Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
Among the indignities of aging is needing a colonoscopy. I pushed it
off as long as I could, but finally agreed to schedule the procedure. I
thought the prep would be the worst part. But when I was in the pre-
procedure phase, resting with some calming drug and all wired up for
monitoring and contingencies, the attending nurse got personal and
chatty with me. She’s someone I knew when I was married (a decade
ago), and she abused the captive audience that I was, chatting
cheerfully and intolerably about “good old days” when she and her ex
and me and mine spent lots of time together. I didn’t want to be rude,
and certainly didn’t want to alienate someone who’d be in the room for
the delicacies. But now I feel violated in more than one way. Is there
etiquette for these situations?
The etiquette is very clear and your nursing buddy violated it in
spades. It’s never okay or professional to mix a medical setting with
one’s person life outside it. You fully had the right to ask for a
supervisor and say that you preferred a different attendant, though I
understand that you felt vulnerable and likely more conflict averse
than usual given the context. The simplest thing would have been to
say I’m here for something I do not want, and I’m not in the mood to
reminisce or think about anything other than the ext hour of my life.
I’m trying to breathe deeply and stay calm. I’m happy you’re happy
but please pretend you don’t know me.
In the future, equip yourself with a book and an iPod with headphones.
If anyone tries to engage you in conversation about anything other
than the procedure itself, just say, I’m focusing all my energy on
staying calm and present. Unless this is a necessary part of the
colonoscopy process, we’d all be better off if you just let me focus on
staying calm. Some good news: If they didn’t find anything irregular
you should be good for ten years before being probed again.