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Monday, September 14, 2009

Conversation with a 13-year-old

[Sound of mobile phone ringing.  I know it's Gilad calling because his ring is set to the theme song to 'Our Gang' (The Little Rascals)]

Me:  Hi Gili... what's up?

Gilad:  Hi abba, I'm calling from the school office.

Me:  [after long pause]  What happened?

Gilad:  Nothing.  My teacher said I should call you.

Me:  You want to be more specific?  You're calling me at work in the middle of a school day at the behest of your teacher to tell me something... good?

Gilad:  [sensing the extreme sarcasm in my last remark] No, I mean yes... I mean, I'm not in trouble, if that's what you 're worried about.

Me:  OK, so you have my undivided attention.  It is the second week of school and your teacher asked you to call me in the middle of the school day.  Did you win some sort of award?

Gilad [sensing that my sarcasm is now off the scale]:  He thinks I might have broken my finger.

Me:  He thinks?  What do you think?

Gilad:  Well, it hurts pretty bad... and it's swollen to almost twice its normal size.

Me:  I'm guessing this was one of those study-related injuries we're always hearing about?

Gilad: [missing the sarcasm altogether now]  Huh?  No, I mean it happened playing basketball during our break.

Me:  Okay, which finger are you talking about.

Gilad:  The fourth one.

Me:  You have ten fingers. Five on each hand.  Can you throw me a bone here?

Gilad:  My fourth finger... on my right hand.

Me:  You mean your right ring finger?

Gilad:  Um, I don't know... I don't wear rings.

Me:  You are aware that most people who wear rings tend to wear them on the finger next to the pinkie, right?

Gilad:  I guess... I never noticed.

Me:  Never mind... so you were about to tell me which finger you broke?

Gilad:  They're not sure it's broken...

Me:  [Yelling into the phone]  Gilad, if you don't tell me which finger it is so help me G-d...!

Gilad:  Oh yeah, sorry.... it's my fourth, um I mean my right ring finger.  But like I said, they aren't sure it's broken.  That's why they asked me to call you.

Me:  Because they know I have magical diagnostic powers on the phone?

Gilad:  No, because they don't know whether to send me home.

Me:  Let me ask you a question:  Does it hurt?

Gilad:  Yeah.

Me:  Will it hurt less at home?

Gilad:  No... but they think I should have it seen by a doctor.

Me:  Oh, I'm sure you should.  But I'm in Beer Sheva and Ima is teaching today in Jerusalem.  So you aren't going to be able to get to a doctor until after school anyway.  Why not just put some ice on it and wait a couple hours until we can actually do something about the problem?

Gilad:  They don't have ice in school.  And besides, I can't write.

Me:  That must have been a hellava basketball game... your ears and eyes also got hurt?

Gilad:  No, but it really hurts and I can't ice it here.  Besides, if I go home I can take something for the pain and put an ice pack on it.  I'll get all my assignments before I leave.

Me:  [Relenting]  Okay, let me talk to the secretary...  you can go home... but I'd better not find out you didn't do all your schoolwork.

Postscript:  I ended up leaving work early and told Gilad to meet me at the Jerusalem Terem (like an emergency triage clinic).  Gilad's finger was indeed quite swollen.  It looked like one of those really big hot dogs - the kind my Grandma Fay used to call 'specials' - albeit a hot dog that had been left in the sun to swell and blacken.  X-rays showed that it wasn't broken, but he had certainly jammed it pretty badly.

While we were waiting for the nurse to come tape his swollen digit to it's larger neighbor, I gently explained to Gilad that he needed to work on his phone manner. 

I asked him if he'd ever watched ER on TV.  When he nodded his head, I asked if he'd ever noticed that when the paramedics were wheeling in a new patient, they would pass on a bunch of relevant information in an information-packed stream of vitals and medical history called a 'bullet'. 

I told him that if he was well enough to call me to tell me about an injury, he'd better take a moment to collect his thoughts so he could give me the bullet... a nice succinct, information-rich description of the situation.  Otherwise if I had to drag the information out of him like I'd done that afternoon.... a broken or sprained finger would be the least of his problems.

