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The Unkindest Cut Of All

I am half the man I used to be, for on Friday July 14th 2000 I had a vasectomy.

Several of my friends have been there before me so I had some idea of what I was letting myself in for. Laurie sings alto in a choir (this is rare – altos are usually female, men generally find it too difficult to hit the high registers). As he was taken in to the theatre for his operation he was amused to hear the concert programme playing soothing music in the background: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. He made himself comfortable on the trolley and the surgeon remarked (in what was probably his standard reassuring joke at this point), "Don’t worry, you won’t be singing soprano after the operation."

Laurie smiled enigmatically. "But I already do," he protested. "Please don’t take that away as well!"

He claims that the surprised look on the surgeon’s face more than made up for the wisps of smoke that rose from his groin as the ends of his severed tubes were cauterised.

It’s hard driving a car with your legs crossed, but somehow I managed it and I pulled in to the hospital car park with plenty of time to spare. The receptionist took my details and tied a plastic ribbon round my wrist. It had my name and my surgeon’s name printed on it, just in case either of us forgot who we were. Then I waited, legs crossed of course, for the nurse. Robin held my hand and told me I was very brave, but I didn’t uncross my legs.

"You can still change your mind, you know," she said.

"No I can’t," I replied. "It’s far too late for that – I’ve booked a sick day from the office. If I cancel it now, I shudder to think what the paperwork will be like…"

Eventually the nurse came and took me away into a changing room.

"Take your clothes off and hang them in this locker," she said. "You can keep your underwear on. Put on this sexy nightdress and this dressing gown and pin the key of your locker to the dressing gown. Here are some high fashion paper shoes for your feet and here is a slinky shower cap for your head. When you’re ready go to the waiting room across the corridor and I’ll meet you there. You’ll find it easier to take your trousers off if you uncross your legs."

She bustled off and left me to it. I followed her instructions (it IS easier to take your trousers off with your legs uncrossed; I wonder how she knew?). I put on my paper slippers and hobbled to the waiting room.

The nurse met me there and took off me to her consulting chamber where she sat me on a chair. She checked all my particulars again and strapped a red plastic bracelet to my wrist. This one listed my drug allergies.

She picked up a gadget that positively bristled with dials and gauges and flashing lights. "I need to take your temperature," she said.

Obligingly I opened my mouth, but it did me no good for she thrust the gadget into my ear. After a few seconds it beeped and she took it out again, squinted at one of its myriad displays and wrote down a figure. "Now I need to take your pulse."

I held out my hand, expecting an intimate though gentle caress as she fingered my wrist and consulted her watch. However all that happened was that she clipped a high-tech clothes peg to my finger. After about ten seconds a series of LEDs lit up and she unclipped it and again wrote down a figure. "Now I need to take your blood pressure."

By now I was wise, and I just sat there wondering what kind of space age device would appear. But she fooled me by trundling up a perfectly ordinary (and very well used) sphygmomanometer. She wrapped the cuff around my upper arm and pumped madly away. The cuff squeezed tight and then relaxed as she released the pressure. Again she wrote down a figure. "Well that’s all nice and normal," she said. "Just go and sit in the waiting room again and I’ll tell the surgeon you are ready."

I went and sat down and crossed my legs again. The moment, it seemed, had now arrived…

The surgeon and I walked down to the operating theatre together. It wasn’t far. The room was brilliantly lit and much larger than I expected. The trolley in the centre looked quite forlorn. Over in the far corner sat a nurse, so hugely enveloped in surgical gown, cap and mask that she resembled nothing so much as a pile of green linen with eyes. "Hello, Alan," she said cheerfully, and waved a fabric arm at me.

"Just climb up on the trolley," said the surgeon. "You’ll find it easier to climb up if you uncross your legs." Astonishingly, he was correct!

The nurse tucked my right arm under a sheet so it wouldn’t get cold and clipped another high-tech clothes peg to my finger. My left arm lay out across a board attached to the trolley. The surgeon asked me to make a fist a few times so that he could find a vein and then he stuck a needle into me. The other end of the needle was attached to a drip that fed a sedative into my arm. After a few seconds, I completely lost touch with the world; a most eerie sensation.

