Ernie and I got into a conversation about fellow New Yorkers understanding and appreciating another New Yorker's humor. We agreed that outsiders don’t always see where the directness is coming from, the dryness goes over their head and/or they crumble at the feet of sarcasm.
We got on that topic because Ernie mentioned the cyst or some other bit of nastiness that he had burnt off his left buttock. He took the brunt of my ensuing ascerbic humor like a man...even when I encouraged him to sell what was left of the node on EBAY. Ernie can dish it out as well as take it. So in the true sense of what makes a New Yorker a New Yorker, he responded with, “Genius, I just told you, it was BURNT off…and everyone knows, when it comes to body part collecting, condition is everything.”
Coincidentally, my vacation agenda was filled with three of my own medical procedures. The next day, (Friday), I had a hernia operation. It would prove to be the only painful one. Everything went smooth and a week later, I’m back to work. The following Tuesday, the least invasive of the trio was repairing my chipped front tooth, (the culprit was a dinner roll during our June cruise to Bermuda). I hoped it would miraculously heal itself but after three months without a hint of remodeling, it was time to git’er done.
|MY CHIPPED TOOTH WAS A SLIGHTLY LARGER RECTANGLE. I KNEW I LOOKED STUPID SO I WAS CAREFUL TO AVOID ANY CLOSE-UP PICTURES. STILL, SUE CALLED ME "CLETUS" EVERY TIME I SMILED.|
The next day (Wednesday), I had a routine colonoscopy. On the surface, it’s completely painless but when you dig deeper, the day-before-prep combines starvation with torture. Ergo, to “clear-out” the colon, the patient is required to eat NOTHING for twenty-four hours. In addition to that, two laxatives are introduced into the system. The first, Dulcolax, acts as a sand blaster to knock off, the residual crud stuck on the intestinal walls.
The second laxative, powdered Miralax, is emptied (in my case) into a sixty-four ounce pitcher of Crystal-Light lemonade. This tasteless, grit-free flashflood inducer, is poured, (8.3 ounces), into the victim's favorite (approved) beverage. It's designed through eight, eight-ounce hourly servings, to flush-out the remaining solid waste from your system.
|ASIDE FROM TWO ALLOWABLE CUPS OF LIME JELL-O, ALL I PUT IN MY STOMACH THE DAY BEFORE WAS THE SPIKED LEMONADE. IT TASTED NORMAL BUT AFTER A SHORT WHILE, I GOT SICK OF DRINKING IT.|
On the big day, I signed in at the medical center. Curiously, the waiting room was crammed with prospective male patients, from Third World countries. I encamped myself in front of a giant flat-screen TV and fidgeted with my cell-phone. A few minutes went by and a woman came out from the opaque glass door beyond the reception area. She pleasantly announced, “Mr. Barrett…” I was surprised that another Caucasian man had been hiding behind me.
Soon thereafter, another woman came out and announced, “Mr. Patel…” From all over the waiting room, eight confused men stood up. The woman shuffled through her papers and said, “Oh, Mr. Neelish Patel…” Everyone sat down, except one smiling man who pumped his fist as if he had hit the lottery.
To combat my increasing boredom, I was getting into the “RACHAEL RAY SHOW” when my name was called.
|RACHAEL RAY (1968-PRESENT) IS A TV HOST, CELEBRITY CHEF AND AUTHOR. HER PERKY, GIRL-NEXT-DOOR PERSONALITY IS A JOY TO WATCH. ALSO, SHE'S FROM GLENS FALLS NY, (THE SAME TOWN AS MY BUDDY DRJ7).|
I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to see how Ms. Ray's sticky buns turned out as a woman called my name. At the same time, the TV announcer was mentioning that later in the show, a three-year old boy was getting his first haircut. I was fascinated and tempted to reschedule the procedure. When the woman saw me lingering and watching the TV over my shoulder, she lured me away with her own perky, energetic smile. I guess I was duped by her mastery of Child Psychology-101, as she took me at a fast pace through the frosted doors. Inside the inner sanctum, like a lamb being led to the slaughterhouse, I followed her along rows of mini-medical facilities behind curtains.
The woman told me to take everything off. She pointed to a pile of items on a chair and said, “When you’re ready, put on that hospital gown, booties and cap." A little later, I was all set when a nurse came in (his name was Larry). I wanted to say that the room reminded me of a voting booth, but he was strictly business. Nurse Larry went through the monotony of re-asking the same tiresome questions that my GP had provided them, that I’ve already been asked, wrote-out by hand and filled-out, days ago, on the computer.
I detected Larry's New York accent. His last repeat question was, “Why are you here?” I said, “Colonoscopy.” Then like a reflex action, the words squirted from my mouth, “And yes, there’s nothing more American than the colonoscopy.” Larry stared harshly into my face and said, “Aha, while most people accept that the colonoscopy was first used in 1969…in Manhattan, the truth is, it was developed and put into practice by the ancient Greeks.” I said, “Really?” Larry shrugged, “Ya know that whole Trojan horse thing wasn’t thought up at the spur of the moment, on the battlefield…?” The picture in my mind of soldiers crawling up the statue's rear end made me smile. I said, “I like you, you’re silly.”
When I found out Larry was from Yonkers I asked, “Were you one of the Yonkers Zonkers.” He was taking my blood pressure as he said, “I played a lot of sandlot baseball but never on that high of a level." I said, “Well, there’s nothing more American than baseball…” Larry smiled, “Cricket dude, Abner Doubleday stole the idea from English cricket...”
