Aw, Forget It

We all forget things from time to time. It's human nature. We forget where we left our glasses. We forget our keys are in the ignition when we close the car door, though somehow we always remember just on time to watch the door slam shut in slow motion. We forget to pay bills, forget anniversaries and birthdays, and forget to let the cat in. Hey, forgetting we have a cat which might enjoy being in a warm house at night isn't so bad, at least most of us don't forget our surgical tools are inside a patient's stomach when we sew them up.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (motto: "We'd rather be the New and Improved England Journal of Medicine but we're not") reports that surgical teams in the United States leave sponges, clamps, and even 11-inch metal retractors inside as many as 1,500 patients each year. This is outrageous! Do you realize how much money hospitals are losing because they don't know they should be billing HMOs for these amenities patients are taking home with them? Luckily most of the items are recovered, though not until the patient complains of a strange spongy feeling in their stomach, their iron level skyrockets from the stainless steel addition to their body cavity, or they come in for more surgery and -- whoops! -- we've been wondering what happened to those hemostats.

Two-thirds of these mistakes happen even though everything is counted before and after the procedure, so it's possible the doctors not only forget where they put things -- something their mothers spent years trying to drum into their heads -- they also forget how to count. The solution is simple: make them more accountable for the hospital's property. After all, you know they don't forget where they leave their own things, such as, say, their golf clubs. Nor do they mistake them for a handgun the way they mistake a surgical sponge for an internal organ. Well, not yet anyway.

Actually this may not be as farfetched as you think, especially if they buy the Smith & Wesson golf clubs which will be on the market soon. That's right. Before you know it you'll be able to show your brand loyalty by owning golf clubs and handguns that bear the same logo, something most of us have only been able to dream about until now. The company says it's a natural brand extension because "The guy who buys a Smith & Wesson handgun is in many ways in the same demographic as the guy who buys golf clubs." This is true, especially if the guy's name is O.J. Simpson. Of course doctors and O.J. aren't the only ones who should make sure they remember which Smith & Wesson item is which. Jack Nicholson needs to pay close attention, something you'll appreciate if he picks one up and you happen to be sitting in the Mercedes he's eyeballing.

Another thing people forget is manners, especially when using their cell phone. And considering there are now more cell phones in the world than land lines, this is becoming a real problem. Speaking into them loudly in restaurants, walking down the street gesturing wildly while seemingly talking to oneself, and driving one-handed while sipping a latte, reading the newspaper, and swerving from lane to lane is so common I'm surprised Emily Post hasn't rolled over in her grave, dialed 1-800-CALL-ATT, and told Carrot Top to shut up. Though I'm sure if she had we wouldn't have heard it announced at the top of her lungs throughout the whole cemetery.

That's why it's good news that several companies in Israel and Japan have developed cell phone jammers. For about $400 these, well, cell-phone size units can block all signals in an area the size of a dining room. They're illegal in most countries, including Canada, Britain, and the U.S, where you can be fined $11,000 and tossed in jail for a year for using one. But that hasn't stopped Europe and the U.S. from being the companies' largest markets. One word of caution: Be careful about using these around anyone who's talking on a cell phone while holding anything with the Smith & Wesson logo on it.

Forgetfulness is only going to get worse. According to the United Nations Population Division (motto: "Stand still, we're trying to count"), 10 percent of the world's population is over the age of 60 and that number will double by the year 2050. While some people are born forgetful and stay that way, most of us get worse as we age. We try to stop it by taking gingko, leaving Post-It notes on the bathroom mirror, and doing mental exercises like crossword puzzles and mulling over Pete Townsend's advice to die before we get old, something he may be starting to wish he'd done.

Townsend, the leader of the English rock band The Who, was recently questioned by Scotland Yard for being forgetful. It seems he forgot that he used his credit card to view child pornography online. Don't you just hate when that happens? Once reminded, he said it was research for a book he's writing. It seems he may have been sexually abused as a child, but he's forgotten whether he really was or not. He also appears to have forgotten the sentences English rockers Gary Glitter and Jonathan King received for the same crime, though a judge may yet remind him of that.

But at least he knows where his guitars are. And they're not inside any patients. The truth is, all this forgetfulness wouldn't be such a problem if we could only remember to take our gingko every day. I wonder if Smith & Wesson will be coming out with a pill reminder anytime soon.

More Mad Dog can be found at www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of travel humor columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting On This Airplane For 12 Hours?" is published by Xlibris Corp. He can be reached at md@maddogproductions.com.

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