Once again, things were getting off to a shaky start.
I was sitting in a cubicle having an interview with a Nice Lady prior to the laparoscopic surgery we had scheduled. She was asking questions and recording my answers.
Would you like the services of a chaplain?
I thought that might be a good idea. Having a fellow Buddhist to chat with might help calm my understandably jittery nerves.
Yes, I think so. I’m a Buddhist, Kagyu if it makes a difference, but any Buddhist chaplain on your staff would be just fine.
I got this blank look from the Nice Lady - that blank look that suggested that I could have been speaking Esperanto, for all the good it was doing me.
Pardon me, sir?
This was not going well. I was beginning to regret asking for a Buddhist chaplain, but forged ahead anyway.
It was now a matter of principle.
I’m a Buddhist. I would like to see a Buddhist chaplain if there is one on your staff.
I could tell she wasn’t getting this at all.
I could call our non-denominational chaplain if you like.
Is this chaplain Buddhist?
No, sir, but he’s very nice.
I was beginning to sense that being "nice" was very important here.
I’m sure, but no matter how "nice" he is, seeing as I’m a Buddhist and he’s not, it hardly seems appropriate ,don’t you think? Perhaps we should move on?
She was visibly relieved, but I was not. I fixated on the fact that less than 50 miles from where we sat there was an accredited Buddhist university, Naropa, that had a highly-respected Buddhist chaplaincy program. Ours is a metro area with Buddhists of virtually every kind and lots of them. That this hospital didn’t have any sort of Buddhist on the chaplaincy staff was very strange. Buddhism is the 4th largest religion in the country. Buddhists go to the hospital all the time. Don't we deserve a chaplain of our own .......
More pressing matters awaited.
I was then ushered into The Room Where They Make You Wear Humiliating Clothes and was made to undress and don the Humiliating Clothes. Every single person involved in this procedure, including my oncologist, then marched through the room with smiles and sunshine and handshakes, saying how pleased they were to see me and how I shouldn’t worry and everyone was sooooo fucking nice and ......
.... we’re gonna have a great time and we’re gonna find that pesky cancer and take pictures of it and you’re gonna be just fine, and isn’t it a nice day, and …….
I found myself wanting the general anesthetic right away. I wanted to go outside and have a cigarette where there weren't any Nice People. These people parading though the room were way too irritating, way too intense, so fucking nice. They meant well, to be sure, but it suddenly occurred to me that they were undoubtedly terrified that something would go horribly wrong and my entire family would sue the b'jeeziss out of the hospital and they were all gonna loose their jobs, so......
We'd better be super-nice to this guy or we’re all as good as dead.
I recall saying to someone that there are excellent decaffeinated coffees available these days.
Finally they wheeled me into the operating room. A voice above my head came to me ….
Hi, I’m Dr. Bob and I’m your anesthesiologist today. We met earlier. We’re gonna start giving you some medicine here in a second.
I had this strange premonition that he was about to ask me if I was allergic to shellfish.
Someone said that that you were the guy in charge of the tunes, is that right?
Yes sir! I have all sorts of music I can play for you. Any Requests?
I felt like being difficult. I would punish them for not having a Buddhist chaplain.
Yes. Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Works One. Side A.
One of my favorites too, but I don’t have it here. Anything else?
I suppressed an urge to ask for some Hawkwind, deciding they had been punished enough. Time to move on.
Blues? Anything along that line?
Yes sir, plenty of that.
So, as things faded to black, it was to Buddy Guy playing Sweet Home Chicago, live.
Cool. Things were looking up. I remember someone saying ….
See you on the other side!