So I’m in the grocery store, buying my requisite Lean Cuisine and protein shake (gets me through the day). And there’s this old woman, must be 55, but she looks and talks and acts like she’s ancient–worn hard by smoke and drink and piss and vinegar and probably about three babies that passed through her you-know-what.
Can you picture her?
She stoops down, puts a couple cartons of cigarettes on the bottom shelf, eases herself up (were the store to fall quite at that exact moment, we all would have heard the crunch and creak of her back, neck, knees and all other places capable of aching). Finally fully vertical, she looks to the cashier (who has been fondling my protein shake for far too long) and says, deep and gruff:
“Ugh. My knees are killing me. I need a stool or sumpin’.”
“You’re running out of cartilage,” says the cashier.
“Is that a meniscus?” asks old bag, still grunting.
Short pause that feels like a long pause.
The cashier shakes my shake, scans the ingredient list (soy milk, whey protein, bananas…) and grumbles something that sort of sounds like. “a meniscus is something else, stupid.”
Old bag looks at cashier, eyes dart down to my shake, then back up to cashier’s big hair. “My son doesn’t have a meniscus any more.”
Finally free, I take my bag and receipt, think briefly about leaving my seventeen cents change in the change cup (because, you know, the cashier looks like she could use it), but think better of it and pocket the four coins. And I walk away, flashing back to a time in seventh grade science class, when I learned that a meniscus is the convex or concave curve in the surface of a liquid. And I think to myself:
I’m so much smarter than those two.
Twelve hours later, thinking those ladies must have been talking about something other than the curve in the surface of a liquid, I google the word.
And there it is, first thing that comes up. A meniscus tear. A common knee injury that can be painful to the joint.
And I think:
Maybe I’m not so smart after all.