Time marches on and the calendar is a mocking reminder that I am once again due to be poked, prodded, and probed. Yes, my annual appointment with mortality is drawing near and I shudder at the thought of my oncoming ordeal. Add that to my fear the doctor may actually find something wrong with me and I get as nervous as Osama Bin Laden at the VFW.
“C’mon, ya big baby!”, my wife smugly scolds, “what’s so bad about a physical? After all, it’s not like having a baby!”
Why do women always feel compelled to smugly trot out the old labor pain nugget? I’ll grant you that being violated by a white-suited man in rubber gloves is tame compared to forcing what feels like an ten-pound bowling ball through a keyhole.
But, hey, a physical is no Swedish massage, either. I’d rather mud-wrestle Oprah.
You know the drill. Fasting (“Not even coffee!?”) the night before gets the ball rolling. Ostensibly for accurately counting cholesterol, lipids, or demonic humours, I actually think it’s to keep us just cranky enough so that any chance of a pleasant morning is torpedoed from the get go.
After picking up a wheelbarrow of paperwork, I first shuffle to the lab for the “Ritual Gathering of Bodily Fluids.” Let’s see, there’s a vial for cholesterol, HIV, Mad Cow Disease, and for that creepy new intern from Eastern Europe, Vlad. As for what that other little bottle is used for, well, let’s just say it’s not just for “target practice.”
After ridding myself of what was, only minutes before, happily minding its business inside my body, I’m off to any one of several examinations. The hearing test is one of my favorites. At least in the hearing booth, I can take a nap because it’s quiet, cool, and dark in there. Get that rhythm thing going-beep, beep, beep, snnzzzzzzzz.....
My hearing baseline’s been lowered every year to where it’s now in the visiting team’s dugout.
Next, time to fill out my paperwork while the roadies set up the next battery of tests. Hmm, let’s see, any scars? Trick knees? Mildew? Rickets? The whole gamut of maladies from asthma to zebraphilia is covered, but it’s real tough to remember if I touched anything during last year’s vacation at Disney’s Leper Village and Colonic Farm.
After that, off for chest X-Rays (yucky “Visible Man” pictures), eye test (two, blue, near-sighted, thanks for asking), and another hearing test to double-check the results of my narcoleptic button-mashing.
Since I am chronologically challenged, I also need an EKG and treadmill stress test. But, even though I do my best “Six Million Dollar Man” impression, I suspect I more closely resemble George Jetson (“Jane, stop this crazy thing!”).
Besides being terrified of what all those squiggly lines mean, I’m deathly afraid of later discovering one of those sticky EKG thingies in my armpit when I take a shower-youch!
Finally, it’s the doctor’s turn to decide whether my body should be condemned, spackled, or given a pass for another year. Ushered into an antiseptic examining room by a refugee from the East German Womens Weightlifting team, I strip down to my underwear (clean, ‘natch) and try not to slip off that crinkly paper found only in doctors’ offices.
After what seems like hours of staring at the walls and reading all the literature warning of the dire diseases that are in my house right now, the doctor finally swoops in. He scans my paperwork, nods his head, grunts a couple of “Hmm hmms”, and reaches into his cabinet to pull out rubber gloves and a fresh tube of KY Jelly.
Oh, that’s not a good sign.
Before the finale, though, I’m asked to perform a series of little tasks like a circus seal. I do everything except a puppet show: bend over, walk on my heels (all the while resisting the urge to growl like Frankenstein’s Monster!), walk on my toes, put my left foot in, take my left foot out, put my left foot in, and shake it all about.
He shoves a flashlight up my nose, rams a popsicle stick down my throat, thumps my chest with a stethoscope, and jiggles “the boys” like castanets. He jabs me in my side and stomach just to get a good idea of where my organs are (good news: all present and accounted for).
Luckily, my insurance plan doesn’t cover leeches or anything designed to give me a “good bleeding.”
Just when I began to think I was home-free (hoping, illogically, that he just “forgot”), the doctor asks me to lie on my side and bring my knees up to my chest. Advising me that I’ll feel a “slight pressure” (why do they ALWAYS say that?), he instructs me to relax (oh...yeah, THAT’S gonna happen!).
Without so much as a courteous “how do ya do?”, he’s in up to his elbows and...well, it’s just too terrible to describe. Let’s just say I’m clean as a whistle inside and out.
And, they’ll have to kill me before I go to prison.
Eventually, after twenty minutes of gasping like a hooked mackerel on his examining table (losing many precious “guy cool points” in the process), I redress and limp from his office, bruised yet buoyed by another clean bill of health.
Before I could make my escape from his office to the safety of my car, though, I’m ambushed by his assistant, Nurse Mengele. Seems I need more tests.
Evidently, any beeping in my ears makes me fall asleep.