Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Dear Dr. Imaginary



Dear Doctor C___,

Your call is important to me. No, honestly, it is. As I mentioned in my original message through the website days ago, this isn't in reference to anything life-threatening, at least not so far as I know. But then how would I know, come to that? Obviously I'm not the doctor. Let's assume not-life-threatening. No, I just had a question and you were to get back to me, which you did, again via messaging, suggesting we arrange a telephone consultation. Now that sounds simple enough. Over the past long while we've actually talked on the phone more than once. I confess that when you actually called me unprompted once, just to follow up, I was terribly surprised. I mean, there you were, on the phone, big as life and calling me without so much as a half hour wait, three previous booking agents, virtual chats with third parties, physicians' assistant interventions, nothing. I didn't want to say so at the time, but I don't mind telling you I nearly cried when you did that, that one time. It was like getting a call from the Queen for my hundredth birthday! It was special. I was actually quite touched. No lie. 

Today's been a bit different, more usual if I'm being honest. You suggest a phone call. I try to arrange one via messaging and the automated phone system etc., and well... here we are. I've got a message pending on the website, two failed return calls from a robot, and I am writing an imaginary letter you will never read because it may be "up to 48 hours" before I can expect a response. I have tried doing this sort of thing through the website before. An enquiry, followed by sincere response, followed by... very long pauses. I am always tempted to just start writing something lengthy and more personal just to fill the time. I don't know if you know this, but even were I to break this sort of thing up into entries that would not exceed the designated length, at some point the system simply won't allow for it. Just today I started to write about the green beans I rather thought we might have tonight with the buttermilk fried chicken the beloved husband is planning. I didn't feel I could afford to actually get up from my computer and go snap beans though because then I would be dependent on just the phone app again and it refuses to retain my password, despite insisting that the facial recognition software has already let me into the site. You know what I'm talking about. Happens all the time. Then I panic and can't remember my password and then the whole disastrous undertaking just cascades into tears and curses -- mostly curses. Today when the robot called me back it would not respond to "Hello?' and just insisted I "press any button," but I didn't have a keypad displayed when I answered the call and when I tried to get to it I hung up the call. Disaster! So now I'm sitting downstairs in my office, getting a bit chilly because I didn't wear my robe and still afraid that if I go back up I will miss something. A call was it? Who remembers now frankly, but the anxiety lingers on, my dear doctor and we both know what that does for a man with heart problems, but what to do?

What was I talking about? Oh, yes. Green beans. Now I know it's mad to even think of typing away about green beans while waiting for the doctor, but it may pass the time. And I should think it looks even worse typing away about green beans and buttermilk chicken wings on the actual site of one's  Health Care Provider. I'm not a complete fool. I would probably have deleted everything about the beans -- and certainly any mention of fried chicken -- before I hit "send" but then it wouldn't have mattered anyway, or even have happened because of the website's restrictions on messaging length, so I might as well just natter away here, talking to my imaginary doctor as it were, as doing so has the undeniable advantage of not requiring so much as a wink from you. 

At least here at my own desk, even if it's a bit cold and my day is wasting away to nothing, I am not actually on hold listening to smooth jazz or to a recorded robot voice, or pressing "1" sixteen times to avoid inadvertently switching into Serbo-Croatian or requesting a Pap smear or something.  

Which reminds me how genuinely amusing it is on the website when attempting to book an "e chat" that among my eight options -- not one less, not one more -- besides "I am dying of COVID19" one of the only other available listings is "heel pain." What CAN that mean?! I keep meaning to ask you when and if we ever get the chance again. Why specifically "heel pain"? Is that a major concern? Is it indicative of some larger issue? Is it better to ask in this subtle way because heel pain is actually the first sign of myocardial infarction or Dengue fever or something and you don't want people to panic before they've actually taken the time to virtually book what will probably only be a "televisit"? Is it actually already too late by the time there's heel pain? Is it more common for instance than toe pain? (I'd have put money on arches.)

Medical science is a genuine mystery to me, I must say. I've always assumed there was a fair amount of arithmetic and that was enough to put me right off the idea. Memorization too. And blood of course, though I'm not terribly squeamish. The beloved husband loves medical shows which I do not but even he has to turn away sometimes from some of the incredibly realistic looking and surprisingly elaborate surgical interventions. Now I think of it, I've never seen anyone rushed into the surgery complaint of "heel pain," Not once. I may have exaggerated the potential importance of that, but then the options really are quite limited and there isn't even an "other" option any more. Did you know that? There is not. The list is basically "I am dying of COVOD19," pregnancy, acne, smoking cessation, (...), (...), and heel pain. Pick your poison, people! It is remarkable how you've managed to narrow that list down. Even still, all of that must be awfully complicated to study and treat. Heel pain alone must be volumes. I would not be up to anything like. I can't even get beans snapped and the morning is long gone and the afternoons are so short now it's autumn. 

