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Routine, My Ass!

THEY CALL IT a “routine” colonoscopy; as if it could be part of your everyday routine to eat and drink nothing but black coffee or clear soup for a full 24 hours, then take a massive overnight purge of the few specks left in your digestive tract, and then, first thing next morning, lie butt-naked on your side, in a brightly lit room, awake, for 45 minutes, while a man in a gown you never met inserts a six-metre tube into the wrong end of your alimentary canal.

If that’s “routine”, what in Hell would a non-firetrucking-routine colonoscopy be like? Would it involve barbed wire? A dubstep soundtrack? Two men, named “Mad Dog” and “El Diablo”, brass knuckles, an aubergine and no Vaseline? I just know the groundwork for routine and non-routine colonoscopy alike was laid down during World War II by the Nazis; specifically, in Auschwitz concentration camp, by Dr Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death”; and what a way it would be to go.

Past the age of 50, colonoscopies, like death, taxes and Trinidadian governments, can’t be avoided unless, of course, you can’t afford to have them, which might be one overlooked benefit of poverty. Colonoscopies, like cocaine and cosmetic surgery, could be God’s way of telling you that you’re making far too much money; I’ve had divorces and disavowals that have left me feeling less awkward, alone and put upon; and into.

Some gastroenterologists will be kind enough to give you a general anaesthetic but most prefer to keep you awake, so they can watch you squirm. No, that’s a joke at their expense, though, with 35 feet of tube up my you-know-what, I can’t be sure any colonoscopy joke at all isn’t really on me; or even in me. Seriously, as far as I can determine it – and even though this is like the butterfly being pinned through the head into the glass case declaring a preference between insect collectors – the doctors who insist on keeping you awake during a colonoscopy actually care more about your wellbeing, even if they’re not showing all that much concern for your discomfort threshold or sense of shame. If you’re knocked out, you see, you can’t communicate anything at all to your gastroenterologist; of course, if you’re awake, you only want to communicate one thing to him: “Can you stop now, please?”

While doing a bit of bottom-trawling myself, except on the Internet, in the hope of finding a school of gastroenterological thought that approves of substituting ale and single malt scotch for black coffee and clear soup, I’ve just stumbled on the amazing knowledge that, apparently, even women have to have colonoscopies, which seems kind of odd, because they don’t have to have prostate examinations.

Of course, women don’t actually have prostate glands, and it would be both pointless and impossible to try to examine what simply isn’t there, like searching a PNM Cabinet for an idea, but colonoscopies and prostate examinations are so overwhelmingly similar in levels of personal indignity, I wouldn’t blame anyone for confusing or even conflating them, and I would expect anyone who had to have the one to have to have the other; or there really would be no justice.

And here’re a couple of pointers, if you’re one of very many Trini men who say – and even post on FaceBook – loud and proud that “I would rather have cancer than let a man stick his finger in my butt”: 1. You wouldn’t; and, 2. You’re not fooling anyone except possibly yourself, because everyone else can see through your protesting way too much and understand that you’re really secretly terrified you might find out you enjoy it.

The greatest problem I’m having with colonoscopies, though, is how similar having one is to living in Trinidad.

Every day of life, not just the 24 hours before the big push, you find yourself starving in Trinidad. Even if you’re not in the small sad group that lives in genuine penury, even if you’re not getting enough healthy food to allow your body to sustain itself healthily, you’re starved of something: the life of the mind; rational, respectful, adult conversation; respect for the work you do, if it doesn’t turn a huge profit; peace and quiet enough to think in; half-decent air to breathe; companionship of people who aren’t savages; people who prefer to talk on the phone than text; hearing a piece of live music you can actually listen to, or one that doesn’t involve three women skinning up on a stage; the list goes on as long as you go on thinking about what really matters in life.

You’re starved of the things you need most, like good food and drink, and given distracting crap that does you no good, like FaceBook and Parliament. There is the difference between a colonoscopy and this country that, instead of having all the crap forced out of you, you have a great deal of crap forced into you: two-hour commutes to boring, dead-end jobs, in workspaces where any vestige of independent thought is punished and hypocrisy and ass-kissing rewarded.

If you have two eyes open, your suffering in watching people firetruck up the place is exquisitely painful.

And most significantly, in Trinidad, as in colonoscopy, the person in charge – your boss, your prime minister, your head teacher, your gang leader – is really and truly going to get you in the end.

And it’s all everyday firetrucking routine.

BC Pires is lying not so much prostrate as prostate

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