Not even an earful

inner ear

One condition of getting older is the likelihood that my doctor will send me to a specialist. I guess as I slowly break down and descend into decay, my parts need more and more special attention.

Last September, I spent $50 for a visit to the otorhinolaryngologist. I like that word far better than “ears, nose and throat doctor,” or, if you’re too lazy to live, ENT. You know a word, you should use it, right?

Otorhinolaryngologist takes nearly as long to say as my appointment lasted.

The doctor poked into each ear with a lighted scope. He asked if things seemed to have cleared up for me. He gave me some details about hydrocortisone and reviewed treatment options for future flare-ups. (It was a dry-skin condition of some sort.) And then he sent me on my way.

I had the feeling that I was forgetting something. I had sitting for so short a time that the vinyl exam seat was still cold when I stood up to go. Did he skip a step? Would he stop me on my way out the door — “Oh! Wait a sec. There’s a Side Two to this paper work. We’re not quite done, mister.”

But that was really it. Five minutes. $10 a minute. I shudder to think what I would have to do to earn $600 an hour. What is his time actually worth without insurance?

Wouldn’t it be just as well to handle this over the phone for free?

“Hi Eric, how are your ears doing?”

“Well, you know, pretty good.”

“Well, that’s what we want to hear. Thanks.”

“All done?”

“All done.”

More recently, I went to a dermatologist for a problem on my eyelids. The day I got the referral, in September, the earliest appointment was in December. My three-month referral would expire before the appointment happened. When I called the next day, the earliest available was in January.

Of course, by the time my appointment rolled around, I had no symptoms. But I had waited this long. I was going through with it, by golly.

At least this time I had the added thrill of stripping down to my underwear and sitting on the exam table in one of those dull hospital gowns. “You’re a new patient, so the doctor’s going to want to check you out all over,” the nurse said. Lucky me, I thought. I hope the doctor’s cute, or this could be uncomfortable.

For such a simple garment, the straps sure are hard to tie behind your back. And why do the manufacturers bother giving them any sort of styling. Is there seriously a buyer for the hospital system selecting items from a catalog, thinking “Oh, yes. Now this one has a fun, fresh look to it. And I love the piping. I think the colors and this pattern of circles and zig-zags will fill the patient with confidence and tranquility.”

I was filled with a chill and an intensifying hatred of every pimple on my thigh.

The doctor used his considerable expertise and experience to confirm that my eyelids were, in fact, all cleared up. So I filled the time by looking for other problems on my body. I was going to get my money’s worth. What about this skin tag under my arm?

“We can remove that for you. Just a simple snip,” he said. “Painless and quick.”

“Is it something I can do myself?”

“Yeah,” he said. “You can do it yourself. Save the money.”

“Oh, good,” I said. “I was wondering. I didn’t want to cut myself and bleed out.”

What about this ingrown hair I’ve had on my back since college?

“I’d love to get rid of that,” I said. “My boyfriend likes to squeeze it when he’s bored, and it’s gross and it hurts a little.”

But it was too old and too big. “If it were smaller, we could take care of that right now,” he said. “If you want, though, we can schedule a minor surgery for another time. Just lacerate it, stick in a biopsy needle, and scoop it out.”

“Scoop it out” was all I needed to hear. “That’s OK,” I said. We were done. I got dressed in front of the doctor, which felt delightfully sordid, and I was on my way, $50 lighter.


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the untallied hours

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