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Patients will be seen after appointment time only

The sign next to the check-in desk reads "Patients will be seen at or after appointment time." The word "at" is actually a typo that no one has mustered the courage to point out to the powers behind the sliding window shuffling medical files. Complain and they will likely shuffle you right to the bottom of the stack.

This helps explain why I detest visiting the doctor. Doctors themselves are all right, as far as individuals go. It's their method and their madness (or maybe it's mine) that I abhor.

Just to see a practitioner of medicine I must use copious amounts of my precious time, which I've saved up by hurrying through life, reading Trailer Living magazine in the reception area. This requires me to mix with people whose germs represent more contagious and deadly strains than my own.

Then there are the staging areas where various office staff members leave me to twiddle my thumbs, indefinitely. First, the receptionist asks me to fill out the same papers I completed on my last visit six years ago. It takes three minutes to write the identical information in six different places and 45 minutes to select a safe seat and a suitable publication.

Next, a nurse calls me to the weight-temperature-blood pressure arena, where she becomes the third person (not counting the lady with the phlegmy cough determined to convince me she has more disorders than anyone the doctor ever treated) to inquire into my physical complaints. I am left here while she goes to get more paper for notes, and roll her eyes.

From here, an escort leads me to the stark white examination room devoid of literature except a pamphlet about urinary tract infections, and two posters; one picturing a normal versus an enlarged prostate and one showing the various stages of a ghastly toenail fungus. I choose to look down at my thumbs as they spin around each other for the next thirty minutes.

And finally, I am directed to the doctor's personal lair with bound volumes, in which I can only read the pronouns and prepositions, lining the shelves. At this point she tells me she would help me, but it appears I died of chronic chorynealsymposia last week. She will bill my survivors.

This brings me to my next point. After repeating my symptoms to the appointment booker, receptionist, temperature taker, personal escort and finally the physician, they all have a conference outside the door where they flip a three-sided coin to decide which of the following to drop on me:

1) "Mrs. Adams, you have a deadly illness for which no treatment exists and you have only two hours to live; barely enough time to get dressed, make your next appointment and drive home."

2) "You, madam, are a deranged hypochondriac, presenting with psychosomatic symptoms, who has wasted our valuable time which we could have used to save Mr. Rodrigez. He keeled over filling out his paperwork. Therefore, you will receive a $10,000 "consumption" charge which your insurance company will refuse to pay."

3) "Something is wrong with you. We don't know what. But while we try to decide we will subject you to several demeaning and invasive tests, just routine you know. You may, however, spend the remainder of your life, we can't tell you how long that will be, coping with the uncertainty of what ails you."

The stress of thinking about it causes me to develop new symptoms by the dozens. I would share them with you, but the dentist will see me now.



Web posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004


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