Sunday, December 26, 2004

Musica Medica

For two weeks we had a guest in the clinic. A radio. Set to an All-Christmas AM station. It was not enough that the Hospital's Department of Telephony had installed a new on-hold music tape consisting of an extraordinarily chipper version of "The 12 Days Of Christmas" played allegro vivace, the last thing one wants to hear when calling Radiology for the third time for the stat reading that one should have had hours ago -- don't you realize Mrs Jones is totally pissed off and about to hobble out against medical advice on her possibly broken foot to finish her Christmas shopping ?!?! It was even more ill-considered than the on-hold music that had dominated ordinary time: the sturm-und-drangish opening movement of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata. You thought you were desperate for an Xray reading ? Wait until you've listened to those crashing chords for five minutes. It's enough to propel a deranged walk-in physician (cue The Ride Of The Valkyries) into "The Department" hell bent on exacting a pound of flesh, or at least a preliminary reading of Mrs Smith's stat chest xray.

The urologists -- a practice with a phone menu so unnavigably and fiendishly byzantine that it once actually reduced me to tears -- took their cue from the Hospital and installed a slightly less manic rendition of "The 12 Days" as their seasonal on-hold music. Theirs was customized with a soothing voice-over describing their services. Just imagine the French Hens and Calling Birds and Lords-a-Leaping and Swans-a-Milking with a superimposed narration about incontinence. Then you will understand why I was found screaming into the phone:

Ceci n'est pas un pipe ! Ceci n'est pas un pipe !

The clinic radio, between boisterous commercials, was pumping out mainly the most secular and jolly shopping-and-partying-down bits of the Christmas repertoire. No Coventry Carol or Adeste Fideles or Personent Hodie or Wassail Wassail All Over The Town. Nope. Nary a Good King Wenceslas nor an Undismayed and Well-Rested Merry Gentleman among them. Their playlist seemed to consist of "Jingle Bell Rock," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year," a particularly icky C&W version of "O Holy Night," the Alvin and the Chipmunks' Christmas Album, and, the tune that seemed to recur the most frequently in their jangling rotation -- could it have been every other selection ? -- "Here Comes Santa Claus !"

Which, after the fortieth or fiftieth repetition, caused me to break forth into song:

Here come hummingbirds, here come hummingbirds -- pecking at my eyes !

That's when they hung the decoration on my office door. A large, gaily painted wooden arrow pointing straight at me, which read:


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