Aww, Man, Don’t Say That!

Today’s guest post comes from Steve Grooms.

When I was a grad student I developed a hernia low on my tummy. A hernia is like when a body part meant to be an “innie” decides to poke its head outside and live as an “outie,” creating a tender bulge. Hernias need to be repaired, so for the first time in my life I would need surgery.

When I asked for help at the University of Minnesota Hospital, nurses ushered me into the office of the most famous man at the University, heart transplant surgeon John Najarian. Dr. Najarian promised to fix my hernia. That turned out to be the first in a series of lies told me by my doctors. The University Hospital was a “teaching hospital,” I later learned, meaning Dr. Najarian was probably a dozen feet from me during the actual operation, supervising the cutting and stitching done by a team of wannabe surgeons.

My response to the anxiety of surgery was typical for me. I decided to become the perfect patient. I would respect every directive from my doctors, winning the affection of my doctors with my cheerful compliance.

Exactly the opposite response was chosen by my hospital roommate, a man I’ll call Frank Higby. Frank was a stocky, pug-nosed character from northern Minnesota who had a potentially fatal stomach ailment. Frank talked nonstop, stabbing the air with the cigars he chain-smoked. Cigars were perfectly legal in hospitals of the time.

Frank despised doctors. When told he had to fast before taking an enema, Frank sneaked out of the room in the night, roaming dark hallways until he found the kitchen. He returned with several slices of banana pie and a bag sandwiches. When I asked Frank why he had so much contempt for doctors, he replied that he had been a caddy in Rochester, Minnesota, when he was a kid. “I got to know those sonsabitches when they didn’t know someone was watching them. What a scummy bunch of phonies!”

Nurses told Frank and me that we each had to take three exams: a lung x-ray, a heart exam and a proctoscopic exam. Hospitals in those days were compensated based on how many procedures they performed, so they routinely called for as many tests as they could. When the nurses left the room, Frank rolled his eyes in terror. He said he’d suffered a proctoscopy once before. He called it “the worst experience of my life” and vowed he would rather die than have another. This did nothing to ease my own concerns about the next day.

On the day of our exams, nurses led barefoot Frank away in a skimpy blue hospital gown
that didn’t cover his butt. Although he didn’t look quick, Frank shocked them by breaking free and scooting out of sight in that large building. I learned this from a breathless nurse who came to our room looking for him. After she left, Frank dashed in looking like a cartoon mouse running from a cat. Wheezing heavily, Frank grabbed a phone and called the Pinkerton Detective Agency. He begged them to protect his anus by “sending your eight biggest goons down here.”

Minute by minute, it was growing harder for me to act the perfect patient. About then I had a conference with the man who said he’d be my anesthesiologist. My life would literally be in this man’s hands, so I hoped he would like me.

My anesthesiologist turned out to be a cross-eyed Korean with a thick accent. I tried to bond with him by making good eye contact, but that was difficult because his eyes were cattywampus like the headlights of a car after a front end collision. One eye pointed left and one pointed right. I couldn’t tell which eye I should make contact with.

My anesthesiologist wanted to know what kind of drug trip I wanted to take during the operation. That was unsettling. I thought he was the one who should be telling me how I’d travel through lala land. Instead, he described three different drug trips, giving me more detail about each than I knew how to handle.

Desperate now, I said, “Gee, it is amazing that you know so much about all of these forms of anesthesia! I suppose you have experienced them yourself?”

The cross-eyed Korean drew himself up with offended dignity. “I should say not!” he barked. “I am a Man of Science. I would never expose myself to unnecessary risk!”

When has someone said the wrong thing to you?

35 thoughts on “Aww, Man, Don’t Say That!”

  1. Steve, I’ve swallowed a lot of your stories, but this one is pushing my credulity.

    The Pinkerton goons are making me give you the skeptical head tilt.

    No offense. (Which is usually how an utterance of “the wrong thing” ends or begins).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t make you believe me, I guess, but the story is absolutely true. I have not even exaggerated! And I left out many remarkable stories so this wouldn’t go on too long. In addition to his war with the doctors Frank was fighting a war about parking. One of his phone calls was to the governor of the state, an exceedingly boring man named Harold Levander. Frank got someone on the phone and said, “This is Higby down at the U hospitals, and you should know there is a dirty scheme going on with parking. I’m convinced that Moos is in on the take!” Malcom Moos was the president of the U at the time. Cops kept adding more and more parking tickets to Higby’s car until it made a fluttering sound in a wind. And that line about “your eight biggest goons?” Word for word. Word for word, just as he said it.


