The doctor tells me that my retina has become detached, in fact tearing, and as a result I have acquired one of the few emergency illnesses of the eye. He urges me, no orders me, to depart immediately to a surgical facility 60 or so miles to the south. Do not delay, he warns, do not stop for food, drink or eat nothing.
Having had my eyes dilated so that the inner workings would be clearly revealed to examination, I was unable to drive. That task fell to my wife.
We arrived posthaste at the facility where once again I was examined. The doctor there tells me surgery is the only answer and that to let it go would mean the loss of the eye. Surprisingly, however, no rush is made that day to cut and hack the delicate membranes of the eye, instead we are sent home and told to come to another facility nearby the day after tomorrow. Why did we rush, I wonder? Why the false emergency rush?
We arrived early Thursday morning at the facility in this large city south of our small town. I endured a pre-examination the purpose of which was to clear me for surgery. It wasn’t until we went upstairs to the fifth floor that the true nature of the facility was revealed.
Everything seemed planned in advance. I mean everything. If something varied from the program, any unanticipated thing, confusion and annoyance was readily apparent. Protocol was not just observed, it was everything. Individuals within the frame, the system, seemed to move in a carefully rehearsed fashion. It seemed like clockwork.
At registration on the fifth floor, the woman moved methodically. I made the mistake of speaking out of turn. With a stern look in her eye, or was it rage, it was clear that she would accept no alteration in her practiced protocol. If I had any concerns at all she was adamant that protocol took precedence over them. She seemed upset that I had interrupted her routine and caused her to have to think.
This protocol and the evident machine like manner used to carry it out was observable in the entire facility. The very next day, after checking out of the hotel, we returned for a post-opt examination. Making the same error of speaking out of turn I once again ran foul of the flow of protocol. I asked questions of the doctor that I had previously asked the surgeon and received a second opinion. After I informed the doctor that the surgeon had given contradictory advice he seemed perturbed. At this point I do not know if he was perturbed at my success at tricking him into the second opinion or that I had disturbed the precious protocol. He snapped that I should ask the questions I had presented to the doctor when I see him next and abide by those instructions. His presentation of my results seemed rote, memorized. I disturbed the flow and caused him to think. Have they all become robots here? Do they sink into a haze of procedure from which they loathe to be taken until it’s time to depart for home? Is this what they do to avoid error? How can they be sure that everyone is the same and that the routine applies to all? Perhaps they have channels. One thing leads to another. Depending on what occurs and is said the road of the routine turns and twists. Nevertheless, there is no allowance for the unusual, the unexpected veering from the path. It almost seems like a train-wreck when the protocol is derailed.
How many times have they said the same things, given the identical instructions, carried out the same procedures? Are they living in some sort of dream like state and when brought back to reality by something not fitting the mold are startled and irritated?
Just a job. The routine as established is quite inhuman. Perhaps it is the result of many identical days. They have the veneer, the façade, of humanity, they look like humans, but do not observe too closely. You will see the practiced and methodic performance. You will realize the falseness of the caring attitude, the emptiness of pretended humor. They have become jaded. It is just a job now. It’s not the way they imagined when they decided to walk this path. The humdrum boredom has resulted in a practiced protocol… easily observed by the attentive. Too bad, I would rather it had all been real. I guess it is too much to ask of human beings.