Friday, September 27, 2002

Hello, all. Okay, I have tried twice now to tell you all my latest adventure as Hysterical White Girl in Miami, but I have lost it both times. I need to learn to "save," even on computers that never, ever crash, or at least, not until it crashed and I lost this long entry. Twice.

Let me start by saying that this story includes information about my yearly gynecological exam; HOWEVER- (and this is important, Jason, Scott, exhale... and inhale ....Good :) I never even get to that point with this doctor, so you people out there who are only aware of vaginas for their recreational purposes and have absolutely no interest in and are quite nervous about the proper ways to care for one will not have to think about that aspect at all during the telling of this story. Okay? :) Are we all cool with that before I proceed? Okay.

So every September I celebrate Rush Hashanah in my own way. It's the perfect time for a New Year in my mind, especially since I was always in school until the past year or so, and it made a lot of sense for me to think about a New Year, about starting fresh with new notebooks and pencils, etc in September.

So I do all of my "Spring Cleaning"- donating clothes that I never wear to Goodwill, organizing my closets, getting the dog her vaccines, etc. at this time of year. I also have my own physical check-ups, including going to the "gynie" -- a phrase that one of us, H. I think, coined in front of a Certain Someone For Whom All the Grapes Have Been Eaten's stepfather (by accident) about two years ago-- every September since I turned 18.

Okay, so I decided a few weeks ago that I don't really know when I am leaving Florida, and I am going to stop living like a I could leave any day now. I threw out most of my boxes, which have been taking up space in my closet since May, started looking for a Good Therapist, and decided it might be a good idea to get connected with a general medical practice type doctor in case I ever get sick.

So I go through the phone book. I call a couple of places that sound sketchy at best, and I finally settle on the Sunny Isles Family Health Center. Sunny Isles is a nice little beach town just north of Miami Beach, not too ritzy, not too sketchy, so this sounded good to me. The receptionist sounds nice.

I get ready to leave in plenty of time for my appointment when I go out to my car. The car will not start. Period. It has been sputtering a little bit lately, as if it needed a new battery and I had to get it jumped once the previous week, but it was never this dead. It could usually be coaxed into starting. Not today. Dead dead dead.

So I call AAA, and miraculously, they show up in, like, 5 minutes. I get the car started and try to call the doctor's office and tell them I'll be a little late. I have two numbers for them, one of which keeps ringing twice, picking up with a falsely cheerful recorded voice saying, "Thank you for calling!" and then going to a fast busy signal type beepbeepbeep. Okaaaaaay. The other number is for a plumber, so I figure I copied the number down wrong, which is what happened, but isn't that ironic? That I am trying to get my yearly Pap smear and I keep reaching a plumber by mistake? Hee hee.

But I *am* starting to get a little creeped out because directory assistance can't find any phone numbers for this health center, even though I have the exact address. I end up calling my insurance company back in PA (the one helpful thing they have done, ever) ad they give me the number. I call and say I'll be a little late. The receptionist doesn't understand what I am saying. I say it in Spanish. Still no luck, which is odd.

Finally, I just arrive and the doctor's office is in a little strip mall. That's fine. South Florida is essentially a giant strip mall. The vet's office is in a strip mall; there aren't many businesses that have their own little building the way they do other places I've lived, including churches. (Yes, there are churches in strip malls, right down from Blockbuster and the dry cleaners. I am not making this up!) but there are no signs on any of the windows or anything announcing this as the Sunny Isles Family Health Clinic. Riiiight.

So I am in the waiting room, filling out forms, and I realize everyone- nurses, patients, receptionists- are all speaking Russian. I think. So I ask a nurse if the language they are all speaking is Russian, as she has a beautiful accent. She really does. She looks surprised, says yes, they are all speaking Russian, and she asks if I have experience with Russian people. I smile and say "Nyet," which is the only word I know in Russian, which I am 95% sure means 'No." And she says, "Ah! Nyet means yes!" I was really embarrassed, and I was like, "Oh! Oh, I'm sorry, it's the only word I know. I thought it meant "no!" (I think it does mean no, but by my using a Russian word, she thought I *did* have experience with Russian...? I think?) The thing is, my experience with Russian only extends as far as having Spanish 2 with Mrs. Blackman, the woman at HHS who also taught Russian, and she would occasionally grade our Scan-Tron test with the key for her Russian classes, and sometimes she couldn't get our grades out of her computer because her 2-year-old son shoved matches in the disk drive, which, really, begs the question that never seemed to faze her in the least, why did her two-year-old have access to matches?!?!) But anyway.....

