Transcript: The Locker Room Encounter
Rob Long on finding comedy even in the darkest moments
This is Rob Long with Martini Shot for The Ankler.
I tend to get chatty when I’m nervous, so a few years ago, as I was lying on my side in an operating room watching the surgical team prepare for my procedure, I started making small talk with the anesthesiologist.
I know what you’re thinking: a gentleman of a certain age tipped over on his side in an operating room — it must have been one of those procedures, one of those little-camera-on-the-probe type deals. You’re probably wondering why I was nervous. These things are pretty routine. And as anyone who has ever had a colonoscopy will tell you, by the time you’re on the table, the worst part — the preparation — is over.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t that kind of procedure.
I was there for a bone marrow biopsy — spoiler alert: turned out to be nothing — but those words in that order are a pretty alarming combination. So as the nurse was inserting the IV and the doctor was issuing gruff orders, I asked the anesthesiologist what I thought was a simple question.
“How does anesthesia work, anyway?” I asked breezily, as a nurse was drawing a black circle with a Sharpie at the base of my spine. The circle was there to guide the surgical drill that was going to pierce my skin and bone to the marrow and extract a sample of the gooey whatever-it-is. How, exactly, anesthesia works seemed like a relevant subject for conversation.
The anesthesiologist smiled awkwardly. He had the expression of someone who was trying not to say something.
“I mean,” I went on, “it’s not like sleep, right? If I’m asleep and you drill into me, I am probably going to wake up. So how does it work?”
“Well, you know, it’s complicated. There are, you know, um, competing theories —"
“Theories?” I said, moving away from the drill apparatus.
“Well, no, not theories, like, guesses, but it’s one of those things that —"
At which point the surgeon looked up sharply at the anesthesiologist who got the message and turned the knob that began to flood my IV with Propofol.