Though I like to insist on the bravery of cycling in car-infested cities, falling off one’s bike has little heroic appeal. Not really knowing how it happened even adds an element of silliness to it. Well, I suppose that indirectly an insistent big bad car was to blame, since it made me swerve to the right, into the gutter and WHAM, onto the ground.
But, mainly I felt stupid, shamefacedly collecting my keys and loose change strewn over the ground. And eager to restore my dignity & urban anonymity, I swiftly got back on my bike and merged again into the rush-hour traffic. The vague pain in a toe seemed a small price to pay for that daft fall.
Never ever dismiss pain in a toe! So I learned that evening and night.
Those silly inconsequential toes are pivotal, in human mobility and immobility alike. Whether I limped or walked or shuffled, whether I lay on the sofa or in bed: that toe insisted on sending out lacerating pain signals. It didn’t want me to put the right foot (to which it is alas firmly attached) on the ground, but it didn’t want that foot to be held in mid-air either. Even lying quietly still could not appease the Offended Toe, which apparently actively partakes in the most diverse states of human equilibrium.
After having thus suffered throughout a dark long night, I welcomed morning so I could call a cab and get myself to the nearest hospital. 7 AM is a funny hour at a hospital, an hour of stillness in between night shift and day-time activity. Through long empty corridors I limped to the emergency ward (which is also the ward for diverse & various casualties including toes). While I sat there waiting, the hospital slowly came to life and at the intake desk other patients arrived – equally grey with misery after a painful night. And all with their particular, anguished tale to tell to the nurse-receptionist.
Blessed be that hospital staff!!! Their competence and friendliness so soothing for sleep-deprived minds and sore toes alike. I still marvel at how they managed to combine efficiency with friendly attentiveness – both crucial for the hapless patient.
Most impressive perhaps was the medical doctor who first examined me and who dispensed the concluding treatment. She had the sort of calm authority that inspires instant respect and confidence. She clearly was at home there in her emergency ward, ready to take on whatever casualties the city would throw up at her doorstep. Ready also to deal with aggressive patients (as I briefly witnessed later). And then, amongst all the stress, still capable not only to give appropriate attention to a mere broken toe but also some much appreciated human sympathy to the silly owner of aforesaid toe. Yes, impressive she was.
Readers of this blog know I’m a bit of a pessimist regarding the human race, whose specimens have perfected their selfish and greedy urges during eons of Darwinian struggle for life. True altruism does not exist for the selfish gene. And proof abounds for this pessimist view: at its most degrading in any war-torn zone, at its most socially acceptable in economic competition.
But then there are these awe-inspiring instances of humans defying the selfish odds: like all those medics and paramedics trying to pick up the human pieces of wars and conflicts. Or just doing their thing in an urban emergency ward. Largely unnoticed, but indispensable.