Picture this …. You went to the hospital because you couldn’t breathe. A nurse at the hospital has dedicated his entire education, concentration, and effort to help you breathe again. What is your first thought when the oxygen that allows you to have thoughts rushes into your brain? I’m here! I’M STILL HERE! Thank you, God! Thank you, universe! Thank you, nurse! I’ve been given a second chance. Or something like that. Unless you’re Marie Molloy. If you’re Marie Molloy, you focus on the nurse’s tattoo, shudder with distaste, and resolve to complain about it as soon as your face is free of the breathing mask that is interfering with your ability to give voice to your discontent.
Yes, this actually happened. Molloy suffers from rheumatoid arthritis in her larynx and an abnormally small airway. Her condition was worsened by the effects of an unrelated operation. Struggling for breath, she ended up in the emergency department of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital. A nurse attached a breathing mask to her, and administered a sedative. This was when Molloy spotted the skull tattoo she says gave her nightmares for two weeks.
Molloy claims that seeing a skull tattoo when she was facing possible death was “offensive”. It inspired nasty dreams about “outlaw bikers”. Molloy follows up with some very impressive logic: “If I saw a gang of bikers that had full-on tattoos and were mean-looking and were noisy and had club symbols on their jackets, I’d be afraid of them.” Skull tattoo – skull – club symbol – biker – gangster – biker gang – what if I saw all that? Well, if they were mean-looking and noisy, I’d be afraid of them. Well, that makes perfect sense. That’s why she’s so upset. Kind of like when I see a squirrel. Squirrels gather nuts, which fall from trees, which have been used for hangings. If I saw someone being hanged, well, that would scare me. Argh! Is that a squirrel on that jar of peanut butter? What kind of careless asshole would just leave this jar on the kitchen counter, where anyone can see it?
This kind of thinking can be applied to many hospital employees. Perhaps people with scars should not work in hospitals, or pale people, or large, muscular people, or anyone who bears a resemblance to any villain featured in any children’s movie.
Molloy says she appreciates tattoos as an art form – but, we are to assume, only the ones she likes. If, for example, the nurse’s tattoo featured a kitten or a flower or Molloy’s own face, things would have been fine. But that’s not how the world works. She doesn’t get to tell other people what they can or can’t wear, including ink, based on what lights up the happy spots in her brain. Furthermore, a hospital is not a Pinterest page, it’s a place where professional life-savers and care-givers save lives and give care. The employees are there to perform these very important functions in a fast-paced, often stressful environment. They are not part of the ambiance or decor, and they’re not trying to craft a precious memory for anyone.
In my experience, skulls can be unintentionally encountered in many places. Doctor’s offices. X-ray images. Book stores. Toy stores. Art galleries. Cartoons. Movies. Anatomy textbooks. Cleaning supply labels. Motorcycles, and the people who ride them – those horrible bikers with their “full-on” tattoos and noisy, noisy noisiness, are all over the place. What on earth is Molloy going to do for the rest of her life? The nightmares may never stop!
Or she could gather some perspective and move on – possibly even thank the nurse who helped her breathe again. She’s been given a new lease on life, and apparently she’s decided to use it to be an ungrateful whiner. The hospital administration, laudably, has refused to change – or even examine -its rules regarding body art. They’ve got more important things to do, and – unlike Molloy – they know it.