Theodore Dalrymple recently quipped that tattoos are a “refutation of the doctrine that the customer is always right. In the tattoo parlour, the customer is always wrong”.
He wrote an extensive essay on the subject a decade ago, just as that ’90s fad was reaching ascension. This section is a classic:
Not long ago, a prisoner with the words NO FEAR tattooed prominently on the side of his neck came before me with a medical complaint, and I inquired into his medical history. He wore his hair shaved, and his scalp reminded me of that of the old, one-eyed, half-eared tomcat in the garden next door to me at home, whose scalp is a mass of scars.
“Have you ever had any serious injuries?” I asked.
“No,” he replied.
“And have you ever been in the hospital for anything?” I continued.
“Yes, four times.”
I should explain in parenthesis that the tattooed classes of England do not consider fractures of the skull to be serious injuries, even when they result in operations, steel plates inserted into the remainder of the skull, and prolonged sojourns in the hospital. It is difficult for them to conceive of everyday occurrences as being serious: for example, one patient had his skull staved in with a baseball bat but said of the incident that “it was just a usual neighborly row,” and therefore nothing for the police or doctors to get too worried about.
Read the rest, for it is equally exceptional.