...a potent blend of Miss Manners and Batman

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Correctus Interruptus

The Story of the Deviated Septum

Voice of Society Man will not be seen at his irregularly scheduled times because the author has been the victim of his own self-improvement. There comes a time in most men's lives when they must decide whether and when to correct their deviated septa. I decided 'yes' and 'today.'

Once you've realized that your nose was not always strictly banana-shaped, the entire procedure has many steps, and I'm just rounding third now. After the initial doctor visit, I had to go back to that same otorhinolaryngologist two months later to make sure that the curvaceous stature of my nose wasn't temporary. He confirmed this two weeks ago, so we scheduled the surgery. A few days later, I had to go for a pre-op, where I visited five different stations (including EKG, bloodwork, and, most daunting of all, insurance) within just 30 minutes; from what I understand, the medical personnel I met were as efficient as a Russian vasectomy team but much more pleasant. The final steps are the post-op, tomorrow, where the doctor will remove my bandages, and another check-up in a few days. Today, however, was the tough part: surgery.

I have written all about the actual hospital visit at my unicycle blog because, strangely, it was unicycling that brought about my deviant decision. What I forgot to mention was that today is September 11. Yes, the 6th anniversary of the destruction of the twin towers.

Like most New York City dwellers, Shirra and I were devastated by the attack -- even tho we didn't lose any family members, friends, or even acquaintances that day. In fact, I was teaching at my old school in Brooklyn Heights that day, and despite the fact that four parents worked in the twin towers, all of them made it out safely. The last arrived at school four hours later, covered in shiny dust, to take his kids home a bit earlier than usual. I happened to be on emergency escort duty at the time, and since all of the other parents had already been accounted for, seeing him was a huge but strange relief: I wanted to hug him and cry, but we didn't know each other that well, so we shared an awkward silence, much as the City itself did over the ensuing days. So I take 9/11 seriously -- in small part, it's why we moved to New Paltz -- but after 2005, I realized that it was time to move on.

As I lay in my hospital bed awaiting the operation, I reflected on how stress-free I was feeling. I'm not one of those people who's really that much in touch with certain personal states, like anxiety and stress. So when my nurse asked if I was nervous, I told her I'd have to wait for the results of the blood pressure machine. I was 116 over 76, so 'no.' When not hooked up to a machine, I usually have to rely on my pulse. The nurse commented that I seemed relaxed.

That's when I heard the droning of a voice on the TV in a room across the hall. It was the recitation of the names of the victims. The person in room 2 was actually listening to thousands of names read over hundreds of minutes. The nurse might have to take my blood pressure again, because I had a feeling that what I was experiencing was stress. I also had a feeling that if something didn't change fast, I'd be in danger of having my deviated septum worked on for free.

Here is the dialog I was imagining right then:

Me: Excuse me, would you mind if I closed your door?
Room 2: They're reading the list of 9/11 victims.
VoS Man (maneuvering cape around IV drip): I think it's time for Americans to move past the tragic events of that day.
Room 2: Well, I don't think that 6 years is too long a period of mourning.
VoS Man: Maybe, but you know, they never read out the thousands of Pearl Harbor vicitms after that attack.
Room 2: Yeah, but people grieve differently now.
VoS Man: I think you mean 'wallow.' But I guess it depends on who a person has lost.
Room 2: It wasn't anyone close, just one of my wife's friend's acquaintances. I just want to hear them say his name.
VoS Man: It wouldn't happen to be Zeke Zyzzyva, would it?

At this point, VoS Man's anesthesia and deviated septum would have been handled for free, simutaneously.

Before this could unfold, however, a deus ex nursina arrived to announce that it was time for my procedure. Voice of Society Man went blissfully to sleep minutes later.

Keep in mind, I wept for days after that attack, forcing myself to read the thousands of obituaries published in the Times in the months that followed. But by 2003, I'd purged myself of that sorrow as much as I could, and I don't need to see September 11 become further grist for souvenir salesmen, tourists, slimy politicians, and worst of all, the pseudo-newscasters of network television. After a while, grief has to become just a personal affair, and I think that five years was enough.

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My pesky alter ego who will set you right if you break one of the unwritten rules of getting along