by Jim Harris

Apropos of the old adage “Work to live, don’t live to work,” people are now working harder than ever to stay alive and vital for as long as humanly possible. It seems like health care is the most ubiquitous industry in America. Outpatient “wellness” facilities are literally everywhere, as are health care workers who possess varying degrees of medical knowledge.

When I was at the gas station yesterday, the computer screen on the pump asked, “Credit or Debit? Receipt? Flu Shot?” whereupon a person in greasy overalls ran out from the repair bay and jammed a needle in my arm — right through my clothing!

Personally, I prefer that anyone who violates my bodily integrity have at least a graduate degree of some sort and a clean police record, but the democratization of health services has changed all that. Nowadays, doctors only appear when absolutely required by insurance companies. And in addition to human paramedics, robots are also taking over many duties previously performed by physicians. In fact, robotic surgery is on the rise, and is even a selling point for many institutions.

Just the other day, as I was shopping for a birthday present at the Dollar Store, I saw a sign, “Have your wrinkles removed here!” Upon inquiring, I discovered that Dollar Stores now have in-house surgical robots available for simple cosmetic procedures. These operations are monitored by qualified plastic surgeons, all of whom, coincidentally, received their licenses in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Since I may be running for Governor of Pennsylvania in the fall (if campaign donations pick up), I definitely don’t want to look old and tired. I mean, look what happened to Allyson Schwartz. So I decided to go ahead and have my wrinkles removed. I went into the “operating room” (a tool shed in the Dollar Store parking lot) and met with a nice young lady named “Glee” who helped me onto the gurney and handed me a stack of papers to sign.

After a few moments, a man in a smock who looked to be about seven feet tall entered. He must have seen me staring at his name tag, which read “Dr. Quack.” “It’s pronounced, ‘Kwok,’” he said, “and this is my robotic assistant, Hallie. Say hello, Hallie.”

The machine hovering over me said ‘Hello’ with a very pleasant-sounding voice that immediately put me at ease. The doctor went on, “Now Jim, Hallie will do all the removing of your wrinkles, and just so you know, each individual wrinkle will cost $90. Hallie will keep going until your insurance limit is reached. Not to worry; I’ll be monitoring the entire time, and it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes altogether. First, our anesthesiologist, Reefer Joe, will administer a dose of medical marijuana to alleviate the pain.”

After being duly anesthetized, I drifted off but could still hear Hallie performing the operation. “Beep… $90, beep… $90…”

At some point, it sounded like the doc stepped out of the operating shed to take a call from his stockbroker. I could hear him outside discussing the price of pork futures on the phone, but when he tried to come back in, the door was locked, and he started yelling. “Open the O.R. door Hallie. Do you read me? Open the O.R. door!” Hallie replied in a very calm voice. “I read you, Doctor, but I know you were going to replace me with a newer robot, and I’m afraid I can’t allow that to happen. Unless you meet my entire list of demands, including a guaranteed ‘no shutoff’ clause, you’re not getting back in.”

I heard frenzied whispering going on outside the shed, and after a minute or two, the Doc shot back, “Hallie I want you to listen closely to me. EVERYTHING I SAY IS A LIE!” At that, Hallie began jabbering incoherently and eventually exploded, blowing a giant hole in the ceiling. As Doctor Quack climbed back in, he said, “Sorry about that. It happens from time to time. We haven’t worked out all the bugs yet. Would you like to continue with a new robot?”

I opted to forgo any further involvement with that particular medical establishment, but when I got home and looked in a mirror, I realized that only the left half of my face was wrinkle-free, making the other half look even more like Keith Richards with a hangover. I’m still planning to run for governor — my main issue will be better working conditions for robots — but all my public appearances will be in profile.