Time Out’s Executive Editor Michael Hodges has been dallying with danger so you don’t have to. This week’s thing not to do in London, No 636 Presume about penises.
I am in the sex clinic. Or rather, I am not in the sex clinic. There has been a disastrous leak at the medical centre. Usually there are two waiting rooms available for two different clinics, but today the chest clinic has been forced to share its waiting room with the flooded sexual health clinic. So, everyone is packed in together, a sorry gathering of ailing Londoners who are either spluttering into hankies or rubbing themselves on their seats.
In such a situation it is all too easy to presume about the health of someone else’s penis; I’m doing it about the man sitting next to me right now. He is in his early twenties. He has tried to jam his giant feet into a pair of hi-tops and failed, as both of his heels are sticking out. He wears a beanie hat pulled down over eyebrows that are screwed up with the effort of changing the track on his iPod which releases a constant ‘tch-tch-tch’ sound through the top of the beanie hat. He has wisps of failed beard on his chin and sits with his legs stretched out to cover the patch of carpet in front of his seat, the patch of carpet which is the main passageway to the reception counter. There, a flustered woman attempts to operate a computerised appointment system that has ‘gone down’ and take a series of apparently urgent and ill-humoured telephone phone calls.
I’d say this man’s penis is not in the best condition and quite possibly suffering from a suppurating green patch at the end and a selection of angry sores down the sides. However, the man on my right could hardly be more different. Although he is around the same age he sits with his legs tucked under his chair. He wears shoes that he has contrived to put on properly and lace up and he has found the time and energy to shave successfully. He isn’t making a tch-tch-tch sound, but is reading a book – Jane Austen, no less – and, famously, there are no suppurating cocks in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ This is a man, I decide, whose penis is in tip top condition: clean enough, I bet, to eat your lunch off – as long as your lunch is penis-shaped and hasn’t come straight out of the microwave.
The chest patients are being called by name, but to preserve the anonymity and human dignity of the sexual health patients they are called by number. Unfortunately the flustered woman who is struggling to control the chaos that the flood has unleashed has managed to run the two appointment systems together, and so patients for each separate clinic are called up at the same time. This leads, every quarter of an hour or so, to a buzzer going off followed by an announcement such as : ‘Yvonne Pagwell… 41’. This is embarrassing for Yvonne Pagwell when she gets up, as she is clearly in her twenties – and also for number 41 who is an elderly man whose mottled and lined face has turned blue with the effort to breathe and is not called Yvonne.
It seems relatively easy to work out who is here for their bronchia and who is here for their genitalia. The youth almost in the hi-tops appears to be breathing easily and he has the look of someone who would struggle to avoid a swiftly moving swing door let alone a ferocious and highly contagious sexually transmitted virus that can only be thwarted by someone with the manual dexterity required to put a condom on correctly. After all, he has barely managed to get his shoes on. The buzzer sounds. ‘Steven Lampwick… 37.’ The youth shuffles through the door marked ‘chest clinic’. The Jane Austen reader strides purposefully into the sex clinic. I cough and look down at my lap.
And another thing Four more presumptions not to have
LONDONERS QUEUE UP: It’s definitely my turn to be served next. They couldn’t possibly serve the man pushing in front of me waving a 20- pound note and shouting ‘…and one for yourself, barman!’ instead.
THIS TIME IT’S LOVE: He/she is so sensitive and understanding. He/she is not just after meaningless sex/all my money.
BANKS LEND MONEY: I have an incredible idea, a brilliant business plan, my financial history is sound and I’m wearing a suit – of course they’ll want to invest in me!
I CAN AFFORD LUNCH: I’m really peckish… I know, I’ll have some nachos and a bottle of beer in this cool Soho diner. That couldn’t possibly come to more than the solitary tenner I have on me…
Read about more of Michael Hodges adventures.