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We are all mortal men … and mortal women, and we will eventually end up in a … cemetery or crematorium. Or be buried at sea or something like that. But regardless of how we are disposed, we will ultimately decompose and eventually our constituent elements will be made available by the work of worms, fungus, bacteria and the like. Gonna happen to all of us. No one escapes the decaying fate. It’s part of a never-ending cycle of anabolism/catabolism (building up, breaking down). Although poets may have described a flower that was perpetually in bloom – the so-called eternal amaranthine flower – that notion was strictly fictitious. No such species ever existed. Sorry again, flowers also die. And the beginning of that TV show of the 60’s, Ben Casey, always started out with that phony metaphysical “Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity” which is also completely misleading, too (even though it’s hard not to believe Sam Jaffe who says it). Nope, sorry, nothing is forever (taxes, maybe). Yeah, even infinity doesn’t really exist. The road does eventually end – in a box, a slab or a watery grave somewhere.
So why so gloomy and ghoulish? I’ll tell you why. Because I was just explicitly reminded that I won’t be playing in the Thursday night ping pong league forever (none of us will) – that my days (everyone’s days) are numbered. This sudden jolt into reality came about due to a recent brief stay in a hospital for a “procedure.” Yes, I got confronted with one of the indisputable truths about aging: We are machines that eventually (inevitably) break down and my machine was in a state of distress and posed an imminent danger unless I initiated a repair forthwith. I needed … ughh …. a pacemaker tout suite. Why? Because my resting pulse was in the 20’s before they rolled me into the cardiac cath lab.
Time out. I want to say something about that resting pulse of mine. It was my one claim to fame. There is no question that I had the lowest resting pulse in Pleasantville and environs bar none! How do I know that? Because I googled Google and she told me the lowest resting pulse ever recorded was 26. I was pumping out a 27 (the alarms on the monitor kept going off). So, looks like I just missed getting immortalized. Shucks! No write up in the Guiness Book. But I was close. Oh, so damn close. Coulda been famous.
Well… I actually did have one other record that made me unique in the world, but that distinction got ‘paved’ over in the late 50’s. See, when I was a kid I played stickball (a defunct game), and I once hit a ball over three and a half sewers. (Sewers in the street were used as a measuring instrument back then.) True, I just foul tipped the Spaldeen and Hurricane Edna did the rest (i.e., about 85 mile an hour winds), but the ball just kept going, going …. (it could still be in orbit, who the hell knows). When the weather calmed, I carved my record shot into the pavement of 150th Street and thought that would keep alive forever the recognition of my prodigious accomplishment. But then that damn Con Edison (“Dig we must for a better New York”) came along, dug up my engraved record and paved it over. Jeez! I’m tellin’ ya, ya just can’t win. Ah, well, them’s the breaks. Now back to our story.
All right, so I’m on the gurney and I enter the cath lab suite where they do the surgery. There are about 5 or 6 people in there, all of ‘em in scrubs and masks (operating room or burglary attire, interchangeable in there, because they charge a lot; a big ripoff), and 3 of them meet me and transfer me to the operating table which has an x-ray apparatus hovering a few feet overhead. After they have me in the exact supine position they want me in, those 3 go back to do whatever they were doing and another guy wearing a mask comes over and introduces himself to me. He says he’s from Medtronics, the company which makes the titanium doodad that will be inserted into my left shoulder. Before he starts his prepared spiel I cut ‘em off, because I had something on my mind that was bothering me and, although I was going to ask the electrophysiology cardiologist this question (the guy that does the operative procedure is called an “electrophysiologist”), this company guy would maybe even be better suited to answer. So I come right out with it. No hesitation. No embarrassment. I just put it out straight. I said to him:
“ How much?” The response to my question was dead air. No response for a few seconds. Then through the mask he says:
“ You mean you want to know how much it costs?” he asks, sounding a little stunned. Again, without any hesitation, I say:
“Yep. How much is this sucker, anyway?”
I think he was struck dumb a little by my question because, well frankly, only Jack Benny and me would inquire about such a thing. (I freely admit to how, eh, … frugal I am. Well, okay, maybe I’m a little bit of a tightwad – but not that tight. Well… maybe. I’ve always described myself as ‘parsimonious’ because it sounds better than ‘cheap bastard.’) Finally, he says:
“You want something cheaper? Is that what you’re asking me?” He sounds like he can’t believe it. And he’s shaking his head. I’m hesitating now, because, ya know, it’s a little embarrassing to be bargain hunting in a situation such as this. But I manage to blurt out: “Well…. Well,” a few times, before he interrupts and says:
“Wait, let me see if I’ve got this right. You want something cheaper, right? Are you saying you’d be interested in something like a used one?” He’s not disguising his disbelief.
“No, no, no, no,” I answer with no uncertainty. “ Not that! Definitely not that. I’m thinking more like … eh… refurbished. I don’t want a used one. Definitely not a used one.” Jeese, what does he take me for? “No,” I continue, “I was thinking, maybe, more in line with, say, one of your discontinued models. You must have some of those.”
“Well, I’d need to check the shelves back in the warehouse,” he says, shaking his head.
“Maybe you have one with the battery that’s approaching the expiration date coming due. How ‘bout one of those?” I ask.
“No, I don’t think so,” he says. “We couldn’t guarantee them for more than a week or two. Would you honestly still be interested in those?” he asks skeptically.
“No, not for a couple of weeks – what are you crazy! But you gotta have something,” I tell him.
So then he says that he’s starting to get my drift, that he understands me better all of a sudden, and realizes that I’m looking for something on sale.
“Yeah, yeah, right! Exactly! Something, you know, with a discount. Last year’s model? Got one of those? But I’d prefer it to be new. A new, discontinued, refurbished one that won’t crap out in less than a month. But I want a discount,” I insist. Hey, I wasn’t born yesterday. He said he’d make a call and get back to me.
A few minutes later, he’s back and says he just got off the phone with the surgeon who’d be coming in shortly. Then he says to me:
“The surgeon has this idea that you might be interested in a ‘Two-Fer-One’ deal.”
“Yeah, yeah, so what’s this Two-Fer deal he’s offering?” I ask. And the Medtronics guy says:
“He’ll do the surgery free of charge if you agree to the insertion of the pacemaker and one additional procedure at the same time.”
“Yeah, I’m interested, yeah. So what’s this other procedure?”
So, nu? Whadda ya do with mercenary people such as these. I dunno, I just don’t know. All I do know is, that they put me under with the same stuff they gave to Michael Jackson, and that when I woke up I had a two and half inch diameter disc sticking out just below my left collar bone. And they hadn’t performed a lobotomy. No two for one deal – just the usual ripoff. No discount. But … on the positive side, I was still ticking (they set the thing so that my pulse can’t go below 60) and the battery life would be 8 to 12 years (the Medtronics guy warned me about trying to get a free charge at one of those Tesla charging stations). And, best of all, the surgeon said I could enter the league competition the following Thursday, but then he cautioned that I couldn’t take a shower. What? No shower? Jeese, they’re afraid the sucker might rust! I knew it – I knew it was schlock. I demand a refund. You know a lawyer? Lao Du