The first pointless anecdote off the rank is about New Year’s Eve 2009, and the memorable – if less than celebratory – antics my family got involved in. I think I was about 300 weeks pregnant with Zadie, definitely overdue in any case, so we’d decided to eschew any social gatherings in favour of playing with trucks (Rufus); not making any attempt to get born (Zadie); reclining ill-naturedly on the couch resembling an oedemaic hippo in a muumuu (me); and installing new screen doors at the back of the house (Joel). One of these seemingly innocuous activities set off the chain of events that saw us seeing in 2009 being tended by a moustachioed nurse in an emergency department. You’d think between Zadie and I, or Rufus’s negligently unsupervised playing, we could have managed it, but it was in fact Joel’s (usually superb, it must be said) home carpentry efforts. As the sun was setting, he was just doing the final carp on the door – attaching the barrel for the lock. I won’t go into specifics re tools (not because I can’t, obv, but because it’s just so obvious it would be to insult you all, yes). But there’s a particular tool required for attaching the barrel, and Joel didn’t have it to hand. What he did have was a chisel. He later revealed that the cautionary thought briefly passed through his mind that using the chisel for the job was dangerous. I think what happened next was he remembered his toolboxes were in the spare room, so to get the correct tool he’d have to pass his cantankerous wife and leave the power tools/doors open to dangerous pillaging and destruction by his son. So he made the fateful decision to forge ahead with the chisel.
Having already realised the potential for grievous injury, it’s a bit astonishing that he didn’t take more care and instead immediately proceeded to chisel himself right through the hand, that bit between the thumb and forefinger. There was quite restrained cursing but a hell of a lot of blood. I looked on, seeing things unfold in slow motion, hoping the blood would stop so I wouldn’t have to get up and get something to staunch the flow. But I was eventually persuaded to begin my slow progress for bandages as Joel gradually bled to near-death all over the back patio. In my superior housewife fashion, I couldn’t remember where the first-aid kit was (do we even have one?) and ended up crudely duct-taping a handtowel around Joel’s hand. Alarm escalated as the blood quickly seeped through the terry towelling to the point of saturation. A trip to the hospital was clearly necessary.
Why oh why didn’t we call an ambulance? Because my brain, he failed. After ceding all responsibility for household arbitration to my husband for the previous 40+ weeks of gestationally induced mental incapacity, I was ill-prepared to make competent decisions. Also I was grotesquely huge and I really think all the extra lipids were clouding my judgment.
So I offered to drive.
And Joel, weakened by his significant and continuing blood loss, agreed.
I pause here to reveal the really bad part. My dad was over from Hong Kong to be on hand for Zadie’s birth (not the actual birth, obviously – just to to mind Rufus and feed the cats and whatnot). He was inconveniently lodged in Brighton, a 40-minute drive from our house. And his mode of transport was a pushbike. We had earlier decided that if I went into labour, he’d abandon his Contador-ian aspirations and jump the nearest taxi to our place. A stroke of genius earlier on New Year’s Eve Day had seen us persuade dad to take our Honda for the night, because – should he need one – his chances of securing a taxi on New Year’s Eve would be slimmer than the inverse correlation of how fat I was. A previously mentioned ad nauseam.
So, as our comfortable sedan was parked uselessly in some bayside driveway, we were forced into our other car – Joel’s ShitTruck (actually a Ford Raider, some old never-say-die 4-wheel drive complete with 30-year-old safari truck interior stylings). The bastard is about 4m off the ground, but by some inexplicable feat of strength and coordination, I managed to hoist Rufus into his booster seat. I then had to get myself into the driver’s seat. This operation (and indeed it was an operation) was similar to those clips you see on the news when zoos ship elephants around for breeding, just minus the huge packing crates. I’m sure all my neighbours were looking out their windows, on the phone to their kids telling them their street was going to be on the Discovery Channel, while tsking at Joel as the world’s biggest lazy c, making his wife drive herself to the hospital to deliver their baby. The seatbelt didn’t fit over my belly but at last we were ready to go. Joel rested his head faintly against the window, all the better to enjoy the bumpy ride as I struggled to operate the ancient column shift.
Our destination was Western General Emergency. Can you think of a less ideal place to spend New Year’s Eve? I can’t. The hour was young – 9pm – but on our arrival at the joint, we could see an agitated youth having an ice attack by the front door and a cluster of arguing men just inside. I “parked” in a disabled space. I didn’t care because there probably hasn’t been a less able family drop by in a long time. In fact I’m pretty sure I parked in an ambulance bay because it was the only space big enough to accommodate the ShitTruck.
Inside the emergency room, festooned with limp Christmas decorations, Joel went through triage while Rufus and I fought over a lucky vanilla slice found in my handbag. A parade of the west’s finest provided our entertainment/terror. Guys with punched heads, guys still punching each other’s heads. Entire extended family groups walking in and out in an effort to avoid a Medicare bill. Elderly footscray couples enjoying the New Year’s fireworks on the mad 34cm TV. Joel was assessed in a filthy “assessment station” off the waiting room, and then sent back to us to await a doctor. Shortly a large woman wearing a prison guard uniform and a huge barbell moustache came out and called a patient. Some people were surprised by her appearance but not me. The whole experience was already so ridic. Of course there was a woman with a prize-winning moustache about to attend to my husband’s medical situation. Of course.
I’m just going to take your blood pressure, love…
As we walked through the assessment area, it became clear that the staff were having a New Year’s Eve dress-up party. Have you ever noticed that at any dress-up party, no matter the theme,most of the young ladies will always take the chance to ho it up? So it was among the young female nurse population of at the Western General. I don’t know what the Department of Health’s dress code is, but I’m pretty sure it excludes dressing as a Playboy bunny, or a hula girl with one’s bottom modestly “covered” by a grass skirt and one’s top half clad only in the tiniest string bikini. Under any circumstances, festive or otherwise. My low self-esteem could not abide Joel being “treated” by one of these lithe flibbertigibbets, so I was pleased when his doctor proved to be the only young man wearing normal clothes. This also made me think he’d be smarter than the rest, because he was too nerdy to participate in the dressing up, so he probably studied well hard at uni. Instead of doing nudie runs at house parties like Kendra and Kahikatea.
(This later proved to be a misguided assumption. The nerd doctor declined to stitch Joel’s hand. When Joel was forced to attend a different doctor a week later with a filthy wound infection, THAT doctor decided he needed quite a few stitches after all. But the delay resulted in a jagged wound, a raised and uncomfortable scar, and a lifetime of being unable to open Coke bottles with his preferred hand. Far worse than that was that he remained bandaged and in pain while I was in labour with Zadie, so I only had one hand to hold. And he couldn’t change any of those meconium nappies babies fill in their first days of life. Now that I think about it, a chisel through the hand was probably a small price to pay…)
Oh and ps the back door still isn’t finished. So if you ever want to gain admittance to our joint, just pull really really hard on the back screen door. We’ll be in the study on our computers.