Posted by David Bogner on September 14, 2009 | Permalink


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I felt like I was reading a Laurel and Hardy sketch there! Am I allowed to say it was funny? Tell me he's ok and then I'll say it was funny.


Posted by: What War Zone??? | Sep 14, 2009 7:49:14 PM

Nothing to say about the post, but I am sure am glad not to see "@ss sweat" every time I check your page!

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Sep 14, 2009 8:25:36 PM

I'd like to hear Zahava's take on this story because as a mother I'm not smiling at your reactions. I'm imagining my husband reacting the same way and me yelling at him for being irresponsible with our son's health and emotional well-being. This is probably one of the reasons you guys thank God for not having made you a woman, and we thank Him for having made us... hmmm, more compassionate, like HE is! :-)

BTW, thanks for impressing my son with your presentation on why he shouldn't blog about what he ate for breakfast!

Posted by: Tehillah | Sep 14, 2009 8:34:37 PM

Parent: "What did you do today?"

Average Young Teenager: "I dunno."

Parent: "You don't know?"

Teen: Silence

Parent: "You must have done something. What did you do?"

Teen: "Nothing."

It sounds to me like Gili is like many teens his age. I agree that he needs to work on his communications skills but this isn't anything unusual.

Posted by: Karl Newman | Sep 14, 2009 9:25:05 PM

Poor Gilad! damaged digits hurt like toothache.
Heal quickly.

Posted by: Noa | Sep 14, 2009 9:26:22 PM

I can understand your frustration, David, but I think that you may have been a bit too tough on Gilad here.

I remember being injured a few times when I was a kid and being so dazed, frightened and confused afterward that I couldn't collect my thoughts enough to say coherently what had happened for quite some time. Being threatened with getting into trouble for not communicating well enough would not have helped me in such a situation.

As for the paramedics' "bullets," they are trained to deal with these situations. Is it fair to expect a kid who has just suffered an injury to behave in the same way?

Posted by: Rahel | Sep 14, 2009 9:31:36 PM

I read it out loud. Sports Guy (15), who's seen his share of "specials" where fingers should be, thought it was pretty funny. I said, "Yeah, but did you get the message?" He laughed and said he'll work on the bullet thing. Though he's pretty sure that Gili's take on avoiding excess school time is pretty healthy. He also says refua shelaima.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Sep 14, 2009 9:32:55 PM

What can I say tough guy?
You need to work on your bedside manner, even if it is over the phone.
Call me, I give you a few pointers. ;P

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Sep 14, 2009 10:15:10 PM

Tehilla: I hate to break it to you, but David's a real softie compared to me. But then again, I have been the recipient of, OH! a bazillion phone attempts at school-break outs and assorted "the-kid-who-sits-next-to-me-stole-my-homework-assignment" type excuses.

I tend not to worry about illness or injury unless one (or more) of the following are present: loss of consciousness; inability to breathe; heavy bleeding; high fever (over 102.5 F); evidence of insect or spider or snake bite.... well... you get the picture.... Not that I wouldn't be concerned about lesser injury/illness -- I would -- but I would not be alarmed.

Sorry to further disappoint, but I found the retelling of the incident laugh-out-loud amusing.

Posted by: zahava | Sep 14, 2009 10:18:26 PM

I am with you, Zehava. I want blood flowing before I retrieve said child or tell child to go home (defintely a negative of school within walking distance). Here's conversation I had with Orli (12) just a few days ago:

Orli: Mommy, can I leave early? My head hurts.

Me (glancing at my watch): It's ten to 3 School's over in a half hour. Suck it up (okay, didn't use those words with her) and when you get home take a nap or something.

Orli: So, I can't leave early?

Me: NO.

Orli (sighing): Oh well. Was worth a try.

Posted by: Baila | Sep 14, 2009 10:57:15 PM

Nice post and interesting reactions from fellow commentators. Still hope the little guy is ok and got the point.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Sep 15, 2009 12:10:28 AM

So when will Gilad start prefacing all conversations with "Dad, before we talk, I need to ask... Don't put this on your Blog." :-)

My daughter tried the same thing a few times in Gan... "I have a headache. I want to go home." "School's over in an hour, you can wait that long." "But I wanna go hoooommmmmeeee."

