This space is turning into an extended certificate of the collective mental illness otherwise known as modernity.
Without going deep into the philosophical, moral and social collapse pushing modernity off the rails, this time I’ll simply cite the empirical evidence I collected last week.
Medically, this is close to being the busiest time of my life. Everything seems to be packing up at the same time, the upside being an opportunity to observe how medical services respond to the pressing challenges of our time.
As we all know, the most pressing challenge, nay the greatest danger, of our nuclear age is men behaving inappropriately towards women and, less often, the other way around.
Too many beastly men wolf-whistle at innocent young things, traumatising them for life. Too many of those animals brush against women on public transport, pushing the victims into a lifetime of costly therapy.
Clearly, the state would be remiss in its duty of care if it didn’t step in to put an end to such outrages. And step in it does, putting its foot down with a mighty bang.
These days even an unsupported claim of sexual harassment may suffice to ruin a career, if not expose the target to criminal prosecution.
An uninvited hand on an unsuspected buttock clearly calls for a custodial sentence. And using a position of power to solicit sex makes the oppressed women of the world unite in their demand that the death penalty be reintroduced.
That’s why all medical services are expected to provide, or at least offer, chaperones during examinations. As I found out, this generosity extends not only to women but even to rather burly, if not impeccably healthy, men.
When a chaperone is offered by a male doctor, I decline in the hope that I’m in no sexual danger. When it’s offered by a woman, I decline in the hope that I am.
However, that doesn’t mean I stay unprotected in either case. My nonexistent chastity is still well served by medical professionals, and the evidence of last week is incontrovertible.
Exhibit 1: My wife and I went to get our flu jabs, which we’re supposed to have every year, even though the nurses administering the procedure honestly admit it’s unlikely to have much effect.
Since we were both scheduled at the same time slot, the young nurse suggested we go into her office together. She then went through the litany of possible side effects, which, considering we get the same jab every year, lacked novelty appeal.
Having explained that some patients might feel faint, and coyly smiled at my silly request for prophylactic mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the nurse approached me syringe in hand.
However, before plunging it into my shoulder, she asked me if I agreed to be touched by her, and again smiled when I said the pleasure was all mine.
Now, considering that my wife was in the same room, or rather cubicle, the chances of the comely nurse molesting me were, alas, abysmally low. But hey, protocol is protocol. Bureaucracy will overpower common sense every time.
Exhibit 2: The next day I had an appointment with a woman endocrinologist, investigating something potentially nasty in my thyroid.
There was no operational reason for me to disrobe, and, to her credit, she didn’t request that I do.
In this she favourably differed from an art director I used to work with in advertising during my dissipated youth.
When casting female models for, say, close-ups of their eyes, that libidinous chap always asked them to get their tops off, waving aside their objections that they didn’t see the necessity. “It’s the way the light reflects, love,” he’d explain somewhat unconvincingly.
The endocrinologist wasn’t like that. She didn’t ask me to take my trousers off before palpating my neck. However, she did ask if it was all right for her to examine me.
The puerile prankster in me desperately wanted to say, “No you don’t, you slut, not if you don’t want to be struck off.” Instead, the mature adult in me said, “But of course, doctor, this is what I’m here for.”
One would assume that a patient presenting for an examination has thereby consented to the examination. But nothing is taken for granted these days.
Exhibit 3: The day after I went to see a sports doctor, trying to inject some life into my leg, worn out (‘knackered’ in the technical parlance) by a lifetime of chasing fuzzy yellow balls on tennis courts.
This doctor was male and, by the looks of him, as straight as I am. Before I took my trousers off, he kindly asked if he could lend me a pair of tight shorts to protect my modesty.
Since he was a man, my modesty didn’t need all that much protection but, being an old hand at this sort of thing, I had put on just such a garment before the visit just in case.
That obstacle out of the way, the time came for him to dig his fingers into my thigh. But before doing so, the doctor repeated the interrogatory mantra I had already heard from the endocrinologist: “Do you consent to being examined?”
Having received my assent, he examined me and honestly admitted he had no clue what the problem was. He then charged me twice what the endocrinologist had charged.
The thought crossed my mind that I could make him waive the charges by threatening to report him for sexual harassment. But I didn’t: such a trick would be too unoriginal.