25 July 2012

in which i eat a dime and have a grand adventure {part 4}

The last part of a four-part story on the time I swallowed a dime.

You can start with Part 1, or skip around to Part 2 or Part 3, if you want.


My parents now call the dime that I swallowed "The $1,000 Dime," since that's how much it cost to have it removed. This makes it sound like it belongs in a museum, perhaps a very exciting and educational one dedicated to the National Mint. People would line up for hours to see the $1,000 Dime, and then, when someone was desperate for a Dr. Pepper from the vending machines, it would be stolen and create one of those scandals that the 24-hour news cycle is so grateful for: one that seems inane at first, but the more you talk about it, the more weight and significance it takes on {much like Bane Capital in this election}.

Or "The $1,000 Dime" could be a documentary of how we got to a national debt of such monumental size. The answer would be: because it costs $1,000 to make every dime.

There would be a national outcry against dimes {who can even remember which president is on it, anyway? Get rid of it! And maybe the presidency, too, while we're at it!}.

The 24-hour news cycle would cover it for 23.5 hours every day {the other 30 minutes would be devoted to a segment called "Oh, Yeah, There Are Other Countries in the World"}.

But the dime is not in a museum, nor is it featured in a documentary {although, really, doesn't that sound like a plausible documentary idea? It would be beloved by people who also loved King Corn, that documentary that finally explains corn subsidies and features fields upon fields of Iowa corn that will be fed to cattle. Those are two things that needed to be in a documentary}.

The dime, instead is in my parents' house in Iowa {which was not featured in the King Corn documentary}. They don't even have it in a museum-quality case, which I've seen in that SkyMall catalog on flights, so I know it exists; if my parents cared enough, they could buy one, even at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.

But no, they keep the dime, along with my hospital bracelet from the Mason City hospital, in something that looks like a little white Tupperware container but is really what my dad was handed when I came out of surgery. The dime was in it, and how odd that some of the trappings of the medical community—where we put such faith in doctors and their high-tech tools and abilities—should look as ordinary as what we store leftovers in.

I'm getting ahead of myself, what with this talk of documentaries and Tupperware, when what you really need to know is this: I have three very vivid memories from the hospital after I swallowed a dime.

One of them is a dream, so it might not be so reliable, but the other two, I can still close my eyes and play as a {very short} movie in my mind.

Do not let even the slightest thought cross your mind that because I was only 3, I couldn't possibly remember anything.

If you've learned anything from this story {beyond to buy small children candy when you're on a long bike ride, a lesson covered in Part 3}, it's that I will stop at nothing to prove a point.

Doubt me on these memories, and I just may eat more money. I have access to a lot more of it than I did as a 3-year-old on RAGBRAI, so think carefully before doubting.

My Three Very Vivid and Reliable Memories from the Dime and RAGBRAI

Looking at an X-ray and Seeing the Dime
In my mind, I can see the doctor in a dark room holding the x-ray up to a light box and saying, "See? There it is, right above her voice box."

I remember thinking: That looks as big as a quarter! Man, I wish I had a quarter right about now. I could get some pop—if Oesa loaned me some more money. I don't think a quarter is enough.

Then I remembered that it hurt to swallow.

But if I look closely enough at this image in my memory, the dark room and the light box start to look a lot like this:
And as we all know, that is the engine from the Starship Enterprise—the plasma reactor that powers warp speed and is, apparently, always in danger of blowing up, whether Scotty or LaForge is in charge of it {come on, Starfleet, get your plasma under control for once!}.

In my memory, it could be that that lightbox illuminating my dime is just one photon torpedo away from blowing up, and I doubt the Mason City hospital was part of the Enterprise {even if Captain Kirk was from Riverside, Iowa}.

On second thought, I might've made this part of the memory up after one too many viewings of Star Trek.

Being Asked if I Like to Wear Masks
Back in the examining room, away from the plasma reactor, the doctor asked me, "Do you like to wear masks?"