I do hope you had a chance to get out and see at least a little of the glorious Fall color on those two sunny days we had between the more usual Northwest weather systems. I was actually working during most of the daylight hours, so it was more a glimpse for me than a leisurely country drive or anything like that. Have I ever mentioned that I'm from back east? Only thing I really miss, the changing leaves. I mean I miss a lot of things, now I'm in my fifties. I miss bookstores, lots of them in one place if you're even old enough to remember such a thing or would much care. (When would you have had the time?!) I still miss smoking, believe it or not. Smoking was cool. I know it's horrifying, but it genuinely was. You'll just have to trust me on that. I miss actual receptionists. I know that sounds odd, but consider the context of me writing and it shouldn't be too hard to justify saying so. This will be one of those old-man-on-a-park-bench moments, but I genuinely do miss receptionists. They all had names like Molly and they were terribly harassed women mostly, with beautiful manners and very restrained voices and they just made the world go 'round whether it was a GP's office or a hair salon or the lobby of some intimidating building downtown to which no one willingly went even back then. If one wanted anything actually done in this world one was far better off if a friend could be made of the receptionist. Later they even let a few of the gays do this sort of thing. Was always glad to see a gay receptionist. At a certain point though the receptionist went the way of the telephone operator. I remember when every receptionist was transformed overnight into an office manager. Now there may well have been office managers before then, in addition to the receptionists, but then there was just the one title and the one poor woman doing God knows how many jobs and it was definitely not the same anymore. Office managers were far less likely to be made friends of. There was a change of atmosphere, a very real chill.  Who wants to speak to a manager these days? Never a good thing.

Not to moan, but what I wouldn't give for even an office manager now! There really isn't anyone in a doctor's office for whom one might drop off a cookie-plate at Christmas time nowadays, or even flowers, is there? Even that phlebotomist I particularly admired in your clinic, I think he would be a bit taken aback were I to just show up with a box of unopened candy. The nicest pharmacist the world, and I frankly don't remember the last one that made eye-contact, would go quite wide-eyed at some anonymous card-holder popping up in line with a numbered chit and a bouquet, and quite right too. 

I'll be frank, during my longish illness earlier this year, when I seemed to be in touch with nearly everybody in the organization except you, I encountered quite a few very nice people, and not just nurses either. There were Physicians' Assistants as well. (No luck with gastroenterologists, you'll remember, but one very nice surgeon who nearly redeemed that much villianized category of MDs for a moment there!) That said, the ones for whom I honestly felt the most genuine sympathy were those poor benighted souls on the telephone who actually had to book appointments once the valued member of ____ had actually negotiate his or her or their way through the Sleeping Beauty thorn bushes of the automated system. Finally get to the twenty-seventh person in the holding pattern and surprise! That person is unhappy, just like the previous twenty-six. It's hard to have any sympathy at all with the demonic capitalist assholes who designed the business model or the  pocketed politicians who maintain this plantation and call it "health care." Even harder almost to feel anything but burning hatred for the programmers who designed the public interface to run so very smoothly and attractively unless and until one needs it to, you know, DO something. Those motherfuckers all need to get ass cancer. Seriously. I know that's an outlandishly cruel thought, and why them and not the investors who raped the public hospitals and privatized charitable institutions and monetized human suffering on a scale undreamt of by the Popes, but remember why I am here just now, pretending to write to my doctor who's face I frankly can not remember for the life of me. The life of ME. (Sorry, again for the cursing, and the whole "ass cancer" business. Remember, I'm not a doctor. I should have said, "heel pain.")

Well, it's already dark out. I've checked again -- actually I've been checking every five minutes until I finally had to make myself stop and I don't think I'm getting any messages or responses or acknowledgment today, so I'd better just wrap this up and see if there's still any point in snappin' them beans. The husband's been home for awhile now, and here I sit.  Better just shut this down for now. I'm sure we'll talk again soon, at least here.

And it really was a pleasure. It really was. Don't remember the last time. I hope you take care and I'll wait to hear what you have to say about that question I asked. I'll be interested to know. I really will. I'd tell you to say hello to the receptionist for me if you still had one. In the absence of, tell anyone about the place at this hour that I am thinking about them and genuinely wishing them well. Can't be easy for any of us, what with all the heels.

With all due respect and genuine affection,

Member# _______, date of birth __/__/__

No comments:

Post a Comment