And so it came to pass, as is often that case, that it was time for my regular checkup with my personal physician. Typically, this is not a grand event, as I have been going to the same doctor for many years and our routine is set. We check my vitals, we chat, he gently chastises me for doing or not doing certain things, he tells a folksy story about something or other, and then I flee into the night.
However, and some of you may recall this background detail from a past post, there was a bit of a kerfuffle with my continued medical care, back at the end of last summer. My doctor had grown weary of the ineptitude (my word, not his, lest there be lawsuits instigated) of his then healthcare organization, and he felt the urge to pursue greener pasteurizations. So, he did. In order for me to follow him to The Greener, I had to personally request that all of my sacred medical details be moved from Point A to Point B. You would think this would be an easy process.
It was not.
The “old” organization was not only unimpressed with my request, they felt it was beneath them to even engage with me in any way, now that I had chosen to change trains at the Hippocratic Station. (If so moved, you can read more about that mess here.) It took five months for my records to be sent across the international transponder. Five months. Normally, I do the dance with my doctor every three months, as I have chronic conditions that need to be assessed. Minor conditions, mind you, but I like to stay on top of things so they don’t become major conditions. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Richest country in the world, yet our healthcare system is riddled with ineptitude, bureaucracy, disrespect for the patient and, most significantly, the unregulated prioritization of profit over decency.
Anyway, all of the above was intended to set the scene for my arrival at the new location wherein my doctor now tells his folksy tales, but I may have drifted a bit. Things are decidedly different at the new digs. The first sign of variance was obvious as I pulled into the parking lot, in that said lot had slots for, oh, fifty cars or so. (The previous location? Six slots. Maybe.) And this lot was in front of a building that was not just a building, it was a complex. (Previous location? The building was smaller than my house.)
I parked my car, grabbed a mask, opened the door, hopped out, and then I nearly lost my life. For those of you unfamiliar with Texas weather patterns, we deal with exuberant wind quite often. Fierce, dominating, soul-killing wind. It’s not so bad if you’re in an area of the state that has some hills or whatnot to stifle the fierceness, but those locations are few and far, with most of the state consisting of flat as hell nothingness that encourages the misbehavior of Los Vientos. The area around the new complex? Flat as hell.
My ass was nearly knocked onto the nearby highway, where Texas drivers don’t stop for nuthin’ fallin’ out of the sky, ‘specially if they headed to a nearby gun show. (Buford: “What the hell is that gay boy doin’ in the middle of the road?” Mrs. Buford: “Don’t matter none. Put the pedal to the metal on this contraption so we can get us some AK-47s down at the Dairy Queen afore them Democrats pass a law and violate our civil wrongs.”
Luckily, I didn’t meet the Bufords, as I managed to keep my footing in the parking lot, having long since learned that you can’t take stability for granted in Texas. I struggled my way to the entrance of the complex, the wind blasting away at my face so I looked like Kenny Rogers in post-op after his latest plastic surgery. Once at the portal, I peeked through the glass doors and noticed that there was a small antechamber wherein a gallant technician was processing arrivals, handing out masks and checking temps and asking important exposure-to-the-virus questions. Good on that. Not so good? There were at least ten people packed into that tiny antechamber. Nobody was six feet away from anything.
I wasn’t going up in that mess, no sir.
So, I stayed outside those doors, waiting for the antechamber to clear somewhat. This meant I was forced to deal with gale-velocity winds that were ripping the fuzz off my kumquats as I stoically strived to remain upright.
Pay attention to the mention of the nether region. This will prove important, quite soon.
After a bit, most of the folks wandered further into the inner confines of the shiny and new establishment. (You could still smell wet concrete and the wafting fragrance of construction workers who only bathed when court-ordered to do so.) As the Exodus to the Medical Promised Land played out, one of the gruff participants in the pageantry barked out (I could hear her through both the door and the kumquat wind) that she “ain’t gotta wear a mask if she don’t want to”, even though she was wearing, in more ways than one.
Welcome to Texas. We were a mere twenty-odd miles from downtown Dallas, a supposedly cosmopolitan enclave. (Don’t believe everything you’ve read on The Internets, though.) But you’d think we were in the backwoods of Ignorant Nowhere. That’s how this state works. Little puddles of progress here and there, surrounded by oceans of stupidity. Many of the citizens obscenely fondle their Trump Jesus bobble-heads in the middle of the night, avowing allegiance to the man who screwed too much.
