JUST GRIN AND BARE IT

I have a doctor’s appointment coming up this week, which brought to mind a piece I did a while back for an online writing class.  It ended up on the slush pile because the word count exceeded the limit. Though loosely based on real-life events, this story-with-a-twist is fictional:


When the smiling medical assistant calls my name, I get up and follow her down the hallway to the examination room.  I don’t know about you, but all that smiling gets on my nerves.  Why do they always have to be so damn cheerful as they lead you to the slaughter?  The paper-covered table awaits.  She gestures and says,“You know the drill, everything off from here down.  Dr. Shwarma will be in to see you in a minute.”

I remove no more than absolutely necessary, stack my things neatly on the pink pleather chair in the corner, and sit down on the table to wait.  The doctor will not be in “in a minute.”  That’s just another glib lie they tell you.  The air conditioning is chilly and I wish I had one of those little mini-sheets to cover up with.  I guess modesty isn’t as big a deal where Dr. Shwarma is from, but she’s generally pleasant and competent, so I keep my complaints to myself.

In due time, Dr. Shwarma arrives.  She gives three quick raps on the door, then squeaks it open before I have a chance to holler Come in.  “Gooood morning,” she sings through the entryway, as she grabs my chart and flips it open. “You are here today for check-up…” she says.
I can’t tell if it’s a statement or a question, but I can see clear into the hallway behind her so I answer in the affirmative, hoping she’ll come inside and shut the door before the whole clinic gets a free show.

“Well then, let’s have a look.”  She slides on the half-glasses hanging from a silver chain around her neck and begins her exam.  I stare up at the ceiling and try to escape to my happy place, but her near-constant commentary is distracting.  “The anatomy here is a bit unusual,” she says, touching the weird part with her gloved finger.  “It’s nothing to worry about, just something to be aware of.  If function is affected or
it bothers you,” she prattles, “there is surgery that can be done.  Does
it cause you any problems?  Any pain?”

“Nope,” I say curtly, hoping she’ll get the hint and move things along.

“You have a small lesion here that should come off.  I can remove it for you now, if you like.  That would save you another trip, yes?”

There is nothing I would like less, but I nod.  I don’t want to have to come back.  She fills in a few blanks on a consent form and has me scribble my signature at the bottom.  She roots around in a nearby drawer, grabs a sterile package, and peels it open.  She withdraws a throwaway scalpel and leans toward me.  I scoot back.  “You’re just going to cut it off, just like that?  Shouldn’t you numb it first?”

“There are no nerves here,” she says. “It will not cause any pain.”

My mouth is dry and my heart is racing.  I brace myself as she presses the blade against my flesh but she’s right, I don’t feel a thing.

“This,” she says, holding up a thin slice of tissue, “is a benign thickening caused by overuse and friction.  You do not have much cushion there, between the surface and the bone.”  She rolls her little stool backward and discards her gloves in the trash can.  “As long as there is no pain or bleeding, you may resume your normal activities today.”  Then, almost as an afterthought, she points and says, “You might want to trim those.  Or perhaps treat yourself to a professional job.  Summer fashions can be quite revealing, as you know.”

I am beyond embarrassed.  The minute the door clicks shut, I yank my socks and shoes back on and grab my purse.  On the way out, I stop to schedule my follow-up.  Though the dog days of August are still in full swing, the clerk’s desk sports a Halloween-themed bowl of corn pads next to a crafty wooden sign that says “Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet.”  Podiatry humor.  Ugghhh.

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28 thoughts on “JUST GRIN AND BARE IT

  1. pranabaxom August 27, 2017 / 1:20 am

    And I thought you have a soft corner for the medical profession. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tippy Gnu August 27, 2017 / 8:53 am

    I like this story, but I’m sure anyone with a foot fetish would just LOVE it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 27, 2017 / 10:50 am

      Thanks, Tippy. It’s a toss-up which medical appointment leaves me feeling the most exposed… at least the GYN lets me keep my socks on. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. chevvy8 August 27, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    It’s interesting how vulnerable doctors can make you feel no matter who you are. One of the things I dislike is when the Doctor treats two or more patients simultaneously, moving between different stages of undress of the patients. double jeopardy I say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 27, 2017 / 4:54 pm

      Most doctors don’t treat patients simultaneously, but it’s like a revolving door; he sees one person and meanwhile, his staff is loading the next one in the other room. It was not uncommon for our internists to see 18 patients a day. The whole experience seems designed to make the patient feel dependent and vulnerable–it is we who wait, undress, submit to tests, prepare ourselves for the possibility of bad news, etc. Nurses are not exempt, far from it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • chevvy8 August 27, 2017 / 11:46 pm

        Yes, it is that revolving door approach I was referring to and my previous gynae was guilty of that. When I think of the rates they charge, this seems so mercenary, especially in private health care. I guess I cope the way you do – take myself off into another land but it is hard to do that when your cold, exposed and vulnerable.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan August 28, 2017 / 3:25 pm

