The clinic’s lobby had two attendants, forty chairs, and no people. Admittedly the women behind the desks (form two lines?) were on the phone constantly, are they serving as a call center for other clinics? If not, why not? Who else could be calling them?
The place shined with grant money and there were posters on the wall for many wellness programs, smoking cessation gadgets, walkathons, and a gaggle of support groups. I’d have traded them all for a mural of an angry drill sergeant screaming “get off the couch and take a hike”.
Despite being the only one in the lobby I waited. Half an hour later a nurse(?) led me into the “cattle processing area”. This is where they ignore you while typing shit into computers. Because medicine.
She took my weight while I was still wearing six layers of jacket. (It was five below out and I’d as soon hang my jacket on a rack in a clinic lobby as I’d lick the bricks of a Tijuana gutter.) I, like virtually everyone in the climate, was duly recorded as twenty pounds heavier than I’d have been in say, Baltimore. I could see the statistics floating through my head. “Everyone up north is fat. President forms committee to address health issues.”
She tapped a bit at the keyboard, glanced at my records, which were floating across the screen d’Orwell, and decided to get my height. I stood against the wall as she carefully took the measurement.
“So does height ever change?” I asked.
“What do my records say for my height?” I asked.
“Um that’s confidential.” She looked worried.
“The new measurement, I’ll bet ten bucks it’s pretty close to the old measurement. Unless I got new shoes.”
“Uh huh.” She ignored me. I noticed she’d written my height on a stick it note but didn’t type it in. I know my weight too. It hasn’t changed much. I might have lost a few but not enough to brag or counteract the weight of a jacket.
Then came my blood pressure. I was pleased it wasn’t an automated machine. I’ve no hint that the machines do a worse job, I just assume they do.
She grabbed the cuff and I took off my shirt (and sixty pounds of jacket). The cuff looked puny. I put my arm down on the table and…
Look I’m a humble guy but I deserve a little happiness too. So just let me have this. Just humor me. I beg of you. Let me have this one bit of glory: I’ve been working out. Hard. For years. I’ll be damned if my biceps look just a little bit better than they once did. I wanted to flex and say something muscle headed. “Look at them guns baby! I’m a hunka’ man!” I didn’t, because I look like a bag of crap in a furry suit, even so, my biceps look OK.
The cuff didn’t fit so she swapped for a bigger one. Yowza! I rock.
She had an array of cuffs. They had ideograms for bigger and smaller sizes. I don’t know what I was hoping for, maybe cuffs lined up from weakling to studmuffin but I was sorely disappointed. The cuffs for me had a big puffy ideogram that was clearly the “Michelin man” body type. Great, hit the gym like a boss and you get the fat ass cuff. Life is like that.
She asked me to describe my symptoms, which I did. It’s a cold. They’ve seen it before. She dutifully typed it all in.
I was pleased that I was asked (for the third time) if I’d been to one of several African nations. At least they got the ebola memo.
Then came the social engineering. I always have fun with this.
“So, do you live alone or with someone.” Her fingers poised over the keyboard.
“To what end do you ask?”
“I don’t know.”
“I live in a shack in the forest with seven dwarves and a monitor lizard named Rufus.” Ask a stupid question, I’ll give a stupid answer.
I know it’s not her fault. I know it’s because medicine. I can’t help myself. I love the social engineering questions…
“Do you smoke?”
“Rolled up car tires.”
“I’ll call that a no.”
“Do you drink.”
“Pure mountain spring water and the blood of my defeated enemies.”
“I’ll call that…”
“Not much.” (By local standards I’m a teetotaller. Notwithstanding my attempt to cure my cold with whiskey over the weekend.)
She got to the next question and paused. I was waiting for it. She grinned.
“Go ahead. Ask if I’ve got guns in my house.” I said.
By now she’d figured out the game. “I think I’ll leave that one blank.”
Folks, you gotta’ enjoy life. Am I right?
The doctor was excellent, competent, and looked like Fez from That 70’s Show. I swear I left college feeling like I was 80 and looking like I was dead. How young can you be and still be a doctor?
A full course of medical school and I still look like a teenager? Send me to the American hinterlands to improve my rugged good looks.
From his point of view I probably looked like some ignorant inbred redneck that wasn’t cool enough to hang with the Duck Dynasty guys.
Go ahead, ask me another social engineering question.
Everything worked fine except when he told me to eat “soap” and I got confused. “You eat soap… soap… like tomato soap.” Eventually I got it. Don’t blame me, I was sick.
All our doctors are like that. When you finish med school you must have to “do time” in the backwater? I haven’t received medical treatment from an individual who at first glance appears to have been born in America since the 1990’s. Poor guy. His dreams of becoming a rich expatriate pediatrician probably didn’t include freezing his balls off in a deserted clinic three hundred miles north of nowhere.
That said, he was a great doctor. I’ll never see him again. It would be cool if he stayed forever and had local friends and put down roots and maybe kicked ass at the ice fishing derby in town… but around here doctors are imported and leave as soon as they can.
Not to say his advice was bad. Nor the medicine. He was spot on and that antibiotics have done their usual miracle. I am ever grateful for antibiotics. And doctors.
On the way out I asked for a lollipop and they gave me one. How cool is that?