Savannah Morning News column
May 31, 2015
“First question. Can you tell me the date?”
“I have no idea. May 30?” (Memorial Day was coming up; it used to be on May 30).
“Wrong. May 20.”
“Are you ever irritated?” (Only in the waiting room. I thought I was going to a doctor’s office, not a factory).
“Do you ever trip?” (Yes; mostly on the tree roots on the tree lawn in front of my house.)
“What city and county do you live in?” (Slowvannah; The state of Chatham).
“Can you spell ‘worthwhile’ backwards?’ (In my head? Probably not).
“Do you want to get on the scale or do you weigh the same?” (No, I don’t want to get on the scale Who is their right mind would want to get on the scale?).
“Do you read the newspaper?” (This must be a trick question).
“Do you have anything wrong right now?”
“I have stomach cramps. This never happens.”
Computer snapped shut. That was the end of the “memory” exam. Then the doctor arrives, all crisp, polite, a slight ironic smile on his face. Pleasant. No lab coat. He opens his computer.
His first question: “Do you still use the same pharmacy?”
Then he brought up the stomach cramps issue, which turned out to be food poisoning, But neither of us knew that then.
His response: “Do you want me to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist?”
“Isn’t it a little soon for that?”
Back to his computer. Tap tap tap.
“Do you want a bone density test?”
Blood pressure, good. Skin coloring, good. Ankles, good.
Tap tap tap. Tapping into the computer, sometimes squinting, sometimes getting closer to the screen, pausing.
My turn to ask a question.
“What are you doing?” (I thought this was about me.)
“Recording what you’re saying.”
“Why does it take so long?”
He doesn’t say but I know the answer. He’s being very, very careful to put in the right code, the right combination of letters and numbers and dashes. He doesn’t want to be reported to the Medicare police, which are everywhere.
Then I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Don’t you want me to drop my drawers? Aren’t you going to use that stethoscope or any of those other sterilized instruments? Listen to my lungs? How about looking into my eyes or my ears?”
No. No. No. And no.
The last time I went to see him at the factory I was looking for relief from allergies. I was at my wit’s end from sneezing and itchy eyes and not sleeping. I was down for the count. In the end I got what I came for, a prescription, a drug.
That was when he looked at it computer and said it was time for my wellness exam. OK, that’s fine with me. Nothing feels particularly wrong but that’s what you do. You see a doctor once a year, just to stay ahead of things. You have a physical. Except he never said the word “physical.” He said “wellness.” Same thing, I thought. Same old drill. Just another term. That’s the era and the language I’m familiar with. Physicals. You know, hands on, taking a hammer to my knee to check whatever, poking, probing, looking. Not at the computer keyboard but at me, my chest, my back.
Wrong. This is the twenty-first century. Physicals are so twentieth-century. Now, under Medicare, what you get is a “wellness” exam. Most of it is free. But no one is quite sure what is free, what is not free.
Computer snapped closed.
Back to the factory waiting room that used to be a grocery store to wait for “labs.”
It’s the new world order. I hope they know what they’re doing because I sure don’t.