I was prompt. I promptly wrote a check for my copay and I was promptly whisked into Exam Room 9, which was all the way at the back of the facility. I'm guessing that my screams would be less apparent to those who shuffled, hobbled and we dragged by purportedly loving family members into the waiting room after my early arrival, hence, the placement. The nurse promptly appeared and took my blood pressure, which was too low, then, too high. She asked me if I was nervous and I explained that I had White Coat Syndrome and that I thought this was sort of like taking a test you know you didn't study for and was likely to fail. She looked at my chart and gave me a wan smile, with slightly pitying eyes. "It's okay. The doctor will be in, in a minute." I'm not sure if she inserted that comma in her mind when she said that, but that's what I saw floating in front of her when she said it and so, I am reproducing it here so that there can be no grammatical ambiguity about what I imagined. Really, with that particular sentence structure, one is trapped. The second "in" can't be left out, right?
Anyway, as I always do, I got the full soup-to-nuts (literally) work-up, including a fresh and digital EKG. I think the nurse was fixated on my nipples when she was applying the electrodes. Or maybe, I was imagining it. No, I'm pretty sure my nipples would be dinner conversation at Nursey's house:"Well, I must say I've never seen such puffy nipples on a man. They looked a little like baby plums. You know, those tiny Japanese ones? No, the plums, I mean." I should mention that I got to don what must be the haute couture for Le Monde de Medécin, that is, a white garment made of what I believe was Bounty, you know, the Quicker Picker Upper, modeled after what could only be described as a samurai kimono, only without the cool designs evoking bamboo or leaves or carp.
Promptly thereafter, the doctor came in, not making eye contact, as is his practice. I guess I make him nervous. Instead, he rolled up to where I was perched, on the edge of the examining rack, er, table, at roughly ball level, tapping away at his wireless laptop. He asked me to detail my latest experiences and I told him about the increasing arrythmias and the exhaustion. He looked at the EKG, my EKG, on his laptop in silence. I thought he was about to say something House-ian, but, no luck. He asked me about my Hep C. I said, "Whut? Wrong disease, doc. What else have you got in there?" "Sorry, sorry, maybe the software did it. So, you've never had gout? Or gall bladder problems?", he said, fearing that his software was making him look foolish, which it was. "Nope, happy to say that I don't have what Pam Anderson's got, but at the same time, I really haven't had the opportunity to have her expose me to it." Recovering, he said, "Well, at least you don't have syphilis." Mild chuckle from Dr. P. Then, without warning, he jumped up and stethescoped me and listened in a number of spots, but particularly at my carotid artery, specifically at the junction where the artery splits off to go internal to the structure of the neck and external, closer to the skin, if you will. And he listened again, shhshing me when I started to say something. "Something going on there at the carotid bulb. Hmm. Hmm. Okay, first things first and then we'll order some pictures. Could be nothing." Could be nothing? Could be? Garshck, Doc, let me down easy, will ya?
And he continued to poke, prod and tickle. I avoided eye contact so he wouldn't think I was liking it too much. But, c'mon, for the patient, a doctor's visit is pretty intimate. After all, how many people do you know have you come by, grease up a finger, shove it up your butt and say, "Feels okay, no problems there at least?" Oh, you do? Really - how often? Hmm. Wow. Got any pics?
Then, he ran down one treatment that I was to enjoy for two weeks to follow. This involved swallowing GIANT green capsules. I hate pills. I CAN'T F•CKING SWALLOW THEM without thinking I'm going to choke to death and I almost always gag them back to the surface. Ech. Ecccccch. I hate it so much. And then, of course, I have to swallow them all over again. Eeeeeeek! So, I made up a joke about it. Here it is:
A guy goes to the doctor and the doc tells him he has Hep C or maybe gall bladder disease, but at least it's not syphilis. The doctor tells him that he can cure his problem, but he'll have to take these huge-ass pills for two weeks. The good news is that if he takes each and every pill as prescribed, he'll be permanently cured. The bad news is that if he misses even one, the treatment can't be repeated and he'll die for sure. So the guy takes all of this very seriously and decides to follow the doc's advice to the letter. But he hates pills, can't swallow them, never could. He tells the doctor this and the doctor says, "Well, you're in luck. I can either prescribe the pills or you can get suppositories." The guy decides to man it up all the way and goes for the pills. Two weeks later, he comes back to see the doctor and it turns out he's completely cured. "Yep, doc, I decided to take it like an hombre and I took every last pill." And the doctor says, "Pills? You mean suppositories, don't you?"
