A Few Cutting Remarks In which Gene shows a lack of hospitality
WASHINGTON -- Whenever somebody at my company experiences a death in the family or some other life-altering crisis, his boss is expected to explain this in a compassionate memo sent out to all employees. When I once had a serious surgery, I pre-wrote my own memo, which my boss sent out at the appropriate time: "If you are receiving this message, I am resting comfortably after a double knee replacement. If you have not received this message, I died during surgery, and the message you received instead was maudlin and filled with embarrassing exaggerations of my accomplishments, as well as outright lies about the strength of my character, my importance to the newspaper, and the inspiration I have been to others. If that happened, I apologize. By 'resting comfortably' I mean 'under the influence of narcotics administered in doses large enough to sedate a mature horse.' This condition will last through tomorrow morning, at which point I plan to begin a strict regimen of self-pity and cantankerousness. Visits during this period are discouraged. This is because my behavior will resemble that of an enraged ape. If I have it at hand, I will fling feces. Thank you."
This managed to scare off all well-wishers but two, whom I chased away by exposing my stitches, which resembled eight-inch centipedes. Now that I am finally back, I am ready to answer some basic questions about my experiences. You know that floral-pattern thingy they make you wear in a hospital? The one you get into like a straitjacket and is tied in the back with a shoelace? Why do they call this item, of all things, a "gown"? Because if they called it "Buttock Display Garment No. 64," no one would wear it. Why aren't there any "privacy curtains" around hospital beds that actually close all the way, so your roommate's 11-person extended family, including young Peek-a-Boo Bobby, can't see you when, for example, a nurse is applying antifungal ointment to your private parts? This question is moot. In a hospital, no parts are private. Are the pain medications as good as they say? Everyone asks this. The answer is: yes, and no. Tragically, there is a direct relationship between the severity of your pain and the strength of the drugs you are given. So at the time that you are getting the really great stuff, you are not in a mood to enjoy it; in fact, you are hoping the meds will kill you outright, which is a major bummer, stoner-wise. By the time you are feeling better, the nurses are on to you. You: Nurse, I am in excruciating pain and need some more of that Euphoro-doxin 500! Nurse: I just watched you eat an entire roast chicken in giblet gravy. You: Okay, how about a dose of Buzzmaster 250? Nurse: I'll try to find you some airplane glue. How do you feel now that you have brand-new hinges? It's still early. There are advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, the operation seems to have corrected my extreme knock-knee condition, so, when walking, I no longer look like a man who is constantly being struck in the groin by a line drive. On the minus side, I am still suffering some minor setbacks, such as the day my feet swelled up so much that they resembled water balloons made of surgical gloves. To combat this, my doctor ordered me to wear tight white knee-high compression stockings. They are basically Ben Franklin sissypants. The doc's just messing with you, right? I'm pretty sure.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
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