Well, I had an MRI of my neck done at the West Suburban MRI Center, or words to that effect, in Wellesley, yesterday.

Mostly it was noisy and boring. The technician’s main concern before doing it, other than making sure there was no stray metal in my body (like pins from surgery, or artificial joints, or bits of metal in my eye) was for me to pick out what channel of satelite radio I wanted to listen to. That turns out to be fairly important. The MRI machine makes a loud buzzing noise while it’s working, which was most of twenty minutes in three- to five-minute stretches. The music is intended to distract you from that noise. Meanwhile, you’re lying there holding as still as you can and trying hard (in the case of a neck image) not to swallow more than you have to.

I can see why MRI machines and claustrophobia don’t go together. You’re in a small space there in the middle of that big magnet, and you really can’t move. I didn’t mind that part, but the surface in front of my eyes, the top of the hole through the magnet, was closer than my eyes would focus. For some reason, that was disturbing. I just closed my eyes, listened to the radio, and tried not to swallow.

Many years ago (maybe 15 — more likely over 20) I interviewed at Field Effects, a company that made rare-earth permanent magnets for MRI machines. To show me how strong the magnets were, the people there handed me a big steel crescent wrench and told me to walk a few steps toward the magnet, and to hold on tight to the wrench. As I approached the magnet, the wrench smoothly but firmly pulled on my arm until I was working harder than I have to when Dozer is pulling on his leash.

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