And being a 3-year-old, I immediately assumed he meant the plastic kind you could get with the Barbie costumes at Halloween—the kind of costumes we never got, no matter how much I whined and begged.

This is probably because they were made out of everything that is toxic to the Earth and because it feels like order has gone awry in the world when you see a small child with the made-up face of a grown women vacantly smiling like she's had a few too many martinis by the pool.

I'm referring partially to beauty pageants for babies, of course, but mostly to the Barbie mask I so wanted to wear in the hospital. Finally: my chance to be like other kids!

In that book about my family and the lies I was told as a child {see Part 2 for more on that}, there would be a chapter called "Everyone Else Is Sad When They Go to Wal-Mart."

We shopped locally, partially because we were in a smallish town in Iowa and local is what you get. But Burlington does have a Wal-Mart, a place my dad has never set foot in, no matter how cheap you can get toilet paper there. For quite some time as a child, I believed that you would become a sad sort of person if you shopped at Wal-Mart, and I didn't want to be sad; I just wanted my Halloween costume to come from there like all the other kids.

And then, in the Mason City hospital, I was offered the chance to have Halloween in July—until they put the mask on me, that is. It was the anesthesia mask, and the doctor should've asked, "Do you like to take naps?"

I would've answered, "Yes! And especially today—it's been a very full day already. Got up, ate breakfast, said goodbye to my mom and brothers as they headed out to bike, had a snack of a dime, and here we are! Definitely ready for a nap."

That would've been a much more positive experience than me thinking as the anesthesia took over: All doctors are liars—unless he's planning on running out to buy a Barbie mask during naptime. {Please note: I still had no idea why they were putting me to sleep. Surgery is not a concept 3-year-olds should be familiar with, and I really thought they wanted me to just take it easy for while.} Then I'll forgive him. No mask, no forgiveness.

In case you haven't noticed, I was a very stubborn child.

All My Dreams Should Be Like This
During naptime/surgery to remove the dime {by opening my mouth very wide and using very small instruments to get down my throat}, I dreamed that dimes and packs of Bubbalicious bubble gum were coming out of the machine the mask was hooked up to.

They were floating down the tube and into my mask, at which point, I assume, I swallowed them and kept all the money and gum for myself {sharing none with my sister}. I was rich and able to blow bubbles!

This dream was so wondrous to me that hours later when I finally saw my mom, I told her about it immediately.

"How are you feeling, Mia?" she asked, gathering me up in her arms at camp that afternoon. She had biked 100 miles that day—a special RAGBRAI tradition where you "Bike a Century," all for the glory of saying you did it. The day had started rainy but had turned, as it often does in Iowa, beastly hot, with air so close and humid, it felt like a giant was sitting on your chest.

Late in the afternoon, my brothers—who'd biked faster than my mom had that day and had beaten her into camp—biked back along the route to find her, and in the typical manner of teenage boys, had managed to convey some of the story while leaving out critical information.

"Kamiah swallowed a dime and Dad had to take her to the hospital and they did surgery on her! Hurry!"

The critical information they had left out was this: And she's fine and sleeping back in the tent. She doesn't even have an incision. Your baby is intact.

My mother, spurred on by half-information from my brothers and images of me with no throat, biked as fast as she could to camp, where she found me, curled up sweetly and not looking like a child who would eat money.

When I woke up and she asked me how I was feeling, all I said was, "Mommy, there was money coming out of the machine! And gum, too! It was all for me!"

To me, this experience was a lesson in how things do not always turn out as you envision. I had eaten the dime to prove a point to my sister and instead had ended up not being able to talk for several hours.

I had planned on running another Kool-Aid stand to make more money and instead had ended up in the hospital dreaming of money.

I had thought I was going to be Barbie and instead ended up sleeping in a tent next to my sister in 90-degree heat.

No, things rarely turn out quite like you envision, but there's this benefit: along the way, you pick up stories and $1,000 dimes.

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