hydroplaning toward a better tomorrow

A business associate of mine passed along the name of a doctor known for his discretion, a reputation supported by the fact that the address given to me led to an unmarked storefront in a part of town I knew primarily from my days as a cash-only delivery driver struggling to maintain willful ignorance of my cargo. I waited outside until I saw an important-looking man, presumably a patient, emerge from the door with a sling on his arm, escorted to his SUV under the careful watch of his subordinates, a couple of appliance-sized fellows in track suits and sunglasses. I pressed the buzzer, then waited on the verbal cue to speak the word I was given over the phone when I made my appointment. Saturnine. In contrast with the building’s exterior, the examining room was immaculately kept, and the doctor entered promptly with an outstretched hand to greet me. Having completed the business of putting me completely at ease, he asked of my physical complaints as I changed into a surprisingly comfortable gown while trying to discern the source of the relaxing music.
The doctor attentively checked the affected area in question, then assuaged my Wikipedia-fueled concerns and issued me a small tube of topical cream. And when I complimented his encyclopedic knowledge and computer-like recall of ailments related to mine, he looked me in the eye and said, “I can tell you a heck of a lot more than that for an extra $50.” Intrigued, I took him up on his offer and he led me to a room in which two-thirds of the space was taken up by a large machine emitting a menacing hum. I began to question my decision as he attached electrodes to my chest, forehead, and fingers, but tried to focus instead on the music, which I could have sworn had somehow become even more relaxing, perhaps even aggresively so. No sooner had he attached them all did the machine print out a sheaf of papers, punctuating the flurry of activity with a cheerful “ding!” and the doctor pronounced the procedure complete.
He handed me the papers, offering no explanation beyond “your career stats.” Quickly my bewilderment gave way to astonishment as I pored over page after page of a complete inventory of every activity I had ever participated in, replete with the number of times I had done them. Among other details, the copendium reported 24,192 times in my lifetime that I had brushed my teeth, using the equivalent of an application of toothpaste 504 feet in length and spanning 11 different brands. I had clipped my fingernails 1,716 times, my toenails 343. Over the years, I had eaten a total of 416 veggie combo classic footlongs from Danny’s Famous Subs, which would have qualified me for 52 free footlong subs of equal or lesser value, if I had not misplaced 29 of Danny’s Famous Subs Frequent Diner punchcards prior to completing them. 8,736 minutes of my life had been spent masturbating, compared with 8,947 minutes spent obscuring evidence that I had. I consumed the catalogued information voraciously, stopping only upon learning that fully 2,488 hours of my life had been taken up with meetings at work that had led to an increase on productivity so low as to not even register on this exhaustive list. I began to worry that I had wasted my life and resolved henceforth to value my remaining time before it dwindled away. The doctor correctly surmised my intentions as he observed my flipping ahead to the last page and stopped me. “Don’t bother, friend,” he said. “That list can tell you a lot of things, but no one knows for sure how much time we’ve got left.” Just then, a runaway gasoline tanker truck barreled through the front of the building, killing us both instantly in a horrific fireball. We awoke in the afterlife, bypassing an information desk crowded with souls trying to find out their lifetime pickup basketball shooting percentage, and proceeded confidently to the pizza buffet.

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July 2012
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