Periscope Depth

if someone asks, this is where I’ll be

I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting my turn, when a little boy came in with a woman who wasn’t his mother. He had one of those wet raspy coughs that makes you want to clear your own throat, just to make sure it’s still working. The woman asked if a doctor could see him any time soon. While the clerk on desk checked availability, the woman tried to put a face mask on the boy. Prominent signs all over the office asked that if you were coughing or sneezing, to please cover your mouth with one of these sanitary masks. The kid squalled. He cried and coughed and twisted his face away, yanking the mask down. I couldn’t blame him. He probably had no idea where he was – how many doctor’s offices are you really conscious of at age 4? He was already sick, maybe a little feverish. And two women, neither of whom were his mother, were conspiring to put a piece of plastic and paper over his face. I’d scream, too.

“You look so cute,” one of the women said. “Like an astronaut.”

A little later, I sat on the examination table in my doctor’s room, wearing nothing but one of those paper gowns like a bread bag. Sitting there, under cold fluorescent lights, I took on a new appreciation for the hardships women go through in doctor’s offices. I was monumentally uncomfortable, and the non-threatening physical I was about to undergo was nothing compared to cold metal stirrups. Plus, women’s bodies can go wrong in more ways – and more interesting ways – than men’s can. Most of what can go wrong with me can be staved off by diet. With the exception of prostate cancer. Let’s get on that, can we?

Afterward, I gave blood for a cholesterol screening. I rolled up my sleeve, made a fist to help expose some veins, then looked the other way. “Scared of needles?” the nurse asked. Actually, not really. I just don’t like watching them penetrate the skin. But I don’t freak out when I feel the pricking, or when I watch the blood arcing out. After that, the nurse would have sent me on my way, except the doctor had scheduled me for a tetanus/diptheria/pertussis booster.

“Oh,” she said.

She sent me to wait in the hall, where another nurse told me she’d be with me in a few minutes. In a few minutes, she asked me what I was waiting for. I told her. She asked me who my doctor was. I told her that. She asked me when my birthday was. I told her that. Then she took me back into the same room I’d just left. I rolled up my other sleeve and looked the other way as she jabbed me with a booster vaccine.

“This will be sore later,” she said. But it’s been more than 48 hours now and it hasn’t bothered me. Maybe jiu-jitsu’s changed my tolerance for pain a little.

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