Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bob Mankoff wonders about the "routine" in "routine medical procedures" like "routine surgery"


"The thing about the term 'minor surgery,'" says Bob Mankoff, "is that you’ve got to remember the noun that the adjective is modifying -- “surgery,” which is a major thing. Frankly, anything having to do with my health is major.

by Ken

In his e-newsletter/blogpost this week, New Yorker cartoon editor introduces us to a cartoon alter-ego of his, a fellow not coincidentally named "Bob" who apparently wanders through Bob Mankoff's cartoons anguishing over impending health crises. Like this one:

As it happens, Bob tells us, he had "some minor surgery a few weeks ago." He assures us he's fine, but clues us in to his thoughts about "minor surgery" in the cartoon I've put atop this post. And it turns out that he's prone to, shall we say, close attention to health issues. "Even when there is nothing wrong with me," he says, "I’m among what is called 'the worried well.' ”
And when something does go wrong, even though I try to remain calm and not panic, I make preparations to panic, which inevitably leads to actual panicking. That’s O.K., because, really, why wait till the last minute?
He traces this anxiety level back to his mother. ("I’d like to blame my mother for this attitude, so I will.")
She lived to be ninety-three, but, for as long as I knew her, she was in what I call “robust ill health.” Whenever I asked her how she was, she would say, “I don’t feel one hundred per cent.” I think her high-water mark was in the low seventieth percentile.

And when I was a baby, she would put a mirror up to my mouth to see if it fogged over, to show that I was breathing and alive. I still do that myself every once in a while, just to make sure. My mother instilled in me a potential for hypochondria, a potential that has been fully realized and has made its way into a number of my cartoons. (The name used in them is no coincidence.)
As far back as 1988 Bob conjured this minidrama:

"Still," says our man, "for all my medical crises, real and imagined, I’m very fortunate to have my wife, who helps me put things in perspective."

But in conclusion Bob appends to the above caption a single word: "Yet."

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