Sunday, May 13, 2012

Function Is the Key

Going to the doctor here (and in Brussels) is a very different experience from that in the United States.  Typically, the doctor answers his or her own door and/or phone.  And the offices are almost always in a maison de maître, so that you're having your teeth cleaned under some beautiful moulding or you have to tiptoe past apartments to get to the office or you're made to bide your time in something repurposed as a waiting room.  There is often no admin person, so the doctor is the only one you see so they are also charged with taking your payment, etc.--something many doctors in the US surely wouldn't deign to do.

This is the little waiting room for my primary care doctor.  She is on Rue Royale in the shwanky 8th arrondissement, and I think she and her husband might also live in this apartment/office.  I am sorry to bring her into this post, really I am.

This is the waiting room that inspired this post.  It's quite a story and, forgive me, but I'm going to share it here.  

As you likely know, I've had a few bouts of what seemed to be the stomach flu lately.  This coupled with my gallbladder polyps and the fact I had a pre-cancerous polyp removed from my colon a couple of years ago, warranted a check-in with a gastroenterologist.  Lucky me, my digestive organs act like they're 40+ years older than they actually are, though if there's anything good about that it's the thrill I can give to a random ultrasound tech when they spot my gallbladder.  Some of them get quite excited when they spy my prematurely bumpy gallbladder.  You're welcome, person I will never see again!

I started calling around for GI docs, and managed to get into one walking distance from my apartment within 3 weeks.  (The rest were all booked through at least mid-June.  Now this makes sense to me.)  I arrived just before my 6:30 pm appointment and had a little trouble finding the office in what seemed to be a low-income housing building or perhaps an old-folks home.  And old lady wheeling an even older lady in a wheelchair let me in and told me where the GI office was.  As instructed by a crudely drawn "map" on the office door, I let myself in and found the waiting room, which had a busted out and afghan-covered couch (which I took), a trash can that hadn't been emptied in weeks, hoarder-level stacks of magazines, and weird lacy/doily-ed grandma touches.  I was most struck by the Premiere Magazine special "Kill Bill" edition... what was that 2003??  

There I was waiting, barely sitting on the yucky old couch, trying not to look into the dirty trash can right next to me, wondering who exactly was this doctor... and was that cigarette smoke I smelled?  Now it was 10 minutes after my appointment time.  Another guy came in to wait.  Bonjour, monsieur.  10 more minutes.  A lady arrived, also to wait.  I barely mumbled a Bonsoir this time.  How late did this doctor take appointments??  

And then I hear my name.  Well sort of.  I heard a low growl, something that sounded like "Monsieur Everdeen."  I popped up to see a willowy figure in an orange wig.  

My first thought:  Tranny.  

Said tranny's first thought was to realize that I was not, in fact, masculine so she apologized.

Now I was having a what-did-I get-myself-into moment.  I followed her (him?) into a dark office, with more of the same outdated furnishings and the undeniable smell of cigarettes.  We sat on opposite sides of the desk.  My cursory size-up yielded no adam's apple.  The old lady (my guess was just over 70 years, I quickly assured myself another would do my c-scopy was it warranted) pulled out a fresh blank of A4 and took a green fountain pen to take my history.  Her English was perfect and I was liking her demeanor, as I noticed she had 30+ similar fountain pens gathered into pile and saw that her choice writing instrument had stained her desk and her fingers.  Um, what?  A doctor who is clearly a smoker with dirty fingers and a twitchy eye. (Oh, I didn't tell you?  When she took off her glasses, her eye was droopy and twitchy.  And this woman snakes an instrument through people's lower intestines??)  I didn't leave right then why?

We finished talking (she did not recommend anything for the time, but another scope in a year... already dreading it), and it was time for the exam.  


But if Ol' Greenfingers said there was no action necessary for another year, why would she need to exam... is that dirty paper still on the table??  Phew, she changed it.  She did some tummy pushing and all of that and then it was time for the gastroenterologist's big moment.  The digital exam.  Thankfully fresh gloves were used, but I was still uncomfortable with the whole thing.  (As if anyone is ever really comfortable with this, knowledge of green fingers inside the gloves or not.)  She alternated between the words "Agreeable" (when I first assumed the position... well, thank you!) and "Disagreeable," the latter which I initially took as an insult but then realized she was trying to warn of discomfort and not judging my bits.  There was also a moment when an instrument (I swear it was phonograph-era) that she claimed was a "light" was introduced.  Ohmygodgetitgetyougeteverythingoutofthere!  And then it was over.  

As I walked home in the dimming light, I laughed to myself about having just been bum-fingered by a wigged tranny/granny doctor in what I now knew to be a low-income housing complex.  I had a "did-anyone-just-see-that?" moment and wished that any number of my friends were walking home with me to WTF about what just happened.  And then I thought, you must never tell anyone about this, ever.  

But really, it's just too good not to share.