I groggily rolled out of bed on the first buzz of the alarm, grudgingly bypassed my morning sugar and caffeine fix, and after a rather lengthy and semi-successful attempt to make myself presentable to the rest of the world, I plopped into my car seat for the two-hour trek to the doctor’s office. It was time for my dreaded annual check-up.
These check-ups are supposed to be good for me; they allow my doctor to make sure that all systems are functioning properly before she refills my prescriptions. Whatever. In reality, I’m convinced these check-ups are a poorly disguised ploy by the medical community to pick a little more money from my pocket and make me even more depressed and stressed than I already am.
Even so, on this morning I tried to focus on the positive. I was on the road early enough to see the sun rising, and Fleetwood Mac was playing on my oldies radio station. Surely a day that started with purple and pink bursting through the clouds while Stevie Nicks belted out, “Thunder only happens when it’s raining, players only love you when they’re playing” couldn’t be all bad. Right?
I arrived at the doctor’s office at 8:15, fifteen minutes early for my lab work. Great. Maybe they would get me in early; then I would have enough time before the actual appointment to run out for something to eat and drink (four hours awake without caffeine and sugar–I was feeling famished and faint.) But when I opened the door, I was confronted by a waiting room full of coughing, sneezing, dripping, hacking, germ-ridden people–yikes! I was there for a check-up; I didn’t want to be surrounded by sick people spreading their viral venom!
Okay, deep breath. Smell the clean, ocean air. You can do this. “Aruba, Jamaica, ooh, I wanna take ya, Bermuda, Bahamas, come on pretty momma, Key Largo, Montego baby why don’t we go …”
Then the receptionist informed me the lab was backed up and running behind–at 8:15 in the morning? I found a seat in the back, far from the crowd, and momentarily contemplated picking up a magazine, but then decided too many germy fingers had probably already thumbed through it. Almost immediately, an elderly “gentleman” checked in and took the empty seat directly across from me. He hacked and he wheezed, and it soon became obvious that, in his 70+ years, no one had ever told him he should cover his mouth when he sneezed. Apparently he didn’t know that the spray radius of a sneeze is 15 feet or that he just sent 40,000 droplets of his mucus speeding toward me at a rate of approximately 102 miles per hour. Or maybe he just didn’t care.
I envisioned his contaminants invading my nasal passage and launching a full-scale attack against my immune system; my brain was screaming silent commands to my body: “Be strong! Hold the line! We will not be defeated–WE WILL NOT!”
And then he sneezed at me again. I nonchalantly walked toward the magazine rack, pretending to consider the selections, and then took a seat farther away. I tried to appear calm, but inside I was seething: “Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead.”
After silently singing through “Bohemian Rhapsody” three more times, I was a little calmer and even felt a little guilty for imagining the demise of an obviously ill old man (but that still didn’t excuse his obvious lack of proper manners). After five hours sans caffeine and sugar, the lab technician finally called my name.
With no preliminary niceties, the tech thrust a plastic cup into my hand and said, “We need a urine sample.” Several minutes later, I apologetically handed the cup back to her with approximately three drops in it. She barely contained her disgust. “I haven’t had anything to drink in over five hours–what do you expect?!” I wanted to scream, but since she was now ready to stick a very large needle into my arm and take a very large tube of my blood, I didn’t think it was in my best interest to offend her.
It wouldn’t have mattered. No one ever misses my veins–but she did. When she finally tired of abusing my right arm and switched to the left, she got the vein on her very first try–and sent that hypodermic straight through my elbow (or at least, that’s what it felt like). I grimaced, I groaned, I dug my fingernails into my palm (have I mentioned that my fear of needles is 157 times greater than my fear of germs?). Instead of apologizing for her unnecessary roughness, she said (and I’m not kidding), “You know, this wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t so dehydrated. You shoulda drank more water this morning.” So this is MY fault? First of all, you hateful old hussy, YOU should use correct grammar when trying to humiliate patients in order to justify your own inadequacies. And secondly … and secondly … wow, I don’t feel so good …”
After a short nap on a cold floor, I was gingerly handed over to the nurse who brought me orange juice and sugar cookies and mothered me until I convinced her I was feeling much better. I liked her. She escorted me to the weight scale (one of the worst inventions known to woman), and despite my fears to the contrary, I hadn’t gained a single pound since last year! Things were looking up! “I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, she’s givin’ me excitations …” And then Nice Nurse took my blood pressure, and it was an amazing 116/78–yippee skippy! (I secretly wondered if my recent “nap” might somehow be responsible for the low reading, but if she wasn’t going to suggest the possibility, I certainly wasn’t going to spoil the moment.)
I thought the worst was over and I was home free. But then Nice Nurse said, “Oh, I almost forgot–I need to get your height.” No big deal, I thought, as I kicked off my shoes and backed against the measuring tape on the wall. And then my world came crashing down around me when Formerly Nice Nurse casually announced, “59 1/2 inches.” WHAT?! NO! That’s not possible! I’ve been 60 inches tall since the seventh grade!
And then, aloud, I said, “That’s not possible! I’ve been 60 inches tall since the seventh grade!”
Before walking away, Formerly Nice Nurse responded with (and I’m not kidding), “It’s actually pretty common for women your age to start losing a little height.”
Women MY age? First of all, F.N.N., I’m guessing you’re only a few years away from being MY age, so you might be a little more considerate with your choice of words. And most importantly, you look to be of above-average height, and you therefore have no IDEA how important every half inch is to someone who was only five feet tall to begin with! Do YOU have to hem every pair of pants you buy? Do YOUR feet dangle mid-air from every chair? Are YOU unable to see over the heads of any group in front of you? Do YOU have to sit so close to the steering wheel in order to reach the pedals that an exploding air bag will most certainly break your nose, puncture your lungs, and embed your breasts into the backseat cushions? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Please don’t so lightly discredit my half inch; I am devastated, and I am mourning its loss.
A few minutes later, my doctor came in and politely asked how I was doing. “Great!” I lied. “I’ve never felt better!” She briefly looked over my lab results, gave me a clean bill of health, and refilled all my prescriptions. She was on her way out the door–my nightmare was almost over–and then she turned and said (and I’m not kidding), “You know, now that you’re 50, we probably need to talk about a colonoscopy.”
“Chug-a-lug chug a lug, make you wanna holla hidy hoe, burns your tummy don’t you know, chug-a-lug chug-a-lug.”