Thursday, June 15, 2006

Formosan Medicine: Electrotherapy and Explosives


This image was originally posted at Flash Film Works

{This article was originally printed in the June Issue of 24/7 Magazine, which is now published in Taipei and much more cosmopolitan, and less juvenilian as a result. I have put all of these articles together in the sidebar under 24/7 Rants.}

Last night, I packed the helmet storage space under the seat of my scooter with gunpowder and ball bearings, topped up the gas tank to the brim, and hung four dozen bottles of gau liang from the bike’s handlebars, fenders and oh-shit handle. I started accelerating three blocks back and pointed the whole IED at the Chinese medical clinic on the corner. The wheelchair ramps and low stairs formed a natural jump. Earlier, I had piled up some old mattresses and cardboard boxes by the curbside, so I could just roll off before the collision and duck and cover before the explosion. Let me start again…

A few months ago, one of my elementary students was fooling around and, not knowing his own strength, kicked me full on in the center of my back. It hurt at the time but then went away and I thought little more about it. A few weeks ago my arm started bothering me, I thought it was a pinched nerve from swimming but one of my friends suggested that maybe the arm and back problems were related; maybe I should try acupuncture or massage therapy. He suggested I go see a doctor in the neighborhood who had fixed similar problem for him.

Having had enough of my arm problem, I decided to go see the doctor. The next best suggestion was to go get a bunch of Cortisone shots, something I was not comfortable with. I asked a few Taiwanese people and they told me this doctor was famous all over Taiwan. That should have been my first clue; my first real incentive to go and find the local Cortisone dealer instead.

Trusting my friends and my girlfriend, I was prepared to give the realms of Chinese medicine a chance. I went in with a sharp pain where I had been kicked and a mildly pinched nerve in my arm which was not painful, but annoying. The clinic was fairly empty when I drove home from work so I parked and went in. The nurses in the front giggled as I gave them my health card, the nurses in the back giggled as they looked out into the waiting room; two in the front, four or five in the back.

I waited in the empty clinic for half an hour and was about to leave when one foreigner and then another foreigner came in. Not wanting to appear chicken in front of my fellow ex-patriots, I stuck it out. A few minutes later my number was called and I went into the back.

The famous doctor was holding court in the back; sitting behind his desk, surrounded by young women in pink uniforms. His English was great, but after asking me a few questions he told me he knew what the problem was and grabbed my hand. The next thing I knew he was cracking bones in my fingers, wrist and hand. It was fairly painful and I thought he was going to tear one of my fingers off. Sensing my apprehension he said the last thing I wanted to hear; ‘Don’t worry.’

‘Oh Jesus,’ I thought to myself. That’s exactly what you hear in this country before a workman puts his hammer through your brand new computer or someone gives you a wriggling famous food that they’re expecting you to pop into your mouth. I find the words; ‘Don’t worry’ only work on folks that haven’t been here very long.

I thought about wrenching my hand away, grabbing one of the lighter nurses to use as a shield and trying to fight my way to the door, to freedom. But the doctor had my hand in a vice-like grip. Next thing I know he reaches down to what looks like a thick white piece of paper or bandage, he breaks off something small and metallic from the paper and his hand darts towards my neck. From chiropractory to acupuncture in a split second with no warning; I get the distinct impression he’s showing off for his harem.

A few more needles in the back, they don’t hurt but it’s unsettling. You don’t even see them before they’re plunged into your skin. ‘Don’t worry,’ he says again at the look of terror and confusion on my face, like it wasn’t bad enough the first time, ‘there are five needles they should stay in for three days, you can still shower, then take them out. I had only counted three, but like I said it was a blur as the nurses tittered and chirped.

‘Now follow the nurse into the back,’ he says ominously, ‘we are done.’ The nurse leads me back into the rear of the dilapidated Frankenstein clinic; behind curtains where benches are set along the back wall. On these benches sit what looks like car batteries with wires coming out of them. She smears some gel on my back, sets up the electrodes, sets the dial to its foreigner setting and throws the switch. I let out a cry of alarm, sounding all of seven years old and none too masculine.

The nurse asks, ‘Is that too much?’ I insist it is. She shrugs, turns it back down to its Taiwanese setting, and leaves the room. The little beast shocks me every few seconds; I feel like I’ve been lashed to a cow-fence.

A little later she comes back and I think it might be over. Then I see she is leading another foreigner back to where I am. ‘Remember the first Lethal Weapon?’ I quipped as he was strapped in. His name was Dale and he was a regular. He explained that he had been having trouble with his back for a few years. This treatment had the same relief as the chiropractor but the bone-cracker was 800 NT$ per session while Frankenstein was only 150.

That night I couldn’t sleep because the pain which started to well as I left the ‘clinic’ had progressively gotten worse and worse. If my girlfriend hadn’t been there beside me I would have gladly cried and whimpered until dawn. After two days of intense pain I called the clinic to check if this pain was normal, it was, they had just forgotten to tell me. I waited the full three days; I endured the pain. I was hoping that when the pins came out I would be able to swim again, to walk again, and to love again. It was not to be.

So last night, I armed a late model Duke with 200Kg of explosives and accelerants. I don’t know what I was thinking, at the time. My back was a minefield of pain. I hadn’t slept in days. I was in such bad shape that I don’t really understand how I pulled it off. I got the bike up to around eighty, before I rolled off into the safety debris. Ironically, the fall off the scooter and the subsequent throw from the explosion seems to have sorted out my back and arm problems; I’m just wondering how long it will take to grow back my eyebrows.

4 comments:

Karl said...

Great article Sean. My only complaint is that I had something similar in mind for a future article. Quit hogging all the good topics...

Sean Reilly said...

Sorry sbout that Karl. Just so this doesn't happen again in the next little while I'll let you know that I'm currently working on a futuristic robot sex story, a lyrical ode to cinnamon mouthwash and a think piece entitiled, 'Chaonomics: My life as a really tall and somewhat nocturnal chess enthusiast.' or 'Who spilled light beer on the board!'

Have you reinstated the big guy, yet?

Karl said...

"Have you reinstated the big guy, yet?"

So you actually *remember* that conversation? I am mildly surprised. How did that Changhua excursion work out?

To answer, nope. Big Ell hasn't updated since we spoke. He gets back on the ball, he's back on the blogroll. But it seems a lot of long-time bloggers are starting to drop off.

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