Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An X-Rated Morning

 id=Unless I have a limb hanging by a sinuous thread or I've coughed up a spongy bit of my lung into a tissue, my shadow seldom (if ever) crosses the threshold of emergency rooms or doctors' offices. I'm just not very big into doctors, so the knowledge that I would have to endure a general physical examination - by a doctor unknown to me - in order to apply for a work visa filled me with, what can best be described as, an all-consuming fear dread.

A fear dread - I might add - which included waiting for my number to appear on an electronic monitor as well as having to lock horns with (and ultimately lose to) all those Asians from the previous day's police line. But I would not be alone in my fear dread - as it was, our American colleague who, the previous day, had rather eruditely informed us that the only difference between an American passport and a Canadian passport is that hers says "United States of America" on the cover would eclipse - perhaps even upstage - me in said fear dread. Some people are so needy.

The exam was a bipartite affair: a fairly cursory physical in a neolithic clinic and a chest x-ray in a paleolithic hospital.


Blood was drawn by a phlebotomist clearly in need of a week on a beach in Croatia or career counselling - a job pinning tails on paper donkeys leaps to mind as a suitable alternative to dealing with the public. Next came a doctor who made no effort to conceal her disdain that none of our group
knew his or her height and weight in centimetres and kilos. After tapping a few internal organs and asking if I were healthy, she turned her undivided attention to feeling about my ankles. This caused me no little concern until I learned that she had done this with everyone. As I can think of no medical reason to conduct so thorough an examination of our ankles, I can only assume that she has a foot fetish of some sort. Fill your boots, I say.

Next came the chest x-ray, which necessitated a quick nip across the street to the aforesaid paleolithic hospital which was described to us in advance by our
Slovak-speaking office gopher as "ugly". Ugly indeed.

We were shepherded through the bowels of a building which could best be characterized as a charnel house hospital most deserving to figure in a George Orwell Meets Franz Kafka novel in which everyone dies a horrible death. And not just because of the emphysemic
old man gasping and dying alone on a gurney in the hallway or the street person who a colleague encountered the following day being assaulted by hospital staff. No, it would have to be the peeling industrial green paint, the neon lights, the inadequate number of benches from whose vinyl seats bits of stuffing and wire had erupted, the ominous looking danger signs and metal doors salvaged from Chernobyl, the colony of dust bunnies copulating in the corners, and the most foul of foul odours. And the dirt. I thought dirt was eradicated from hospitals during the Crimean War.

I honestly thought we were in the morgue but on reflection, I'd hazard a guess and say that the morgue is probably cleaner and brighter. And probably cheerier.

We took our places on
the inadequate number of benches from whose vinyl seats bits of stuffing and wire had erupted, nodded and waved half-heartedly to the Asians who had preceded us, and waited to be processed by a receptionist too young to require a razor. For the next hour or so, many many people came and went and we waited our turn quite patiently. How gratifying that our 8 1/2 hour stint at the police station had not been for nought! - we've finally acquired the gift of patience.

After each patient passed into the x-ray room, the hallway lights would dim and flicker for a moment, and then we heard a sound that an attendant at an execution-by-electric-chair would undoubtedly find familiar if not comforting. It was a tad disturbing. Unconsciously, I began to hum The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.

Finally I was called in and told by the 17-year old receptionist to take my top off. Why ever was he here? Where was the radiologist? Sensing my confusion - although interpreting it incorrectly - he pointed to a changing booth. I looked in. I asked for a johnny-shirt. He matched my incomprehension. I repeated my question, modifying my vocabulary to include gown and robe, and even played a farcical charade which failed to convey the fact that I didn't want to walk
from the changing booth across this rather large and open room to the x-ray machine - exposed to Doogie Howser (M.D.). But to no avail.

Like Botticelli's Venus-rising-from-a-clam-shell, I demurely covered my Double D's to the best of my ability and scampered over to the x-ray machine. As luck would have it, Doogie would be the one to x-ray my chest - and so adept was he at x-raying women that he courteously positioned and repositioned the 'girls' for every shot. He must have a blast on Mammogram Tuesday. I don't know what bothered me the most: the fact that the receptionist was doing double-duty as a radiologist, or that the
radiologist was doing double-duty as the receptionist.

No, it was probably the groping.

Of course the pièce de résistance was realizing that the door at the back of the changing booth communicated with the hallway of waiting patients and that, not only was the door not locked nor equipped with one, it had been slightly ajar the entire time. Had I known this, I could have opened it up and given the
emphysemic old man gasping and dying alone on a gurney in the hallway a send-off he'd never forget.

6 comments:

MISTER NORRIS said...

If i didn't know that you were not a liar, I would have thought that this was all a load of bull.

K xx (Mr)

Frisco said...

Thank god you're alive!

Cath said...

Standard operating procedure is to leave the gown ON during chest x-rays. Radoslav was getting his rocks off! I'd suggest Mr. Macka go back down there and defend your honour, but he'd probably have to stand in line behind more Asians to do it.

Mačka in Slovak said...

Doogie did the same thing to my American colleague who, although an A-cup, was equally mortified by the experience. I would add that in the 3 changing booths, there wasn't one gown to be seen. I swear xrays of my chest will appear on the internet.

I'd feel better if Mr Macka were forced to have a prostate exam!

neil wykes said...

so far, you're experiences there have made me cherish my EU passport even more dearly.

Di Mackey said...

You know, I don't ever want to visit those places you visited.

I didn't get any of this rubbish testing to test in Istanbul. I am outraged on your behalf.