Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bad music

When I’m lying on my deathbed someday, I do not want Sheena Easton there. The same goes for Abba, Queen and a long list of other pop music stars whose annoyingly infectious songs have unfortunately been catalogued in my head. I’d like to use that memory space for something else. I see no reason for my brain to harbor these infections, yet it does, note by note.

The thought occurred to me during what felt a bit like a dress rehearsal for the big event, as I lay under the lights of an operating room for a follow-up procedure related to my melanoma this spring. No worries there, everything is fine, but anything suspicious gets removed now. Me and my plastic surgeon are into some serious profiling in our war on dermatological terror.

Anyway, it’s strange to be awake in the operating room, as I suppose anyone who has given birth knows. You feel like both the focus of attention and an outsider, with all the lights on you while nurses with sharp instruments talk to each other about what they did last weekend. Meanwhile they’re playing really bad seventies and eighties music over the P.A. system. Why do they play music in an operating room? I guess it’s entertaining for the medical personnel, but isn’t it also potentially distracting? I say that as someone who also wonders how professional baseball players can perform at their best while wearing jewelry, with stuff in their pockets such as snuff cans. Me, I’m easily distracted. I found Sheena Easton an unwelcome addition to the operating room environment.

Please do not use this post as an excuse to mention songs that you personally hate, that stick in your head, as such responses will be immediately deleted. I’m not sure why people enjoy willfully transferring musical infections, but they do. I feel bad for even mentioning Sheena Easton, assuming you know who she is. I do not want to hurt you. I have a persistent fear that some of those annoying, encapsulated songs in my head will come back to haunt me one day. The songs are a kind of brain spam that appears in your mental queue unbidden, and which you can’t delete. Hence my fear that I might, many long years from now (hopefully!), find myself lying on my death bed, an old man, ruminating about the meaning of a long and eventful life, with loved ones around me, only to have “My Baby Takes the Morning Train” start playing in my head. I don’t want it to end that way.

Which is why I finally had to ask the nurse to change the station. I know it makes me seem a bit fussy as an operating room patient, but I don’t want any unwanted files to be updated in my brain. The nurse conceded that the song we were listening to was pretty awful, but the station she switched it to turned out to have its own bad seventies music score. The reason I don’t like oldies stations is that they usually play music from the past that I didn’t even like back then. And it’s worse, hearing it now. But I was reluctant to say, “Not that station, either.” I was already asking the head nurse to scratch my head for me, since they’d swabbed me with something antiseptic and admonished me to refrain from touching my face. “Um, what do I do if my ear itches?” I asked, to which she replied, “Tell me where and I’ll scratch it.” Which she did. And no sooner was that problem solved than my left eyebrow started to itch. So she had to scratch that. She acknowledged that the drying antiseptic fluid often made people itch and it was no problem for her to scratch, but having to ask made me hesitant to ask the other one to turn the dial on the radio again. We’d been chatting about various things, as if no one was about to take a scalpel to my head, but when I said, in reference to the scratching, that it would be terrible to be paralyzed and to have to ask someone to scratch every time you itched, the nurses chose not to respond. Other than the radio: Silence. Apparently I’d crossed an invisible line when it comes to operating room banter.

When the surgeon, Ken Barraza, came in, he explained what he was about to do, then commented that he didn’t much like the song that was playing. Thank you! This made me feel that I was in good hands. One of the nurses tattled that I’d already made them change the station, to which he replied, “I didn’t even like this music back then.” We’re about the same age, and apparently, the same mindset.

“This song sticks in your head,” I said, to which he replied, “Don’t say that, now it’ll be in my head all day!” So I quit talking about it. I tried to tune out the strains of “You’re so Vain” while under the knife of a plastic surgeon, though in my case vanity was not the instigator of the process, but was merely brooding on the sidelines.

Everything turned out well, except for the fact that “You’re so Vain” is now playing in my head again, after having summoned it here, and I’m sorry if that also happens to you. But I repeat, do not take this opportunity to try to infect me with your hated songs. It does not help you, it only hurts others!

Also there was this: In the lobby of the clinic was one of those cheesy inspirational posters, of a kitten playing with a ball of twine, with a caption that read, “Inactivity is death. – Benito Mussolini.” I thought to myself: Somewhere out there is a person who works at a company that designs and sells cheap inspirational posters, who hates his or her job, whose boss is an idiot, and who correctly surmised that there are people out there who like kittens and don’t know who Mussolini was. Just so you know, Mussolini was a murderous fascist who was hanged for war crimes during World War II, and is therefore an odd source of inspiration. Nonetheless, the possibility that the designer’s joke was on us would itself be a sort of triumph, and therefore, inspiring in an adverse way.

And when I say the word “joke” I do not mean to summon the song “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band, which I hate.

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