Monday, April 24, 2006


By Mike Swanson

There was this hospital orderly whose favorite joke was to tell his patients ― preferably those senile or foggy from recent surgery ― that their bedpan was a magic bedpan. Thanks to an improv class he had taken at the local community college, the orderly could always keep a straight face, no matter how outlandish the claim.

He might tell his patients that the bedpan could grant them three wishes. Or that it would allow them to communicate with animals. Once, he promised a sick little boy that his bedpan would hit a home run for him in the World Series. Invariably his patients would fall for the ruse, whereupon he would unleash his devastating punch line: "Wow, you're the stupidest patient I've ever seen!"

This, needless to say, was a very cruel orderly.

One afternoon he told his newest patient, Morris, that his bedpan could turn urine into Scotch whiskey. "Oh, that's good news, very good news," Morris murmured, his thirsty eyes zeroing in on the pee-filled receptacle.

"Wow, you're the stupidest patient I've ever seen!" the orderly roared, tucking the man's bedpan under his arm as he walked out the door. He didn't get very far, however, before the bedpan let him have it.

“I've had about all I can take of your so-called jokes,” it said, sloshing in anger. “Same goes for my fellow bedpans. We have a job to do, and we do it well, thank you very much. The last thing any of us deserves to be is a prop for your cruel amusement.” The bedpan then softened its voice a bit. “Oscar, you’re a grown man with two wonderful children," it said. "Please, don’t set this sort of example for them.”

“Maybe you’re right,” the orderly sighed.

“Good man,” the bedpan said. “I knew you'd come around. Now please, empty me out as fast as you can. I’m positively brimming with Mr. Quigley's rancid urine!”

(When he's not redefining excellence in customer service, hospital-supply salesman Mike Swanson enjoys fishing for perch. And when the perch aren't biting, or after he's decided yet again to set his boat on fire, Swanson puts pen to paper.)

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