Sunday, December 18, 2011

The power of suggestion

Doctor O invited me this weekend to a holiday party at a friend's house in his building. "Funny story," he said when he told me about it, "Last year, I got really sick not long before the party. I thought I was better, but then I collapsed in the middle of the party. Good thing my place is right across the hall! I just dragged myself over there."

I laughed, then forgot all about his story. We had a nice time at the party, eating yummy chocolates and chitchatting with some of his friendly neighbors. But after a while, one of the friendly neighbors who had been asking me lots of questions stopped asking questions and started talking about how frustrated she has been lately at work. I began to get bored, and to notice that the champagne I was drinking was going to my head a bit, and that it wasn't helping the sore throat that was just beginning to develop. Then, I noticed that my vision was getting black around the edges and I was feeling woozy. I put my champagne glass down and tried to surreptitiously move about without seeming like I wasn't listening to the woman's monologue, which by now had stretched long past ten minutes. I ran my fingers through my hair, pushed up the sleeves of my sweater, and wondered if there would be a short break in her story so I could excuse myself to go to the bathroom. Nothing was helping, so I started coaching myself: "Heathen, do NOT pass out. That would be really embarrassing. You can prevent it if you concentrate hard enough." (I have a history of passing out occasionally, once every five years or so, due to low blood pressure.)

To my relief, the blackness started to dissipate. I smiled and tried to tune in again to the friendly neighbor's ongoing monologue. By now she had moved on from her particular situation to the general sexism rampant in her profession. The blackness faded to the very edges of my vision, but then it turned around and came back, stronger than before. For a moment I tried to push it back again, but soon I was past the point of caring. Next thing I knew, I was looking into Doctor O's face as he said alarmedly, "Are you all right?" He had caught me mid-tumble.

Hopefully that lady will think twice about telling a really boring story next time she's at a party. I wonder what will happen next year at this guy's party?

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