“A dog is a tube, with teeth at one end,” my father observed as we watched the family beagle (named Penelope after she unraveled a rug), taking care of business.

This came to mind as I read Mary Roach’s book, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.” It’s an informative and entertaining (two things that are not combined often enough) jaunt through the human digestive process.

She proves that “the human equipment–and the delightful, unusual people who study it–are at least as interesting as the photogenic arrangements we push through it.” Well, there’s one way of describing a chef’s hard work and what happens to it.

Roach concludes: “The great irony is that in the beginning, the gut was all there was.” She goes on to explain how the “food processor had to have a brain attached to help it look for food, and limbs to reach that food. That increased its size, so it needed a circulatory system to distribute the fuel that powered the limbs. And so on.”

She nails the point by quoting one of the experts she interviewed: “‘People are surprised to learn: They are a big pipe with a little bit around it.’”

Well, that certainly snaps things into perspective, doesn’t it? If you want to have some fun with your insomnia, ponder that Bible bit  re: how we’re made in God’s image. The almighty is a giant … tube? And hey, the universe looks like a big dark void … (Seizes lightning bolt amid clap of thunder) Have I finally united religion and science?

Back to Gulp. In addition to prompting fond memories of canines past, the book raised not-so-fond remembrance of some, er, colorectal surgery. (Don’t flee. I won’t get earnest.) It provided friends and family no end–whoops–of opportunities for merriment.

Before the surgery my husband recounted an immortal episode of Seinfeld, in which Kramer mistakenly receives a doctor’s vanity plates. He explains that you should plant yourself by a proctologist at a party because “you will hear the funniest stories you’ve ever heard.”

Afterwards (See? I’m keeping it easy for you.) there were the expected calls and visits of hushed concern (“How is Charlotte doing? Can we do anything?”), then the gloves were off and it was a free-for-all of wretched puns (“Hey, do you need any ASSistance?”) and not-so-innocent questions (“Can I have your leftover Percocet?”).

My in-laws, both in their 80s, brought over some molASSES cookies and gave me a card with a donkey on it that wished me a “Big Ass Valentine’s Day.” They roared. My father mused on how proctologists in the UK are called “rear admirals.” When I got back to work colleagues quipped, “Well, at least that’s behind you!” then yapped like coyotes and congratulated themselves on their cleverness.

I recovered and life was inestimably improved. Lessons learned? 1: Never take your guts for granted;. 2: Expect puns rather than sympathy, and ASSess them for their creativity. and 3: Read Gulp and give your innards the respect they deserve. Like that beagle of yore, we are, after all, “a tube, with teeth at one end.”

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