Mr. Right.

I had a doctor’s appointment this past Thursday. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a routine checkup. During the course of things, the doctor asked me when I’d last had a tetanus shot.

I don’t like getting shots. They hurt, and things that hurt become things you avoid. This is why I didn’t play with the cigarette lighter in my parents’ car a second time.

So I briefly considered answering with a vagary about knowing I’d had a tetanus shot, but not being certain of the exact date. And since even if it has been a while, a doctor can’t compel you to take an injection, I also momentarily considered declining.

Tetanus is a infection of the central nervous system caused by bacteria entering through an open wound. The mechanism of infection which people most commonly talk about seems to be “stepping on a rusty nail,” but really, any injury resulting in an open wound will suffice.

Tetanus can lead to lockjaw, a condition which just sounds nasty. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never run across a formal definition of the condition, but I’ve always imagined it to mean that you can’t open your mouth to eat, drink, or speak. And although my friends might appreciate a respite from my wisecracks, being unable to communicate always leaves me frustrated.

Of course I consented to the tetanus shot.

If you were to ask me what the most likely injection site would be for a given treatment, I’d almost certainly get it wrong.

About 16 years ago, I spent six months dating a girl who owned a cat. I’m allergic to cats. Or rather, I’m very allergic to cats. But I liked this girl, so I went to the doctor to see about getting my allergies treated. After a short consultation, the doctor said he would send a nurse in to give me an allergy shot and that would take care of the problem.

A few minutes later, the nurse came in. As I’ve said before, I’m not wild about shots, but I liked that girl. Plus, the nurse was a woman about my age, and not at all unattractive. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? So I rolled up my sleeve.

That’s when she explained that allergy shots don’t go in your arm. They go elsewhere and yes, I would have to lower my pants in the back.
I looked the nurse right in the eye and asked, “Does your mother know you do this?” Turns out her mother was also a nurse.

The girl with the cat broke up with me a month later.

I was a bit apprehensive about the tetanus shot. I was pretty sure the discomfort of the injection would be short-lived, but what I’ve failed to mention until now is that the doctor in question was not just a doctor, she was also a woman.

Luckily, before I could learn whether her mother was also a doctor, much less begin to lower anything, she explained that the tetanus shot would be injected into my upper arm (Whew!) and then asked if I had a preference which one.

I’m right-handed. I write with my right hand, pick up the phone with my right hand (and move it to the left in case I need to write something), and just generally use my right hand for quite a number of tasks. I’ve been known to go through an entire meal holding the fork with my left hand, but I mainly do that just to see who notices. (Did you know that most Americans repeatedly switch the fork between their two hands during a meal? This is an almost uniquely American trait.)

So the decision was to get the injection in the upper part of my left arm. The doctor warned me that it would be sore the next day, but the injection itself was about as painless as it could be.

When I woke on Friday morning, my upper left arm was a little sore. It wasn’t too bad though and really only bothered me when I reached for things. Getting ready to take Wylie out for his morning walk, I quickly realized I should use my right hand to get the leash out of the closet and that would be the end of my discomfort for the day.


Taking a shower before leaving for work, I reflexively reached for the shampoo using my left hand. Getting in the car, I used my left hand to put my lunch bag in the passenger seat. And over the course of the workday, I was frankly astonished by how often I was reaching up to get things out of the desk’s overhead compartment. A compartment which, as you’ve doubtless guessed, was to my left.

Z. and I were planning to go kayaking this morning, or as I call it, “Falling out of boats.” Z. says it’s pretty hard to fall out of a kayak and promised that if I did somehow manage to fall out, she wouldn’t laugh. Not much anyhow. (With all the styrofoam they pack into the bow and stern, it’s also supposed to be pretty hard to sink a canoe. But I’ve done it.)

We ended up canceling those plans because the weather forecast was calling for rain due to Hurricane Bill spinning Northward. If we hadn’t, the authorities would have needed to evacuate the area due to record rains causing even the high grounds to flood. Instead, it’s quite bright out.

It’s just as well though, my left arm is still sore and anytime I use it to reach for anything, I’m promptly reminded about the tetanus shot.
As a consequence of the tetanus shot, now more than ever, I don’t qualify to use “Lefty” as a nickname. So gather up your unattached female friends and let know: I’m Mr. Right.