(You knew I’d work in a twisted movie reference, right? Checkmark. Done.)
Once we were down to a lone patient in the Guest Services Antechamber, a man who bristled at the checking of his temperature, only submitting to the procedure because he valued the happy pills from his doctor more than the Trump flag adorning his beat-up pickup, I slipped inside. The sudden cessation of the howling Texas wind left me a bit out of sorts, and I may or may not have stumbled as I approached The Gatekeeper. After a round of questions (“Have you recently slept with someone who may be Covid-infused?”), I was granted a limited all-access pass to breach the perimeter.
The waiting room was bigger than the Lido Deck of some cruise ships I have drunkenly wandered, in search of a deep-fried corndog, because of the drinking. I had barely settled into my selected seat, miles away from anyone who smelled like bobble-heads, when my name was called by a woman who popped out of a sleekly-designed door. (Wait, why was my freshly-arrived ass being called, when there were hundreds (okay, tens) of people who were already in the waiting room? Oh, screw them. I’ve got places to be, with the most important place being not here.)
Julie the Cruise Director led me into the inner inner-sanctum. She parked me in an examining room that was almost glowing with its pristine newness. Three seconds later, my doctor arrived, apologizing for the wait. (Hold up. Three seconds? At the old office, I could languish for three days on the crinkly paper before someone remembered that I even existed.) My doctor quickly and efficiently worked our way through the check-up, hitting all the right points and admonishing my health behavior that truly deserved to be admonished.
He was a changed man, a far cry from his waning days at the old organization, where it became increasingly clear that his heart had lost a bit of sparkle when it came to his profession. Now he was all about getting my ass healthy. Another variance in the routine? The tests he ordered. Of course, I expected the blood draw, as we have to do those regularly because of my body’s pesky inclination to hoard cholesterol. But he also wanted to do a urine test.
A urine test? He had never requested one of those in the entire time I had known him. I mildly trembled in moderate fear. Did he know something I didn’t know but should?
No worries, he assured me. It’s just a new thing we’re doing at the new place. Set a baseline and whatnot, so we’ve got a reference point should something arise in the future that might he assisted by a comparison to the past. I wasn’t quite comfortable with this (setting a baseline means you now have a goal to attain and I’m already not that great with so many other goals in my life), but such was life and I might as well deal with it.
And where, pray tell, would I need to drive in order to get these tests done? (At the old location, no tests beyond blood pressure and weight and temperature were done on-site. Anything fancy required a visit to somewhere else. This is another way that some “healthcare” organizations increase their revenue stream, by forcing you to travel the county, hopping from specialist to specialist for each single test you need, racking up office-visit and processing fees every time you pull into another parking lot.)
The doctor smiled, as he was also not a fan of that game, either. “We do everything here. The labs are just down the hall.”
What the hell? One-stop medical shopping? Was I still in America?
Doc led me out of the cavernous examining room and toward a clever, centrally-located desk, behind which sat an equally clever assistant who efficiently scheduled my next appointment, ordered the tests, scanned my credit card for the co-pay, wished me continued joy and success in my life and made reservations for me at Ojeda’s later that night. (Okay, maybe not that last part, but it wouldn’t have surprised me.) “Now, if you’ll just trot down that hall over there, the lab is the last door on the left.”
Once in the lab, a spacious room which continued the theme of “clean and shiny and un-smelly” that I had encountered at all the stations of the cross in this vast facility, I was greeted by another cordial and efficient technician. I was starting to get a little suspicious over the abundance of professionalism. After all, and perhaps I should have expounded on this detail prior to this point, this complex was midway between Midlothian and Waxahachie, Texas. Translation: Ain’t nuthin’ much in this neck of the woods. (There were cows in the field behind the complex, not gonna lie.) Where were they finding all these professional people? Were they being cloned in a secure-access chamber in the facility?
That aside, Brenda (at least I think that was her name, I was still bamboozled by the shiny cleanliness and not at my most observant) already had my test requests in hand and she first directed me toward an elevated chair with armrests. (Ah, I know this drill. We’re doing the blood draw first.) I assumed the position.
Brenda: “Which arm would you like me to use?”
Me: “I don’t care. I just don’t want to see you doing it.” (And this is what I always say. I don’t mind needles. You can stick me all day long and I’m fine. I just don’t care for the image of my blood being sucked into a tube, especially multiple tubes when they’re doing a big battery of tests. I just want to focus my eyes on wherever that is not happening. Preferably Spain.)
