The last time I went to the doctor I got a lollipop for my trouble. That’s how long it’s been. There have been some big advances in medicine since those days. Doctors don’t use leeches anymore. Plus, they keep talk of “balancing humors” to a minimum. Yeah, it’s been a while. So today, even though the worst of my recent back pain is gone, I head back to the world of medicine.
I park in the expensive lot, mindful of what the receptionist tells me over the phone: “They start towing off of Olympic at 3:01, so don’t park there, whatever you do.” Stories told by coworkers about the horrors of HMO treatment keep me a little on edge until I meet the nurse practitioner. He’s a good guy. Very friendly. And he surmises pretty much what I knew all along: somehow, I hurt my back. Take some anti-inflammatories, he says, use a hot pad to loosen the muscles a little and try not to pick up any dump trucks if I can avoid it. And heck, since you’re here and since we’re already getting some money from you, let’s get some blood and urine, too.
The latter is no problem. One minute in the bathroom and, as instructed, I leave the little container on the counter in the hall. I like that they don’t insist that you hand it to someone. I could see how that might get awkward, wandering from room to room asking people, “Do I give this to you?” Instead you’re supposed to leave it on the counter where the nurse can walk by and go, “Oh look. Someone left this.”
The blood thing is a little worse. While I wait for the nurse to gather all of the necessary pointy objects I distract myself from the impending bloodiness by watching the wreckers towing cars from Olympic Boulevard below. When she’s ready I sit across from her, extend my arm and swallow the cotton that seems to have gathered in my mouth. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. But as I watch her manipulate the gear, the tension sinks away and a keen fascination rushes in to take its place. She ties the rubber stretchy thing around my arm. She taps the pale skin inside my elbow, searching for a good vein. I can’t tell what it is she’s found when she settles on a spot, but hope she’s a good prospector. Snap. Press. Jab. And blood shoots through the tiny tube. I can’t believe how quickly the two vials fill with my blood, which is dark and flowy.
Then she’s done. I’m on my way, craving a lollipop.
And by the way, I was kidding about the leeches thing. They still use them. And maggots, too.