We all know how it is. Well, all we women, I mean. Unless we’re my grandmother, who just flat-out refused to go, we all know what it’s like to be in that exam room waiting for that doctor to come in and spend some time talking to our crotches. As if it’s not bad enough that it takes forever to even get an appointment, and then we have to wait for 30 minutes, reading a magazine and trying to decide whether crossing our legs is a good idea or not, despite the fact that the receptionist told us the doctor is in a hurry to get to a surgery. (Also? “The doctor is in a hurry to get to surgery” is not what you want to hear as you anticipate cold metal and stabby sticks of plastic in your delicate parts.)
Pretty sure the men have all abandoned this post by now. Sorry fellas. Those of you who brave it will, no doubt, comment below. Not unlike the doc. Hey-oh!
But we go to this doctor and we do this thing because somebody said it was the way not to rot from the inside out or something. So after all that waiting, there I was on Friday, in the exam room. I had been weighed on the scale that lives in the room. The nurse had told me to take everything off, gown opens in the front, and handed me a pink paper thing with no instruction on how to unfold it, leaving me dangerously close to ripping it to tatters as I tried to work it out for myself. Nobody tells you you’re not smart enough to unfold the gown.
Clothes off, gown on, I eye the scale. I wonder. I step back on. Hey! My clothes apparently weigh 1.4 pounds! Fix that on the chart. Fix it.
Freezing in the paper gown, I sit on the exam table, trying not to stare at the stirrups. They have traction treads on them. Seriously? Who slips out of those?
I look around for distraction.
Um… what is that stain on the floor? Wait, you know what? I don’t want to know.
Yes I do. What is that?
Is that…? Why is…? Why is there some sort of wireless modem in the ceiling? I don’t see a laptop in here. Am I on camera? Seriously?
My feet are turning purple. They do that when I sit. I’d better get the blood flowing before the doc comes in and thinks my feet are about to fall off in those no-slip stirrups.
My back hurts from trying to sit like a lady in a paper gown on a table. I’m going to stand up.
I’m standing up and riffling through the magazines in the rack on the wall (all parenting or mom-to-be magazines… where is the stuff for those of us who are not in a family way?) when the doc charges in. He’s about five feet two, maybe 110 pounds soaking wet, somewhere between 65 and 85 years old, Indian, and highly excitable.
It’s the last part that’s bothersome.
“Heeeeeyyyyyy, how are yooo?!” he asks me. We haven’t seen each other in two years (they let me go every two years) but he remembers me.
And then he starts. “Oh, this election,” he says to me intensely as he pushes me back on the table and opens my gown. And so he starts a steady rapid-fire chatter of politics while palpating my abdomen and smacking my breasts around.
“Have you, eh, found anyone?” he asks me. “Marriage, you know, I don’t know. I don’t care who gets married to whom,” he says, laughing, checking for lumps. “All of this ‘they can’t do this, you can’t do that–’ Who cares?” A boob flops sideways as he raises a hand to emphasize his point. “I’m married 41 years, and you know what? If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t do it!”
I manage a laugh as he maneuvers down to his wheeled stool. “I hope you don’t tell your wife that,” I say.
“Eh, she probably feels the same,” he says. “But– ” his head pops up, his voice a dramatic stage whisper– “too expensive to get out of it!”
He’s running the speculum under warm water while he’s talking about tax codes. He’s grabbing the bottle of gel when he launches into how to fix health care. I don’t know if I wince more from the exam or the fact that he’s talking to me about “getting scroood with our pants on” in this economy while he’s doing it. I love political talk, but not with my gynecologist, who has absolutely no problem telling me his political leanings on every visit. To which I nod along and make non-committal noises.
The whole exam takes like four minutes. I don’t like to linger at the gyno, nor do I like him to linger at me, but I’d like to know for sure he’s gotten the job done, so I wonder if he really could have found anything while he was down there, and then he’s telling me to get dressed and meet him in his office.
That’s where he continues his litany of ways to fix the health care system. He explains that, back in 1981 when he started practicing, there was no health insurance like it is now. “You pay everything out of pocket,” he says. “You need a sonogram? You write a check. You need a checkup? You write a check. There was none of this $10 copay bullshit, I send to insurance, insurance sends payment to me…. You just pay. And then, when you run out of money, then your catastrophic coverage kicks in.”
I’m thinking about how late he is for surgery.
“You pay for your service and that’s how you become cost-conscious! And then you think. ‘Wait, do I really need a sonogram? Wait, do I really need an MRI?’ You become cost conscious and that reduces cost.”
I’m thinking that might not really work, because cost-consciousness does not cure cancer.
“And the lawsuits!” he fires in his Indian lilt. “Oh, they have to do tort reform. They have to. My lawyer, he says, ‘Oh, we’re the good guys. We’re on your side.’ I say, ‘Oh, shut up. If they couldn’t sue us, you wouldn’t have any business!’ They’re all in it together!” he waves a hand dismissively.
Huh. Not wrong.
After a thorough, if one-sided, discussion of medical malpractice law, I’m out the door. A little uncomfortable in a couple of ways. The doc’s probably out for a smoke (I could smell it on him) before heading to some poor woman’s surgery. I’m still wondering about that modem in the ceiling. But if I don’t get a letter about abnormal cells, all’s well that ends well. I guess that’s how most people feel about elections. We’ll wince, we’ll be uncomfortable, we’ll get scroood with our pants on… and then we’re done for another coupla years before it’s time to schedule that appointment again.