hospitals are full of dirty old men. first of all, dirty because they smell like stale sweat and lack of bowel control, and second, dirty because hitting on young ladies is one of the few pleasures still available to them.
yesterday I met a dirty old man who told me dirty jokes. he was lying spread-eagle on top of his bed with his feet sticking off the end. his generously-sized belly was hanging out - or airing out, as he tells the nurses when they suggest he put on a larger shirt. I was replacing his nametag when he stopped me and asked if I wanted to hear a joke.
it was a really dirty joke. but the fact that it was told by a smelly old man whose belly was hanging out, who smirked when he mentioned various portions of the body and who drew the most descriptive words out so slowly they might have been chocolate-flavoured increased the dirty factor exponentially. maybe I looked a bit uncomfortable, because he then said that laura is a nice jewish name and told me a religious joke that would have been funnier if I was, in fact, jewish.
I met another old man too, but he wasn't dirty or smelly. he was very old and only spoke to me in english after I told him ich spreche keine deutsch several times. he sent me downstairs to shoppers to buy envelopes and stamps so he could mail what appeared to be long, detailed letters all written in german to various family members across in the world. said he was getting his things in order.
when I got back to his room, I waited outside the door because a couple doctors were already there. since he is 95 and almost deaf, I heard their end of the conversation pretty well. they were telling him that he has stomach cancer and asked if he would be interested in major surgery to remove the tumor, though the outlook is poor either way.
what are you supposed to do? do you wait a few minutes for it to sink in and hope he doesn't worry about you running off with his change? or pretend you didn't hear and walk in talking about stamps when the guy has just received his probable death sentence?