  2. Rise and Giggle Baboons!

    Steve, I am so overwhelmed with giggling about your post that I can’t remember things people said that I did not want to hear–I am sure I will remember something when I stop laughing. This was just too funny!

    So did you have the surgery? We already know you lived through either the surgery or enduring the hernia. If there was a cross-eyed emoticon I would place it here.


    1. Hi, BiR. Yes, I did the surgery. It did not go well, however, and I ended up with a prolonged and very painful post-surgery problem that might have changed my life. That part of the story isn’t funny. The problem went on so long I was later told I had set a record in Minnesota for that kind of after-effect. Not the way I wanted to go in the record books.


  3. Unfortunately, there isn’t any part of this story I don’t believe, Steve. Where did they find your roommate? Well, I don’t suppose the eight goons ever got there…

    There was a “last straw” episode where I punished a kindergartener after he intentionally misbehaved one too many times; the last straw probably took the form of sassing me, but I don’t remember what he said.

    Maybe at the end of the day, tell us how this all worked out? 🙂


    1. Frank showed up shortly after I moved into the room (which had two beds). I was reading a lot of Jane Austen at the time. That was difficult because Frank never quit talking. I remember a long monologue about Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Frank said, “It’s a good thing we fought ’em when we did because the little yellow f*****s would clean our clocks if we fought ’em now.”


      1. Crumbs, WordPress ate my reply. Trying again.

        This is the kinda guy l desperately want to believe is fictional (and the conservatives will tell you is a product of the liberal lamestream media fiction machine).

        Sadly, all too real

        Liked by 1 person

        1. mig, Reader’s Digest used to run a little feature called “The Most Unforgettable Person I Ever Met.” If I were to write such a thing, I’d pick Frank . . . although I’ve met about five or six other really idiosyncratic folks during hunting or fishing trips. As for Frank’s politics, he seemed a solid member of the Paranoid Party!


  4. Good morning. Very good story, Steve. That anesthesiologist certainly didn’t have a good bedside manner.

    The first thing I can think of that someone said that was the wrong thing to say is something I overheard. I was working in the lab as a graduate student when a salesman from a chemical company came in to visit with my major professor.

    The salesman said that we shouldn’t worry about one of the chemicals they sold which was being cited as being too hazardous. According to him if children got a little of it in their food or water it would just make them sleepy and parents would have an easier time putting them to bed at night.

    I couldn’t believe he could be so stupid. I didn’t reply to what he said. However, that was definitely the wrong thing to say any place including some place where I could hear it.


  5. Great story, but a bit disturbing! My story isn’t humorous, but it relates to the day’s question pretty well. l had an in depth consultation with my surgeon a week before my 8-hour esophagectomy. Unlike you, l did luck out and get the head of thoracic surgery at Mayo Clinic. l asked about the incisions and he told me, “A little cut on your tummy and a little cut on your side”.

    Right after the operation, my daughter took a close look at my body and was utterly horrified. She wrote on my Caring Bridge page, “My mom’s been filled!” One incision ran the length from one boob down to my pubis and the other began under one boob, then snaked all the way around my shoulder blade. Altogether, the cuts came to about 25″.

    A little cut here and a little cut there?? Weeks later, l actually confronted the good doctor with the enormous difference between how he’d described the incisions and the reality. He was apologetic and asked me how he might better prepare future patients. l said, “How about drawing them a stick figure, then penning in the cuts?” He seemed astounded by this obvious solution and wondered why he’d never thought of it.

    There’s a reason now that no one – and l do mean no one – will ever see me naked again!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Here is another example of a person saying the wrong thing. I didn’t hear this with my own ears. However, I would have been appalled if I had been there to hear it.

    A representative of the Enbridge Pipeline Company said this recently at meeting. Enbridge is making plans to build pipelines that would allow expansion of the tar sands oil fields in Canada. Many people concerned about climate warming are apposed to the expansion of these Canadian oil fields.

    You would assume that the representative of a company planning to build a pipeline that is opposed by those concerned about climate warming would know a little about climate warming. This guy said he thought there are scientists that think the planet is getting cooler, not warmer and he said he didn’t really know much about this, but was going with his feeling that the earth is getting cooler, not warmer.


