shenanigans. the hospital isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. it’s a serious place. people are sick. people are suffering. people are barely holding on. people die. a hospital is a grim building. for all of its medical wonders, for all of its marvelous healing, it is a steel and mortar monument to gravity, and not in the isaac newton sense. it’s a disposal bin for human beings. it’s where people go when they are used up. not too hilarious. but amazingly, despite this reality, life exists in the hospital, and where life exists, so does levity. when i’d been on the second floor recently for my catscan, i’d gone to the restroom. the second floor. where people have serious tests done, for serious ailments. but even here, at USC Medical Center, the bathroom had reminded me that there are important things other than your illness. apparently vandals and graffiti artists get sick, too.
now in my second day of tests at USC, i found the MRI machine to be a blast as always; i’ve done a lot of cool things, but nothing compares to having your face encaged and lying perfectly still in a plastic, spikeless version of the iron maiden. i would love to have stayed longer, but an hour and a half into it, Diane pulled me out like a muffin pan after 16-21 minutes. and unfortunately, i was not what i ate. in fact, i hadn’t eaten anything all day. i was STARVING. Diane told me to take an hour and then come back for more scanning (2 MRI’s down, and up next: Spectroscopy).
i went down to the cafeteria, where i picked and chose among a grand selection of fast food side orders, home cooking staples, and a bevy of international cuisine. plus, a simple addition of natural sweetness: a banana. one of my favorites.
toward the end of my lunch with a friend, halfway through my onion rings, i realized an error in my food choice, given my impending time back in the oven: Diane–my faithful assistant and cheerleader of my buxom fantasies–was about to have to plug my ears and encase my head again. all of this would be done hovering right over my face, and i’d just downed what smelled like a bucket of fried onions. and now, i was the bucket. Diane, i have forsaken thee. i had to think quick, as the clock ticked ever closer to my return upstairs. “milk. i need milk. milk will help. and maybe this banana.” i peeled open my favorite and most portable of all fruits, left the dining area, and made my way across every section of the cafeteria’s smorgasbord of sustenance. still, no milk to be found. but i’d seen someone with chocolate milk, so i knew it was there. somewhere. i asked the girl at the register. she pointed me toward a display at the end of the room. banana in hand, like a monkey i made my way over…no milk. i asked the steak guy if there was any in the back. he directed toward the manager. i approached the mustached, vest-wielding head honcho… “excuse me, sir. do you have any milk?” he looked me up and down. “well, first of all, as a matter of policy, i would appreciate it if you would PAY for your food before you EAT it.” he was looking at my banana (never a comfortable feeling). i didn’t really have time for this. Diane’s fate was hanging in the balance. i needed milk, and i needed it now. i also needed a toothbrush and mouthwash, but milk would have to do. but back to my banana: “oh, i already paid for this. i just ate my lunch in there, and then i came back in here to get some milk.”
and then something happened, something that took me by surprise.
i was at a hospital. a place where nobody wants to be. let’s rewind. the screen pauses. i narrate the previous commentary. then, the image reverses, VCR-style. to the soundtrack of high pitched, backward audio; like a Chipmunks record being backmasked by a paranoid, anti-rock evangelist in 1986. our movements follow as the world spins in the opposite direction for a few seconds. THEN: press play, and let’s do it again, and this time, put down the remote:
“well, first of all, as a matter of policy, i would appreciate it if you would PAY for your food before you EAT it.”
“oh, i already paid for this. i just ate my lunch in there, and then i came back in here to get some milk.”
“do you HAVE A RECEIPT FOR THAT BANANA????”
“???? ???? ???? Yes.”
“CAN YOU SHOW IT TO ME????”
okay. pick up the remote. “do you have a receipt for that banana.” do you have a receipt for that banana. DO YOU HAVE A RECEIPT FOR THAT BANANA.
and CAN YOU SHOW IT TO ME. CAN YOU SHOW IT TO ME!!!! CAN YOU SHOW IT TO ME!!!!!!!!!!
i’m at the HOSPITAL. to get my brain scanned. because i have a potentially deadly problem. and i doubt anybody else is here for much more festive reasons.
the HOSPITAL. and this guy wants to see my receipt. for a freaking BANANA. IS THIS REALLY A PROBLEM? hoodlums snatching bananas????? is that the word on the street? has my absence from the Los Angeles underground left this incredible opportunity off my radar? are people driving to USC to save 69 cents and beat the system? geesh. and i went back in to buy milk?
i wondered where his mirrored sunglasses were. and CHIPS gloves. i pulled all the stuff out of my left pocket (and there was a lot. think Dennis the Menace or Leave It to Beaver, with fewer rocks and marbles). i sorted through, ’til i found my saving grace against Hospital Justice. he took it in hand. he scanned it, with eagle eyes. there it was: banana 69 cents. he handed it back to me. 3 minutes later, i was in the elevator. sans dignity. and worse than that, without milk. they were out. sorry, Diane.
but on the other hand, who likes milk breath?
no more tests. and no more bananas. for now.