It's tough to imagine a more boring sport than water polo. Boring to watch, that is. Fourteen hulking men (or women, who are probably hulking as well) tread water in a giant pool for what seems like forever and try to throw a ball into each other's goal. Torture for both viewer and participant.
The commentators opened today's segment by repeatedly reminding their likely novice viewers that water polo is the most difficult sport in the world to play. Every sport (except baseball and golf) claims to be the most physically demanding sport in the world. Ironically, the two hardest things to do in sports are (1) hitting a major league curveball, and (2) hitting a golf ball near crowds of people without killing anyone.
If you're actually interested in the rules of water polo, check out this idiotic guide courtesy of ESPN. I learned that the goalies are about half as large as the other players, and that the playing area is marked by lines of "bouys."
My college roommate was on the school water polo and swim teams, and my buddies and I would often cheer him on at home meets. There was a particularly buxom freshman girl on the swim team that was legendary for causing epileptic seizure epidemics simply by climbing out of the pool after a race. Boy, do I miss college.
Speaking of miracles of science, I had a particularly grueling MRI done last week. I was back at the __________ Imaging Center, the same place I've had this kind of thing done in the past. I reprised one of my earlier performances by enduring a brain-spine-thoracic scan, which most industry insiders consider the Iron Man Triathlon of MRIs. This particular combination usually takes almost an hour to complete, and can last well over 75 minutes with contrast injections. The three components of the examination are rarely administered consecutively, except perhaps with patients in vegetative states, medically induced comas, etc. Unless, of course, that patient is none other than The Ice Pop.
The ____________ Imaging Center is absolutely top-notch, with state-of-the-art equipment and a wonderful staff. I've developed a bit of a name for myself at this particular facility for my ability to endure long periods of time "inside the tube." I scrawl my signature on the required forms and releases, skipping most of the minutae I imagine most clients are asked to complete. An annoying man on a cell phone jabbers away next to me as his partner (girlfriend? paid escort?) fills out his paperwork. Apparently he had a meeting later in the afternoon and was annoyed at waiting so long. You think this is a long time? You're about to learn all about time, my friend...
A nurse materializes from the special elevator, and summons me to come "down to the center." She also summons the phone guy and his companion, which struck me as odd. Before I could think much about it, the jackass bounds past me and almost knocks me off my fucking walker. The nurse stammers an apology (for him), and escorts the three of us into the elevator.
The jerk was still yelling into his phone as we descended two floors beneath the earth. The nurse says, "Sir, you can't use your phone now. There's no reception down here anyway!" The guy, who looked like Kelsey Grammer after ten twists in a vertical head-vise, loses his signal and growls at the nurse. We finally arrive at the facility proper.
Again, this place usually runs with as smooth and efficient as a Swiss train. But something is a bit off today, which is both concerning and a bit depressing. The waiting area, always a calming oasis with tons of room, was completely packed. A guy with a yarmulke rocked an infant in an enormous stroller while his wife waited for her exam to begin. Grammer keeps arguing with the escort nurse, and I calmly wait for my own personal nurse to show me the changing room, outfit my catheter, and present me to the awaiting team of imaging technicians.
My suspicions were validated right away, as the escort nurse fumbled around with a few plastic jugs of barium sulfate for Grammer. He was slated ahead of me (I guess?), but still hadn't drank his barium for whatever the hell he was having done. She says they can fit me in ahead of him as soon as I'm changed, and hands me a plastic keychain. I say, "Shorts and shoes off, robe tied in front?" and she says, "No, just put your bag in the locker, and don't take off your shoes." I say, "OK, but shorts off, right?" and she says, "Leave them on, and don't take off your shoes." I imagined my shorts ripping off my body and through the tube by their metal snap, but didn't argue. As I made my way over to the changing lockers, a new nurse (named "Nimh") hops out of the imaging rooms and asks if I'm ready. I say, "Just putting my bag away," and Nimh says, "Shorts off. Keep your shoes on." WTF?
I came out of the locker area, and asshole was slurping barium sulfate like a kid at the soda shoppe. The guy with the baby has his black shoes off and seems to be nodding off, while his wife was already in room #2. Nimh leads me in to the tubes and I ask about my arm catheter, since I'm being scanned with and without contrast. She mutters something about not having time we'll do it later blah blah 20 minutes barium OK let's go! and I'm going in.
Finally I see my old friend, Anton LaVey. "Anton" (not really his name) is the tech that's done all my MRIs at this place, and a great guy. I'm debating between high five and handshake when Anton totally disses me-- he's just too busy with tube #2! What's even weirder is that there's a new assistant that looks like an imitation of Anton, with the shaved head, pointy beard, but not nearly as cool as his mentor. The minion, as I immediately dub him, doesn't seem to be doing much of anything.
I'm crushed that Anton won't be twirling the knobs on my scan. I had a whole back-and-forth planned out between us, after my MRI tech friend from Cali told me they were able to play music for patients while in the tubes! Something like this:
ME: "Hey man, any chance you can pipe in some tunes for me during round one? I'm thinking Cluster's Sowiesoso would be pretty sweet, if you got it."
ANTON: "Negative. We have Floyd Wish You Were Here, cool?"
ANTON: "I said, we have Floyd..."
ME: "Yeah, I heard you."
ME: "Nah, forget it."
Instead, I get Nimh herself doing the setup and the controls for my MRI. I'm imagining results weeks later looking like an Etch-a-Sketch drawing, and a report stating, "Results inconclusive..." But Nimh was alright, deftly inserting my earplugs and packing my head tightly into the plastic helmet. She packs more foam next to my ears so that I literally can't hear anything (great!), but then explains what the first round would entail while I'm halfway inside the tube (bmfft mwar bmffa mwrlla wrrmf... mmkay?!).
With my head as cozy as a cotton clam, I'm totally in the zone within minutes. I like to keep my eyes barely open while in the tube, like a really stoned frankfurter. I'm about 20 minutes in and feeling like I can do 25 to life when I'm yanked out of the machine. Nimh tells me they have to fit in another client because his barium only works for so long and he's been waiting and I'll have to finish the other parts of my MRI when he's done in about 30 minutes. Fucking Grammer!
I make the walk of shame back out to the lounge, and Grammer's in his robe like some kind of perv waiting to pounce. The magazine table looks like the common area of an upstate SUNY dorm, with shit all over the place. The dad is full on passed out now, and still has his damn shoes off. Why does he get to take his shoes off?!! His child is now awake, and getting restless in his enormous stroller. Making matters worse, my iPod and crossword puzzle are locked in the damn locker, and I can't get to the magazines because of the stroller and the barium bottles. Plus my balls are totally squeezing out of my boxer briefs.