I’m standing in the doctor’s reception area, awkwardly waiting for her secretary to get off the phone and acknowledge my presence. A waiting room full of people leaf through outdated magazines. The television is tiny but I can make out what appears to be females playing golf. An elderly man is coughing aggressively and no one seems to notice.
Eventually the secretary looks up from behind her bifocals.
“Oh, hi. I have an appointment.”
“Jane, is it?” She asks this almost disapprovingly. Well, maybe I don’t like your name, Julia…Who am I kidding? That’s a magical name. Dammit.
“Okay, since this is your first time here, I need some information. How old are you?”
“I’m twenty seven.”
“Oh, you don’t look twenty seven. You look a lot younger.” Judging by her tone, I don’t think this was meant as a compliment. “Sure she doesn’t look twenty seven, does she, Roger?” She leans out through her little window and gestures at who I can only assume to be Roger, the coughing man. He waves a dismissive hand, and continues coughing into his handkerchief.
“And you’ve got a bit of an accent there, where are you from?”
“What brought you up here then?”
Suddenly, I’m aware of the entirety of the waiting room staring at me, their suspicious eyes fixed on my face. I’m not one of them.
“A job. At the school. I’m a teacher.” I smile weakly at the receptionist, who shrugs.
“It’s not often we get people moving to the area.”
“No we don’t.” A voice perks up from the waiting room, but when I turn around, it’s not obvious to me who said it.
“Just take a seat and the doctor will see you shortly.”
I walk across what seems like an eternal space, a dozen pairs of eyes stuck to me. When I sit down, they continue to stare.
“Oh, sorry-” the receptionist calls from her office. “-I forgot to ask you what you’re in for?” Er, what?! I’m hardly going to announce it across a crowded waiting room, am I? Of course, she thinks that I am. She raises her eyebrows as if to say “well?” and I just mumble “just a general checkup” although that’s partially a lie, and I’m sorry ms. Receptionist, but I must begin our relationship on a foundation of lies to preserve my dignity. She faintly narrows her eyes at me, and retreats to her office.
I regret the fact that I didn’t say “I’m coming down from a massive LSD trip” almost instantly.
By now, interest in me has waned slightly, although I still spy people intermittently glancing up from their magazines and fixing me with a curious gaze. As I pretend to flip through Hello magazine, I feel what I can only describe as a malignant and oppressive presence in the room. I look from adult to adult, attempting to find the source of my fears, when I my gaze finally meets that of a…child. Yes, a child. He is sitting on the floor, staring at me. When our eyes meet, he narrows them and purses his lips. Picture this, but scarier:
Feeling uncomfortable, I smile at him.
He narrows his eyes even further. I look away and focus intently on a picture of Kate Middleton. I look up. He’s still staring. I’m staring to get legitimately paranoid that I’m going to burst into flames. Suddenly, another child appears at my side. Thankfully, she is smiling at me and appears less homicidal.
“You look like her.” She points at the magazine and I smile.
“Thank you,” I reply, looking fondly at the sophisticated and elegant Kate Middleton. I see the people next to me edge toward the page to get a better look and no doubt make unfavourable comparisons.
“No, silly, not her. Her.”
She points towards a picture of Katy Perry. I would like to point out that this is not the most classy or sophisticated picture of Katy Perry: there is quite an amount of cleavage on show and she has more makeup on her face than Mac do in an entire warehouse. Again, I see all the eyes around me glance at the picture. Is it me or are some trying to stifle laughter?
I adjust my top. Is it low cut? Should I have worn a polo neck? Crap. I automatically rub my hand against my cheek. Perhaps in my attempt to appear perfectly healthy and not be told that I am in fact, terminally ill, I may have gone a little OTT on the makeup. Double crap.
I notice the first kid, who we’ll call…maybe, Damien (for no reason…ahem) still staring at me. Is it my imagination or is he sticking pins into a small doll that looks suspiciously similar to me and Katy Perry? Probably my imagination.
After some time, I look up to see the most awkward of all my waiting room companions: a student of mine. We glance at each other, exchange a tiny, awkward smile, and remain silent. Her mother is talking to the receptionist. Loudly.
“She only needs a very brief checkup, Julia. She just needs a prescription for her pill.”
Oh dear God.
Kate Middleton’s emerald coat has never looked so interesting. I’m pretty sure my student’s face is currently heating the entire room. Of course, this shouldn’t be embarrassing for either of us. But the extent of our conversation usually revolves around circumnavigation and jousting.
When I am eventually called in, I breathe a sigh of relief. Surely, from here on in, it can only get better right? You would think so, wouldn’t you?
I have to say, the doctor is amazing. She’s the type of lady that puts you at ease right away. We talk about my epilepsy for about half an hour. We chat about the education system and play backgammon. Okay, we don’t play backgammon (what’s backgammon?).
She gives me a pelvic examination and we talk about my symptoms (pelvic pain and back ache). She asks the routine questions re my sexual activity and menstrual cycle. For anyone feeling very uncomfortable, here’s a puppy:
The questions would probably make some people blush.
Are you sexually active?
When was the last time you had sex?
Do you use protection?
Do you plan on conceiving?
What are your periods like?
What are your bowel movements like?
Did you, at any time, own a Taylor Swift album?*
(These questions were all relevant to my particular malady.)
I answer all of these questions in a mature and detailed manner. My mother is a nurse and I’m used to be being very frank about my body. Hey, we’re all adults here.
Although, aside: this is the last text my mother sent me before I went in:
And then I notice I left the door open. The door which leads to a waiting room full of people. A waiting room where one of my students is currently sitting, no doubt furiously writing everything down. I said the word vagina. I talked about S.E.X.
I wonder why Julia didn’t close the door. Then I noticed Julia on the phone, which is probably what she has being doing for the entirety of my conversation with the doctor. The other patients are doing a stellar job of pretending that they heard nothing, including my student, whose face is the colour of pickled beets. She is transfixed on the same picture of Kate Middleton that I previously had been.
There’s an old man looking at me with a mixture of sympathy and amusement. If there was ever a time that I wanted a streaker to break into the room, it was now.
There and then, I made the decision to stop going to the doctor. I don’t care if I break my leg at home, I will just pull a Bear Grylls on it and drink my own urine to survive (that would probably be unnecessary in that particular situation, but still…) or a MacGyver, and fashion a leg splint out of chopsticks and kitchen utensils.
Have you an embarrassing doctor story? Please share so we can cry and eat consolation pizza.
*I may have imagined this question