“How about cowboys?” I countered as the anesthesiologist came in, “I got you there. Nothing is more American…” Larry quipped, “You got diddly. Long before anyone in the U. S. was sitting around a campfire with a dozen other cowhands eating beans and drowning out the silence with a gazillion farts, the Spanish gauchos were eating paella and dancing the flamenco on the Iberian frontier.”
|FORGET "BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN," 1974's, "BLAZING SADDLES," TOLD THE REAL STORY OF HOW COWBOYS SPENT THEIR EVENINGS.|
The foreign anesthesiologist but in, “You Americans are wealthier than ever before.” Larry rolled his eyes as the doctor continued, “But life here isn’t as much fun as it once was. All this money should make you content but you are compelled to the point of exhaustion, to chase for more and more. Even with all that modern science can provide, as a culture, everybody is oddly unfulfilled…”
During his pause I said, “Well yeah…” Larry was smiling and shaking his head as if I screwed-up, as the doctor plowed on, “Americans have lost their spirituality and are convinced they are living in an improved world…but is it a better one?”
This time, I didn’t even try to respond. Larry was nodding in approval over my decision as the doctor resumed his speech, “I read that consumerism has led your country…by what the author termed as…into a box canyon of diminishing returns. He meant once you reach a saturation point and possess everything you could possibly imagine, that the complexity of ownership causes, higher costs, time wasted on maintenance, cleaning etc. And his implication was...that there's no easy way out. Of course you realize that a contemporary middle-class American family has put them self into a position where, to survive, without two incomes…is almost impossible. And who suffers…the children…the American future...thus the negative downward spiral is doomed to perpetuate itself."
Larry looked at me as if he wanted to get knocked-out too as the anesthesiologist just kept rambling while adjusting computer settings and jotting notations, “If Americans just stopped… they could lead a better life with less work, like a twenty-hour week. Instead, you people are caught-up in your labor saving devices that you wouldn’t need to begin with…if you weren’t working so hard.” Luckily, the surgeon came in and ended the sermon.
Larry was at my side as I was wheeled towards the operating room. He leaned in close to me and said, "You know when I had my colonoscopy, they prescribed a night-time laxative. I took it at midnight and went to bed. At seven, I took the biggest, most magnificent bowel movement of my life..." I said, "That's great!" He said, "Actually, it was terrible, I didn't wake up until eight..." I was laughing out loud as we entered the white-walled operating room. Inside the disinfected sanitary space, a new team of staff greeted me. A woman was attaching an IV to my hand as she asked the same; who are you, what’s your date of birth and why are you here questions. Luckily, beyond her on a chalk-less whiteboard, I could see my name, date of birth and "COLONOSCOPY" scribbled in blue ink. Too bad they didn’t have this level of quality information on the wall when I took chemistry in high school.
|I HATE CANDID SHOTS, I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SMILE INTO THE CAMERA EVEN IF IT WERE ONLY TO SHOW OFF MY NEWLY REPAIRED TOOTH.|
Larry wished me luck as he was leaving. I motioned him closer, pointed with my thumb at the back of the anesthesiologist and said, “There’s nothing more American than America!” He chuckled softly in my ear, “America was named after an Italian, Amerigo Vespucci. It’s a good thing we used a feminized version of his first name or we’d be the United States of Vespucci.” The last thing I remembered before going under was thinking how quick witted Larry was.
Ninety minutes later, I came out of my induced sleep and pleasantly returned to planet earth. A female nurse was there to ask, “Are you okay?” I was groggy as I said, “Y-yeah, I’m just glad to get that nonsense over.” In an ominous voice she said, “Did you have any trouble with the preparation?” As cloudy as my mind might have been, I was thinking; this can’t be good as I bleated, “No…” She changed the subject, “The doctor will be in. In the meantime, do you want juice or cookies…we have graham crackers too…” I was hungry but the walls of annoyance felt like they were collapsing on top of me, I said, “No thanks.”
The surgeon came in and said, “Did you follow the preparation directions?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “We couldn’t get a clear picture. To be certain I get what I need for next time, I’ll prescribe you a two-day prep. Call my office and reschedule for two weeks.” Inside my mind was screaming; "nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" I watched him disappear.
I got dressed. Larry came in and offered me drinks and snacks. I turned him down too and said, “I’m so disappointed in myself, I only drank half of my laxative lemonade." He said, “Bad break. You gotta drink the whole mess for the system to work.” I said, “I like lemonade but after a while you can’t even look at it any more. Jeez, you’d think thirty-two ounces would be enough.” Larry asked, “Last night was your butt spouting like a water fountain?” I said, “No. But I took two separate colossal…” He said, “Spare me the details. Just understand that the reason you are in this predicament, is because YOU didn’t follow the instructions.” “Can’t they give me something now…?” Larry said, “No. And don’t blame the doc…" I whined, "C'mon, if you really wanted to..." Larry said, "NO!" I said, "But..." He said, "What are you a twelve-year old?" Larry saw I didn't appreciate his reaction. So he added, " Put yourself in the surgeon's position. How would you feel if you had to drive somewhere important and your windshield was obliterated with mud…and the wipers didn’t work?” I wanted to call him a wise-cracking asshole but if there’s one thing a New Yorker can understand, is where another New Yorker is coming from.