What most people often overlook about hospitals are its staff members: fit, extremely attractive, sometimes even genuinely sympathetic. Certainly the job demands require that one remain in shape. There’s hustling, medical babble, gurneys rolled in and out of bright flourescent hallways. Sometimes you’re attended to. Sometimes you’re forgotten. Often there are apologies. And there are the surprise interventions, such as my accidental interruption of a “conference meeting” with a “Heya” and repeated coughs. “Ssssshhhh!” said this assistant, who seemed to be unaware that I was planning on identifying pulmonary portions of pain and then instructed me to sit down and not to disturb anybody. Fortunately, I had a book.
There are the nurses who call you “sweetie.” There are the aides who pretend they like your jokes. And there are those who genuinely need your subversive humor. Because there’s some guy screaming his head off, possibly close to death, in Room 9.
But the major constant is that everyone is fit, Baywatch fit. Pretty much every doctor I saw looked as if they were fashion show models on the weekend. You come in suffering and you know these folks are going to beat your ass at rugby or, because their leverage is substantial, even humiliate you at a ping-pong table.
It’s one of the stupid reasons I don’t go to hospitals unless I’m seriously ill. But then I also remember the neglect that killed Jim Henson and how I spent an hour crying in my room that terrible day.
The balance makes perfect sense. As a patient, dare to cough and you’re immediately given a mask that resembles a prop from the 1918 Boston influenza epidemic. Is the mask given there to prevent the spread of bacteria? Was the policy instilled at the behest of the boys on the legal team? No, and no. As the patient, it’s your duty to be as sick as possible. To maintain the dichotomy of infirm, convulsing souls and rugged, virile go-getters. You are there to be treated, possibly wheeled away for an extended stay, possibly cut open. And it’s all shameful. Because let’s face it: at this point, the patient’s so disappointed with not being at the top of his game that he doesn’t mind losing at rugby.
Why the sudden prolificity? Well, after about a week and a half of protracted coughing, of pains that left me awake at night, and often clutching my blanket, I figured that there was a slight possibility that I was unwell.
But when I learned of how incredibly sick I was, and the asceticism I’d have to practice to become superhuman again, I realized that I’d have to start this recuperation process with a longass entry.
“Bronchitis and pneumonia in early stages,” said the M.D. with a physique of a soap opera star.
“Do I get fries with that?”
“Damn. Guess I won’t be trying to close in on that seven-minute mile tomorrow.”
The prescription was this: antibiotics, an inhaler, and lots of rest.
I was fleeced at the pharmacy. I thought the drugs would be the fun part. But when the bill, after my health care provider’s penurious co-pay, came to a sum I’d probably pay for a hearty handful of hardcovers or a midrange Hollywood Blvd. prostitute, I knew that this was serious business.
The rest would be the hardest part. Because it’s actually a codeword for “no thinking.” A problematic option. Because it also means no reading, no writing, no working. Just bed and really infantile movies going on in the background. My intellectual powers will, at best, be devoted towards finding the metaphors within the third season masterpiece “Spock’s Brain.”
But the vigilance committee inside me is prepared. They’re ready to bust shit up once the antibiotics are washed down with water.
What this means of course is two days of silence as my posse’s kicking microbe ass.
So I regret to inform folks that Radio City’s closed for repairs. But please visit the fine folks on the left, many of whom I have had sexual intercourse with.
Please also visit the fabulous Jessa Crispin. Despite my beef, I was not out to mow her down with a Tommy. It ain’t that Manichean, man.
For my enemies, please continue with the hate mail. Your crude fundamentalist theories and strange enmity greatly amuses me.
For my lovers, I will try to invent a few more sexual positions over the next couple of days. Including the one I told you about involving the cabbage, the plush toy and the wires. The flamenco lessons, however, will have to wait until I’m further recovered.
For those who could care less either way, give somebody a hug.