Go with me on this.
You’re in a doctor’s office because something hurts. Maybe it’s your stomach, a persistent pain in your shoulder, or a twisted ankle.
Sitting in the harsh lighting of this clinical space, hoping for relief, you’re asked the inevitable question, probably by a nurse: “Can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
I’ve been in this situation too many times. And no, I’m not a hypochondriac. (That’s my dad.) The answer I always want to give is, “No. I can’t.”
I have actually given that answer and it’s been met with this question. “But can you try?”
Here’s my problem with this question. My scale of one to 10 will differ from the nurse’s scale of one to 10, which likely differs from the scale of the last person she/he asked that useless question to.
If I say “five,” and on their scale my pain would have been an eight, am I getting the right treatment? I say no.
If (god forbid) I want pain medication, will I get it if I say five?
But if I say nine will I seem needy? Will they think I’m a closeted addict?
Once upon a time, I had a skiing accident. Well, I’ve actually had lots of them, but this is the one that required immediate medical attention.
I’d been skiing on a slope that was too steep, with too many moguls and too much deep, heavy, wet snow. I was skiing over one of those moguls, my skis decided to stop, and in the tradition of gravity sports, my body kept going forward. I heard something snap.
The snap was the tearing of my large calf muscle. Crazy pain. When I finally got to the ski patrol medical hut, the very nice, very saccharin, very condescending nurse asked me in a voice which should be reserved only for small children, “Can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
In a clear, level tone, I responded: “I want a big bucket of drugs.”
See gave a small laugh as if to say, “I know you’re joking.” I was not. She then said, “But can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
As someone who’s never before been so clear about their pain, I thought: Two can play this game. You’re gonna repeat yourself? Back at ya. “I want a big. Bucket. Of. Drugs.”
I was having the kind of pain that makes people pass out. Passing out is arguably a 10+. And the people who pass out are obviously measuring using a different scale than I am. I was still awake and cogent and in pain.
I think a better question is, “On a scale of one to ten, what is your ability to suffer fools?”
Answer, minus five.
But your scale may vary.
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.