Editor's note: I kind of went on a mini-vacation with my husband today, so I'm again taking the easy way out and posting an old column so I can have sex and drink champagne instead of coming up with something funny to say that isn't really that funny. I chose this column because a good friend of mine is going through a health nightmare. She will ultimately be fine, but there is some concern she may kill some people at the doctor's office before the whole thing is resolved. So this column is for her.
Going to the doctor's office is one of the most humiliating experiences in the world, second only to showing up for work wearing your underwear on the outside of your pants. Not that I would know anything about the latter. Really.
But I do know about doctor's offices. Recently, I was forced to go to the doctor. I use the term "forced" because I will use any excuse not to go, even when a body part may be falling off. Who needs a spleen anyway?
But my husband was tired of me being an infectious hacking mucous ball for two weeks, and told me I had to go to the doctor or he would take away my TiVo privileges. And a girl's gotta have her TiVo.
So I went.
I find it ironic that doctor's offices - which in theory are supposed to make you feel better - make a habit of stripping you of your dignity. Maybe it's the idea that they need to tear you down in order to build you back up.
There you are, pale and feverish, shaking and dripping snot from every orifice. But instead of greeting you with a warm smile and some comforting phrase like "I'm so sorry you feel like dying would be an improvement on your current condition," the people at the front counter make you fill out paperwork and cough up a co-pay.
The fact you've spent your entire paycheck on developing a Nyquil addiction makes no matter to them. "Healthy" rhymes with "wealthy" for a reason, you know.
For the next 10 minutes of what feels like your last precious hours on earth, you fill in boxes about whether your grandparents had arthritis, as if that has anything to do with you throwing up a lung.
Then you stand another 10 minutes in line to turn in the paperwork, which by now is soggy with infectious bodily fluids.
Another half-hour to 45 minutes is spent in the waiting area, where you manage to pick up diseases and infections far worse than that for which you came to be treated.
To the doctor's office Nazis, it doesn't matter how long they make you wait. Sometimes I think they have secret office pools on how long it will take for you to give up and just leave, or just check into the nearest funeral parlor. Just don't you be late for your appointment, even by a minute, or they'll cancel you.
When they finally call your name, they weigh you. They do this while you are holding your 20-pound purse and wearing your heavy winter coat and boots. Then they look at you out of the side of their eyes - sometimes making the tsk-tsk sound - as they say, too loudly, how much you weigh and write it in big bold numbers on the front of your chart.
Later, a doctor may tell you about the need to lose weight. I don't need a doctor to tell me this. No one I know who is overweight thinks they're thin. We recognize that we shouldn't have rolls of fat on our earlobes. We don't need to sit in an office for two hours for this revelation.
I once refused to get weighed at the doctor's office. I had bronchitis, felt miserable, and told the nurse I didn't want to go through the humiliation this time. "I feel bad enough. Just write down what I was last time. I'm sure it's the same," I told her.
When she told me I "had" to be weighed because it was procedure, I told her that if she allowed me to weigh her first, while holding my purse and wearing my coat, I'd be game. I was blacklisted after that. I had to move two states away to be seen by a doctor again.
After the weigh-in, patients are usually given a paper gown and told to strip naked in this little room roughly the temperature of an igloo. They used to give you soft cloth gowns, but these must have been too comfortable, so they stopped. It wasn't that the cloth gowns were much warmer than the paper ones, they just didn't stick to you and feel like sandpaper.
You sit there, exposed and shivering, for another 45 minutes, reading through six-year old magazines and pamphlets on gangrene.
Finally, the doctor comes in. He or she pokes and prods for about a minute, and gives their diagnosis. Why you needed to be in a paper gown for this, other than to provide the physician some comic relief, makes no sense.
But you finally do get what you want: a cryptic piece of paper that will magically allow you to get drugs that hopefully, will make you feel better. For a couple of hours of humiliation, you are offered hope of relief.
I scored two such prescriptions, and am feeling better. Now if I could just do something about my fat earlobes and the rash I got from the paper gown.
Which I may wear to work soon. To cover up the underwear on the outside of my pants.