“What happened to your neck?” my friend asked. “Did a vampire bite you?” She was referencing the embarrassing itchy rash on my neck that was looking worse instead of better.
“Ha, ha,” I said, casually pulling my unusually fluffy hair down around my neck. “I think it’s poison ivy, but it’s not going away.”
She smiled. “So, that’s why your hair is so big today.”
That’s the bad thing about good friends. Nothing gets past them.
After about two weeks of treating my “poison ivy” with everything available in aisle 8 of my friendly local pharmacy, I finally broke down and took myself to the doctor. Actually, it was the Urgent Care center, because my doctor had retired from practice and I just never got around to finding another.
“You have shingles,” the Urgent Care doctor announced.
Shingles. My first thought went to skeletal, mangy pirates dying from unsanitary conditions and poor nutrition and I was momentarily horrified. Then I realized I was thinking about scurvy, which is thankfully very different from shingles. “So, what exactly is shingles?” I asked the doctor.
“It’s basically the same virus that causes chicken pox and is usually brought on by stress to the immune system,” he said matter-of-factly. Well, that was a relief. No parasites crawling around under my skin or vampires biting me in my sleep. And stress would certainly explain it. With my husband and myself both in school and three kids at home, I was averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night and running at a breakneck pace constantly. Stress to the immune system sounded pretty accurate. So the kind doctor sent me home with nothing to be done about my rash but wait it out and wear big hair for a couple more weeks. He also referred me to a doctor with whom he wanted me to establish myself and said he would be calling me to set up an appointment with them. I was a medical orphan no longer.
Three weeks later I went to meet my new adoptive doctor. The receptionist called me the day before to remind me about my appointment at 9:10 a.m., and also reminded me to come half an hour early to fill out my new patient paperwork, which would mean I would have to be there at 8:40. So, at 8:45 the day of, I was rushing around the house in a panic, looking for steps to my morning ritual I could cut out to make me less late than I already was. As I was dashing out the door, I realized I had forgotten to make coffee. Coffee…the most treasured and sacred part of my day. How did I even manage to get my shoes on the right feet without coffee? How did I manage to put one foot in front of the other and walk myself to the front door with my keys in hand? By what miracle was I able to stand upright and not fall over unconscious? I turned back to the kitchen and, for a brief second, contemplated taking the extra six and a half minutes to brew a cup. Was it more responsible to try to keep my lateness to a minimum or to consider the safety of other people on the road by not allowing myself to drive in a non-caffeinated state? Guilty conscience won out and I rushed, coffee-less, out the door.
Needless to say, I made it to the doctor’s office in 5 minutes and 47 seconds with 20 minutes to fill out paperwork. I was probably more than a little smug when I filled out the paperwork in 10 and set down to wait for my name to be called. I mean, here I was, showered, hair fixed, makeup on and looking not too shabby for a woman running late and I filled out their stinking paperwork in record time. But this was all part of my plan. The makeup and hair would come in handy when I needed a self-esteem boost after having to be weighed. Yes, weighed. I knew it was coming. They could have poked me with a needle the size of a turkey baster and I would have been fine. I would have even been okay with a little unnecessary outpatient surgery. But make me step on the scale? I was sure the Hippocratic Oath said something about keeping patients from harm and injustice. Weighing me against my will seemed the most unjust atrocity a doctor could commit. It was right up there with harvesting organs and overcharging for Tylenol. Perhaps I could put together a malpractice suit.
I picked up the only remaining magazine on the side table next to me and began to peruse. One by one the other patients waiting in the lobby began to be called back while more people began to come in and take their seats. After about 20 minutes of waiting, I started to notice people being called back who had come in after me. I wasn’t too terribly concerned, but my magazine had run out long ago and the only other magazine available was AARP. So I sat and stared out the window and watched people in the parking lot. That riveting experience lasted for another 30 minutes before I finally decided I should say something. The people running the show obviously didn’t realize they were dealing with an addict; an addict who hadn’t had their fix. I mean, I didn’t selflessly sacrifice my morning cup of coffee in consideration for their schedule just so I could sit there surrounded by sick people reading an old issue of Better Homes and Gardens and watching the grass grow out the big picture window for the better part of an hour, just so they could take my blood pressure and make me step on their god-forsaken scale!! WHAT KIND OF A RINKY-DINK QUACK KEEPS HIS PATIENTS WAITING LIKE THAT????!!!!!
So, at 9:50, I took a deep breath and swallowed the caffeine withdrawal that was clawing its way up my throat and made my way calmly to the reception desk.
“Excuse me,” I said, oh-so-sweetly, “my appointment was at 9:10 and I still haven’t been called back. Could you please double check the time for me?”
The tiny little receptionist, who had probably never had a phobia of scales in her life, tapped on her computer keyboard and then turned to me with a smile. “Oh, your appointment was at 9:40. We wanted you here at 9:10 to fill out paperwork.” Then adding salt to the wound, she said, “Your name is next on the list to be called.”