I never lost consciousness. I was perfectly well aware that things were happening. They just didn’t seem very important. They were a long way away and no concern of mine. I knew that a local anaesthetic was being injected into my scrotal regions and that sharp scalpels were slicing vitally important bits of me away. But I simply didn’t care; I was far too relaxed and happy.

At some stage in the proceedings it occurred to me that I had spent the whole of my life up to this point as an eight bit binary byte. But now that my most significant bit had been flipped to zero, I was doomed to spend the rest of my life as plain ascii text.

I was rather proud of this insight. It proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that I was an irremediable geek. But it also proved that even though the world had gone away I was still capable of coherent thought. Always assuming that the thought I’d just had was coherent of course; a debateable point at best.

These musings were interrupted by a loud ripping noise as the surgeon pulled off his rubber gloves. "That’s it," he said, "all done."

"Gosh, that was fast," I burbled.

"Yes. Once I get going I don’t hang about." He seemed quite proud of himself. "You can cross your legs again, if you want to."

They wheeled me out of the theatre into a recovery area where they attached me to a machine that went ping! Annoyingly it was behind me so I couldn’t examine it. Every so often it got curious about my blood pressure and a cuff around my right arm would inflate without warning. It took me by surprise every time.

A nurse came and squinted at something on the machine. "Your lungs aren’t working properly yet after the anaesthetic," she said. "Take lots of deep breaths."

I tried, but I kept forgetting (I felt fine – as far as I was concerned everything was working normally). The nurse came back and told me off a few times. "Deep breaths," she said fiercely. "You’ll breathe a lot better if you uncross your legs!"

She was wrong!

Eventually they judged that I was sufficiently compos mentis to have company and Robin was brought in to supervise me drinking a cup of tea. The nurse unclipped my locker key from my dressing gown and bustled off, returning a short time later with my clothes. She pondered the machine that went ping! for a moment and then disconnected me. "You can get dressed now."

Robin and I walked out of the recovery area and back to reception where I was given a prescription for a pain killer and an enormous bill. Robin drove me home, stopping at a chemist along the way to fill the prescription.

I wasn’t at all sure why I needed the painkillers. I was feeling no pain at all. But as the local anaesthetic wore off I began to realise what the pills were for. Interestingly the pain was not in the region of the operation. I had two small cuts on my scrotum where the surgeon had gone in to tie off the tubes. These were now stitched up and although they were bleeding slightly, they didn’t hurt at all. The pain was deep inside at the pit of my stomach, and it was a steady, sickening ache.

The bleeding stopped after a day or so and the pain gradually went away. By the end of the following week I was pretty much back to normal, though occasionally a sudden movement would put some stress on the stitches and there would be a short, sharp, jabbing needle of pain that invariably made me jump. But even that eventually stopped and I haven’t crossed my legs for at least two days.

However that in itself has proved to be dangerous. Milo, my ten and a half kilogram cat, likes nothing better than jumping up on to my lap to get stroked. In the days that my lap has been newly exposed he has several times launched himself with the unerring aim of a stealth missile straight on to my stitches. As I scream, he purrs loudly, kneading my wounds ecstatically with both front paws and dribbling with delight…

Now all I have to do is wait for the final all clear. Apparently the body builds up a reservoir of live sperm and it takes time for these to dissipate. I have to go for tests in October to see if I’m firing blanks yet. If not, the tests have to continue until I get two negative results in a row. One particularly potent friend of mine kept producing positive results for so long that the doctors were seriously considering opening him up again to see if the tubes had grown back together (this can happen, though it is extremely rare). Apparently the second operation, should it become necessary, is free. Quite an inducement, I’d have thought! Fortunately he finally managed to empty his tank and the second operation never took place.

Rumour has it that it takes 16 ejaculations to drain the tank completely. In order not to lose count, a friend put a bowl containing 32 mints by the side of the bed. After each ejaculation, he and his partner would both eat a mint. When the bowl was empty he trotted off for his confirmatory test. It worked for him, perhaps it will work for me.

Meanwhile, if you see me looking tired and drawn, please be sympathetic and understanding. I’ve been bonking my brains out. Doctor’s orders, you know…

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