Doctor’s Orders

doctor's ordersI always follow doctor’s orders. For example, after my braces were removed, my orthodontist told me to wear my retainer every night. That was 42 years ago and I’m still wearing the friggin’ thing. My husband says it’s like going to be with a prize fighter. So when my doctor told to get a certain unpleasant test—I did it. You all know what I’m talking about, the dreaded colonoscopy.

I had mine at Kaiser where they use an assembly line system, which works surprisingly well. Every ten minutes a shiny, newly-inspected colon, along with its human host, rolls into the recovery area to sleep off the anesthesia.

While the patients are still groggy, a nurse goes down the line of beds, separated only by thin privacy curtains, and gives these instructions. “You’ve had a lot of air pumped into your bowel, so to avoid cramps, you need to fart it out.” Her words, not mine.

The grandfatherly man next to my bed says with a slur, “But, Honey, I’ll blow you into the next county.”

She barely gets out, “I’ll take my chances,” when the old man channels Rodney Dangerfield, rips a real corker, and says, “Did somebody step on a duck?”

Soon we’re all given the instructions, and with everyone’s inhibitions removed by the lingering effects of twilight sleep, the musical fart-fest begins. It’s a Fartapalooza. Luckily in a few hours no one will remember any of this—except for me. I’m drug resistant, so the anesthesia never put me to sleep. I’m not the least bit groggy, but wide-awake, lying there thinking, This will make a great Dime Story.

The Kaiser Wind Ensemble started sotto voce. Small toots and pops filled the recovery room, which had remarkably good acoustics. Before long the music built to a crescendo and then exploded into a fartissimo. The Sonata in D-Flatulence. But being awake and inhibited, I could not join in. It seems I’m not only drug-resistant–I’m fart-resistant.

I didn’t understand it; as a kid I had no problem with this particular bodily function. In fact, in 7th grade band class, my girlfriend and I used to hold competitions to see if we could drown out the symbols. We never mastered that, but we did make the tuba player sound like he’d hit a flat note. We were so proud.

But that was then. Now, as a repressed adult I simply could not do it in public. I’d bear the cramps rather than the embarrassment. The only thing I could do, was sit back and enjoy the concert.

Bed 4 performed a flawless light staccato, then changed octaves for a rapid tremelo, his pristine passage work had the clarity of a Mozart movement. Bed 6 commanded her instrument. She executed a precise B-flat allegro, segued into an arabesque and ended with a blasttissimo to rival Haydn’s Surprise Symphony. I admired her use of irony.

But as my cramps got worse, I decided to give it one more try. I took a deep breath—but still couldn’t do it. Then, across the room, an orderly toppled a metal cart. Instruments crashed to the floor with a huge cacophony of banging metal—and I made use of the opportunity as cover. If a pair of symbols had been on that cart, I would have drowned them out. I was so proud.

Sure, making rude noises is puerile and juvenile, but I always follow doctor’s orders.