  7. My story hasn’t generated many comments. I can answer BiR here.

    As I was falling under the anesthesia I heard some panic in the room. Something wasn’t going well, and the docs were discussing it. And then I lost consciousness.

    After the operation, things seemed pretty good until I went to work in an office at the U where I was an assistant to one of the deans of the College of Liberal Arts. In the middle of the afternoon I got a crashing headache, so bad I had to limp home to lie down. The same thing happened the next day, and the next.

    The operating doctors didn’t want to talk to me, but weeks after the event I was able to trap one of them to ask why I had headaches. He said (and I do not exaggerate) “This is all just in your head. Patients hear about spinal tap headaches and then they think they have them.”

    I had never heard of spinal tap headaches. I asked around and was told sometimes the injection of anesthesia into the spinal column introduces a tear. When a person then sits, spinal fluid leaks out until the brain no longer has a cushion of liquid. And then comes the terrible headache.

    It went on and on. My best friend was a medical student. When he heard what was happening, he told his neurology instructor. That man was horrified at my treatment. He called me in for a cure, which was to inject a saline solution in the spinal column. Ouch! But it worked.

    My hernia repair was in September. I could not sit at my desk at work all day until after Thanksgiving. Someone told me that set a record. I was thinking of going into higher education administration. But all those days I went home with a headache cost me the trust of the dean who had hired me, and I lost that job. I sometimes wonder . . . .


      1. Co2 bottles for seltzer water or paintball guns is my guess

        I wonder if EP is playing tricks again
        I posted some long overly rambling response(imagine that) and it’s not here
        I’ll try to recall my writing or maybe I’ll add s good one instead

        Liked by 1 person

  8. White Christmas is one of my favorites at holiday time
    I lobe Danny Kaye and I could watch Vera Ellen dance forever
    And listening to Bing and Rosemary is a nice way to round out the moments in between

    Tomorrow is miracle on 34 th st
    My kids don’t know how I can watch all this old film stuff continually

    I bet they never do get it..


  9. I have allergies and asthma. The allergen – whatever it is- causes headaches, sinus congestion and pain, and asthmatic problems. I think it’s caused by mold and dust but I’m not sure. My doctor gave me a referral to an allergy specialist to try to pinpoint the cause. I went to see the man. I’ll call him Dr. Anull. I described my headaches and explained how I wake up with them. After sitting up for awhile, I begin to feel my sinuses opening and my head clearing. The headache begins to go away, sometimes without acetaminophen. He looked at me and said that I should have x-rays of my head and a CT scan. I asked why. He looked at me and said he wanted to rule out a brain tumor. When I recovered I got up and walked out without saying thank you or goodbye. I laughed instead. That was five or six years ago. I’d be dead if he’d been right.


  10. Haven’t thought of this for years, but there was the rather stunning moment when my doctor mused in passing whether or not I was having twins.

    It was just a thought, but maybe would have been better left unsaid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, my middle daughter had twins (still has them, as a matter of fact). She had no inkling that she was carrying twins, when, at her first ultrasound, the ultrasound person said in surprise, “OH! There are two heads!”

      I suppose having twins was better than having one baby with two heads.


  11. In the short time I knew him, Frank fought three wars. One was to defend his butt from a proctoscopy. One was to defy parking authorities at the U of MN, a battle that resulted in enough parking tickets to totally cover the windshield of his old gray Valiant. The third battle was a war of wills with the doctors. They thought he might have a bleeding ulcer, a condition that can kill. They could do nothing until they conducted an exam of his bowels, and Frank kept stealing food so they could not get him cleaned out for the exam. The docs could tell Frank was likely to run from them, which meant they couldn’t force him to behave. They gave ultimatums that they couldn’t enforce. On the night before my surgery, Frank called their bluff by sneaking away in his Valiant and got to a White Castle, coming back with bags of sliders and fries. They had no choice but to turn him away from the hospital.


  12. Say my love is easy had,
    Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
    Say I am too often sad –
    Still behold me at your side.

    Say I’m neither brave nor young,
    Say I woo and coddle care,
    Say the devil touched my tongue –
    Still you have my heart to wear.

    But say my verses do not scan,
    And I get me another man!

    – Dorothy Parker


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