Dear Dirty America


Doctor: Men Are Killed By Cars & Other Men

June 08
14:00 2012


Los Angeles — Six days after my car wreck, I visited the doctor to get my head examined. Literally. I knocked it against my driver’s side window.

Dizziness and drowsiness. That’s what I told the doctor. He was pushing into the final halls of ‘middle age’ and would soon pop out the other side into his ‘twilight years’, as I’ve heard them called. I wouldn’t know. I’m still in the late burping dawn of my youth. Late twenties.

“Do you know what the biggest cause of death is to your age group?” the doctor asked me. His wrists were adorned with a couple metal bracelets that looked like they were being used to harness, or at least take better advantage of the celestial body alignments. I know, because I almost bought myself a karma bracelet a few years ago, and then I decided not to. What could go wrong in my life, at this young age?

Well, an 88-year old prescription pill-popping speed freak blowing through a red just before ten o’clock at night last Friday changed that earlier sentiment. But karma bracelets are expensive. I still don’t know if it’s worth it. If my karma was god-awful, I’d have been hit directly on my driver’s side, with her car’s front end in my lap, but instead the good universe spared me by about a foot. In this one instance, eleven inches is good enough for me.

What is the most frequent cause of death to males my age, I re-asked the doctor. Tell me, you slick, New Age bastard. What? The doctor opened his mouth and shaped his first syllable with his lips before any sound came out. “Cars,” he said, and he let the word soak into my consciousness, since, after all, he knew I’d just been in a smash-up. “And other men.” He let the idea hang.

Other men, I thought. What does that mean? I imagined two men fighting outside a bar. One looked like the ‘stately plump’ Buck Mulligan. He had a bubbly butt, a short haircut, and a few coarse chin hairs. The other man looked like me. Not as stately, and not bubbly anywhere. I kept thinking how I didn’t want to be at this bar anyway, and how ever had I gotten myself into a scuffle? Why didn’t I carry mace? That would end this thing more peacefully, and we wouldn’t be on the doctor’s list of ‘frequent causes of death for males my age’.

Another scenario bumped that one out of the way. Was this doctor making an obscure reference to the Odyssey? Odysseus, possibly, constantly leading his men into danger. With Polyphemus, the Cyclops. And after their harrowing escape, Odysseus stupidly calling ashore to the blinded monster, I’m Odysseus, the son of a bitch who took your eye! And the Cyclops hurls enormous stones toward the sound and almost capsizes the Odysseus ship.

Or maybe when Odysseus sends his men into the seductive and deadly trap set by Kirke, on the island of Aeaea. They were turned to swine. That was another example of men being killed or destroyed by other men.

The doctor and I sat in silence and listened to the clock tick awhile. I couldn’t think of any questions. I’d probably suffered a mild concussion, he’d told me when he first checked me out. And I’d suffered from long-term, severe paranoia, he guessed. Maybe that’s why my mind was blank. The concussion had uprooted the paranoia, for awhile. I’m just a few steps above a vegetable, I thought. The doctor rubbed his bald head with his dry hands. Mine were sweating. Something about the climate in that tiny medical room.

So this check up is free? I asked. “Ha-HA!” he said. That was all. So when do I get the report, I asked. I was almost killed. The least I could do is get a free checkup. “I’ll have the report at the front desk for you in a couple days. But until then, be careful out there, in this city. Many bad drivers. Always speeding. Pushing yellow and red lights. In a rush. Cutting corners. Taking risks. Tired drivers. Ugly drivers. Drugged drivers–”

I know, I said, lifting one finger to mark that particular point. The woman who hit me was physically slammed on prescription pills. A habitual user. I could see it in her eyes. Unsteady, shifting, watery.

“The police’ll take a buzzed driver in anytime,” the doctor said. His eyelids stiffened and he seemed to look into a mental distance. “One fricken glass of wine, boy. They’ll strip search you, tear up your car, slam your body on the hood. But they let the hopped up elderly crowd roar around town in their luxury sedans–”

Completely ripped outta their skulls, I said, on approved, Big Pharma medication.

“Yes!” he shouted. He stood up. I’d hit a nerve. “And you know, the pharmaceutical companies tell you their drugs are safe. The FDA approves of them. But these old folks are on a cocktail of approved drugs that makes them sleepy, dizzy, have slower response times, be more prone to seizure and blackouts, gives them bowel trouble and stomach cramps, headaches, loss of vision, many of the drugs are diuretics. And we let these people drive while on this stuff.” The doctor sat on his squeaky padded stool.

This goddamned society, I said. Built by half-cocked Puritans run mad by incest and an archaic theology written for tribal Jews three thousand years ago. This goddamned holy fucking society. And all those mood enhancing, bowel relaxing, cholesterol lowering, circulation improving, mental clarity inducing medicines get shit into our water system.

The doctor nodded. “Preach it,” he said, “while you’re inspired.” I do, I told him. I run a blog. It’s famous in North Korea, but it’s still taking off here in the states. “God, I love that,” he said. “Really love that. Anything that can survive in North Korea must be made of the toughest elements.” Not even bacteria, I said, can survive there.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” the doctor said. I opened my right eye really wide and aimed it in his direction. I would, I said.


See also Car Wreck Series: Memorializing a Car Wreck

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