Monday, February 15, 2010

Saltines & Candy

When I was a kid, I used to love saltine crackers. Love them! Give me a handful of candy or a handful of saltines, and I want those crackers. Every time. In fact, I was that little kid knocking on the neighbors' doors, asking for hand-outs, especially when Mom was making something that I didn't like for dinner. Which was rare, since Mom thrived in her kitchen, but it did happen. Have you ever had salmon parmigiana? Yep, I know. It even sounds gross. That lone entree was responsible for making me a saltine beggar, all by the age of eight.

My kids find my stories of begging for saltines fascinating. Especially since times have changed. I think I would tickle-torture my kids if I ever found out they were knocking on our neighbors' doors, asking for something to eat. They can't even begin to fathom that I, their father, knocked on Miss Lindy's or Miss Margie's front door and asked for a hand-out. After finally accepting that part, however, they just simply shake their heads at my stupidity for asking for saltines and not candy.

"Wait, wait," my oldest asked, incredulous, "so you mean you just stood there, knocked on the door until they answered it, and then just asked them to give you some crackers? Like, you begged for them?"

"Yeah, that's about it in a nutshell," I said. I swear I saw the two younger kids taking notes in their notebooks. "Dad," my youngest asked, "how do you spell 'begging?'" Yes, they were definitely taking notes.

"So, Dad," my oldest continued, "did they ever say 'no?' I mean, come on, they didn't really give you crackers every time, did they? "

"Well," I answered, ready to have some fun, "maybe once in a great while they would say 'no.' But you have to understand, I was a cute kid. I mean, really cute. It was hard to say 'no' to me."

All three of my kids rolled their eyes. I thought their synchronization was excellent until I looked over at my wife, leading the pack. She should be ashamed of herself!

"Well, I was!" I exclaimed, defensively.

"Maybe that's why they only gave Daddy the saltines," my wife chimed in, "they saved the candy for the really cute kids. Oh, and by the way, kids, did you know I used to get tons of candy from our neighbors when I was little?" Yeah, right, I thought, shaking my head. My wife can be one funny lady sometimes.

So, with much fondness and love for the basic saltine, I couldn't wait to treat a patient who arrived by ambulance at the end of my shift a few weeks back.

The chief complaint listed on the patient's chart was "Patient choked on a cracker." Hmmm, it sounded kind of serious. However, when I walked into the patient's room, all I found was a middle-aged, poorly-kept, obese gentleman sitting in the hospital cot flicking TV channels with the remote.

"Sir," I asked, after introducing myself and clicking off the TV, "what brings you to our ER tonight."

"Well, I was eating a saltine and it was kind of dry, and it made me gag." Well, yeah, I thought to myself, saltines are dry and they can make you gag, I guess, if you eat enough of them or eat them fast. But, can you still whistle?

"Okay," I said, trying to understand a little better, "so what made you come to our ER?" This guy was speaking full, clear sentences and had no obvious breathing or swallowing difficulties. I needed to figure out what was the emergency.

"Well," the guy said, "after I gagged on the dry cracker, my throat was a little scratchy. I feel better now, though."

Wait a second here. So this guy ate a saltine, gagged on it because it was dry, and then called an ambulance to transport him to our ER at 2 a.m.? Seriously? Because his throat was a little scratchy? Without any other symptoms? Nothing else? At least throw me a bone, buddy, and tell me it's hard to talk, hard to breathe, or hard to swallow. Or that you vomited all over your Lazy-Boy. Something? Anything?

"Nope," he said, "I feel great. In fact, I felt good even before the ambulance got there."

I gave him a glass of water and he chugged it in one gulp. No problem. I listened to his heart and lungs. Unremarkably clear. I felt his throat. No abnormalities. I examined his mouth and throat to the nth degree. Stable.

I'm not sure if I was just wiped-out at the end of my shift or subconsciously, somewhere deep inside, I disliked this patient for using my beloved saltine as an excuse to waste our time and resources. Unfortunately, he continued to build on my shaky foundation of frustrations.

"Hey, Doc," he said, "do you have anything to eat?"

Are you kidding me? "Yeah, buddy," I imagined myself saying, "we have some saltine crackers. Give me a second and I'll run to get you some."

Of course, I didn't really get him crackers. Or food. What I did get for him, though, were his discharge papers.

"Wait a second," he said, after I explained the obvious to him, that he was stable and really should have thought twice about using an ambulance for his transport in, "how am I going to get back home?"

"Pardon me?" I asked.

"A ride home," he answered, sarcastically, "or don't you guys do that anymore?"

"Listen, buddy," I said, getting my vocal wheels rolling, "you'll need to find your own ride. If you can't, you're welcome to wait it out in our waiting room. I'm not going to approve a transport ride, though, for you. You ate a saltine cracker and your throat got a little scratchy. End of story."

Then he made the ultimate statement. "Obviously, you have never eaten a saltine cracker. If you had, you'd know how much damage it can do back there in your throat."

