I realized this in 2007, when I saw my first real, live, saguaro cactus. We were driving from Louisiana to California, and started noticing giant cacti standing around like it was no big deal. As soon as we saw one within our reach, I made Y swerve to the side of the highway so I could get a picture with the phenomenon that until that moment, I had never seen in real life.
Last week, I flew to Phoenix for a work conference. Which was fine and all, but I was more interested in making sure cacti were still real. They are.
But I don't recommend getting up close and personal to verify this. Trust me.
I spent 10 minutes or so behind a museum downtown in the 98 degree heat, pulling cactus spines out of my legs. No less than 4 groups of people passed and laughed at me. One guy asked if I had been "cactused". I'd say that was a pretty good word for it.
I made it. The spine removal was rough (most ended up getting stuck in my fingers, which hurt even worse) but I was pretty sure they were gone. I rewarded myself with an entire pizza at Pizzeria Bianco and cautiously set out to explore the desert.
Back home, at a dinner party full of med students, I feel the need to change the subject to something slightly less disgusting than "the 5 minutes or so your head is between someone's legs" during a birth. So I bring up my cactus assault. After a quick table-side physical exam, Y confirms there are still spines stuck in my leg.
So, while I eat a piece of cake, Y uses the antiseptic wipe he found in his white coat to clean my leg(fun fact: med students bring their white coats to parties. Or they leave them in their cars after work and there they stay through the weekend. Still counts). While the conversation around us drifts from pelvic exams to salsa dancing, Y shaves off the top layer of my skin with his swiss army knife and uses a pair of tweezers to pluck the spines.
And no one bats an eye.