Posted by: Brad Nixon | September 28, 2011

Paging Doctor Goofy

In my previous post, I mentioned the emergency tent at the Burning Man festival. If you followed the link I provided, you saw a photo of a naked, long-haired man in a cowboy hat confronting an emergency technician about some aspect of the care provided there. If you missed the photo, CLICK HERE for the story on and scroll down.

I went on to write about one part of my mom’s career in nursing, which included volunteering at the Red Cross trailer at the local county fair. You can read that blog HERE.

Thinking about the medical care that’s always part of any well-organized large enterprise —  fairs, festivals, marathon races, corporate events, even (I assume) Tea Party conventions(although probably that’s only done so that the presumptive care-givers can laugh and say, “Sorry, you’re not covered, we’re going to let you die!”) — made me wonder about the facilities that must be established in long-running attractions like theme parks. What, for instance, must it be like at Disneyland? As you would expect, medical care is a serious business at Disneyland. A quick online search turned up THIS article, briefly describing the organization’s 65-person staff to see to the medical emergencies that occur at a place that has a couple million visitors a year. Nurse Nixon would not be surprised to find nurses featured as care providers at Disneyland.

But what if something really serious happens: blood gushing out of unspecified wounds or limbs unaccountably severed from bodies? What if there’s a sudden outbreak of Plutonic Disorder or Minnie Syndrome? Suddenly, the calm, reserved quiet of the Disneyland medical center goes all to hell; people rush around wheeling carts and opening and closing those funny swinging doors. A public address announcement calls, “Paging Doctor Goofy! Paging Doctor Goofy! Room 101, STAT!” Well, no doubt Chief Surgeon Mickey eventually steps in to restore order. I’m not going to go up against the Disney PR machine to try to research THAT story.

I’m not one of those individuals who claims to remember things from the earliest days of infancy. My first four or five years? Zilch. Nada. Niente. Keine, Rien. Nothing. What was I doing? Where was I? Don’t ask me. Ask my dad, if you want to know what happened in those first few years after I made my opening bow in August, 1951. I must have been there, but I failed to take notes. Or, if I did, those journals are now lost. I do remember a particularly promising crayon drawing of a cat, labeled, “CAT,” but perhaps memory has inflated its artistic qualities. If I made any notes, they were probably thrown out with my baseball cards and my early copies of Marvel comics that NOW WOULD BE WORTH A FORTUNE. Pardon me, I digress.

One of my earliest memories may be from before my fifth birthday, but since I was not keeping a journal, couldn’t read the calendar or tell time, that’s only a guess.

However it happened, I fell. I don’t actually remember the accident. I know that it happened, but only by circumstantial evidence. Perry Mason would rip me apart if I had to testify to the events of that day. “And isn’t it true, Mr. Nixon, that you have NO  memory whatsoever of the events of that day?!! And isn’t it TRUE, as well, that you have only your mother’s account of the event to rely on?” Yes, Perry, you’ve got me. May I step down?

Well, according to eyewitness accounts (thanks, Mom), and typical of kids who aren’t destined to Go Pro in any future sport, I fell against the kitchen sink. According to eyewitness accounts, I had dragged a chair over to the sink. I assume that this would enable me to get up there and play with knives or engage in some other innocent childhood pleasure. Cleverly, though, demonstrating the self-possession that would mark my entire life, I cushioned my fall by catching my weight on my upper teeth. Specifically, my left incisor. An abscess resulted, requiring surgery. So, in a life that has since then been blessedly free of medical incidents, one of my earliest memories is of being prepped for surgery. Most of these early memories of mine are suspect, and may not be memories at all, being things I think I remember, but which really are stories I was told by my parents, or, even my younger brother, who inevitably slants such tales to reflect discredit upon me. My dad, I know, listens to accounts of things I assert actually happened, knowing full well that they’re baloney. Being a man of few words, he lets them slide.

