(This piece originally ran on Southern Humorists.com. Reposted by permission.)
I started the day bouncing around my hotel room on one foot, so guests in the room beneath may have wondered if I’d packed a pogo stick. Jet-lagged and stumbling, I careened into the desk chair that stood between me and the coffee maker. As I hopped madly up and down, I yelled names, not very nice names, names I’ve privately called editors who’ve rejected my work.
With tears rolling down my face, I plunked down into the offending chair. As I scrutinized my foot, I noticed that it now matched the black and blue workshop tote bag. Four toes were properly aligned in their normal state, pointing straight ahead. Alas, one lone piggy was signaling to make a right-hand turn. And my pedicure was ruined.
I’d waited two years to attend the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton. I admire Erma. When I was a young, insecure mother, her brilliant humor saved my sanity. Since the event sells out faster than a Kardashian sex tape goes viral, I’d chained myself to my computer desk before online registration began to ensure I got in. After months of planning, numerous flight changes, and several runway delays, I arrived the day before and claimed my name tag. No way was I missing this conference for a broken toe!
I scooted the office chair to the door and peeked out. Ice should temper the swelling. The ice machine may as well have been in the next county. It was too far down the hall for my achey-breaky toe to maneuver.
I rolled into the bathroom for water to brew coffee and wheeled back to the coffee maker. Waiting for the caffeine jolt to sufficiently erase my morning coma, I contemplated my next move. As I surveyed the room, I realized there was no bullet to bite on. This wouldn’t have been a problem back home in Texas. The closest thing I could find in Dayton was foil-wrapped dark chocolate. I’d have preferred an anesthesiologist.
I was motivated; if I had to gnaw my toe off, like some wild animal caught in a trap, I would. Instead, I grabbed the end of the toe, yanked it back into place, gingerly tugged on a sock, and crammed my injured foot into a shoe. I’ve never seen “broken toe” listed as cause of death on a toe tag in the morgue. I’d live until I could see my doctor at home.
A broken toe is such a wimpy injury. It’s hard to make it noticeable to elicit sympathy. If you’ve got a broken arm or a leg, people respect it. They cluck commiseration and pamper you with extra desserts. They sign your cast with colorful markers, creating witty sayings and drawing smiley faces. Stripping off my sock to ask them to autograph my toenail seemed too wacky. Even a Howard Hughes toenail wouldn’t hold many signatures.
By afternoon, still limping, I realized I’d left my over-the-counter pain medication in my hotel room. Going back for it or walking to buy some was definitely not in my throbbing foot’s near future.
I sat down next to another conference attendee, introduced myself, and asked if she had drugs. Her eyes grew wide, but before she could escape, I explained. After digging around for several minutes, she produced two well-worn aspirins in a Ziploc bag from the linty depths of her Dooney & Bourke. She generously shared, downing the second one herself. An aspirin in the hand is worth two back at the hotel.
Laughter’s a powerful analgesic. Over the next several days, 349 other humor writers often made me laugh enough that I temporarily forgot about my injured toe.
When I finally returned home and saw a doctor, my swollen toe had diminished in size from Ball Park Frank to Little Sizzlers link sausage. After reviewing X-ray films, the doctor prescribed a huge, black protective boot to clomp around in while I heal. I hate wearing the bulky thing, but I’m strapping it on the next time I go to the Dayton event. I’m hoping it’ll snag me an extra dessert.
— Hope Sunderland
Hope Sunderland is a registered nurse who’s retired her enema bucket and bedpan. She’s written for Gulf Coast Lifestyles, ByLine Magazine, Journal of Nursing Jocularity, New Christian Voices, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and contributes to TopFive.com, whose lists have been plagiarized by radio disc jockeys across the nation.