Yes, it could be funnier. Please write in with your lame suggestions on how to improve the world's second most wonderful joke. Next!
Now this part is no joke. I went down to the corner drugstore, to get my fair share of abuse (Rolling Stones reference - yay!) and to also get the prescription. You see, the highly trained staff at the doctor's office called it in so that it would be ready upon completion of my one minute and forty-five second drive from their office to the Wrong Aid. When I arrived, it was not ready. I wandered the aisles, peering at the stacks of Ramen selling for five times the cost of what was on offer at SlopRite and considering whether I indeed might need a Vince "I Can't Do This All Day" Shlomo-endorsed nut chopper, As Seen On TV. Wait - I though TV was obsolete.
Eventually, I wandered back to the pharmacy counter. I wasn't loitering too close, as the junior Mr. Gower, likely hailing from Islamabad rather than Bedford Falls, might "accidentally" put a wee bit o' poison in my supposi-, um, capsules and then he'd cuff me on the ear and twenty years later, I'd be standing on a bridge on Christmas Eve with some dude named Clarence and who wants that, right? As I approached, I straightened my spine to make my gaunt and withered frame more erect, open and less evocative of Plague. The rotund servile behind the apothecary's till, oh, God, I'm slipping purple, sorry - the fat broad behind the money machine - oh, gee, now I'm gone all Chandlery at the wrists. Okay - the "lady" behind the counter said, "May I help you?" I'm certain she needed to be hitting the Alzheimer's meds because I was just there, not twenty minutes ago. Am I that forgettable? Jovially, in my best mock-hippie voice, I said, "I'm here for the drugs, man, the drugs!" She chuckled at this, asked my name, I announced it and Ahmed The Dealer (the pharmacist's name has been changed to protect me) snapped at her that they were working on it. She turned to me and said, "He's working on it. Should be a few minutes." Sometimes people do the darndest things!
My pretty pills were soon ready to be cashiered. What I got, though wasn't correct, I thought, and it's not because I dropped out of Brooklyn's BA-MD program thirty years ago so that my ex-ex-wife could go to nursing school and actually graduate and instead wind up negotiating entertainment contracts nor is it because I've now seen each and every episode of House at least once nor is it because I was a devoted follower of ER and St. Elsewhere, though I still think the ending of the latter was bogus and I stopped watching the former three years before the finale. No, the drug was wrong because it started with an "A" rather than with a "D" and no, there's no generic for this stuff, that's for sure. So, on my way to have my scalp conditioned at the El Cheapo Barbershop, I called the doctor's office and told the now-harried deceptionist that I believed that I had received the wrong stuff and could she check it with Il Doctore? She asked me what I got. I told her. "I am pretty sure that this stuff will destroy my kidneys. Should I take it anyway?" Of course it wouldn't do that, but I was certain that it was wrong. She checked the computer. The same computer that had me suffering from Sleeping Sickness and elephantitis and colic. And Hep C, which ain't hep at all, daddy-o! "Yes, that's what the doctor ordered and that's what we called in." Grrr. Confrontation time. Oh, how I hate confrontation. "I'm sorry," I started, mildly insistent and meekly indignant, "but could you actually ask the doctor, just so that we can be sure that Sodium Cyanide is certainly his intended treatment? After all, my last check hasn't cleared yet." Don't get me wrong, she was nice about it, but I'm pretty sure that anyone else would have missed this. A doctor prescribed it, a pharmacist filled it: what could be wrong? "Let me call you back," she said on returning, "since I have to send the doctor an IM?" Interesting - an instant message within the office because he's with another patient, I first thought. Or, maybe, when he was purportedly peering at my EKG, he was actually finishing up a round of World of Warcraft.
My scalp was being soothed by a stylist I used before who is a dead ringer for that native girl from Avatar, only she's not blue, when the deceptionist called back twenty minutes later. The message was panicked: "Mr. X, DO NOT TAKE THAT PRESCRIPTION!. You are right, it's the wrong thing. DO NOT TAKE IT. I've called the correct prescription in. The doctor has verified that you're correct. Thank you." Five minutes later, another call and then another. I really should have called back and whimpered into the phone, "How could you do this to me . . . I trusted you . . ." and then just let the line disconnect.
So, I returned to the Belle Salon de Pharmacopie and got myself some new and equally gigantic pills. And, of course, there was the warning which I've now heard before one too many times, "These are likely to make you feel a little sick . . ." This time, I have been quite lucky, since, except for some very interesting poop, I'm not doing too bad. I'm thinking that all those pills might be piling up in my throat, stuck. Ack-ack!