the great equalizer

Toliet Paper by Ken Peacock

The Boy Scouts motto of “Be Prepared” was drilled into me as a kid – “Be prepared in Mind” and “Be prepared in Body”. I never forgot that instruction as it followed me around the world. In German-speaking countries I was told “Allzeit Bereit”, in France “Toujours Pret”, in Italy “Sii Preparato” and in Spain “Siempre Listo.” But the one that was easiest for me to remember was “Always keep your ass covered”.

As I get older “Be Prepared” and “Keep your ass covered” has taken on a new meaning. After a recent consultation with the doctor I was handed a brochure that started out: Preparing for your procedure. Your doctor wants to examine your large intestine. This is a simple process, but first your bowel must be totally clean so the doctor can see clearly. After I read that little opener I thought: “What? The doctor wants to look up my ass! While it may fit with being prepared in mind and body, it doesn’t fit with keeping my ass covered.” They now had my attention so I read on. The preparation involved starting a “low residue diet” three days before the “procedure”, and avoiding anything that contained nuts. That meant I couldn’t watch the Republican Candidates’ debate. A long table listed (in red) high fiber food and drinks to avoid, including baked beans, grapes and all other fruit and food with skins or seeds. The table had a shorter list of food and drink that was “allowed”, white rice, fish, eggs, lean beef, tofu, clear soup, coffee and clear strained fruit juice. I thought I could find something there to eat and drink for three days. For the clear juice I selected the Arneis, a fine grape juice from the Cuneo Province in Piedmont, Italy. Arneis, full-bodied and dry with a hint of pears and apricots, is best consumed as an aperitif to stimulate the appetite. It was perfect for my preparation.

On the day before the procedure the instructions allowed breakfast and then “only clear fluids until instructed” which meant “after the procedure.” For the clear fluids I chose a Sancerre from the left bank of the Loire because it was clear and well balanced, not like some of the Presidential candidates from the right. Following the instructions I mixed sachets A and B in a jug of water then prepared two cups of clear fluids. At 4pm I started consuming the preparation and the clear fluids. The idea was for the preparation to promote frequent exercise, mostly running, which apparently is to enable the doctor to see clearly. The brochure explained the process: This solution is designed to give you watery diarrhea. Your bowel motions become clearer and clean and will eventually look like urine, yellow water or beer. Please check the bowl to see whether this is happening. I didn’t have to wait long.

When I first looked into the bowl I thought about the election, the debates and myriad of candidates. There was a similarity between their preparation and mine so I decided the debates could be replaced by a mandatory colonoscopy for every candidate. This would ensure they were all clear in mind and body and looking in the bowl would confirm what they said to the voters was clear. If it wasn’t like yellow water or beer they would need more preparation.

When I arrived at the hospital, on the morning of the procedure, I was asked to produce identification and a credit card to prove I was who I said I was and could pay the fees. I thought what crazy fool would try to impersonate someone about to have a camera poked up his ass. We went over the many forms I had completed a week earlier to make sure I had ticked every box and answered the questions. I was weighed and my height measured, even though it was on the form, so I asked why that was important if the doctor had performed a colonoscopy before. They asked if I knew what procedure I was to have done that day. Apparently “the doctor wants to look up my ass” wasn’t the correct answer. Nor was: “If you don’t know then I am in the wrong place.” The final question was: “When did you last eat, drink or go to the bathroom?” I told them about 24 hours ago for the food, 2 hours for the clear fluids and 20 seconds for the bathroom. After reading and signing the form I was asked why I had not filled in the name of the person who held my power of attorney. I replied: “Because if I don’t get out of here no one is paying the hospital fees!” I wanted them to feel a little pressure.

After navigating the trick questions they let me pass the admitting desk and go to a bed behind a curtain to take off my clothes and put on a white gown with ties at the back. The gown wasn’t consistent with my philosophy of keeping my ass covered. I was prepared internally but externally exposed so climbed under the sheet and waited for their next move. It wasn’t long before a cheerful nurse pulled back the curtains and asked the same questions as the admissions desk. She checked the band on my wrist and asked my name, date of birth, what procedure I was scheduled to have and the name of my doctor. I was correct on three out of four but passed the test. Over the next 1½ hours two other persons in blue gowns came in, checked my wrist band and asked the same questions. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t the hip replacement patient.

Finally, someone arrived to push the bed down the corridor and into into a small room where I was greeted by four happy people wearing blue gowns. They rolled me onto my side, removed the sheet, opened the gown at the back, attached several monitoring devices, fixed an oxygen mask to my face and inserted a needle into my arm. In this position they asked me one more time for my name, date of birth and what procedure I as having today. I truthfully answered all the questions. The anesthetist asked why I was having a colonoscopy and I said I was thinking of running for President but after I looked in the bowl I changed my mind. I proceeded to tell them why all political candidates should have a colonoscopy when he said breathe deeply and count to ten.

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Photo by the author, Ken Peacock.
Ken Peacock

Ken Peacock

Ken Peacock, a former senior Australian executive of a mining company, first visited China in 1972 at the end of the Cultural Revolution and before diplomatic recognition by the Australian and US Governments. This was the first of many visits to China during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1978, he traveled throughout China with a trade delegation and revisited Shanghai where he stayed at the Shanghai Mansions Hotel and discovered the “Last Bottle of Gin in China”.