The news was what I feared. I had a significant tear in the cartilage in my left knee. The orthopedic surgeon told me my options and strongly suggested arthroscopic surgery. I agreed and the wheels were set into motion.
A few days later, I received a call from “Charlie”, of the hospital’s ambulatory surgery unit. The name “Charlie” always made me feel good. I thought of Charlie Chaplin, Charlie McCarthy and Choo Choo Charlie of Good and Plenty commercials. He interviewed me on the phone, asking details about my medical history. He seemed like a personable guy, so I made small talk with him.
“So, you’re affiliated with O’Connor. Was that named after the philanthropic family?”
“No. We’re named after Donald of “Francis the Talking Mule” fame. It is our surgeon’s favorite movie.”
“Oh! I see. Tell me, what is meant by ambulatory surgery? Do I walk in and walk out?”
“Well, you’re half right. You walk in, but usually you leave by ambulance.
I had an uneasy feeling growing in my gut. Charlie finished and said I would receive written confirmation of my surgery scheduling in a few days.
An envelope from Charlie arrived in the mail. Inside was confirmation of an appointment for surgery on my right knee. I immediately called Charlie and informed him of the error. He said I had to come in to straighten it out. I went to admissions and asked for the ambulatory surgery unit. I was directed to a small wooden shed next to the dumpster. Inside, I found Charlie with his feet propped up on the desk, munching from a bag of Fritos.
“’Sup, Harley! What’s botherin’ ya?”
“I’m afraid you have the wrong knee on my paper work.”
“Lemme see. Nope. It’s the right one. See. I got it right here on the insurance approval form.” He waved a sheaf of papers under my nose.
“I’m telling you you’ve got the wrong knee. It’s the left, not the right. I ought to know which one hurts.” I was getting a little hot under the collar.
“Listen Harley. You only got two knees. If you take away the right one, you have one left. Right?” He looked at me with a self-satisfied expression, as if he just explained relativity to me.
“I know I have two knees. The right one and the wrong one. You have the wrong one. I have the right one.” By now my voice had risen an octave.
“I beg to differ. I have the right one. See look right here. He pointed to the paper in his hand.
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s the one on the left!”
“Your left or my left?” He was looking at me with a “Now I gotcha!” sneer. “Besides, what difference does it make? You’re going to be operated on by Dr. Damian DeBotcher, an internationally renowned surgeon. I know patients who gave their right arm to be worked on by him. But wait! There’s more! If you act now, Dr. DeBotcher will also remove any tattoos or warts within ten centimeters of the incision, free of charge. You pay only a small shipping and handling.” Said Charlie in his most earnest infomercial style.
Desperately, I persevered in a sobbing voice. “Suppose you are looking in a mirror.”
“What kind of mirror? Round or rectangular?”
“What difference does it make!” I was screaming. “When you raise your right hand, what does the guy in the mirror do?” I was determined to get through to him so I could escape from this Abbott and Costello routine.
“He gives me the finger.”
“It’s a little exercise I do to keep myself humble.” He said with a shy grin.
“Humble? You want humble? I’ll give you humble.” I made a few gestures of my own.
“You’re getting a little testy.” Charlie eyed the door as if planning his escape.
“Teste? Who said anything about testes?” I shrieked. “I don’t want a little teste. Get your hands away from that keyboard.” I rose to my feet and started toward him.
“Now just calm down! You’re overreacting.” He pushed away from the desk and rolled his chair closer to the exit.
“Answer me this: How many necks do we have?”
“Just one, of course,” he responded warily.
“No left or right?”
“No. Where are you going with this?”
“I just want to be sure there aren’t any slip-ups when I strangle you.” I lunged for him and he bolted out the door.
I took off after him across the parking lot. He looked back over his shoulder and gasped: “Have a heart!”
“No thanks.” I yelled. “I just ate.”