(from Montage, The Toronto Mensa Newsletter, April-May, 2013)


By April 1—no joke–I will have had hip replacement surgery. I mention this for two reasons: It is an opportunity to use the future perfect tense. And if I die (adventure is risky, by definition) under the knife (do they still use knives?), my thoughts, having been published, will be immortal. this is my one last chance to be immortal.

Bloodiness (I don’t expect much) and pain (I expect some, but it will be manageable) have no place in this light-hearted column. However, there are some peripheral aspects of joint replacement surgery that I feel are worth mentioning.


Some time ago I had knee replacement surgery as the long-term consequence of an accident in my twenties. During the appointments leading up to the surgery the hospital staff referred to the “good” knee and the “bad” knee. This crass terminology irritated me a little, but it was accurate so I went along with it.

After my surgery I was nonplussed to find that they kept the same terms. At first I didn’t know what they were referring to. There I was, knowing that I had a perfect new titanium-and-plastic knee inside me and that the swelling and discomfort would eventually subside. This was no longer a bad knee in any sense!  I kept insisting that they were both good knees now. How about calling them the “old” knee and the “new” knee?

Occasionally I thought I had made some headway in converting the hospital staff, but it seems there are forces stronger than reason. On my way out of the hospital I was still overhearing “good” knee and “bad” knee.

The knee turned out so well that I requested the same surgeon for my hip. Now, nine years later, some things are different. This time, in preparation, I was provided with a thorough glossy manual for dealing with joint replacement surgery. I was delighted to see the terminology had changed to the “involved” (and “non-involved”) leg before surgery and the “operated” (and “non-operated”) leg afterwards. Though toward the end of the book I think I saw a reference to a “bad” leg—perhaps the editor missed it.

Applied Mathematics

People say that joint replacement rejuvenates those who get one. That certainly happened to me with my knee. When this hip business is over—there is a long period of rehab–I’m looking forward to being able to walk  gracefully again. (The only people I envy are those who skip up the subway stairs two at a time. They are usually very tall, very young men, but still.)  

Another aspect of rejuvenation: a case could be made for averaging the age of the new body part with the age of the rest of one’s body for a new, more accurate number. Most of us would be affected in some way, since this principle would also include, among other parts, dental implants and the new lenses they put in during cataract surgery. I hesitate to mention this in print, though. The government might get ideas and defer our pensions.   


Birthdays seem to be a theme in this column. Some months ago at a gathering of acquaintances I noticed several people congratulating one man on turning 80. I thought of sending him a card.

I wasn’t sure whether there were cards made specifically for 80-year-olds, but this is what I found when I went shopping. There were cards for age 21, then 25, and then for every 5-year milestone up to 100. There were several designs for each age, including 100. I’ve heard that over 100 is the fastest-growing age segment in the world. I’m going to take good care of my (shiny?) new hip to make it last for several decades.