Hospital Clothes

I went to the hospital for an x-ray yesterday. It wasn’t anything major, but I very soon realized how little time I actually spend in the hospital — which I’m glad for. After registering downstairs, and then checking in upstairs, I was then told that I would have to undress and put on a hospital gown — if that’s what you can call it. I was led into a little change room where I was shown my gown that I was to put on, followed by a light blue floral housecoat. The nurse pointed out some plastic bags as well, which might be used to put my personal belongings in. I felt like I was going in to prison. Why did I have to put them in a bag? Was I never to see them again?

Hospitals are not friendly to any sense of dignity or manliness. The scanty clothes they give you seem as if they were made for another species, one with a single dimension with two protruding arms — certainly not for humans. I could hardly figure out how to wear the silly gown at all. I tried it on with the opening at the back, remembering that in movies I had seen similar gowns close down the back. Then, after fiddling helplessly with strings that didn’t seem to meet, I switched the gown again, overlapping the sides at the front. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, after almost bursting out in laughter in my little stall, I just wrapped the thing around me, pulled the strings together and then pulled on the housecoat, trying to hide the low neck and over exposed chest that had resulted in the way I had put the gown on. Why do hospitals subject patients to such torture? Can’t they post instructions on how to wear these outlandish clothes?

I finally emerged from the curtain, my small bag of belongings in hand, trying smother my giggles. I was glad there wasn’t a mirror around, or I fear I would have just burst out laughing in front of everyone in the waiting room. I just wanted someone to laugh at me — to laugh at how ridiculous I looked, so at least I would know that someone felt as I did. But unfortunately hospitals are professional places, where their scantily clad patients are met with polite faces and professional discourse.

After being led inside the x-ray lab, I was told to stand up on a platform while a giant contraption with a laser was aimed at me from across the room. Barefoot, with my thin clothes oddly overlapping to cover me, I felt like a prisoner in Abu Gharib, rigidly awaiting my fate. First they had me face the machine, with my back to a plastic panel while they shone a light in my eye. Then they told me to turn and face the panel, putting my arms on what they called ‘handles’, far too high to rest my hands on at full length. I had a wonderful view of the close wall from there, where I studied its tiles and small medical notes on a sheet of paper while the giant machine chugged away. I wondered if the nurses ever laughed at all this — their patients having to stare aimlessly at a wall waiting for them to say that the procedure was done and that they could step down from their pedestal of shame.

With my clothes back on, I felt I became a human again, and after wandering the halls and getting lost, I was soon back outside in the fresh air. No more hospital clothes for me.