I dislike Doctor’s Office Visits.
I dislike any event that I’ll be turned away from, but still billed for, if I’m 10 minutes late. Yet if I do arrive on time, it’s a given that I’ll wait for hours, uncompensated, before the show begins.
This issue was magnified for me when I was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine cancer. It meant, among other things…lots of Doctor’s Office Visits. DOV’s.
Some doctor’s offices resemble a MOMA exhibit; others at most curate a collection of vintage magazines. Other than that, very little about DOV protocol seems to vary. All Receptionists pretend a glass wall makes them invisible. No matter how empty the place is, the guy with the productive cough will sit right next to you. His phone will blare the La Macarena tune multiple times, as he conducts spirited conversations. There’s not a single clock in sight; there is no need to monitor Eternity.
You’ve entered The Waiting Room Zone.
This is where, of course, you Wait. Until everyone who arrived long after you has been seen. You wait, until they’ve had time to deliver babies in a back room somewhere. You wait, until so much time has elapsed those babies are grown and now sitting next to you, waiting for school physicals. Then your name will be called. And since my name is unusual, the nurse will bastardize it so badly I won’t know she means me and I will miss my turn.
After finally dying of what ailed me, being reincarnated, and living long enough to contract it again, I’ll be led to a scale. Being weighed is a meditative exercise for me; I require a moment, to envision myself as mere wisp of air. Instead, I’ll be put through a vigorous set of step aerobics, as the nurse has me climb on, and off, and on, and, oops, off, the scale while she figures out how to operate the damn thing. Sometimes I’m told to pee in a cup, but not what to do with it afterwards, so I leave it on the bathroom sink and run away.
I’ll be led to a room, with “Exam” written on the door. This is actually just another level of Waiting purgatory. A nurse will ask me a slew of judgmental lifestyle questions, take my vitals, note my blood pressure is unusually high, and inquire if I’ve been under recent duress. Yes, if you count being required to rapidly leap on and off of a scale like a jockey preparing for the Kentucky Derby. Or, if “La Macarena Earworm” is an actual medical condition. Then she will bald-faced lie to me that “Doctor will be right in” and vanish like a Vegas magician. Having forgotten my 1987 copy of “Nauti Angler”, I will entertain myself for the next eon by reading posters illustrating what one’s stool should look like and trying to reassemble a 3D plastic model of the female reproductive system.
By the time the doctor raps authoritatively on the door (I stifle an urge to holler, “No Solicitors!”), I’ve added Plain Aging to my list of concerns. He’ll make me prove I can inhale/exhale until I hyperventilate, whack me in the kneecaps, pull quarters from behind my ears, then stare into a laptop as if it’s a crystal ball. He may not even be an actual doctor, for all I know. I’ve gotten so old (while waiting in doctors’ offices), to me they all appear about my sons’ ages. FYI I would not trust my sons to run my bathwater, much less direct my healthcare.
I’ll get prescriptions — they increase in number, as medications to counteract the side effects of others are added. Finally, just as I’m about to submit a change of address listing the doctor’s office as mine, I will be funneled out to the Billing Desk. Similar to how the only exit from a zoo is via the gift shop.
Medical test report protocol is also cruel and unusual. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. In 7 to 10 days, but only if something important shows up. Look. It’s all important, to me. Do you mean 7 to 10 business days, or just day days, before you forget to call. How about I just plan to start calling you before I even make it to my car.
I also resent homework. Since I see no point in even learning to pronounce “sphygnomometer” much less buy one, just to possibly be told in 7-10 days that I’m dying anyway, I’m to monitor my blood pressure in one of those public chairs with the built-in, germ-infested cuff. They are supposed to be foolproof, but whenever this fool tries, the deathcuff just keeps madly inflating until I scream for a clerk to come to my immediate aid. Only to be condescendingly told that no one’s arm has ever truly exploded in one.
I’ve thrown several pity parties for myself, over DOV’s and more. Recently, I was gifted with a new perspective.
A young girl was wheelchaired in to The Waiting Room. Her skin was so pale it held a bluish cast, like thin porcelain. She sat quietly, tiny hands knitted together in her lap. I tried to imagine how many DOV’s, how much Waiting, and more, she’d been through. I was griping about my time being “wasted”. This child’s time, so briefly allowed her to simply be a child, was far more precious. My perceived inconveniences, sour impatience, and fierce resistance to my own situation suddenly felt tremendously misplaced. As I watched her be wheeled to a room (ahead of us all) I felt a deep blush of humility.
When the doctor finally arrived for my appointment this time, he was visibly shaken. He apologized for the delay; he shared with me that he’d had to deliver very difficult news to another patient and arrange a hospital transport. I wondered who it was. I hoped it wasn’t the young girl. I wished it was No One.
I may have waited a long time — but I got to go home.
Nothing in this world can be immutably planned. Even things that seem to lend themselves well to scheduling, like DOV’s, easily derail. Certainly, the most important events in life are rarely predictable. That’s half the supposed fun of babies. And, one day, it may be my passing, that makes a Doctor extra late for Office Visits.
Waiting. The involuntary Time Out, during which we struggle to allow ourselves to simply become more present. To consider all that’s actually happening, in the spaces between the minutes we count and covet. I will always consider the porcelain girl, before claiming any true imposition on my time.
And if I consider it time wasted…that’s on me.