WAY BACK IN 1974, I did a favor for a friend: he was managing a small restaurant on Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort and needed the day off. One of his responsibilities as manager was to tend the bar, which is what I did that day. This was not a drinker’s bar—the majority of drinks were to accompany a lunch or dinner.
I was 23, still a kid. There was a young man not more than a few years older than me sitting at the end of the bar when I came in. He was wearing a medical outfit, and he looked like a nurse at a time when male nurses were a novelty.
Nursing a drink.
Despondent. That was immediately obvious.
After a while I walked over and asked him what was wrong.
“Hey, buddy,” asked the bartender, “you wanna talk about it?”
He looked at me and said, “Do you know what the rate of Caesarean sections is in the United States?”
He looked at me and said, “It’s between 20 and 40% in a lot of American hospitals. You got that? Twenty thirty forty percent of the births in this country are C-sections! I just got back from working in a hospital in Sweden for a year. You wanna know what the rate of C-sections is there?”
He looked at me and said, “Less than five percent!”
He was angry when he said it. 1
He took a sip of his drink, hook his head, and said, almost to himself, “One-tenth of ours!”
I was aware that ours was relatively high and rising compared to the rest of the industrialized world. But not like that!
He took a big sip of his drink.
His expression changed to resignation. “Now ask me what’s the number one cause of emergency C-sections in America.”
He looked at me and said, “Because the surgeon is late for his tee-off on the golf course.”
I poured him another drink and one for myself . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: About the photo at the top of this pageL yeah, he’s not in nurse blues, and he’s got a beer instead of a bourbon, but if this guy was sitting at my bar, I’d watch him with that first drink. Then I’d walk over, buy him his second drink, and ask, “Hey buddy, wanna talk about it?”