Well, it’s that time of the decade again. Time to go to the doctor. Incidentally, this is never my choice, but my wife’s. For reasons beyond my comprehension, my wife, at least for now, wants me to live as long as she does. I guess nagging the cat won’t be as fulfilling. So she drives me to the doctor, but only because there are several bars located along the route that could easily sidetrack me if I drove alone.
The appointment is at 11:00 a.m., which basically means I miss a day of work and a day of pay. They also want you there early to fill out the necessary paperwork—your medical history. The last time I went to the doctor John Lennon was alive, so my medical history is limited. As for my parents’ medical history, the only thing I really remember their telling me is, “You’re a worthless, lazy bum who can’t even take in the damn garbage cans.” I didn’t write that down because I’m pretty sure it’s not chronic or fatal.
Once the paperwork is filled out the only thing left to do is wait…in the waiting room…with the other waiters. It’s strange sitting with a group of people who periodically sigh and pretend to read something. Sometimes there’s eye contact and you’re forced to flash that fake smile followed by a nod that doesn’t really mean anything except yup. Your mind can’t help but wonder what they’re in for. Hemorrhoids, ingrown toenails, warts, halitosis. Sick bastards. Stay on your side of the room.
It amazes me that doctors’ offices are infatuated with your being on time for your appointment. “We need you there on time so you can wait longer.” If you’re in extreme pain, the wait will undoubtedly be close to an eternity. It’s like being hungry at a restaurant. The hungrier you are, the longer the wait. Both places take reservations, but the reservation times are meaningless. You must always remember that your time is far less important than their time. What are you going to do? You can’t go to another doctor—you just spent an hour filling out the paperwork for this one. Basically, they have you by the hoo-hahs, and the only thing you can do is stand there and cough.
When your number is finally called, you are whisked into a smaller waiting room with a bigger wait. However, you feel a little better because you are making progress. You are now in a room with anatomy pictures on the wall. It’s usually around this time that the problem that has been ailing you goes away. This is similar to the car shop syndrome, where your vehicle engine that has been making an awful rattling noise all week long becomes silent just as you bring it to the auto mechanic. “I don’t hear anything, but we’re running a $500 special today on rotating tires.”
So you wait in the little waiting room, studying the skeletal system of the human body. This hanging around is making you angry; because unbeknownst to you they have somehow overlooked the fact that you have other things to do. Hey, you have at least a semblance of a life. Maybe you should’ve specified that on the paperwork…or shown them your cell phone. The waiting infuriates you. But then they send in the teaser. This is the nurse who comes in and takes your blood pressure. “My goodness, your b.p. is high,” she says. “Yeah, it’s from waiting,” you snap. “The doctor will be with you shortly,” she states. “Well, don’t wake him on my account,” you reply.
Eventually, the doctor arrives, usually around the time you’re rummaging through the medical cabinets for any take-home items like a tongue depressor to make popsicles. He enters, barely acknowledging you. “Let’s see here,” he continues with no eye contact. “So, you’re six months pregnant…” I quickly interrupt, “I think you have the wrong chart, Doc. I’m Mr. Peterson.” He looks up. “I see. Well, I’ll be back…shortly.”
Before I know it, he’s back an hour later and I’ve just finished memorizing the digestive system. “So how have you been feeling?” he inquires. “Well, I’ve been a little tired lately and my shoulder hurts, mainly at night.” Without missing a beat, he suggests, “Why don’t you cut down on the coffee, drink some more water and try to walk 15 minutes a day.” My God, this man’s a genius. Who would’ve ever thought fluids and exercise would be beneficial to your health? No wonder I could never be a doctor: I would probably suggest that my patients smoke crack and eat a daily bag of chips. But that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.
I was in the medical office for four hours, and the doctor was kind enough to take 10 minutes out of his day to visit with me. He was also kind enough to bill me for those 10 minutes. “Ninety-two dollars? For what?” I mumble in disgust. This guy ain’t gonna have trouble making his car payment this month. Is it any wonder the health care system’s going broke? (Maybe the medical profession should look at that major fracture.) Perhaps if the good doc had slipped me a prescription for something—anything—I would feel the visit had been worth my time. Even a humiliating, uncomfortable probing would have put my mind at ease. Now he wants to see me again in two months. For what? Maybe he’s planning on buying a bigger house.
by Jeff Charlebois