I had already been suffering from a mild bursitis for a week, and I believed it was almost over, when my GP unexpectedly sent me to the hospital. She did not like a reddish spot that I believed to be innocent, and she was of course right: the hospital physicians discovered that a bacteria had sort of invaded my skin and had decided to stay in it. I can’t blame the little creature; I’ve lived inside that same skin for forty-five years and it suits me perfectly.
So now I am in a hospital, feeling better than you’d expect. I’m even enjoying it. In a country where it’s pure coincidence if the trains are running on time, where the banks are run by incompetents, and where the mail delivery cannot be relied upon, it is sincerely uplifting to witness an organization that actually functions. (I am not ironical.)
But there’s more to be glad about: I realize how lucky I am to live in a postindustrial society. Under natural circumstances, the species known as Homo sapiens lives to an average age of twenty. Those who survive infancy and childhood, however, have a fair chance of becoming forty, and incidentally, humans can reach old age. Human bodies, however, are not suited for becoming older than thirty.
If westerners are now surpassing this limit and reach the age of seventy-five, they owe this for 60% to sanitation, 30% to GPs, and 10% to medical specialists. Sanitation was something the Greeks and Romans knew, but to be honest: if I had met the same bacteria two thousand years ago, I would not have survived the encounter. In all likelihood, our meeting would not even have taken place, because my chance to reach the age of forty-five would have been less than 15%.