I didn’t feel a thing during this bit. (We’ve all had those vindictive techs who don’t care about your personal comfort and will jab at every vein with the lumbering destruction of a rhino in heat, right?) More professionalism. More thoughts about cloning in a secret chamber.
Brenda: “Great! Okay, are you able to pee right now or do you need to go read a book or something?”
Valid question, as folks really shouldn’t be caught off guard by sudden and unexpected requests for spritzing. “Well, I tinkled before I drove down here, because I knew they would be weighing me and all” (she gave me a knowing wink, I hear ya girl!) “but I think we’re okay.”
Brenda: “Great! Now, take this plastic cup and head into that bathroom over there. When you’re all done, put the lid back on and put the cup in the little metal thingy on the wall. Take your time, no pressure.”
I took the cup and headed.
Once in the comfort station (new and shiny!) I immediately looked for the little metal thingy on the wall, because that part had thrown me a bit. Oh, look at that. There’s a double-doored contraption where I can put my warm special cup, slam shut my side, and Brenda can then (or perhaps later, who knows) open her side and proceed to do what she needs to do. Whoever invented that mess, which negates me having to personally hand Brenda my steaming cup, should get an award.
I unzipped and prepared.
And this is where it all went south. Literally.
Things progressed swimmingly, at first. It took me a measurable amount of time to prime the pump, of course. Peeing in a cup is not necessarily a natural thing to do, and no one had bought me dinner beforehand, so there were some initial performance issues. Yet I surprised myself by managing to reach “the line” on the cup rather quickly, giving me a wee bit of self-validation that meant nothing to anyone else, anywhere on the planet.
Trouble is, me dangly apparently did not get the full report on his expectational duties. (Perhaps my email to him got sent to his spam folder, who knows.) Things had ebbed, so to speak, and I thought he and I were done. So, I pulled up my underwear and my jeans and proceeded to twist the plastic cap onto the plastic cup, humming a small ditty about triumph and duty served.
Then I suddenly felt warmth where I shouldn’t be feeling warmth.
I looked down.
Mr. Happy was an over-achiever, apparently, and the supply chain was being augmented without authorization. I now had a dark stain the size of a hubcap in my crotch. What in gay hell? Why is this happening. I’ve never had incontinence issues (not that there’s anything wrong with such), but my body chose this moment to hint of personal challenges ahead?
I was mortified.
Instinctively, I first grabbed some toilet paper off the roll next to the commode and began triage. But this soon proved pointless, as modern toilet paper has the consistency of air and quickly disintegrates, so all I managed to accomplish was leave little bits of dandruff in me nethers. Then I spied some paper towels in a dispenser, and I ripped out enough sheets to paper the entire planet. There I was, pawing away at my hot zone with the intensity of a Boy Scout trying to start a campfire by rubbing two sticks together.
How is this my life?
Eventually, I gave up. There was no escaping this shame, as I was clearly and improperly wet and there was nothing that could be done about it. I threw away all the paper towels, put my cup in the metal thingy, washed my hands with scaldingly-hot water, wrenched my shirt down as far as it would go, and I opened the door.
Brenda: “Good to see you again!”
Me: “Um, there was a small issue and I wet myself a little bit.” (Nothing in life prepares you for having to utter this statement. Nothing.)
Brenda: “No worries! I see it all the time. Have a nice day!”
I shame-walked to the door of the lab, the evidence of my failure wafting around me like the Pig-Pen character in the Peanuts cartoons. Then I turned back. “I’m new here. How do I get out of this place with the least visibility?”
Brenda: “Oh, there’s an exit right across the hall. Just go out that door and you’ll be in the spacious and new parking lot.”
I ran, hitting that door like a woodchuck on acid, and I didn’t stop until I was back in my car, hyperventilating with degradation. I finally calmed down enough to start the car, and it was at that point I noticed that my gas tank was nearly on empty. Rains, pours. I had hoped to beeline it toward Bonnywood and never leave the house again. But no, there was one more stop on the Yellow Line Metro.
The lasting image of that day is me standing beside a gas pump at a nearby Quik-Trip, hurrying as best I could, whilst a fierce Texas wind blew dandruff off my soaked crotch.
I will never be the same.
Categories: My Life