THE SAME DAY I had my portrait taken at work, the staff artist who lays out our magazine's pages asked if I'd like to model in a shoot for one of the feature articles. The story, part of a series on nurse guidelines for various hospital emergencies, required a shot of a nurse aiding an unconscious patient who had fallen out of bed. They already had a female staffer to play the part of a caregiver. The price: Credit at one of two local restaurants.
To the question of whether I could pretend to be unconscious at work, for regular pay plus food, the answer is always yes.
The shoot was scheduled for nine the next morning. As a "patient," I would be wearing a hospital gown, selected from a wide range of medical outfits we had for such shoots. Regardless of pattern, I suspected the design would match that of other hospital gowns: My ass might be hanging out. Figuring that I hadn't been there long enough to work blue, I brought a pair of gym shorts to wear under the gown.
The next day soon rolled into port. Shortly before the shoot, I slipped into the john and switched into my shorts. I kept my work shirt on, though, which lent me a look, from a distance, of not actually wearing any pants. The black socks halfway up my calves lent a nice touch. The only thing separating me from being a New Yorker cartoon was a pair of garters. Realizing this, with comic timing, shortly after I had left the bathroom, I figured let's just get down there and fast-walked the length of the office looking like the last 15 seconds of a Benny Hill skit. (Sadly, without "Yakety Sax.")
The photo studio was empty. No "nurse," no art guy, no freakin' photographer. Figuring one walk through the workplace with a draft was enough, I pulled my work pants over my shorts and went back to my desk.
About a half hour later, all of those involved in the shoot were finally in the office, and we could proceed. I headed down with one of the other editors in my group, a retired nurse and the person who edited the piece in question. She would guide the "nurse" in posing herself and in convincingly rolling the "patient" onto his side.
In a stunning burst of dexterity, I managed to tie myself into the gown without aid, thus sparing someone the joy of scrutinizing my densely forested back. I padded in bare feet into the studio, where the photographer was setting up a ladder outside a well-lit spot of floor—my destination. I lay down on the linoleum so he could take a couple of warmup shots to test the lighting. Presently, our "nurse" entered, resplendent in scrubs, and we were off.
I did my best to splay myself convincingly without looking like I was exaggerating (think of how the Family Guy animators render someone who's fallen down stairs). The real nurse guided my costumed coworker in appearing to roll me over to the position described in the article. I went limp and let her rock me to and fro.
The photographer took about 25 shots before the nurse/editor declared the coverage complete. Once again, I watched the files load onto the screen. There I was, looking like a hapless escapee from a hospital bed, being repositioned by a caregiver before further aid arrived. Aside from the slim black fringe of shorts poking from 'neath my gown, fairly convincing.
The shoot thus done, and the shots for the mag chose, the time came for me to return to my office garb. For being such a patient "patient," the nurse/editor coworker said I'd definitely get the call for future shots. If so, I can use the food comp I got as payment with casual abandon. Oddly enough, by the end of the whole affair, I felt quite comfy in the gown. No belt, no pockets full of crap, no dress shoes stifling my feet . . . I could get used to this. Perhaps in 40 years or so, during whatever long slide guides me into the crematorium. My mind flicked back to Howard Hughes tottering around in his top-floor suite at the Desert Inn, until I realized that he actually lounged about in the nude, with the possible exception of Kleenex boxes on his feet. Again, maybe someplace I'll end up when a few more marbles get knocked out of the circle. But not yet . . . not quite yet.