Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Unexpected Utilitarian

I have always admired Swiss ingenuity--never more so than when I found a Swiss army knife on Serge's desktop.

My pinky finger had been pulsing for a couple of days. I thought I'd already pulled out the boysenberry thorn that had pierced my finger before we left. But there it was: a dark brown sliver clearly visible. I smothered it with salve, covered it with a bandaid and watched it come to the surface--but still I had to pierce the skin to let it out. I held a swing-out blade to the flame for sterilization thinking how barbaric the incident was going to be. Yet it wasn't. The thorn came out with little effort and zero pain.

Then the most brutal realization after I bit into an overly-buttered baguette and felt pain in every chew.

"I can't eat," I announced to Tony.

A piece of a crown in the back of my mouth had broken off and had left a jagged edge. Each time I chewed, my tongue scraped the jagged edge. The cumulative effect came all at once.

I can't eat in Paris?
What will I do?

My tummy was full, so I buried my ostrich neck into the sand...but then a bike ride later and three o'clock in the afternoon, I was hungry, cold, and desperate to get to a French dentist. Complicated.

Instead, I opened the Swiss army knife. A jagged edge, a file. Fortunately, our dentist in the states was available via text. "File away," she replied.

A barbaric half hour later, I could see the light; maybe the vacation wasn't ruined.

During the darkest hour of the day, when I realized how hungry I was, but knew chewing and swallowing would be impossible--even talking caused my tongue to brush the errant tooth--there was a blessed moment. We'd also hit a rain storm when cycling from the farthest edge of the city we'd yet to explore. I was wet and chilled, and we couldn't find an empty rack at any of the Velib bike stations. We kept pedaling farther from our apartment until the fourth station had space. We clicked our bikes into place, started walking and thankfully noticed a woman with a baby, carrying a large bag, who looked more put-out than me.

"We should help that woman," I said to Tony, but she kept walking when we had crossed the street.
She had only crossed at a different spot and when we met up within a few steps, it was my second chance! I approached her and asked, but she gave me an incomprehensible stare. Bad French again. Tony to the rescue, she smiled and handed the bag to him. He made a few jokes about her strength but I didn't think much about it until he passed the bag to me to measure its weight. Wow! It was heavy. Crazy heavy.

We walked a substantial distance; the woman smiled, we talked and knew we'd lifted a burden.

When we got home, I realized I'd forgotten the hunger, the pain, and the cold.

Relief isn't found only in an aspirin,  a change of clothes, or a Swiss army knife.