Thursday, October 29, 2009

Turn Your Head To the Left and Cough


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.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ghosties and Ghoulies That Extort in the Night


Halloween. What a hoot.

Yes <> I know, I know...it’s a day allegedly drenched in satanic roots and all manner of horrifying images meant to instill terror in mortals: ghosts, goblins, witches, the Olsen twins, Rosie O’Donnell in a thong, blah, blah, blah.

Rather than surrender to the Dark Lord (which could be Dick Cheney, but I’m not sure), the politically correct observe the holiday via nonsensical “Fall Parades”, “Autumn Parties”, or “Insert-Festive-Name-Here” celebrations.

Hand-wringing ninnies also prefer that children not dress up as traditionally spooky characters; instead, they dress their tykes as non-threatening characters such as “Insurance Salesman”, “Foot Doctor”, or “Blue Man Group.”

Oh, c’mon! I took my kids to a Halloween celebration last night and not once did I detect the icy grip of Lucifer on pillowcases chock full of Snickers and Jolly Ranchers. After all, I find it very hard to believe that the Devil resides in clowns, ballerinas, or SpongeBob Squarepants.

The extortion element of Trick-Or-Treating aside, it’s just a fun day for kids to dress up and go happily pandering door to door. I’m not going to begrudge them a chance to have fun just because some simpering idiots think the day glorifies evil.

Halloween was a big deal to us when we were kids. I remember planning what we were going to wear and where we’d visit soon after school started in the Fall. I even remember the costumes I wore: Superman, Green Hornet, Spiderman (yes, even then), Hulk, Frankenstein, Mummy, “Glow-In-The-Dark Skeleton”, Underdog, “Criminally Insane Druggist,” and (the one that really never caught on) “Dr. Scholl’s Foot Pad Monster.”

Unlike nowadays, we were never bird-dogged by our parents as we ran like scatterbrains through our neighborhoods, feasting on truly insane amounts of chocolate.

****We now pause for a depressing commentary on life today: Sadly, all the nuts in the world now compel us to accompany our children on their nocturnal rounds. Too bad. I enjoyed freedom from parental control-and their hands in my goodies bag-in the “Brady Bunch” era.****

We knew the unwritten Halloween codes: only go to houses with their lights on, be on the lookout for razor blades in the Milky Ways, don’t bother going to the convent (they only passed out mothball-flavored Butter Rum LifeSavers), and take only one piece of candy from the bowl of those too lazy to hand them out themselves (yeah, RIGHT, always followed THAT rule!).

Oh, and fling eggs at the houses of those who dared hand out: apples, popcorn balls, pennies, ketchup packets, and packets of Equal.

My friends and I couldn’t get enough of what we saw as a great deal. So, from six o’clock (or dark-it HAD to be dark) until ten, we went knocking on doors in the hope we’d score enough sugar that our arms would go numb from lugging around our sacks (Of CANDY! Keep it clean, people!).

A bonus was that, since we went to Catholic School, we could sleep in the next day, All Saints Day. To those “in the club” (so to speak), that meant November 1st was a “Holy Day of Obligation” and so, was a day off from school (a point rendered moot if it fell on the weekend. In that case, we groused that we were ripped off by Jesus.).

This meant we could shove candy down our throats when we got home until we passed out, wake up, eat some Sugar Smacks, inhale more Three Musketeers, watch cartoons, and make fun of the public school kids as they trudged off to class.

****We Now Pause For a Psychological Childhood Scar: This was the best part of having the day off because, the rest of the year, the public school kids were beating us up. Even the girls.****

My point is, what’s so wrong with a holiday that gives children a chance to play dress up, carve pumpkins, and gorge themselves on goodies doomed to eventually become petrified lumps of sugar on top of the refrigerator until replaced by chocolate footballs at Christmas (which, incidentally, magically become chocolate “Easter Eggs” in three months)?

Nothing.

You know why?

Because, Satan doesn’t like Peanut M&Ms.