Here’s an interesting thing.
I’ve told you already that before you lie down on the moving slab of the Petscan machine, you are obliged to drink a couple of mugs of barium solution, which is as ghost-white, and every bit as tasty, as chalk and water run through a blender.
Now then. It happens that this barium solution briefly renders you radioactive. When you are up off your back and wobbling into your clothes, you are advised that, for twenty-four hours or so, you should avoid close contact with infants and others who might be particularly sensitive to radiation. You aren’t emitting at a high level, but there may be some for whom even your wee bit of nuclear run-off could prove a problem. I kissed no babies after my Petscan, but have to admit that I was pretty cavalier about other contact, mostly because I didn’t entirely understand how to find out from those I was facing whether or not they were radiation-phobes. It’s a hard question to ask, you know, in a social setting. So, as a rule, how many Roentgens can you take before you break out?
But there’s more. After your Petscan, before you go back out into the world, you are given an impressive official letter, signed by the Cancerland authorities, to explain why you are radioactive.
And what exactly would you do with such a letter?
This is the grand part. Evidently, the police of New York (and I suppose of many other cities and towns) are always on the alert for irradiated people. The cops have scanners, I guess, or detectors, or something, and they are empowered to pick up and whisk away anyone caught with a suspicious glow.
Well, sure: Such people might be terrorists, or isotope smugglers, or just poor boobs who unwittingly wandered into some China Syndrome situation down at the Deli and don’t themselves know that they are a threat to the general population. I personally have never seen anyone hauled off the street on a radiation rap, but I guess it must happen.
But you, as a rider of the Petscan, are covered in such an eventuality, having with you the embossed letter I just mentioned, to whip out with a flourish in case you are stopped by marauding “Rads,” as I am guessing radiation patrols must be called.
It helps you rest easy at night, even in the dim light of your own barium aura.