The conversation in theatres went like this. ‘Can you please remove your knickers?’. The answer, ‘you mean underwear?, you may wear knickers but I certainly don’t’. Oops. There are instances when being Indian can get you out of embarrassing situations but probably not this one. I can see Carrie stifling a laughter. Peter is keeping a straight face as he tries to look busy. I’m glad Sandy was out of earshot, otherwise I wouldn’t hear the end of this. I mumble a sorry and reach for the propofol syringe.
The actual conversation started an hour earlier. ‘How long have you been an anaesthetist?’, the patient asked. A morbidly obese rotund man with hardly a neck. These factors matter to us anaesthetists. The difference between someone who is easy to anaesthetise to a difficult airway situation. He is younger than me and yet was telling me that he gets out of breath climbing a couple of flights of stairs. He then went on to defend himself by saying that this was not unusual for people his age. ‘Are you kidding me?, I wanted to ask but bit my tongue. Now he posed the experience question, I had to reply. It was a legitimate question, but do I take it as a compliment especially during the last years of my career or as an insult. ‘I tell him that I have been in the business far too long.’ Now he wants to know how old I am. Older than you, and much fitter than you, I reply. Not everyone huffs and puffs after 3-4 flights at our age, I tell him, in a nice way.
Coming back to the knicker/underwear situation. What was I thinking. I normally don’t interfere in these situations. If the patient goes to sleep in his underwear, the nurses will have to struggle and take it off, not me. Anyway now I brought up the knicker situation do I say something to Peter, my operating department practitioner, and redeem myself or keep mum. I tell him that in my language knickers just means shorts and there is no gender issue. He says ‘knickers/underwear what’s the difference?’, but I know he said that just to spare my blushes. The image of a man wearing knickers is probably best left alone. Another day in theatre, another gaffe and so it goes on.