Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 28, 2021
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When hobbies go wrong

When hobbies go wrong:

I was sitting at the kitchen table my wife had built. I watched her bead a necklace of semi-precious stones. Her jewellery tools rested on top of the manuscript of her latest novel. Hanging on the wall behind her was her most recent painting. I had finally finished my charts. My wife, of course, had completed hers hours ago.

She looked up at me. "Cut it out," she said. "You're staring at me. It's creeping me out." I wasn't exactly staring. I was gazing out into the distance in a comfortable, unfocused stupour. "I don't have anything to do," I explained. She took it as a complaint. "Why don't you get a hobby?" she suggested.

What did I know about hobbies? I worked: hobbies were for day camps and rehab centres. "Hobbies" was the box I always left blank on applications, surveys and resumes. "Why don't you do something with the kids?" my wife asked.

That was a good idea. I decided that it might be time to learn to sail, seeing as we lived on an island. I dragged my 16-year-old son Michael along.

The first class went smoothly. I was able to keep up with most of the nautical terms. I began to picture myself in a white captain's hat at the helm of our new yacht. We spent a lot of time tying knots. This reminded me of my surgical rotation, except the sailing instructor didn't yell at me and didn't ask me to hold a retractor at an impossible angle for six hours.

The second lesson did not go quite as smoothly. The water was a bit choppy and three seconds after stepping into the rocking dinghy, the perfect storm began to churn inside me. After five minutes, Michael had to take over the helm. I hung my head over the gunwale and contributed to Victoria's reputation for dumping raw sewage into the Juan de Fuca Strait.

"Stand by to jibe!" Mike shouted. "Huh?" I mumbled. "Jibe-ho!" Mike cried. I lifted my green face out of the brine just in time to meet the metal boom that had swept across the width of the dinghy. The wind wielded the boom like a baseball bat. I was thrown over-board, reeling and gasping, thrashing in my own vomit.

Several weeks later, Mike and his 14-year-old brother Joe suggested that we try paint-ball. This seemed harmless enough; people having fun with paint. When we arrived at the Victoria Paintball Park, we found it overrun by pseudo-military types dressed in camouflage. Their multi-coloured mohawks, facial piercings and beer bellies, however, suggested that they weren't regular army. These were people you might want to hide from in the event that a blackout caused even a momentary lapse in police services.

Teams were drawn up for the war game. One side represented Germany. The other was Russia. I was Poland. My children immediately joined the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. I was mercilessly pummelled with paint bullets for the next four hours. I spent the next two weeks limping and trying to explain the resulting hickeys to my wife.

As the last of the bruises faded, it occurred to me that I should renew my passion for Canada's national game. I went to the local second-hand sports store and outfitted myself with hockey equipment (I splurged on a new jockstrap).

Sure, it's a violent game, but I was prepared: I had a helmet with a cage, a neck guard, shoulder and elbow pads, gloves, pants, shin pads and, most importantly, a steel re-enforced athletic protector.

It was exhilarating to be out on the ice again. I quickly found my old form. In fact, I skated circles around the eight year olds who came out for shinny. More importantly, I made it through the first game unscathed. I was sweaty and elated when I pulled back into my driveway: I had found my hobby. I couldn't wait to tell my wife.

I opened the back of the van, grabbed my hockey bag, and threw the hatch down. It was a manoeuvre I had performed countless times with groceries. Unfortunately, this time, one loop of the hockey bag got caught on some inconveniently placed lever. Also, unbeknownst to me, on my desk was an unopened recall notice warning of imminent hatch-support malfunction. The tethered hockey bag offered up my noggin' like a melon on a tee-ball stand. The struts gave way and the hatch drop-ped like a guillotine onto my skull.

When I regained consciousness, I was lying on the driveway, squinting at the legs of my children and dog. For the next week, I smiled inappropriately and couldn't remember my secretary's name. My wife began to worry about a subdural hematoma. When I began loading the dinner dishes into the refrigerator, she insisted I go for a CT scan.

As we left for the hospital, a gust of wind slammed our front door shut on my right index finger. "Are you okay?" "No! No!" I shouted, grimacing, cradling my finger. As I later lay on the gurney, grinning like a moron and singing "itsy-bitsy spider," the radiologist reassured my wife. The CT scan was normal -- or at least unchanged from baseline. My colleague looked at me and shook his head. "Maybe your husband should take up a hobby."

After a few weeks of convalescence, my wife suggested that I try a more sedate pastime. I attended the Victoria Stamp Club's monthly meeting. Most of the members looked old enough to have built their rare stamp collections from postage peeled off their own correspondence. It was safe enough, but I was ejected from the proceedings when, in an attempt to be helpful, I approached several members and offered to lick the Queen's backside.

I staggered home, up the narrow sidewalks of Rockland Avenue, humiliated and drunk with fatigue and boredom. In one living room, a giant-screen TV was on. The Canucks were playing the Leafs. I cocked my head to take in the action as I strode past, mesmerized by the furious flashing of skates and sticks.

I was wondering if the players had assistants who unloaded their hockey bags from their vans when -- bam! I walked into a metal pole. The left side of my head throbbed as I slowly slid down to the ground.

Two concussions, a paintball beating, and a broken finger convinced my wife that I should take a more passive approach to the world of hobbies. I had wasted $400 on sailing lessons, squandered hundreds more on paint-ball, and lost the non-refundable, $45 registration fee for the stamp club.

However, the $500 I spent on hockey equipment did not go to waste. My wife dressed me up in my helmet and cage, neck guard, shoulder and elbow pads, gloves, pants, shin pads, and, of course, the steel re-enforced athletic protector.

She sat me down at her homemade kitchen table and served me a lukewarm (not hot) mug of cocoa. She put a straw in the cup, so I could drink through the cage. "Now you just sit there," she said, "and watch me while I make some jewellery. Are you comfy?" "Comfy," I assured her. I brought the cocoa up to my cage to take a sip and poked myself in the eye with the straw.


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