Posted by: JDMDad | Sep 15, 2009 12:41:13 AM

as a mother I'm not smiling at your reactions.

As a former thirteen year old boy, I'm laughing my head off.

This is probably one of those things that most women couldn't understand anyway.


Side note: I'm printing out the piece on Isomalt from two years ago for Savage Kitten to read.

Warning: T.M.I.

Still a classic.

Posted by: At The Back of the Hill | Sep 15, 2009 12:56:03 AM

Good one. My standard line to my boys has been "This is really good for you--one day you might have to kill someone with your bare hands with a knife stuck in your belly, so this is good practice to get used to some pain."

I'm guessing that Dave (Balashon) won't see the many benefits to my approach.

Posted by: Shalom, Cherry Hill, NJ | Sep 15, 2009 4:06:20 AM

Maybe you raise them tougher over there--well, I know you do--but I'm still with Rahel. If I'd called a parent at work with a possibly broken finger at that age, I just would have wanted to go home and ice it and take Tylenol until someone could take me to the doctor. If I'd gotten that reaction I'd have been in tears after two minutes. And I'm not sure why it mattered all that much which finger--you'd have to take him to the doctor whether it was his right hand or his left or his ring finger or his index. And he probably started out by telling you his teacher wanted him to call so that you'd know he wasn't making it up to get out of school.

Posted by: uberimmau | Sep 15, 2009 5:22:56 AM

All that's missing is working in a slow-burning, "Why, I oughtta....!"

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Sep 15, 2009 6:38:27 AM

I thought that it sounded like a typical conversation between father and son. :)

Posted by: Jack | Sep 15, 2009 8:27:29 AM

At the back of the Hill - thanks for directing me to a "Classic", which I somehow overlooked. I now hurt from laughing........and I needed it today.

Trep - You are very brave to post about these things, knowing that you are likely to be ribbed FOR ETERNITY about them.

Posted by: Noa | Sep 15, 2009 9:59:31 AM

"I see a pattern!" he warbled gaily.

David, you missed your calling as a cigar chomping, attention-deficit-addled, ascerbic newspaper editor.

All I can say is: Ariella has surely already seen the handwriting on the wall, what with your phone manner with both boys.

First, you crush Yonah's hopes and dreams as he waits for a bus. And now this with Gilad.

Were you the guy in the engine room that the captain barked orders to via intercom?

Posted by: Ari | Sep 15, 2009 3:37:46 PM

Poor Gilad! I think the phone call was more painful than the sprain. Hope he's better now.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Sep 16, 2009 6:14:40 PM

Heh, yeah, I kinda have to agree with the folks; it was a little harsh on the poor guy. However, it was also freakin' hilarious (the exchange, not the jammed finger. Owch.), even more so now that I've met both you and Gilad. I could actually *hear* the conversation.

Poor Gilad - speedy recovery, and may he quickly grow to understand chikchok phone reports :)

Posted by: Alissa | Sep 16, 2009 11:46:18 PM


My youngest daughter called me today, crying hysterically. It took me a good several minutes to calm her down so that she can tell me what hurts. Meanwhile, I'm trying to think who I can call to take her to the ER. She finally calms down enought to tell me she has broken..... the blender. "OK, but are you hurt?" I repeat. "No, but I broke the blender...." "It's just a thing," I tell her, but she is still crying. "We'll get a new blender," I reassure her, "the important thing is that you are not hurt." She's still crying when she blurts out, "But the blender was almost new..." "Are you hurt?" I ask again, wondering if maybe she's bleeding. "No," she repeats. "Then don't worry," I say again, "we'll get another new blender."


Posted by: Rivka with a capital A | Sep 17, 2009 1:29:43 AM

just turned the above comment into a blog post and linked back to this post.

Thanks for the inspiration. Going to sleep now....

Posted by: Rivka with a capital A | Sep 17, 2009 1:46:44 AM

You're mean.

Posted by: Dina | Sep 17, 2009 9:00:14 AM

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