These are the lies they tell you.
First, that the flavor is vanilla. It’s not. It smells like vanilla when you rip open the pouch — makes you think hmmm, like Nestle’s Instant Breakfast, this won’t be so bad — but the moment you mix it with water all sweet pretence disappears. You’re chugging something that tastes like vinyl mixed with machine oil— and you’re chugging four litres of the stuff, in 250ml aliquots every ten minutes.
When you find out about the next lie, you’re pleasantly surprised: because they tell you you’ll be erupting like Vesuvius for six straight painful hours as the liquid from Lie #1 scours you out like Drano through a pipe. I went so far as to set up an office in the bathroom last night, brought in my laptop and a little table on wheels and a couple of old Economists (for reading, not for wiping). I made sure the cats were looked after and my affairs put in order. But it was okay, especially after that vile reservoir of laxative I’d had to force down. I just sat and let gouts of brown liquid slip from my anus like the water in one of those faux-Zen inspirational rock fountains you can buy at Canadian Tire. Not bad at all.
But they’re only lulling you into a false sense of security, so they can hit you in the stomach with the biggest lie of all: that It Doesn’t Hurt.
Oh, it’s plenty uncomfortable, they say. It feels weird and icky, but there’s no actual pain as such. In and out. Caitlin’s dad found it mildly unpleasant, at most. Caitlin’s boss had it done right at work during a conference call, never missed a beat. They’ll try to put you under sedation but you can refuse that you know, and you really should because if you don’t you’ll be comatose for the rest of the day.
That much was true; the intern wanted to hook me up to an IV for “light-to-mild” sedation; his bossed chipped in with “Actually, it’s more moderate-to-heavy.” I asked if it was necessary at all (truth to tell, the fact that they’d just recorded my heart rate at 44 bpm was making me wonder if sedation would even be safe). “You don’t have to be sedated,” Dr. Friedlander told me, “but it’ll hurt.”
I knew he was just being overcautious. After all, why would all those other people lie to me? And last February, in this very hospital, I’d been told I had a very high pain tolerance. So I threw back the sheet and pointed to my vagina-boy nec-fas scar: “I dug this out with a spork,” I said. “Let’s lose the sedation.” Although I did agree to let them hook up the IV purely as a contingency, in case I changed my mind.
Besides, staying awake, I’d be able to watch the show on their big flat-screen TV!
That was also true. You can see your own insides up close and personal, and it does look pretty cool (the initial entry maneuvers are a bit reminiscent of the light trip at the end of 2001, and most of my GI tract looks kinda like a beigeier version of the Derelict’s passageways from Alien). Here’s the catch, though: the reason you can see all that stuff is because they’ve just jammed the whole 2nd-Unit film crew from Lord of the Rings up your ass, and while that ship may sail smoothly on the straightaway, it’s a real pig on corners.
Wouldn’t you know it, my colon has a lot of corners.
Wasn’t too bad at first. I commented on the local topography, wondered if those bumps were polyps or yesterday’s peanuts (the latter, as it turned out), felt these strange urges to shit out the things that were crawling up my insides but it was all more eww than argh. Then they rounded the first corner. The 2nd Unit does not have a steering wheel, per sé: rather, they bump into the traffic barriers and kind of grind around the curve, sparks spewing from the collision of vehicle and substrate. It is at this point that Substrate starts to wonder if (to paraphrase Arthur Dent) this might be some new and unexpected definition of doesn’t hurt with which he had not been previously acquainted.
Then there are the lies of omission, the things that people just “forget” to tell you: things like “They’ve got this sandblasting nozzle built into the head to sluice out the chunky bits”, or “they’ve got this gas-injection system to pump your gut up like an old inner tube, blow it up to about three times the safety spec”. And all the while that bloody python is head-butting its way around each new corner, while I graduate from groans to clench-toothed questions about how much further to actual roars of pain. By this time someone was actually grabbing me around the stomach and pulling back on it, presumably to keep the Hindenburg from crowning too early.
I think I made it to the last corner: someone said That’s it, but I don’t know if that was before or after I yelled Uncle and let them start the drip. I’m pretty sure there was no loss of consciousness, but there was at least a momentary loss of episodic memory; next thing I know the sewer snake is pulling out of me like Santorum fleeing a bath-house, and I’m being wheeled through a doorway over which someone has affixed the sign:
Your Treatment is Over
I’m telling you, decompression was almost as painful as the colonoscopy itself. I couldn’t even roll over. All I could do was lie clenching on my side, pushing as hard as I could and venting occasional hurricanes of high-pressure gas (fortunately the gurneys have these little brakes to lock down the wheels, so the whole thing won’t start rolling down the hall under jet-assisted takeoff). Eventually my gut de-distended enough for me to see my own toes again; by then the gas pain had subsided from abdomen-wide tsunami down to waves of peristaltic cramping, each of which urged another Martian atmosphere through the exits.
It’s a few hours later now, and I am home. Many is the time I’ve had to interrupt this soliloquy to vent down the hall; indeed, I find myself compelled to do that yet again, even as I type. I am not going to do any more work this day: I am going to go to Skyrim and get married. (Nobody mocks you for farting, in Skyrim.) But I consider it my personal responsibility to warn all and sundry: don’t believe what they tell you. It isn’t vanilla, it isn’t painless, it isn’t even — except in the crudest possible sense — sex.
And what really pisses me off is, after all that, they didn’t even find anything wrong with me.
I mean, last time I went through something like this, I at least had a case of flesh-eating disease to show for it