The anaesthetist I was with one day this week was a strange chap. Only once did he initiate conversation. He was happy to answer questions and did so most informatively. But it was as if he was simply at a loss for anything to talk about unless I raised a topic myself. Either that or he was perhaps a sunflower in disguise and was unaware of the basic human need for interconnectedness.
The only time he spoke to me unprompted was towards the end of the list, after we had wrestled the patient off the theatre table and onto the bed, and we were starting to roll her out to the recovery ward. He looked at me and said, "Theatre dress standards. Mask on. Mask off."
I was bemused by this. Had he suddenly morphed into Mr Miyagi from The Karate Kid? Or perhaps he had had a stroke affecting that part of his brain which controls the use of verbs and articles? I knew I had to figure it out soon because he was staring at me quite pointedly. Or, to be precise, staring at my neck.
Aha! He was staring at my theatre mask, which I had pulled down off my face so it hung around my neck. I reached up and pulled it off and hung my head in shame at my gross blunder. As we left the theatre, I glanced back at the other staff, my cheeks burning, wondering who else had been a witness.
And I noticed that every single person in the room was wearing their mask around their neck.