The Common Good
March-April 1995

It's Time to Play "Let's Blame the Poor!"

by Ed Spivey Jr. | March-April 1995

Recently, some spots on my face were diagnosed not as the distinctive markings of a rare intellect-which I had assumed them to be-but as a precancerous skin malady.

Recently, some spots on my face were diagnosed not as the distinctive markings of a rare intellect-which I had assumed them to be-but as a precancerous skin malady. In strict medical terms, the condition is known as "Having A Face That Looks Like Butter

Pecan Ice Cream," and it needed to be treated right away.

Unfortunately, this required a visit to Dr. Bob's House of Pain. That's not what he calls his office, of course, but then his is a slightly different perspective than mine. I'm the guy on the table, on my back, wondering, "Hey, what's that burning smell?"

When the dermatologist first told me he'd have to cauterize the spots, I asked him if it would hurt. "It all depends on what you mean by 'hurt,'" he replied.

I hadn't thought I was asking a complex question. But he went on to explain that people have different thresholds of pain: A higher threshold means you can put up with a greater degree of discomfort, such as network television. A lower threshold means you reach the point of discomfort much earlier, like, in my case, on the drive over.

He sympathized with my state of nervous apprehension (which at that point, was more like a continent) and assured me that Novocain would help. This assurance lasted only as long as it took him to pull out a hypodermic needle the size of a tennis ball can. He would have to inject each of the nine skin spots, he calmly related.

"Will it hurt?" I asked.

"It all depends on what you mean by...."

Fine. Nine shots, or nine burns with a hot needle-like thingy. Ikept waiting for the third option. (Slow lingering death? Okay, I'll take that one.)

I helpfully pointed out that my dentist uses a desensitizing cream before injecting Novocain, but the doctor replied, "Oh, we don't do that here."

"Where, exactly, do you do it?" I asked. "I'd be happy to change rooms."

Hah, he said.

The procedure only took a few minutes. Not normal minutes, of course. But some strange, new kind of minute. A minute that has a beginning and an end, but also this real long part in the middle, which, in my case, was spent praying that a police SWAT team would knock down the door and rescue me from this madman. I'M A HOSTAGE...AND I CAN'T GET UP!

That kind of minute.

It felt like someone putting out a cigarette on my forehead. Nine times. And after each one, Dr. Helpful would keep count: "That's one. Only eight more to go.... That's two. Only seven more to go...." Inever realized just how long it takes to get to the number nine.

But this is a humor column, so let's get right to the funny part of the story. Let's see.... People stared at me when I walked out of the hospital because I had huge welts on my forehead. No, that wasn't funny. Back at Sojourners my colleagues tried to get my mind back on the important work at hand: "So Ed, I read your memo and, uh, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FACE???!!!" No, that's not the funny part either.

Oh yeah [giggle], now I remember the funny part. It still hurt TWO HOURS LATER!

So let this be a warning to you. These skin spots were caused by a lifetime of ill-advised sun exposure.When I was a young child in the 1960s-oh all right, the 1950s-there was no such thing as sunscreen, only the sun "tan" lotions that scientists later discovered worked better for cooking French fries.

Researchers now know that the best protection from the sun is called "the indoors." But if you do go out into the sun, just put on what I wear: two bedsheets, a sombrero, and a ski mask.

Or you could go to Dr. Bob.

And ask him if it will hurt.

Gingrich Update: Newt Wears Bad Toupee

Well actually we don't know for sure if he does. But we figured we'd loudly accuse him and make him deny it. Seems to be the trend these days.

Meanwhile, the Republicans' Contract With America continues to roll through Congress, altering the way our government does business.

Some recent changes:

  • Since the Departments of Transportation and Agriculture have been combined, airport control towers are now being staffed by meat inspectors. Travelers should expect numerous delays, but only a small risk of salmonella poisoning.
  • The Department of Energy's nuclear waste cleanup program has been turned over to private entrepreneurs, such as Al's Out-of-Site-Out-of-Mind Radioactive Hauling Service in Rocky Flats, Colorado. Motto: "We'll just put the stuff in these big metal cans here."
  • The Public Broadcasting Service was purchased by Fox Network, which quickly launched its new show, Sesame Street, 90210. The program teaches math and reading skills simultaneously by encouraging young children to count four-letter words. This week's episode: Cookie Monster is arrested for shoplifting and Big Bird cheats on his girlfriend. Again.

Study Questions

In Ephesians, chapter 5, Paul challenges us not to let the sun go down on our anger. Does that mean people in California have an extra three hours to make amends with friends on the East Coast? How about Mountain Standard Time, where they're two hours ahead of us in Washington? Do we have to reconcile with them before the sun goes down there or here? And what is Mountain Standard Time? Whose idea was that, anyway?

Discuss.

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