Saturday, September 22, 2012

Adventures in Gynecology: Squirrel Edition

The weirdest aspect of my recent medical crisis was sitting with the surgeon's scheduling assistant as he ran through a series of pre-op questions. My sister was with me in case I zoned out and didn't pay attention to something.

Justin zipped through some mundane stuff, such as, "Do you, or have you ever, smoked?" and "Do you have any allergies?" and then he got to the real humdinger: "I have to kind of collect myself for this one, and I know it's going to seem rude and possibly weird," he paused, and with a mostly straight face, inquired: "Do you eat squirrels?"

Crickets chirped outside the window as the next several seconds passed in stunned silence. Finally, my sister blurted out, "ARE YOU SERIOUS?"

"Yes, unfortunately, we ask all of our patients who live outside the Big City that question. There's something in their brains (it's called a prion, actually) that's very dangerous to our oncology patients and there's a terrible infection risk. So we ask everyone. I thought it was bizarre until one of our ladies called last week and asked if squirrel broth was okay since beef and chicken were on our list of pre-op foods. I know her and I just had this image in my mind of her sitting on her porch and chasing the squirrels when they came down in her yard."

We sat there for a moment, mulling this over, and then my sister said, "Well, that's not how you catch them."

"Right, you shoot them," responded our city-bred young man.

"No," my sister told him, her face a mask of dead calm, "you use a fishing rod, with bread or peanut butter as the bait, and then you cast up into the trees. You wait until you feel one take the bait, then you reel it in like a fish." She demonstrated the whole process of casting a line up into the branches and reeling in the line.

Justin's jaw was just about on the floor until she finally smiled and said, "I'm kidding. You do shoot them."

What had set both of us off was the assumption that only we hicks outside the city are prone to eating squirrels. Not too surprisingly, my sister told Justin that she thought it was a mistake to rule out city-dwelling squirrel-eaters, and while I was in the hospital recovering right there in the Big City, a man was arrested for killing squirrels out of season in the part of town my sister had suggested as squirrelmageddon to Justin.

I'm a reference librarian. I've been asked some damned strange stuff in my career, but Justin and his squirrel question win, hands down.

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