Why I Hate Straws

(This weekend, I’ll be flying the flag, but that’s all I’ll be flying)

Memorial Day.

This was the day, many years ago now, that I personally validated several of our very fine natural laws, mostly Isaac Newton’s.

Memorial Day, 1995, Lake Secession, South Carolina. A blithely boisterous bonding of friends, food and frolic, punctuated by pork barbecue, parasailing, skiing, sun-bathing and volleyball.

It being yet another thing I’d never tried, I decided to give parasailing a go. My friends gave me the quick “how-to” primer. We laid out the big sail on the grass. I strapped myself in to the harness. The boat accelerated away from the shore. The towline went taut.

And then something went wrong.

“Come To Jamaica” ads notwithstanding, I did not rise into the skies. Perhaps as some sort of karmic punishment for voting Republican, I skewed off to the right. I caromed off a large boulder, my body filed a curt complaint with the Lake Secession provisional parliament, and then all these tiny little breath soldiers seceded from my chest nation.

I don’t remember passing out, but I do remember floating stupidly in the shallow part of the lake, wondering why I couldn’t stand up. I made a couple half-hearted gestures at my friends on the shore, uttered a few Ozzy Osbourne-like quotes, and was shortly hauled out of the lake, just ahead of my new four-piece pelvis.

The trip to the hospital was uneventful, if you define uneventful as “some oddly-bent wet guy cursing at potholes for a half-hour or so.” At the hospital, they carefully got me into a nice bed and into a nice semi-coma. For the next week, my constant companion was a little Pain Management Device, modulated at my whim by a small dial. And I whimmed a lot. By the second day, they had to replace the dial. I don’t recall the name of the drug, Nokairzital maybe, but if your hips are ever sub-divided into four smaller hip apartments, I highly recommend it.

For a while, I couldn’t even stand, much less walk, canter, trot, lope, kneel, sit, or limbo. And since I couldn’t get out of bed, to perform even the most basic personal duties, my medical team called for something called a catheter, which is Latin for “Nurse, you have lost your damn mind. You’re gonna put that WHERE?”

I tried to talk them out of it. I mean, I really, really tried. No innocent man, mistakenly hauled into court, ever mounted such a defense. I suggested they had misread the Nurses Manual, or had not really been paying attention in medical school on Catheter Day. But despite all my frantically scribbled mechanical drawings, they insisted. So I reached for my little Pain Management Device, spun the dial up to “Woodstock” and lapsed into a discomforted drowse. And then…well…other things happened.

To this day, whenever I see a straw, I have hateful, violent, anti-social thoughts.

And then came the day of reckoning.

“Okay, Mr. Parham. Today, we’re gonna remove the catheter. But if you can’t take care of business, we’ll have to put it back. Okay?”

In a life full of challenges, diversions and wonders, I have often found myself needing to focus my concentration. Let’s just say that, on that day, I took concentration to a whole new level. I didn’t just successfully command my kidneys – I think I levitated the cafeteria.

News quickly spread round the hospital staff that I was no longer bed-bound, and it wasn’t long before I was visited by the Physical Therapy department, whose job it was to make me hate the Physical Therapy department. Through a series of gothic abuses involving ropes, pulleys, weights, portable stairs and actual personal insults, they helped me understand why our Department of Homeland Security has issued its new directive: Going forward, we will no longer be using the term “Physical Therapy.”

But I’m okay. Thanks to the top-notch hospital staff, I can walk. There’s some kind of weird whistling noise, but I can walk. Also, if I stand outside when it’s raining, I tend to get wet, but I’m told that’s fairly common for people who’ve tried to head-butt a rock. And I still have an aversion to very tall things, like coffee table books and SUVs.

And if anybody wants to wager you that I’ll be parasailing to commemorate Memorial Day, you should definitely take the bet.


  1. How can you be so funny while still remembering every tinge of pain from that fateful flop? Worth a repeat for this Memorial Day. Thank you for sharing!

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