That Helping Feeling

After three days of rain, the skies finally began to clear this morning. So Abbi and decided to spend the afternoon indoors at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

I spent the wee hours of Saturday night online, executive producing MTV News’ coverage of the 2006 MTV Movie Awards. The show doesn’t air until Thursday, but it taped in Hollywood last night. What kind of news organization would we be if we fed into the surreality of television and acted like nothing happened? Not much. So there I was, staring at my laptop(s) until two o’clock in the morning, then waking up at 5:00 to finish everything off. Suffice to say, I was plum exhausted.

Abbi called around noon. Not only was she not feeling any better, he fever refused to break, and her lymph nodes were swelling to the point of making it difficult to breath. I hopped in the nearest available cab, and headed to East 68th through thirty minutes of traffic. I marveled as I approached the ER. The sky had turned a beautiful robin’s egg blue, framing the cool white granite hospital exterior. What’s more, the grounds were an oasis of calm in a city of chaos. It was like a college campus, all soaring edifices and green lawns tucked up against the East River.

Inside, Abbi sat sullenly in a gray hooded sweatshirt. We waited for two hours, watching TNT, and flipping through Vanity Fair. Finally, her name was called. I sought every means to cheer her up as we waited in a small examining room. I cracked wise on behalf of the varied patients in the waiting room. I made balloons of surgical gloves. And, when I spotted a sheath of otoscopic cones on the wall, I broke into story.

“Have I ever told you about that feeling I get when I’m being helped?”

I was about six-years-old the first time it happened. I was at the Oak Park Public Library looking for a book on drawing. I remembered the book, but not its title. So I asked a librarian for help. I remember feeling a tingling behind my ears as she sorted through the stacks. I felt extra alive, extra awake. I didn’t want the feeling to end. So I asked her about another book.

I felt that feeling a lot as a kid, pretty much anytime someone helped me with something: a teacher with an assignment, a friend with homework, a stranger with directions — whatever. It was like I was extra-sensitive to kindness (being that it is so rare, after all).

Twenty-eight years later, I still get that feeling sometimes, and always when someone is helping me. Most recently, I was at the doctor, and she was dispensing advice on how to recover from my (annual) post-marathon illness when I felt the tell-tale a tingling behind my ears.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; ‘Sounds awfully sexual too me.’ And I wouldn’t entirely disagree. Except that the feeling pre-dates any sexual thoughts, and is not gender specific.

A young female resident finally appeared and examined Abbi. It took her about three minutes to diagnose her with strep throat. One hour and a shot of penicillin later, we were headed home.

Half way out the door, I reached into my pocket and showed Abbi my booty. I’d snagged an otoscopic cone. Yunno, for later.

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