But, truly, I remember this one. There I was, maybe five years old, lying down on some ancient version of a gurney, no doubt rudely made of wood and leather, given that ancient day, and the doctor hovered over me, explaining that they were going to put a mask on my face to give me some gas. I — he explained — got to select which kind of gas I would breathe. I vividly remember this. He told me that I could have Mickey Gas, Pluto Gas, or Goofy Gas.

What goes through a child’s mind? No one knows. Certainly not parents — especially my parents — who from the day of their progeny’s first steps are flummoxed by their children’s choices regarding food, friends, careers, life partners, religion (or not), investment strategies, music (Hey, Mom, LISTEN to this NEIL YOUNG album!) and home decorating philosophies. I can only imagine the thoughts of my mother, who — still only in her mid-20s — was already a veteran of years of service in emergency rooms and intensive care wards and had to force from her mind the nearly infinite number of things that could go wrong under general anesthetic which might impinge on the future life of this, her first-born: so smart, so promising, so CUTE (I am taking some artistic license here).

I would like to step aside from this gripping medical drama and point out to younger readers that in the world of that year — 1956 or so — although incredibly distant from our own time, when Eisenhower was in the White House and no Starbucks or Wal-Mart or personal computers would exist for several decades, Disney characters already dominated the brand landscape (The Brandscape! I’ve just coined a term. Dictionary editors, take note!).  Mickey Mouse had been on the scene for more than a generation. He made his debut in the same year my parents were born, in the pre-Depression era, when World War II was not even imaginable. Thanks to TV, my peers and I were inundated with Things Disney, although I only saw them in color on those rare occasions when we went to a movie. Dang, I keep having to explain this stuff. You see, Kids, in olden times, when you went to the movies in those olden days, there were — first — no commercials. I’ll pause a moment while that fact sinks in. That’s right: no commercials. There were, instead, “featurettes.” These were typically cartoons, short newsreels or documentaries and, even at that late date, some version of serials like The Lone Ranger or something (although, since we didn’t go every month, let alone every week, they made no sense, being without context).  But even at home we saw Disney cartoons (in black and white) on TV, so we knew Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, Donald Duck and Chip ‘n Dale as personal acquaintances. I, of course, also knew Tyrannosaurus Rex and Brontosaurus and Triceratops as other close personal friends, but I wasn’t offered any T-Rex gas, or, trust me, I’d’ve gone for it in a minute.

Who knows what anaesthetic choices are offered to kids these days. I’m sure we’ve gone through Power Rangers Gas and even Teenage Mutant Turtles Gas. God help us if there is Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus Gas (could I try some Weezer or Red Hot Chili Peppers Gas, please?). But, after, all, why wouldn’t there be? In fact, if the Disney Machine wants to get in touch with me, I think we can Make a Deal.

So, there I was, 5 years old, and faced with the first of Life’s Big Decisions. So far as I know, this was the first decision I’d ever been asked to make, anticipating the later Big Decisions like Not Going to Church and Disappointing Everyone or not going to bed and Having To Pay the Consequences When the Bus Comes Tomorrow.

It was for me, of course, not a difficult decision. I chose Goofy Gas.

And that has made all the difference.




  1. I think you had a good doctor back then. You got an explanation and were given a choice early in life. Made the medical drama a little easier, I suspect.

    My case was different. At probably about the same age as you were then (some 55 years ago), I got tonsillitis. I was sent to the hospital to have the swollen little critters extracted. I never got any explanation of what was about to happen to me. I just remember lying down and suddenly a large black mask hovered over my head and then covered my face. Scary! But then I was out like a light.

    Perhaps my “suffocating” experience gave me an early fear and distrust of the medical profession in particular and of adults (esp. those purporting to be authority or professional figures) in general. Some things never change!


  2. Please, do not ever turn that Perry Mason cat loose on me.


  3. Don’t worry. Those were the days when, at the end of the show, someone at the back of the courtroom would always suddenly stand up and confess “I did it!” The guilty party was rarely the one Mason was cross-examining. Those days are long gone.

    But, just to be safe, here’s the solution: don’t go and watch live trials (and definitely don’t sit at the back of the courtroom — must be the air, or lack of it). 🙂


Leave a Comment. I enjoy hearing from readers.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: