Attending a one-camera shoot on location somewhere between your pancreas and what's left of your dignity can present social challenges rarely encountered in the course of even the fullest life on the grandest of stages.
You may, for example, be hard pressed to make penetrating small talk when your doctor is about to stretch a lot more than your imagination just before he penetrates your usual veneer of calm composure with a little hard pressure of his own.
"Hey Doc, if you reach all the way in the back, there should be a cold one in there for you."
Even "introductions" takes on a whole new meaning when most of the people you'll be meeting are fully clothed and standing, while you're on your side in a semi-fetal position wearing a gown with a rear sash a 747 could sail through without blocking the view of your own final approach zone.
This is a time when putting your best foot forward means you'll want to avoid putting your foot in your mouth no matter how little attention is being paid to that particular orifice at the moment, even if only to demonstrate that you've got what it takes, or that you'll at least be happy to keep what you've got after the biopsies have all been removed.
Fortunately, even in a setting where being the center of attention means exposing one's inner self like a trout on a filleting table, the rules of etiquette that always serve us so well will come to your rescue, with only a minor twist and turn, as it were, and keep what should be a new kind of self-discovery from becoming a quite literally gut-wrenching experience.
Just follow these three pillars of proper comportment, and you'll become the calming object of admiration well before the crowning moment of dilatation.
1. Choose Your Words Wisely
Even though the collegial atmosphere in the procedure room may encourage a certain familiarity at the outset, some occasions require restraint until boundaries have been established. And when someone is about to pierce the dark night of your Neverland with a remote control searchlight, wire-loop snipper, and Technicolor video camera, "less is more" should be your guide before offering unsolicited comments.
Thus, no matter what clever phrases may come to mind as you contemplate the prospect of your colon appearing on YouTube over a "You Can't Touch This" soundtrack, remember that this isn't the first time the assembled medical team has been to one of these festive explorations, unless your procedure is taking place at Radio Shack or the "Let Me Tell You About My Mother" comedy club.
It's therefore almost a certainty that your doctor has already heard your seemingly original bon mot more times than Doc Severinsen cued a downbeat to "Heeeeeere's Johnny!"
And recall once again that someone's about to go into your you-know-where with you-know-what.
Do you really want to risk annoying this person?
Based on a recent survey of gastroenterologists, here's a few specific lines to avoid as your doctor decides how much lubrication he's going to use today:
"If you reach all the way in the back, there should be a cold one in there for you."
"Don't follow anything that says ‘this vehicle makes wide right turns.'"
"Watch out for the water hazard after the second dogleg."
"Ignore any hitchhikers, unless they're babes wearing thongs."
"Any pictures you find from the family vacation in Rockport, they're yours!"
In three separate states, juries have issued "justifiable homicide" acquittals to doctors who strangled patients after the patient uttered "Am I on Candid Camera?" on a colonoscopy table.
You have been warned.
By the way:
A "thumbs up" gesture is okay, but only if you lift just your thumb, not the rest of your arm. You don't want to risk your gesture being interpreted as "up yours" unless you're looking forward to spending the rest of your life with your buttocks on the inside.
2. Offer an Appropriate Gift
Who doesn't appreciate a freshly baked sweet bread or a box of Belgian chocolates?
Nevertheless, under these circumstances, a gift of food may not be what the doctor would have ordered.
Remember that everyone present knows you haven't been allowed to eat or drink anything since midnight, and that you've spent much of the previous evening sitting on the john with Niagara Falls thundering out of "The River Rear" while wishing someone had offered you a barrel to escape in.
So it may seem a tad forced to offer a Harry & David basket overflowing with juicy pears, rosy peaches and deluxe fudge bars.
Speaking of "rosy":
Flowers are also not ideal, as it's highly likely that more than one nurse in the room will be reminded of the last time she told some two-timing creep to take his bouquet and "put it where the sun don't shine."
Perhaps this is best a time for "When in Rome…"
We suggest bringing a handful of gift-wrapped bathroom readers.
3. Answer Questions Forthrightly
We noted in point 1 that "less is more" when considering how you'll interact with the colonoscopy team.
You will, however, be asked questions as the procedure progresses, and being forewarned may well be the charm that allows you to walk without a limp the next day.
You don't want to offer a response that might confuse or distract the doctor or any member of his team at a critical juncture, and in this case, every juncture is a potential "Houston, we have a problem" moment, and we're talking about a lot more than one re-entry attempt and a splash in the ocean.
* * *
Herewith, questions you're likely to hear, typical responses to avoid, and responses that will accurately reflect your state of being, whatever it may be.
Question: Is everything okay?
Response to Avoid: Well, the asparagus is a little dry, but I'd still like a reservation for next Saturday at 8.
Correct Answer: I could use a little more anesthetic.
* * *
Question: Are you feeling any pain?
Response to Avoid: Why? Just because you're driving a front loader against traffic around every corner of the big dig in my abdomen?
Response to Avoid: Was the first clue the way my legs are thrashing or was it my eyes hanging down below my nose?
Correct Answer: I could use a little more anesthetic.
* * *
Question: Would you mind turning your body just a little more to the left?
Response to Avoid: Is that all? You sure you don't want me to do something from "Swan Lake" while you're doing a pas de deux with my sphincter?
Response to Avoid: I'll tell you what. I'll turn my body, and you stop bragging about your long irons to the nurse with legs up to her armpits until I hear the "all clear" signal.
Correct Answer: Sure, but first, I could use a little more anesthetic.
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In closing, we should note that most persons emerge from their colonoscopies much like the colonoscope itself: fully extended, but otherwise none the worse for wear.
And if you want to be among that happy majority, don't overextend your doctor's patience with worn out one-liners and anesthetized attempts at snappy repartee.
Remember: He's holding the remote control wire-loop snipper, and you can't even hold your dressing gown together.