Friday, September 21, 2012

Call Waiting

For a few weeks now, Saffy has been suffering from chronic migraine. Which, of course, only ratchets up the drama quotient by several notches.
            “It’s like Freddy Krueger has somehow gotten inside my head and is stabbing my right eyeball from inside!” she moaned recently as she crawled into bed and pulled the blanket over her head. “Oh dear God, the light! Why is it so bright?”
            “Did you take a Nurafen?” I asked solicitously from the door to her bedroom.
            “I’ve practically taken an entire box!” came her muffled reply. “If I take one more, I’m going to be in ‘Valley of the Dolls’!” Her head poked out briefly from beneath the blanket, her eyes half shut with pain. “Listen, can you call Dr Shu and tell her that I desperately need to see her?”
            Dr Shu is our elderly acupuncturist. She’s about 80 and retired, but she occasionally lets desperate patients come to her house for some treatment. We’ve been going to her for years and she’s seen us through everything from depression, insomnia and weight gain to acne and bloatedness. She’s incredible. You show up with your ailments, she’ll check your pulse, stick a few needles in you and you’re all done.
            When I finally tracked her down, Dr Shu said she could see Saffy that afternoon.
            “Oh thank God!” Saffy sniffled. “I feel like I’m about to die and throw up.”
            Later, when she returned from the appointment, Saffy looked considerably better. “It’s amazing. She poked needles in my crown, the sides of my head and my feet, and half an hour later, the pain had subsided. Really, someone should give her the Nobel Prize!”
            This morning, before work, Saffy showed up at 8am at Dr Shu’s home for her follow-up treatment. She pressed the bell.
            Then, she pressed it again. There was no sound from inside. The kitchen window was slightly open, so Saffy stuck her nose through it and yodeled, “Helloooo, Dr Shu-ooo! It’s Saffy!”
            She was met by a wall of silence broken only by the low tick-tock of the clock in the hallway. Frowning, she went back to the main door and pressed the bell again, before reaching for her phone to dial Dr Shu.
            The house-phone rang shrilly. “Seriously, that ring tone would wake the dead!” Saffy later complained.
            She stood in front of the house ringing the doorbell and calling out. At 8.30, she headed to the office where she immediately called me.
            “But she’s never missed an appointment!” I said.
            “I know, right? I’m worried. What if,” Saffy said, her voice dropping several octaves, “what if she tripped in her bathtub and is lying on the floor right now, slowly bleeding to death?”
            The image was ghoulish.
            “And she lives alone!” Saffy went on, her mental cinema now filled with horror. She called Amanda who said to call the police.
            “Really? Isn’t that a bit of an over-reaction?”
            “She’s 80,” Amanda said crisply. “She lives alone. She’s never missed a single appointment before. She’s 80! You connect the dots!”
            “This is so stressful!” Saffy moaned. “I can feel my migraine coming back! Ok, ok, I’m calling the police now.”
            Fifteen minutes after Saffy’s desperate emergency call, her handphone rang.
            “Aiyoh, Saffy! It’s Dr Shu!”
            “Oh. My. God! You’re alive?”
            “Please, lah! I wrote your appointment down in the wrong day, so I went out with my son for breakfast! I am so sorry! The police just came around!”
            It says something about Saffy’s state of mind that her next comment was, “You have a son? Is he single?”
            Saffy says she’s never been so stressed in her entire life. “I seriously thought she’d died! And the first thing I thought was that we’ve not finished my treatment! Who am I going to go to for my migraines?”
            Amanda blinked. “That was your first thought?”
            “Well, actually, my first thought was whether I would be saddled with the job of organizing her funeral. She never speaks of her family Who knew she had a son! Did you know she had a son? Apparently, he’s a plastic surgeon!”
            Amanda sat up straight.
            “Back off, Amanda, I saw him first!”
            The image of poor Dr Shu lying all alone on the floor in the bathroom still haunts us. So much so that Saffy says she’s going to be Dr Shu’s morning buddy.
            “Now listen,” she said to Dr Shu on the phone, “every morning I’m going to call you just to make sure you’re still alive, ok? And if I don’t call you, that means I’m lying bleeding to death on my bathroom floor, so you have to call the police! OK? Hello?”

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