My sister and I were part of a “board game” family. Many an after-school evening or a Saturday was spent playing the whole gamut, anything from Ker-plunk, to Don’t Spill the Beans; Uncle Wiggly, to Parcheesi. We had ‘em all, and it was all good fun.
That is, until the dreaded “Operation” game found its way out of the closet and onto the kitchen table.
I’d like to revisit this “Classic”, which showed up one Christmas, although it was most certainly nothing Santa was asked for by means of a list.
From the illustrations on the box and game board alone, you just know something is horribly, horribly wrong.
The premise is you, the “Wacky Doctor” (that is to say, you, granted the temporary license for a first-grader to perform surgery),and your friends take turns trying to remove problematic organs from all over the bloated, naked body of an irritated looking man with a CRISPIN GLOVER-inspired haircut. The man is all pale and fleshy. The organs and such are white like bones. The openings in his body where they reside are, of course, blood red.
Oh, it’s supposed to be amusing enough…he has an Adam’s Apple shaped like a little plastic apple, a Funny Bone, and a Charlie “Horse”. But here’s the rub…touch the metal sides (exposed nerves I would wager) with your metal tweezers when performing an extraction, and what do you get? A loud, God-awful buzzer noise and his nose lights up bright red! Based on the “wackiness” factor of the doctors on the lid of the box, and the fact that the uninsured man is clearly conscious through these harrowing procedures in spite of there being some kind of gas tank pictured, it’s pretty evident that he is going through a living nightmare much the same as TIM ROBBINS in JACOB’S LADDER, and you are playing the role of one of his demonic tormentors. I can only guess he was “gassed” just long enough to get his corpulent form up on the table, and carved open. Where did he come from? My guess is he was a homeless “Joe Everyman” found on the streets, probably offered a free lunch in exchange for some volunteer work. The fun ensues when he wakes.
The lid artwork also sports such tools to be used as a bone saw, an oil can, and a blow torch! One doctor is smoking a cigarette as he operates, with the ashes falling in the man’s face. The other doctor is wearing no pants. Wacky, indeed! I’m sure it was only the technological restrictions of the 70’s that kept the buzzer noise, jolting as it was, from being what it was intended to be: a long gut-wrenching scream of pain and terror sound clip.
Yet the wackiness continues, in spite of the poor fat man’s objections, and gleefully another inept surgeon gets to take a crack at these procedures.
Look at the board again. Clearly, the patient is looking down at all the openings that have been hastily been carved into him, and he’s none too happy about it. Even if he has been numbed, open-heart surgery (removal, actually) is just one of the gruesome extractions to take place while he is helpless to do anything but watch. His fate will take one of two paths, that of continued unsuccessful extractions and mind-blistering pain until the young “doctors” lose interest, or being dumped in a bathtub full of ice water, without ribs or kidneys, and a note telling him to call 911, if he wakes from the shock.
This is what echoed through my mind, when I was slated for a tonsillectomy at age six. All the assurance in the world going to sleep and waking up with a big bowl of ice cream did little to quell the fears of an “Operation.”