I have never seen such a shouty bunch as those Libyans. Always with the fists in the air and the nonstop chanting and yelling. Do they ever have a normal conversation or is everything done at top volume with spittle and bullets spraying seven ways to Sunday?
As for all this “God is great” business, well, I don’t know about that. I can sort of understand if you are surrounded by sparkly waterfalls and topless nymphettes floating in bottomless pools of beer and you’re suddenly overtaken with the urge to shout, “God is great!” But to be surrounded by dead bodies and bearded lunatics firing wildly into the air in the ugliest city ever built and be shouting “God is great!” is something I don’t get. It’s a bit like belonging to a religion that says you can’t eat or drink during the day for one month a year, but, if the occasion calls for it, feel free to shoot your enemy in the face. If you want a cigarette afterwards, you’re going to have to wait until the sun’s gone down. There’s a lot to be said for self-restraint. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to glorify God and purify the soul.
Being a prolapsed journalist, I couldn’t help feeling that I should have been outside the Bab al-Aziziya compound wearing a flak jacket and reporting on the fall of Tripoli instead of poncing about in a lilac frock in Claremont with my bum hanging out.
I didn’t have a choice. The nurse made me put it on. SlutWalks aside, dressing like that is simply asking for trouble. Especially if you’re a man living in Cape Town. What could possibly go wrong in an operation to rebore my ear that the surgeon might need immediate, unobstructed access to my bottom?
I was the only patient in a five-bed ward. If this was a state hospital, it would have been 10 to a bed with chickens roosting in the cupboards. With nothing better to do, the nurses swarmed in to take my blood pressure, look up my skirt and pry into my personal life. Did I want to give the hospital permission to dispose of the remains? What a peculiar question. Who is treating me, Dr Jack Kevorkian? Can’t be. He’s dead.
By remains, apparently, the nurse was referring to whatever it was that the surgeon would be removing from my head. In that case, I’ll take it all home with me as a gift for my aberrant loinfruit, Clive, to add to his growing collection of human bone fragments.
Another nurse stared at me blankly when I told her why I was there. My surprise at discovering that she had never heard of an exostosis was surpassed only by her shock at discovering that I was currently between religions. I was going to suggest she put me down as an atheist, but at best I would have had to spell it and at worst she would have summoned security to pin me down while the resident priest performed an emergency exorcism.
A bubbly young blonde burst into the room and introduced herself as the anaesthetist. If I were dressed a little more appropriately, I might have got out of bed and made for the door. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate bubbly blondes as much as the next man. I’m just not sure I want them pumping me full of one of the substances used to execute murderers in Texas, especially not on a Monday morning when everyone is distracted by the perioperative nurses swapping dirty weekend stories.
She asked if I wanted a pre-med to relax. This is where it starts. They slip you a couple of pills to loosen you up and the next thing you know, you’re unconscious and they’re swigging bottles of lightly wooded chardonnay and drawing silly faces on your willy. I took the pre-med. Let the girls have their fun.
Another victim was wheeled into the ward, his worried girlfriend at his side. They looked at me with that curious mixture of dispassion and disgust with which one regards people lying in hospital beds, even if one happens to be lying in one oneself. Wiping the drool from my chin, I thought it important that they knew I wasn’t just another suppurating bag of pus on the last lap of life.
“Surfer’s Ear,” I said, tapping the side of my head before jabbing myself in the eye. With the pre-med kicking in nicely, it must have sounded more like, “Zervazeer.” They didn’t look at me again.
A sullen orderly with the rewarding job of wheeling patients between the wards and the operating room dragged me down the corridor, through a set of doors and parked me in a corner next to a fridge. The last thing I remember was trying to see if there was any beer in it.
I woke up ravenous, unhinged and savagely cotton-mouthed. I expect it was a huge party in that theatre, with the anaesthetic probably being administered through a giant bong followed by morphine drips for all.
A nurse said she’d bring me lunch. Since I was paying the hospital R35 000 for the day, I was looking forward to a bottle of chilled Dom Perignon White Gold followed by a Javanese rhino carpaccio and a fillet of rare Kobe beef garnished with white truffles and slivers of coelacanth.
I was given a cheese and tomato sandwich and asked if I wouldn’t mind seeing myself out.