainly at her large, elderly arms, were in a pickle, and, seeing me walk by, asked for my help.

Now, what I should have said was this:  "Look, I would love to help, but at the moment I am in the middle of an episode of atrial fibrillation, and am in fact at this moment on my way to the emergency room.  The addition exertion required to get that old lady into that car would probably be the end of me.  So regrettably, I will not be able to help you today." 

That's what I should have said.  But I am the son of Abb and Alberta Yates, who ensured that it was genetically impossible for me to refuse a request for help, so what I actually said was, "OK."

I strode gallantly over to the SUV.  The dear woman was suspended there, half-way out of her chair, with the attendants holding on to each arm and someone who appeared to be her daughter alternating between encouragement and derision. 

"Just stand up Mama and turn around!"

"I cain't."

"Mama!  Stand up and scoot over to the car seat!"

"I said, I cain't!"

Now I have been in enough Desperate Situations to know one when I see one, and this was clearly one.  Now each nurse/janitor had her by an arm, and as she dangled there before me I realized that this particular Desperate Situation was not going to be pretty.

The only available real estate for me to access was, regrettably, the buttocks area of the dear, large, elderly woman.  But, recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, and needing to soon be on my way, I took the only action available to me.  I'm not proud of this, but it had to be done.  I gingerly put one hand on each butt cheek and heaved.


I didn't have that old woman in any car yet, but I had her upright.  But now, the dear woman seemed unable to turn around and place her buttock region near the front seat.  She seemed frozen, and was not helped by the exasperated pleas from her daughter.

"Mama, turn around!"

"I cain't!"

"Mama, turn around and lean on the car seat!"

"I said, I CAIN'T!"

I knelt down and tried to physically point the lady's dear, large, elderly feet in the direction they needed to be in order for her buttock region to make contact with the front seat, but to no avail.  Those puppies weren't going anywhere.

By this time, another onlooker had arrived.  As the two nurse/janitors were talking with him, I did a cowardly thing.  I gingerly sneaked away.

I wanted to help, I really did.  But by now, a flop sweat had appeared, and I literally feared that I would be putting myself in serious jeopardy if I continued with what surely must be evident to all was a fruitless endeavor.

Fortunately, when I got to Pro-Med, the counter attendant was one of my former students (they're everywhere), so she got me in quickly to see the doc.  And I got my EKG, and I was having atrial fib, and I got referred back upstairs to see another cardiologist, and I'm fine now.  And amazingly, somewhere in all that, my sweet wife figured out where I was and came to be with me. 

"I was so worried when you called," she said.

"I'm better now; I tried to get an old woman in a car but she wouldn't budge."

My wife just looked at me.

You kind of had to be there.

And, I guess, somehow that dear lady got loaded into that SUV and went on her way. 

I tried; I really did.


  1. That's about the funniest story I've read lately... well except for the part about a-fib and the old lady stuck between up and down.

    1. Thanks Skip. I'm filing it under the "It Can Only Happen To Me" file...

  2. Your willingness to risk a cardiac incident, in order to help a fellow human, speaks volumes concerning your character. God bless you!

  3. Oh my word uncle B this is hysterical!!!

  4. Oh my I have to read your book! I laughed till I cried! My oh my I hope you don't have too many stories about your students! Love this!!! Thanks for making me smile!

  5. too funny!