Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dad: The Shot Lady

Parenting has many joys, but watching your kid gets shots is not one of them. Susan got her second round of shots on Thursday, and I think it was even more painful for her parents than it was for her. You know that whole thing about repressing childhood traumas without even knowing it? Well, I had a major flashback.

When I was a kid, my doctor’s office had a designated shot lady. This woman’s sole purpose was to stick little kids with needles, repeatedly and all day long. The character Nurse Ratchett was based in part on The Shot Lady.

Worst. Villain. Ever.

My doctors’ appointments started out the same almost every time. The doctor would do his usual routine, all chummy like he was your pal. Then he’d say something to my mom or dad and walk out of the room. Then the silence crept in. Whichever parent was in the room would try small talk in hopes of distracting me, but it was pointless. We both knew what was about to happen, we both knew that all the screaming in the world wouldn’t get me out of it, and we both knew that all the cheap candy suckers in the world wouldn’t make me happy about it.

The Shot Lady would enter carrying a light blue basket, not a shred of emotion on her face. In fact, I don’t recall her ever speaking a word. When you looked into her eyes, it was like staring into the face of Satan himself, if Satan were a massively built, middle-aged woman with a bad perm wearing nurse scrubs with happy bullshit trains saying stupid things like “Choo choo!”

She had a grip like a vice, and once she clamped onto your wrist, there was no escape. I think she was a brick layer before she got into nursing, or maybe she dabbled in competitive powerlifting. Either way, she liked to start things off slowly, warming you up with an annoying, but plenty painful, finger prick. She would take this tiny yellow thing with a metal sticker at the end of it, grab your index finger by the last knuckle and jam the needle right into the tip. Then she would squeeze your finger until blood ran out into this clear tube. I clearly recall her salivating and licking her lips while she did it, or maybe that’s just part of the recurring Shot Lady nightmares that plague me to this day. It all blends together now.

How the shot lady trains in the off-season.

 After the finger prick came the shot, or shots depending on how in debt you were to the ka,rma police that year. She used some sort of mind control to get me to voluntarily roll up my shirt sleeve and then she rubbed my arm down with this grainy alcohol swab that felt like sandpaper. Then came the needle, which she took out of a plastic wrapper. I can still hear the ripping sound as she opened the package. Nails on a chalkboard never bothered me, but that sound sure as hell did.

As a kid, you have the option of looking away during the shot or looking straight at it. I always chose to look straight at it, not because I’m some crazy masochist (although it’s a wonder that as an adult, I’m not more emotionally scarred from this), but because I just knew that if I looked away, The Shot Lady would start stabbing and stabbing and stabbing. Because that’s what The Shot Lady did and it’s what she was paid to do: walk into rooms, stab little kids with needles and walk out. You know who has a worse job than The Shot Lady? NOBODY.

Once I outgrew the vaccine era of my childhood, I figured I’d never have to see the shot lady again. I was wrong. We were on family vacation at Disney World one summer, probably on the way back to the line to ride Splash Mountain, when who do we see? Yup, The Shot Lady and her Shot Family. I was old enough to know that her powers had no effect inside The Happiest Place on Earth, but my younger brother Zack – who was probably between four and six years old – hid behind my father immediately.

To the amazement of both my brother and me, our parents went up to The Shot Lady and talked to her. At first I was astounded that they were engaging in friendly conversation with the sworn enemy of every kid that ever went to see a doctor, but I realized later that they were sacrificing themselves to protect us. Zack and I were both sure that The Shot Lady had two MMR vaccines in her pocket with our names on it, but with mom and dad blocking her path, she couldn’t get to us. That day, my mom and dad did their jobs. Last week, MJ and I didn’t.

On Thursday, Susan became acquainted with her own Shot Lady. Our sweet, happy, bright little baby got her second round of shots last week at her four-month appointment, and the lady who administered them looked remarkably familiar to the aforementioned demon of my childhood. Somewhere deep inside me, a tiny voice from my youth cried out, “RUN SUSAN RUN! GET OUT OF HERE WHILE YOU STILL CAN!”

Just as we predicted (based on the results of the two-month appointment), Susan did NOT like getting shots this time around, either. She got stuck twice, one right after the other, and screamed for almost 10 minutes straight. Mary Jane was able to calm her down, but she was left sniffling and red in the face as we exited the building. The whole ordeal went something like this:

If you think the shots were traumatic for her, think about her parents! Sure, she got stuck with a couple needles and screamed like a banshee for about 10 minutes, but then she slept for most of the day while her mother and I were left trying to convince ourselves that our daughter didn’t hate us

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