Anti-Inflammatory Remarks
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa  (Dec 2011)
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            You know what I never fully appreciated before? My elbow. My right elbow. I never noticed how essential it was in the performance of tasks like, oh, everything. Though I’m extremely fortunate that this was only temporary, I do want to share a bit of the experience with you. We’ll start with a list of fun activities for you to try: 1) brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. 2) Put on a button down shirt, a sweater, and pants without bending that arm. 3) Put your hair (or someone else’s hair) in a ponytail using only one hand. No, the other hand. No cheating.

            My elbow had been a bit twinge-y for a couple of weeks, but nothing to cause any real concern. Well, you know when you do something one too many times? I’ll leave the poor camel out of this. Let’s call it the straw that enraged the triceps tendon. What had been mildly annoying upon certain extreme movements became shocking, tears-to-the-eyes, please make it stop, pain upon either bending or straightening my elbow. That’s when I knew I was in for a very exciting weekend.

            The straw-tendon incident took place, of course, right before a major work event consisting of meeting/greeting and a black-tie gala on day one, and 9am-11pm nearly non-stop activities on day two. On Friday, the day of the gala – and the day I set up a doctor’s appointment – I decided to pop in to the hair salon. This was not for glamour; I simply could not bend my right arm more than 90˚, rendering me incapable of doing my own hair. Amazing how I never fully grasped the degree to which the elbow is in involved in the process of grasping one’s hair. Now I know that degree. Hint: it’s less than 90.

            Back to the office for pre-formal event preparation strategy. If I put on the makeup and then change clothes, a smeared image of my face would be forever imprinted on the inside of my dress. It might be cool to have my own, infinitely less holy Shroud of Turin (or Shroud of Philly, as it were), but then I’d have to redo the makeup. If I put on the dress and then the makeup, I would risk spilling or dropping something makeup-related onto the dress. Possible, but avoidable, and I had brought in a spare dress anyway (be prepared). I choose B, Regis: Dress then makeup. Final answer.

            All you need to know about the dress is that it has no zipper. Try putting on a long, zipperless dress without bending your right arm. Let me tell you, it’s just awesome.

            With Elbow’s Revenge Part I: The Dress out of the way, I dumped the contents of my makeup bag onto my desk for Part II: The Makeup. As I was unable to touch my own face with my right hand, my original plan would have to be adjusted. Foundation? Blush? Powder? Easy. Left hand. Eye shadow? Simplify. Eye liner? Forget it. Mascara? Oy. For reasons some of you will understand, the simplified eye shadow situation made mascara rather necessary given the formality of this event. Still, some things are just not worth the risk of doing with one’s non-dominant hand. Near the top of that list is “applying mascara.” Rather than end up looking like “the makeup lady” in the movie Airplane, I had to figure out a way to do this with the robot arm. So, there I was, awkwardly gripping a mascara wand at its very end to extend its reach, right angle elbow gently leaning on my desk, bobbing my face in the general direction of the mascara brush over and over, trying to catch a few eyelashes with it every now and then without dropping the wand.

           Take a moment and picture this. You may want to kiss your elbow if you can. I bet some of you will try. In fact, go ahead. I’ll wait. (Hold music. Let’s go with Motown. I firmly believe that all hold music should be Motown, because if you have to be on hold, you might as well get to listen to some Motown. Sing it with me: I knooooow you wanna leave me, but I refuse to let you go-o….)

            On to Elbow’s Revenge Part III: The Gala. All evening long, people insisted upon participating in the custom of shaking hands, one I already detest. I suspect that this custom is somehow sustained by the cold and flu medicine industry, what with said custom driving said industry's business. What could make me hate shaking hands more? Having a right elbow that can neither bend nor straighten without pain. 

            The next morning, one of my colleagues noticed the robot arm and the wincing. “You should really get a sling,” she said. I had been considering this, as my elbow needed to be forced into a state of rest to facilitate the healing process. A sling, though? I wasn’t sure I wanted something quite so visible and distracting – part of my job was to blend into the background when necessary, not draw undue concern from well-meaning event attendees. But then, in the air before me, I saw an endless, hazy corridor lined on both sides with all of the people who would want to shake my hand over the next 14 hours. Sign me up for the sling.

            I wondered aloud where I might find one nearby, when one of our volunteers suggested I use the event giveaway: a winter scarf that happened to oh-so-perfectly match my sweater. GENIUS! Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, instant fashion sling. People had whole conversations with me without realizing that the scarf I was wearing was also supporting my arm. Rescued from the prospect of shaking hands, my elbow sighed, relaxed, put its feet up in its snazzy new hammock, and had a cocktail. Upon reflection, the garnish looked suspiciously like a tablet of Alleve, but maybe I’m just imagining things.

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