5z: I am in a commercial

So, you’ve probably seen the press release already. Let me give you the backstory.

They paged me really early Monday morning. Instead of the CPTLD, Dr. N asked me to go to this other building on the outpatient campus. “Since it will be the press release,” she sort of whinnies over the phone, “I think it will be best for you to wear your nice clothes and maybe just think of shaving.” So I did.

I get there, and there’s this whole circus already going in the lobby. All people in suits, no white coats or scrubs. I was sort of afraid that they would all turn around and look at me when I came in, but no one did. Actually, it was like I wasn’t there at all. An old, semi-fat (I believe the term is “portly”) bald guy was giving a propaganda spiel. “Since its inception, our Institute has been at the forefront of care for both the living and the undead. The unofficial motto of the Institute – ‘We care’ – encompasses all people, of every creed and color, from every walk of life or death. I think I can say in honesty, with no trace of hyperbole or exaggeration, that we have the embodiment of the Hippocratic Oath right here, in our selfless devotion to each individual patient and to medicine as a whole. We have always particularly prided ourselves on our skill in ministering to the…” I blocked out Mr. Portly Propaganda and entered the hall behind him. Nick led me into another room off the hallway.

Basically, it was a TV studio, and not a cheap community access cable one. TV cameras (including two of the fancy kind that has a seat attached), boom microphones, a mixing board larger than my bed, technicians running around — everyone looked so young and energetic and excited. In the middle was a set that looked like an exam room. Not the undead-safe exam room in the CPTLD, but like a regular physician exam room, without blast shields or manacles or anything like that. Dr. S and Dr. N were waiting for me. Dr. S was at his most unctuous. “I’m so pleased to see you! I hope you’re ready for an exciting day! Please, have a donut!” He gestured behind me to a box of donuts on the far wall that a couple techs were busily picking over. “Oh, and I would like you to meet someone very special — This is Dr. R, the CEO of the Institute!” Dr. R was exactly like he looked in his pictures: black hair with perfect gray at the temples, genial smile, much taller than me — sort of like the Mitt Romney of medicine. He smiled at me (he was always smiling). “You’re the zombie-fixer. Very pleased to meet you.”

One of the techs asked whether it would be all right to start, because they had a schedule. That struck me as weird — what else are they filming in here? But I suppose that they do patient education videos and so forth. They had me stand on the stage next to Dr. S. Then we were supposed to be talking seriously about something. There wasn’t going to be any sound, so we didn’t actually have a conversation. Dr. S just made serious faces and nodded. Then at one point he was supposed to put his hand on my shoulder. They did like five takes of that.

Then they open the door and wheel in this young woman on a gurney. To say that I was taken aback is an understatement. I kind of realized that there weren’t going to be any zombies in this picture, but they didn’t even try. The woman, for one thing, was in a hospital gown, not the Kevlar bags that they actually transport zombies in. She was even wearing makeup (but so was Dr. S) — No zombulke, no gas mask, no guards, no face shield — none of us was wearing armor — Have I communicated the aura of unreality here? They were explaining the situation to her. “Does he have to bite me ?” She looked me up and down, and then asked with a different emphasis: “Does he have to bite me? Not trying to offend,” she smiled at me, “but I have a portfolio that I need to think about.”

True to form, Dr. S stepped up heroically. “No, no, of course not. No. No. No, certainly not. I don’t think so. No one wants to film anyone biting anyone. Right?” He looked at the film crew. They looked at the CEO. He shook his head.”No, you just, just lay back and, maybe, extend your arm a little…” The director took over coaching her. “More, uh…languid. Remember, you’re dead. Ok, yeah, but you’re doing it like a zombie. I know, you’re supposed to be a zombie, but don’t be a zombie. Pretend you’re, like, Sleeping Beauty. ….Yeah, better…okay, again…..”

Then they filmed her talking to Dr. S. He put his hand on her shoulder too. They didn’t even have to tell him to do it. I guess he’s a natural.

Then they had her go change into a low-cut red blouse and jeans, and stand next to the CEO and Dr. S. “Thanks to the Institute, I have my life back!” The director had her say it like ten times. “Ok. Ok. Good. Could you lean forward a little more when you say it? Yeah, that’s great. That’ll get us a lot of clicks.”

That was it. I wasn’t even in the video. They cropped me out — It’s all Dr. S looking serious. I got one mention during the voice-over, while Sleeping Beauty was extending her arm: “The Institute’s specialist applies cutting-edge techniques for the revitalization process. Medical assistance is often needed at this time, but of course the Institute is in a position to immediately render any care deemed necessary through one of our top-flight providers.”

That was what happened. I didn’t even wake a single zombie that day.

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