Anyway, I go into the examing room and there is this little man in there, sitting at a table. He is not wearing a white doctor's coat, although there is one on the back of the chair. The nurse tells me to get on the scale. I do, and I go to weigh myself, seeing to my surprise that I have lost fifteen pounds. I give her my weight, but then I realize that I didn't have the big sliding thingy pushed all the way into the slot, so i actually weight a little more than that. I say, "Oops!" and try to explain my mistake. I say the actual weight, which is still down about 10 pounds since June, and she repeats what I said, but subtracting a pound. So I say, sure.... and begin to wonder why I am doing this myself.

The room smells weird. And not anti-septic, medicinal weird. Just.... weird. The doctor begins to take my medical history, which is long and complicated and involves delving into my psychological tossed salad of diagnoses, why I am using an inhaler, how that relates to some sinus surgery I had in 1995, the fact that I needed an anal probe at 19 and why I am on medication for bad things that happen when I laughed really hard. Yeah.... this is never fun, but this time, we are really, really not communicating. I am going to skip ahead for a second to explain that when he got close enough to listen to my heart with a stethoscope, he smelled like funky lunch meat, like salami. It could be that he just ate... but.... Yeah, so here is how the dialogue went. For purposes of protection of identity, he will be known as Smelly Russian Doctor Rasputin, or SRDR. I will be "Me."

Him: So what medication you take now?
Me: (sitting on examining table, covered with white roll paper): Um, I'm on... Um, are you Dr. Rasputin?
SRDR: Oh, yes, yes... I am he. (shakes my hand)
Me: Yes, so I am on Levbid, Seroquel, Effexor and Detrol.
SRDR: Do you have family history of heart disease?
Me: Yes, actually, on both sides. My paternal grandfather died after a series of heart attacks in 1986, my paternal grandmother needed to have an aortic valve replaced last January, and my dad, well, he had heart problems in 2001, but not an actual-
SRDR: (interrupting) I ask for your family history of heart disease!!
Me: Right. Yes, that's what I- Oh, um, so my dad-
SRDR: You ever have EKG?
Me: No. No, not me, no.
SRDR: Never? You never have?
Me: No.....
SRDR: Why else you on these medications?
Me: Well, the Effexor is for a unipolar depression I had-
SRDR: How long? For polar? What?
Me: Um, it was between November 2000 and around May 2001, a depression, and-
SRDR: Depression? Depression? Uh, depression! For year and a half!
Me: No, no, half a year. 6 months.
SRDR: year and six months?
Me: No, no, only six months. Just six. (I hold up six fingers and begin to count off) November, December...
SRDR: Six months!
Me: Yes. Exactly.
SRDR: Okay. You are overweight.
Me: (laughing nervously, in self-deprecating way) Yeah... ha ha, a little bit...
SRDR: No, no, you *are* overweight.
Me: Right, yes, I'm aware of that (starting to get pissy)
SRDR: how long you been this way?
Me: Well, see, that's not an easy question to answer because I've really been up and down since I went to college, it changes a lot, and I've been on different medication-
SRDR: Look, I am ask for medical purposes, I am not going to tell people. How long?
Me: Well, I've actually lost about 10 pounds in the last couple months, but my weight has been up and down, so..
SRDR: How long?
Me: (picking an arbitrary number and starting to think about running away) Six months (flatly)
SRDR: How long since you had blood work?
Me: A year and a half
SRDR Eight and half years!!!
ME: No! No! One and a half years. One. One (Holding up one finger)
SRDR: One. One?
Me: Yes, one.

Dr. Rasputin listens to my heart. Then he says,

SRDR: I am going to recommend you for EKG.
Me: Oh, my god! Why? Is something wrong?
SRDR: No... You not want a EKG? You no have to have one.
Me: Well, I mean, if I *need* one, I mean... Did you hear a problem?
Me: Oh...

(Alissa tells me that this is routine when you reach our approximate age and have a family history, but I'm not understanding that at this point.)

then he asks me why I didn't go to a gynecologist for a Pap Smear.
Me: (!!!!!!!!) Well, I have always gone to my family doctor for this before, and I wanted to get established with a medical practice in case I ever get really sick...
SRDR: Who is your doctor?
Me: Well, it's a practice of physicians, and I see whoever is available? It's in Pennsylvania.
SRDR: (holds up a pen and gestures to my chart) I take this mean I should give him more info.
Me: It's called Oyster Point Family Medical Center.
SRDR: Oyster? Point?
Me: Yes, Oyster Point Medical Center.
SRDR: Oyster Point? Oyster? this is first name?
Me: (!!!!!! What the hell? Yes! Dr. Oyster Point, M.D. Jesus!)

