I thought I knew culture, or at least the average ‘normal’ person’s understanding of its meaning. But nothing surprised me more than when I got acquainted with a different, totally new form of culture, never experienced before. I also know that many people take rests on chairs, chaise lounges, settees, fauteuils or even the simple piano stool. There is nothing odd about man’s need for the occasional rest, even on a stool. But.., I am getting ahead of myself; This tale of surprise and discovery of a new kind of culture needs time to ripen and mature. Ecoutez svp and get a little closer to your screen.
Over the last week or so I have been busy with domestic things, paying bills, emptying the dish-washer, putting bins on the street and even doing a thorough vacuum with the hand held one instead of the robovac. As readers might remember, some weeks ago I gave in, relented, bought an automatic vacuum cleaner that roams the rooms and ferrets around corners and underneath book shelves in between beds and saucepans. I find it fascinating to watch, seeing how it sends signals out to avoid obstacles and dead corners. The Robovac does a fair job but with rough coated Milo one needs to do a hand-held in between. On top of that I had to prepare myself for working this Saturday handing out ‘how to vote cards’ for the Green party of which I have been a member for just a few months. The state of NSW is having an election with everyone at fever pitch. The dogs are howling and swallows are flying erratically. They know it too. I also fitted in a quick visit to the Moss Vale medical centre to check on a persistent pesky stomach bug.
Here it comes!
The good doctor from Indian background, whom I had not met before, did a good job, asking me all the relevant questions. History if any, of stomach problems, family background, dodgy genes, fainting spells, giddiness, what job I did, smoke, drink etc.? He finally prodded around my stomach a bit, but nothing painful or abnormal, and suggested I do some kind of what I understood a ‘culture test’. I agreed and thought any culture in Australia will do me, even if it is just the usual blood test. He wrote out the pathology note and as the pathologist outfit is next to the medical centre he suggested I do it straight away. The sooner the better, he smiled and shook my hand.
Helvi and I always go together to doctors as we do to shops or just walking around with Milo. In fact, we are probably noticed on our walks as a couple who are inseparable. Helvi glanced over to the lady behind the pathology counter and smiled. I too smiled and handed over the pathology request form. She read the doctor’s note and smiled encouragingly. “Have you done a ‘stool culture’ before, she asked”? The penny dropped. I knew this culture were no ordinary culture, let alone a B’s ninth symphony or viewing of the pyramids of Cheops. Of all of life’s foibles, how did it come to this? I used to play in a sandpit and dreamt of castles.
No, I haven’t done ‘that’ before I answered.”I’ll get you the necessary kit”, still smiling by nurse! I wasn’t smiling. The horror of what was to now come became clear. I looked back and Helvi was smiling broadly. For some reason women seem to find this a really amusing procedure for men to undergo. Nurse said: “There are ‘just’ two small containers you need to fill with a small scoop fitted on the back of each lid”, ” you fill the two small ones from the ‘big’ container, she added. I sunk below vision, and meekly said something like ‘far-out’ or ‘can’t wait. Nurse’s eyes met mine and a moment of some embarrassment was acknowledged and with a smile she winked. It helped. She had seen all this before and she understood.
By now, nurse was really being encouraged by Helvi having to keep her mouth covered hiding her mirth and smile, and yet nurse had the nous to further explain; “the large bowel is for putting it in the toilet bowl to catch your stool”. This last remark should have reached its zenith of relevant stool culture information. It did not. More was yet to come. “You can use the scoop on the back of the smaller containers’ lids to fill each of them them”, she said. “You must also give details of date and time of each time of your ‘stool production’ on the label, and number them as a 1 or a 2”. “Don’t forget to wash the big container or use a new one each time. “AN ICE- CREAM container will do”, she said. By this time nurse was openly smiling and I was beyond caring. It would have been far worse if it had all been done in all seriousness. I mean, how could this possibly be a serious issue?
Even so, I hope that the future doesn’t hold anymore medical cultural events like this one. I would much prefer to see Wagner’s ‘ring cycle’.
Ps. I played along wanting to be seen as suffering the ultimate crestfallen male with his fragile ego, hitting the very lows of the absurdity of his idea of masculinity. The very idea of a ‘real’ man scooping his own faeces is unlimited material for comedy and laughter. It was very funny and a bit of a show for the other patients sitting in chairs waiting their turn while listening in.
Life gets complicated but you have to face up to it, even when it includes strange cultures.