Son goutPart IIAfter my latest acute attack had subsided, I visited a local department store and purchased a pair of shoes with soft tops, that would go easier on my still sore foot. Opening my purchase at home, I discovered that they had sold me two left shoes. I immediately brought the box back to the store, and showed the shop assistant what was wrong. "I've had medical problems lately," I explained, "but it isn't this bad, at least not yet." She regarded me blankly, and said: "What would you like to do?" "Couldn't I return these for two right shoes?" She looked at me even more blankly.
I get a lot of those looks these days. At the University cafeteria, I sometimes stab a plastic knife into my breakfast scone and say to the clerk at the cash register: Behold, the sword in the scone. I get a blank look. Whenever I enter an elevator in a public building, I like to stand with my back to the door, facing all the other people, and say: You may wonder why I have called all of you together here. They look back like a row of fish at the aquarium window. It is like the 1950s again. Have the 1950s come back already?
In truth, my elevator prank is a little like whistling in the dark. I always shudder slightly when getting into one of those vertical cattle-cars, and the buildings they serve --- those quarter-mile high mausoleums with windows welded shut and prefabricated air --- have never been my favorite environments. After the events this past year, I have resolved never again even to enter a building that needs an elevator. The suspicion begins to dawn that the 78th floor of your typical American skyscraper might not be the healthiest place in the world. Not if there were an earthquake, say, or an accidental fire, or if a jet plane were to plow through the executive washroom, or merely if the air-conditioning failed. Put me down for an old worry-wort, but somehow this year has increased my partiality for terra firma --- the more firma the better. That is my health action plan for the near future.--- Jon Gallant