Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slainte, Universe

Last Friday, a friend and I spent the afternoon working the vet school booth at a large dairy cow expo. We students are required to do a few outreach things in the community to qualify for our educational funds to use for externships and conferences. Neither of us was thrilled that we'd signed up; we'd just finished an exam and would have preferred to spend the afternoon napping. But there we were.

Nobody came to talk to us for an hour. Being two chatty people, we passed the time chatting. I was in the middle of animatedly making a point, when out of my peripheral vision I saw a large figure approach. The table at which I was seated moved three inches into my abdomen as a giant man leaned his bulk on it. This man was actually ruddy-faced. I don't think I have ever had occasion to describe a real person that way. But his round cheeks were so red beneath his close-set blue eyes that I could almost hear the wind whistling over the moors as I puzzled over the fact that this man was bent at the waist with his face five inches from mine.

Now, the Dairy Expo is evidently a big deal, diplomacy-wise. During our uneventful hour, I had noticed people walking by wearing little red ribbons, indicating that they were visitors from abroad. The red ribbon pinned to the ruddy-faced man's cotton plaid shirt read "Ireland."

"I think I'm going to faint," he gasped. Well, actually, he lilted it, adding to the absurdity of the situation.

My friend and I looked at each other. "Do you need water?" she asked. "Do you want to sit down?" I tried.

"No," he gasped as we ran through all the treatment options we could think of.

"Do you need to eat something?"


"Are you too warm?"


"Well, I hope you don't faint!" I cried, letting panic creep into my voice. I imagined him falling, limp, across our spindly table. I pictured my friend and me pinned by the table between a giant Irishman and the concrete wall behind us.

"I hope I do!" he cried. This was not the response I expected, since this man was clearly having a heart attack. I was in the middle of one of those split-second reveries, in which I visualized extricating myself from the twisted tablecloth and trying to remember CPR.

"You do?" I struggled to think of a medical reason why fainting might help his condition.

"Yes, I do, because then a pretty lady might kiss me and wake me up." I swear that, as he said it, his eyes actually twinkled.

I uttered a few incoherent syllables. I blushed. I abandoned my search for the nearest AED. My friend, who is better-adjusted than I am, burst out laughing.

He stayed a few more minutes, chatting about Ireland and and the U.S., until his smaller and less-twinkly traveling companion came to retrieve him. As he left, he took my entire hand in his rough red palm and shook it.

"Come and visit my country any time!"

So for the price of my Friday afternoon nap, I got to encounter a real, live cultural stereotype. One that caused me panic, and then flattered me. Perhaps the universe sent him to our booth, since neither panic nor flattery from giant friendly strangers is compatible with being in a slump. Slainte, Universe.