Oh yeah? Is that right? I was just about to launch into my whole childhood obsession with saltines, how I knocked on all our neighbors' doors, when I realized what a waste of his time and mine that would be.

"You're right, sir," I answered instead, crossing my fingers, "I've never had a saltine cracker. Probably never will, either. I like candy."

As always, big thanks for reading. Next post will be Wednesday, February 17. See you then.


Anonymous said...

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour..............................................

Marie said...

Begging. For saltines. And you didn't even ask for any soup to go with them. Too funny.

I grew up in NYC and we were pretty comfortably off. I didn't go without anything, ever. But when I was about six, I found a clump of wire hangers on the top of a trash can. I was inspired.

I subsequently went door to door in our apartment building trying to sell them for a nickel each. lol After accruing a small fortune (they all told me to keep the hangers but gave me nickels anyway) one of our neighbors brought me in her apartment, gave me cookies and milk and called my mother. She was so mortified I really got it.

So that is my begging story. Although I prefer to think of myself as a precocious entrepreneur.

And don't you just hate it when you hate patients?!?! It makes me mad at myself but some of them are just so odious you can't help it.

Tanya said...

Heh-begging for crackers! I had a friend who always managed to be at my house right at dinner time, every Friday-like clockwork. Turns out Friday was meatloaf day at her house; fried chicken day at mine. Guess what she liked better for dinner...

Heather said...

My son, He-Who-Cannot-Swallow, only eats saltines. only. Ever. Begs.

Isn't it amazing what people will do just to take the tour of the local ED?

StudentDoc said...

I used to climb over the fence from my backyard to my neighbors - retired lady who spent her time gardening which made for much more interesting play times than our boring yard.
I quickly learned that if I lied about already eating dinner she'd give me cheese and crackers (she was French)...and then I learned that I am a terrible at lying!

Katie said...

"I think I would tickle-torture my kids if I ever found out they were knocking on our neighbors' doors, asking for something to eat."
Oh the things we get tickle-tortured for... but be careful, Dad, they get bigger. My "Can't Hurt Steel" dad hasn't learned that one yet and it's resulted in some pretty bruises, an "obviously traumatized but not broken" ring finger, and a "I pulled away and realized my foot wasn't coming with me" moment. But we've all enjoyed every minute of it, so keep going!

Enjoy your saltines but make sure they don't make your throat a bit scratch. :-)

<>< Katie

t. said...

Wow, Doc... the not-so-sensitive side emerges!! I knew it was only a matter of time.

Whe I was working in the pedi ER, there was a 16-year old patient who called 911 to bring her in for back pain. Turned out to be a zit. Mommy and Daddy weren't too happy with her when she called them for the ride home.

As for the saltines? They are tasty!

rlbates said...

Salines with a little butter on them. Good stuff!

Maha said...

Begging for saltines! You must have been one cute kid! I still can't get over the patient calling an ambulance for having a scratchy throat after eating a cracker! I have to motivate myself weeks in advance just to get routine blood work done!

Jacqueline said... anytime I eat something that scratches my throat I should come to the ER? Does that include large pills that often scratch the throat when swallowed?


coulrophobic agnostic said...

WHY would you think that something scratching your throat is an emergency?! Seriously, did he say ANYTHING that might clue you in on his ridiculous thought processes? Because I'm baffled.

Saltines are great, though. They don't get enough love as a solo cracker. Everyone puts them in soup - blasphemy, I tell you.

So do all your ER patients get put in a room to wait? Because that sounds incredibly sweet. My local ER is one big room divided by three quarters of a wall, with rows of beds lining each wall. There's about six inches of space between the beds. Which is miserable when you're so sick you want to die and the person next to you is vomiting loudly and repeatedly. It's good people-watching, though.

SeaSpray said...

Oh my GOSH!

There is so much good stuff in this post and I was laughing out loud!!

The two younger note takers may also be following in your footsteps and become writers too. :)

My husband choked on a bass bone and thought it was stuck. Went to ED and the doc had him swallow a saltine. Well ..I assume he let him chew first. :)

Bottom line - no bone but what he was feeling was the scratchiness which caused him to think the bone was still there.

Of course your guy ..was NOT worried. If he even just expressed fear.. then understandable. And to take that rig from another true emergency? People don't think! or care.. if they do think.

I have a *sad* saltine story. But not the place for this upbeat post ..which was great! :)

I can so see just how cute you were in my minds eye. Kids are just so precious. You would've melted me for sure. :)

SeaSpray said...

I left you comments in your Oil of Olay post and hope you are okay with the length. :)

Cal said...

I loved crackers as a kid, and still love them now. We didn't have Saltines where I grew up, but had a version similar to the Ritz cracker! My daughter now is more likely to ask for crackers than candy... must be genetic!

DBenzil said...

BOOKENDS: we worry that our kids may not appreciate how to work for what they want as we feel we did and yet we watch so many adults take advantage (in this case of you and the ER) and wonder.

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.