Sunday, November 27, 2011

You show me yours.....

So, hospitals continue to host some of the most embarrassing incidents in my life. There's nothing like a bang on the head to aid reminiscence.

When I was nineteen years old a lump appeared at the very base of my spine. It was the result of an ingrowing hair – a common masculine complaint – and had to be excised. A small operation was necessary. I attended my appointment and did exactly as I was told. The young nurse seemed personable - she put me at me ease about the minor nature of the procedure and the swift recovery I could expect. I had read the guidance leaflet and knew that pre-operative shaving was necessary.

‘I will, of course, have to shave your…er…bottom area. So, if you could just get yourself ready on the bed. I’ll get the shaving stuff.’

I was painfully shy as a youth. I was, therefore, troubled in the extreme by the idea of lying naked on a hospital bed behind a thin curtain in a busy ward. I had seen plenty of hospital-based comedy in my time. I knew that mistakes were easily made in such hectic environments. Hospital staff could easily fling back the wrong curtain. I imagined a consultant at the head of a cohort of eager medical students with pencils poised over notebooks. The group would be moving at speed and the consultant would be cavalier in his approach to personal privacy, guessing at the location of an interesting case of elephantitis he had heard about. In his attempt to broaden the experience of his proteges he would inadvertently show them the pale backside of a shy young man from Fallowfield.

My fears were unfounded or, at least, inaccurate. The curtain was pulled back by the correct nurse. She entered and placed the shaving paraphernalia on the bedside table, turning swiftly to restore the curtain and preserve my dignity. I looked back. A large can of shaving foam, a bowl of water, a towel and a disposable razor sat on a small tray. I was slightly perturbed by the low quality razor and the prospect of dabbing shaving wounds with a styptic pencil. I was more perturbed by the nurse’s hesitation:

‘Right….er…I think I’ve got everything we need. Razor, foam, water, towel. Yes….everything we need.’

By this point I was quite relaxed. But then I have always found the nervousness of others quite tranquilising. How, I thought to myself, could this situation become any more embarrassing? Once embarrassment has been achieved to this level, surely it can only plateau and result in the getting on with the task in hand. I looked around at the nurse. The cheap razor trembled in her hand. Her embarrassment had not peaked, it was refusing to plateau and seemed instead to be turning into terror:

‘I, I can’t do this,’ she whimpered. ’I’m sorry.’

She fled. Moments later a burly male nurse appeared and held the razor with a steady hand. As he wordlessly prepared me for surgery, I could hear a group of chattering medical students trooping past. They didn’t trouble my curtain.

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