“Oh,” I replied, digging my white-knuckled fingernails into the soft wood of the reception desk.
“Thank you.” I turned and walked back to my seat in front of the window, feeling very perturbed and humbled at the same time. I should really try to pay more attention to those reminder phone calls.
Soon after, my name was called and I shuffled toward the nurse with the clipboard who was holding open the door for me. She was smiling, too. “How are you today,” she asked cheerfully.
I’m ready to tear your frickin’ head off and throw up on your sensible shoes, I thought. “I’m good, thanks,” I said, equally as cheerful. Then I wondered how much less I would weigh if I really did throw up.
“Just set your purse down here and step up on this for me,” the nurse instructed, motioning to the chair and the new, digital scale.
Here it was: my moment of truth. I obediently sat my purse and heavy sweater on the chair, thinking perhaps I should take off my shoes, too. I mean, they had kind of chunky heels. They were thick wedges, actually. The soles were probably pretty heavy. My jeans were heavy, too - kind of new, not soft and worn out. You know, after they’re washed a lot there are fewer fabric fibers and they weigh less, but these had only been washed less than 20 times, probably. Then the thought of standing barefoot in my underwear brought me back to reality and I closed my eyes and stepped on the scale, fully clothed. The last time I remembered getting weighed at the doctor, it was one of those older scales with the slides the nurses move until they’re level. I could stare straight over them and not really read the numbers and let the nurse scribble on her clipboard in complete and blissful ignorance of what it said. However, this scale had the new digital screen, displaying the magic number in very large, very red high definition digital brilliance. I’m pretty sure the patients down the hall could see it. In order to ignore it, I had to close my eyes. Now, in a moment of dumb curiosity I had weighed myself at my sister’s house the year before. I had a general idea of what I weighed. And suddenly, before I knew it, yet another moment of dumb curiosity had seized me and I caught myself peeking. I am not a math person, but it doesn’t take a scale-phobic mind long to calculate when pounds are involved and I deduced very quickly that this scale must be broken. According to the new-fangled digi-wonder scale I had gained eleven pounds since I last checked at my sister’s house. Eleven pounds in approximately as many months.
“Okay, right this way,” the smiling nurse said, looking up from her clipboard and directing me to the room where I would have the privilege of waiting some more. I followed her inside and sat down, numb with the effects of the scale shock. “The doctor will be with you shortly,” she left me pleasantly and closed the door with a soft click. I was alone. My caffeine withdrawal combined with the trauma of the weigh in suddenly came crashing down on me like a ton of bricks and my eyes started tingling with the promise of tears. Great, I thought. This is just great. Why don’t I just start crying here and now so when the doctor comes in he can not only see my new 11 pounds but he can just go ahead and declare me clinically insane? I am a grown woman, for crying out loud! What is wrong with me?!
I blinked quickly and took a couple of deep breaths, scolding myself for being such a girl and tried to suck it up. After all, I had been under a lot of stress and not able to take care of myself properly. And my shoes probably were really heavy.
The doctor came in just as I pulled it together and he looked at my neck, which had been healing up nicely. He made jokes and we engaged in some polite doctor/patient banter and he suggested I make another appointment for a full physical sometime within the next six months. You know, since I am technically his patient and all. So I agreed to make the appointment and made a mental note to eat nothing but bread crumbs and Diet Coke in the meantime so my next encounter with the scale would be better. We shook hands and I headed to the check out desk where I stood in line to make my future appointment. As I stood there contemplating a fabulous diet and exercise plan that was sure to fail I happened to notice the woman in line in front of me. She was not a small woman and her jeans were very…uh…snug. I also noticed that on her backside, just next to the right back pocket, was a slit about two inches long that was stretched and gaping wide open, exposing pinkish-white flesh. I did a double take, thinking surely she just had on a pair of nice, flesh-colored underwear. But further observation told me she was either wearing a thong or going commando because it was not white cotton shining out of the hole.
I’ll admit, I did stare for a moment, because…well, I don’t really know why.
My initial reaction, after the shock wore off, was to tell her. It is an unspoken girl rule to always tell another woman when she has lipstick on her teeth or mascara smeared under her eyes. This would probably fall under the same category. But really, what could she do about it? She couldn’t reach back there and wipe it away with a moist towelette . She didn’t have a jacket or sweater to wrap around her waist. She would have been horrified and embarrassed and have left the doctor’s office a mess, probably drawing more attention to it than if she had walked out oblivious. So I opted to do the woman a favor and stand there quietly, waiting my turn, completely forgetting about my silly eleven pounds. I mean, it could have been worse. I could have been in public in a pair of split pants showing my shiny white butt to the whole world. So, after I made the appointment for a follow-up physical, I went home to make coffee, with lots of sugar and cream, and I might have even had a nice fattening pastry to go along with it.