Tell me the truth, doctor — are me and my jacket going to make it?
Last Tuesday morning, I felt an ache in my lower back. As I’ve never had back pain in my life, naturally I feared the worst.
“Could it be cancer of the bottom?” I asked my doctor on the phone.
“Have you done anything unusually strenuous?” he asked.
“Yes, come to think of it doctor, I did do something strenuous. I got out of bed today and brushed my teeth. Are you kidding?”
He booked me an urgent appointment with a Harley Street physio.
An hour later, Georgina, a brisk middle-aged woman, greeted me at her consulting-room door.
“Take your jacket, shirt and trousers off please.”
I took off my jacket.
“Where is your hanger?” I said.
“Oh, just throw it over the back of that chair,” she said, pointing to a round-backed leather armchair.
“Haven’t you got a hanger?”
“No, sorry.” she said, without looking up from her notes.
” You haven’t got any hangers?”
“No, I haven’t got any hangers.”
“Are you quite sure?” I asked. “I mean surely you must have men in suits coming in here all day long.”
“Yes, that’s right,” she said.
“And you’ve never once thought it might be a good idea to buy a hanger?”
“Mr Rosengard, do you want to talk about hangers for the whole of your one hour appointment or shall I take a look at your back?”
I got undressed.
She walked slowly around me in silence.
“You do know you’re knock-kneed and flat-footed, don’t you?” she said.
“No, actually you know something, I didn’t,” I said. “How come I’ve gone through my whole life to date and never once been told that?
“I’ve absolutely no idea,” she said.
“In fact, I can tell you my legs have been very highly regarded in some quarters,” I said, “ever since I won the East Acton bouncing baby competition in 1955.”
“I’m sorry Mr Rosengard, I can only tell you what I see,” she said.
“Look, I came here to feel better, not worse,” I said. “Why don’t you throw in that I’m also a hunchback, because as soon as I put that jacket back on, I will be.”
The next afternoon, I had to go back for another session; this time with her young New Zealander colleague, David. “Let me hang your jacket up,” he said, opening a cupboard door.
Inside I could see a large coat hook with three top-of-the-range wooden hangers on it.
He took out a hanger.
“Wait just one minute David! Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Sure Mr Rosengard.”
“David, what would you say this is called?” I asked, pointing at the hanger.
“It’s a hanger,” he said.
“Very good David, it’s a hanger. David, can we talk man to man?”
“Sure,” he said.
“When I was here yesterday Georgina insisted she didn’t have any hangers, so I had to put my jacket round the back of that armchair, which is why I’ve been walking round London all day looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
“That’s odd,” he said. “You’re sure she said she had no hangers?”
“Yes David. Quite sure”
“That’s funny,” He said.
“Funny? It’s more than funny David, it’s weird. No, make that unbelievable! What kind of person would lie about not having hangers, especially when there’s a cupboard full of them – mahogany ones, just waiting for jackets?”
“Beats me,” he said. “Anyway, shall we take a look at your back now Mr Rosengard?”