So first of all, I have to take a moment to praise Frank Oz: As Ernie is putting the scarf on Bert, it accidentally gets in his mouth, and Frank reacts the way a person would react if someone accidentally stuffed a scarf in one’s mouth. It’s that combination of skill, commitment, and instinct that give the Muppets life.
In this sketch, Bert feels embarrassed on account of his purple hand, and his embarrassment reminds me of the rest of my scratched cornea story.
In those days, I slept on the top bunk, and I think my mom decided that, in my agitated and half-blinded state, it wasn’t a good idea to have me climbing ladders and such. So instead, I spent that night on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, and I was so delirious from the pain that I had trippy, Alice-in-Wonderland-like dreams/hallucinations all night. The next morning, my mom took me to the doctor’s office first thing. I don’t remember the name of the doctor who was on call, but he diagnosed my corneal abrasion and treated it with some eye drops (probably either antibiotics or steroids, but I’m not sure) and an eye patch. The eye drops lasted for several weeks, but I only had to wear the eye patch for one day.
Now, when I say “an eye patch,” I don’t mean a cool, black, pirate-y eye patch; I mean a bulky piece of white gauze that was attached to my face with surgical tape. While I was grateful to still be able to see, I looked grotesque to myself and felt embarrassed. But I consoled myself with the knowledge that I only had to wear it for one day, and it was Saturday, so I could just stay at home in peaceful obscurity and not have to go anywhere or talk to anyone….or so I thought.
It turned out that there was a spaghetti dinner at church that night, and my mom insisted that I go. I pleaded with her to let me stay home; I didn’t want people to see me, I didn’t want to talk to people, and I didn’t think it was fair of her to drag me out of the house on the one day that I had to wear that embarrassing eye patch. Whereas she thought I was making a big deal about nothing.
She was right.
Reluctantly, I went to the spaghetti dinner, and it wasn’t a big deal. There was one person there who had had a similar injury and commiserated with me, which made me feel a little better, but other than that, no one asked me any questions or looked at me funny or took any notice of my misfortune at all.
And so I learned a valuable lesson: Oftentimes, things are only as big a deal as you make of them. If you create a big drama of things that make you look silly or feel embarrassed, chances are that you’ll look even sillier and feel even more embarrassed than if you rise to the occasion and just accept things as they come. If you act like your purple hand or your bulky eye patch is nothing and doesn’t bother you, chances are no one else will even notice.
And while you could make the case that Ernie was either purposely messing with Bert or, conversely, genuinely trying to help, I prefer to think that he was trying to make a satirical point. That, instead of just telling Bert that he was making a big deal out of nothing, decided to illustrate the point by making a bigger and bigger deal out of it to demonstrate to Bert how petty he was being.