I notice the peeling paint on the walls. I start to have a really, really bad feeling about this.

Dr. Rasputin, who still isn't wearing a name tag, a white coat, or any of those arbitrary things that reassure us that we are in good hands, pulls out a flashlight, a regular old, "I had one just like that my freshman year of college; it came free with a six pack of AA batteries" flashlight," and looks into my mouth, my nose, my ears. I notice the funky lunch meat smell.

I start hearing this thought in my head that says, "I am not taking my pants off; I am *not* taking my pants off!"

It occurs to me that I have never had a doctor took into my nostrils with a flashlight. Why doesn't he have the little black tubey thing attached to the wall? Why? Wh-Why? AND THEN...

I realize- there is no Gynie Lamp (for you guys out there, there is a big spotlight type lamp that they shine down there during an gyn exam. It's not pleasant, it's bright as the sun, and it's shining in places where, as the saying goes, "the sun doesn't shine.") But there's no Gynie Lamp! WHERE. IS. THE. GYNIE. LAMP? And then, I realize, the flashlight? That was just up my nose? IT'S GOING TO BE SHINING IN MY COOTCHIE SNORCHER IN 5 MINUTES!

There is NO. WAY. I am letting this man near me with a speculum. Not gonna happen.

I take a deep breath, and I do the unthinkable, the unthinkable for me, the person who pays (and tips!) massage therapists who tell me the knots in my back are in my head (They are so real), who buys $40 worth of skin care products from estheticians in day spas who tell me my blackheads are visible "from Mars" and that "latin men will love my meaty body (although I returned the products when they caused my to get patches of dry skin on my chin, and later, like a few weeks later when I got a sales call from the spa, I cheekily told the day spa chick's boss that "meaty" is not a word we "Plus-Sized" women like to hear unless it's about a barbeque buffet- heh, I am such a bitch.)

So even though I usually see doctors unnervously and unquestioningly, I jumped up, told the doctor I was sorry for wasting his time, but I couldn't do this. I told him he didn't do anything wrong, and I hope he is not insulted, but I am just not doing this. He got upset and called the nurse in, who took me out to the waiting room, (one wall was all glass windows, this was a strip mall, remember) and then when more patients came in, she moved us to a different exam room.

She asked me to relax, to sit and explain why I changed my mind. I looked at the exam table where she wanted me to sit. It had the white paper on it, but the white paper had wet splotches on it, strategically placed in kind of a "human was just laying here sweating" sort of way. I looked at it. Then I looked at her. She quickly removed the wet paper. I sat down and explained that I was only here for a check up, that I can wait, that he was a fine doctor, that I just felt we were really having trouble communicating, that I am so sorry, that I am leaving. Now. (big smile)

I offer to pay. She says of course I don't have to. She says she understands and asks if I want to come back and see the other doctor tomorrow. I politely say that I do not. I give her another big (shaky) smile and leave.

this story is so long already, but so I will tell you the very abridged version of what happened next. My car was dead again, I had to have it jumped, I went to the Toyota dealer for the sixth time since June, they told me I needed a $1000 tuneup. I freaked; I called my dad. He ran home and checked our records for the car and most of what they said I needed was all taken care of last April when Alissa and I were down in Miami apartment hunting. I did need a new battery, though. I got one.

Then, I noticed the overhead light was still out in my car. I asked them to change the bulb. They said okay. I asked how much it was and the mechanic started freaking out. FREAKING. OUT. He pointed to my hand. Somehow, (who knows?) I had gotten bright red, chalky stuff on the palm of my hand....?

I tried to say, "It's okay! It's not blood! it doesn't hurt! No es sangre! Esta bien! No me duele!" but the mechanic was so freaked out, thinking I had stigmata (the wounds of Christ that miraculously appear on the hands of a few chosen believers, and more than a few fraudulent evangelists), that he didn't charge me for the new light bulb. So I suppose the moral is, just say, "Nyet! Nyet! Nyet! Dr. Duck Lips!" whenever necessary and walk around regions of the country where many superstitious Catholics live, displaying “the wounds of Christ,” when you need free accessories for your car.

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