When I woke on Monday, it was six degrees outside, and not much warmer in my workplace where the office felt akin to an igloo the entire day. Elsbeth, my boss, and Ling, my colleague, manipulated the thermostat repeatedly to little avail. I groused:
Me: Where’s a hot flash when I need one?
Frustrated, Elsbeth complained to me that her lair, which gets the lion’s share of the heat as Ling and I sit under a vent that blasts us with gusts of arctic air all year long, was feeling much too cold. As this designer’s hand-picked assistant of a mere 54,816 hours, one minor surgery and two invasive medical procedures — but enough digressing about our good times together — I suggested she design a working fireplace and have it installed in her office. My superior settled for donning warmer boots instead.
As cold as we were, almost all of us dressed in layers. The one exception was Under Ling, who wore her usual uniform of sneakers, skinny jeans, a tea shirt and a hoodie. Meanwhile, her superior, Ling, sat next to her clad in eleven layers and a scarf. Under Ling, a bolt of fat free energy, sat huddled at her computer shivering under her hoodie.
Considering that Under Ling grew up on Long Island, she should know by now that winter is cold out here. Possibly, I should email her a reminder. Fortunately, Ling saved the day and assigned her charge to shoot some photographs on a warmer floor. To Under Ling this assignment was equal to an all expense paid vacation in the Bahamas. She was out the door faster than the speed of light. Too bad she failed to pack sunblock. I was heading to the restroom to wash my three-gallon tea thermos when Under Ling stops me:
Under Ling: I burned my thumb on a light bulb. What am I supposed to do?
I observe a pea-sized brown spot on her thumb.
Me: Run it under cold water, dry it, slather it with burn cream, then give me a $25 co-pay. I accept PayPal.
We enter the bathroom together. Neither of the two first aid kits has burn cream – or much else. I leave Under Ling in the bathroom where she cools her sore thumb under the tap. I call Rowena, our source for copier supplies, tissues, sarcasm and drugs. She has burn cream. I send Under Ling to Rowena for treatment. Under Ling returns and shows me her treated thumb.
Under Ling: I guess it’s a first-degree burn.
I scrutinize it further.
Channeling my inner Dr. Quackenbush, I offer a second opinion:
Me: I’d say it’s more like half a degree.
As he is leaving, The Quiet Man asks Greg, my sidekick:
The Quiet Man: How did Under Ling burn her thumb?
Greg: She touched me. I’m so hot.
The Quiet Man resumes his silence as he departs the premises faintly muttering, “keyhole,” or possibly my semi-deaf ears misheard the exact key word.
The next day Under Ling’s thumb is significantly better (and our office about 40 degrees warmer), but this toasted thumb situation troubles Elsbeth. She e-blasts the staff to weigh in about refilling our essentially empty first aid kits.
Under Ling suggests bandages, an ice pack and burn cream. As Greg is writing out his laundry list of ideas, I flip through our office supply catalogue and see the Red Cross Emergency SmartPack. Aside from containing the usual bandages and ointments, this kit is so over-the-top I imagine it even has steroids.
I mention it to my peers. As soon as they hear that it contains food, they start drooling, and when they hear it also has a blanket, a sling (Under Ling wants that) and flares, they’re ecstatic. Yet, this kit costs $51.99. Therefore, Elsbeth dictates that we’re settling for the $21.59 94-piece refill box even though it’s food-less, blanket-less, sling-less, and flare-less. Greg will go to our neighborhood pharmacy to pick up some fresh rubbing alcohol to replace the bottle that’s mint flavored that expired in December 2006.
I have no idea why we got mint flavored rubbing alcohol, but it’s possible that some long gone intrepid colleague also used it as mouth wash or improvised mixing a crème de menthe, a cocktail my father used to make for my siblings and I that my sister thinks tastes like Scope.