        LOL, I love the word “mercenary” in that paragraph. There are no mercenaries in my “happy place,” just chocolate and coffee and saxophones. I recall a funny story I heard on the radio… the winner of a most embarrassing moment contest, I think: The woman had been called in for a GYN appt at the last minute because another patient had cancelled. Lacking the time to shower, she grabbed the washcloth on the bathroom sink and quickly scrubbed the pertinent parts. At her exam, the doctor said, “My, we have made an extra effort this morning, haven’t we?” She was baffled by the comment but didn’t think too much about it until that evening, when her six-year-old daughter called down from the bathroom, “Mommy, where’s my wash cloth?” When she told her to just get another one from the cupboard, the little girl replied, “No, Mommy, I need the one that was here by the sink; it had all my glitter and sparkles saved inside it.” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 27, 2017 / 4:25 pm

      Thanks, Marissa. In this case, women “know the drill” and are easier to mislead. But I do hate baring my feet. And the sign on the desk? Yep, for real. 🙂

      Like

    • Just Joan August 27, 2017 / 6:09 pm

      Thanks, KE. I’ve gotten unsolicited cosmetic advice on several occasions… like how much younger I would look if I colored my hair, or asking me why I don’t. Jokes about not having enough time to shave my legs before my appt (in winter!). A dentist going on about how much prettier my smile could be if I used a whitening system. A technician once told me the lavender shirt I was wearing was “not my color” and it made me “look pale.” LOL. Maybe I look like I need advice? Whatever. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 28, 2017 / 3:05 pm

      Thanks, Snoozing. I have yet to make the proctologist’s acquaintance; with luck, I hope to avoid it a while longer. Maybe they give out sample packs of Shittens or Preparation H. Wonder what their sign would say? “Put it where the sun don’t shine,” maybe?

      Like

  4. L. T. Garvin, Author August 29, 2017 / 10:26 pm

    Joan, you had me in stitches! Of course, I wasn’t thinking the Podiatrist, ha ha! You truly nailed the doctor’s office drill and wait routine 😀 I guess it is also rather close to Halloween, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 30, 2017 / 2:33 pm

      Thanks, Lana. I think the magic of the “twist” lies in what you don’t say. Drop a few bread crumbs and let reader’s brain fill in the missing parts. I see a podiatrist now and then to have calluses removed, and waiting with my socks and shoes off makes me feel weirdly exposed. My doctor is of a different culture; often, comments intended as helpful or conversational come off as blunt or overly personal. The premature Halloween decorations were real and too funny to leave out. I went to Dollar General a couple weeks ago looking for soap bubble solution and the clerk said “summer stuff” had been cleared out to make way for Halloween costumes and candy. I suppose when I’m ready to buy Halloween candy, it will have been replaced by Christmas tree stands and lights, stockings, red and green gift bags.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. T. Garvin, Author August 30, 2017 / 10:33 pm

        I like the bread crumb strategy. I’m also lucky enough to have the calluses too, fun stuff. Cultural differences are always interesting and kinda funny too 😀 I can’t believe the summer is over, and it does seem once Halloween is here, Christmas is just right behind it. Unbelievable how time flys. Excellent story 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan August 31, 2017 / 10:00 am

        Hey Lana, guess what? Hubby brought home three hibiscus and planted them by the patio. The Kiwi is already reaching out toward it… Kiwi-Biscus, here we come! 🙂

        Like

  5. Quirky Girl August 30, 2017 / 4:42 pm

    I’m just glad this is a work of fiction! Everything about that experience sounds mortifying enough to keep a person far, far away from the doctor’s office for good. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 31, 2017 / 10:07 am

      I stay away as much as possible, Quirky. This week’s appointment, besides the indignities of the visit itself, spawned testing and consults that will take me a month to finish. And who knows where all that will lead? When you get to a certain age, it’s always something, there is no such thing as tying up loose ends. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Peter Klopp August 31, 2017 / 9:33 am

    Great story on your medical experience! I am sure you can turn some day into one of your fabulous poems, Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 31, 2017 / 10:18 am

      Thanks, Peter. Is the medical world better in Canada? Or pretty much the same? I’m sure with my plethora of medical experience (I’ve been on both sides of the exam table), a poem will one day coalesce. I did one recently about the dentist–a parody of Poe’s “The Raven”–but it’s been submitted to a contest, so I cannot “publish” it here. Yet. 🙂

      Like

  7. circumstance227 September 4, 2017 / 4:44 pm

    Since you are so secretive till the end about what type of doctor this was, each reader will probably assume it was the type they last visited. Unfortunately, in my case, it was a gynecologist. Thanks for the creep-out, 42!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 4, 2017 / 6:06 pm

      This was a short story exercise that was to include dialogue and contain a twist at the end. It was intentionally vague to mislead you, 227, and your mind went right down the path I hoped it would. Admittedly, even with the podiatry ending, it sounded pretty creepy. All of it is true, it just didn’t all happen with the same doctor in the same visit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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