He was a funny little man. The black leather chaps and jacket almost hung off his body even though I’m sure they were a size small. On his way to the Sturgis Motorcycle rally he had veered off the road while admiring the view and slid on the gravel at the side of the road. His left thumb took all the force and rapidly popped out of joint. While he wasn’t in that much pain, there was no way he could drive his motorcycle twenty miles to the nearest hospital.

As soon as he climbed out of the ambulance,  you couldn’t help but laugh. He had a smile from ear to ear and despite his bike touring vacation being potentially ruined by a ride ending injury, he was all about enjoying himself in the moment, no worries about the past or future.  But if appearances were everything, he might not be someone you’d want to admit you were friends with… or at least not take home to mother.

What would otherwise be called a sunshine smile revealed yellowed nubs of teeth barely long enough to chew a piece of bread.  When he laughed, a raspy smokey breath of air filled the space in front of him…you could almost see the years of cigarette smoke that had built  up in  his lungs.

His friends were equally as happy and easy going. I really can’t explain why this little man was so fascinating to me. I guess because in my role as an ER doc, I get to see all sides of people. Normally I wouldn’t have given this man and his friends the time of day. I mean, based on appearances alone, he was kind of gross.  And if you judged a man by the stickers on his black motorcycle skull cap, well, he was downright disgusting.  When he went to xray for his thumb, I took photos of the bumper stickers on his helmet.

“I was born with nothing, and still have plenty of it left”

“I’m looking for the perfect woman, a nymphomaniac who owns a liquor store”

“Could you drive any better if that phone was up your a**”

“I’ll be sober tomorrow, but you’ll still be ugly”

And perhaps the most disgusting of al and yet somehow amusing…

“9 out of 10 women are battered, but I’m still eatin’ mine plain”

After he returned from x-ray, he asked if he could go outside and have a cigarette while he waited for the results. So he and his buddies headed out to the ambulance bay and smoked and laughed and laughed and smoked.  I guess what was really intersting was that despite all the messages he carried around on his helmet and the tough persona he emulated in the motorcycle outfit and mannerisms, the whole group of them was just downright nice.

They were polite and thankful and optimistic about the rest of their trip to Sturgis. I placed a splint on his left hand, and he hopped on the back of his buddy’s motorcycle and they rode off into the mountains together, both of them wearing helmets even though not required by law.