It used to be that when you had a medical issue that needed immediate attention, you headed down to your local Urgent Care facility where they placed you in the Patient Aging Area, and you were left there for five or six hours. This was done so that, on the off chance that you didn’t have anything wrong with you in the first place, prolonged exposure to your fellow patients would ensure that by the time you got to see a doctor, you at least had something wrong with you, and you weren’t wasting the doctor’s valuable time. The doctor would then tell you that there was “something going around”, give you some antibiotics, and send you home, tremendously relieved that you weren’t terribly sick unless, of course, you went to Urgent Care with an arrow sticking out of your neck, in which case they maybe gave you some Tylenol with Codeine to keep you happy enough not to sue.
But thanks to amazing advances in medicine and technology, all that is a thing of the past, as I learned this morning. Rather than just showing up at Urgent Care, I went online and registered. I was guided through the forms that I would need to fill out, indicated what type of insurance I have, listed all of my symptoms, and was promptly given an appointment time, a time when a doctor would be ready to see me and give me an expert diagnosis. I showed up at the designated time, and then I was placed into the Patient Aging Area for five or six hours because, let’s not kid ourselves here, we are dealing with doctors, and doctors can never do anything on time. I have no idea why we accept this sort of behavior. If you ordered a Big Mac and McDonald’s forced you to wait five or six hours for it, then gave you a hot dog because a representative from Big Hot Dog had given the manager a rim job in exchange for a promise that he’d tell his customers to buy hot dogs from now on, you’d not only burn McDonald’s to the fucking ground, but you’d probably kick Mayor McCheese in the teeth while you were at it.
But we accept this kind of shit from doctors because if we don’t, they will force us to endure Tests, and I think we can all agree that we don’t want that.
Doctor: Okaaaay, looking at the results of your test, I’m happy to tell you that all six of your ultra-rigid sigmoidoscopies showed no traces of abnormality in your colon.
Patient: I just came here because I have a small rash on my neck!
Doctor: Hmmm, that’s funny. From all of the complaints you were making in the waiting room, I guess I naturally assumed that you had some sort of stick up your ass. Would you like me to look at that rash now?
Patient: Yes, please.
Doctor: Well, too fucking bad, Splotchy. Maybe next time you’ll take a cue from the people with strep throat and just shut the fuck up.
So instead of fomenting a violent revolution, we all sit there, playing an endless game of What’s Wrong With That Guy? I’ll be honest with you, though, I love playing this game. Today I identified an advanced senior who was there to get his embalming fluid changed, a young woman with large breasts, micro-Daisy Duke shorts, and a frying pan face there for a double skankectomy, and an old woman who seemed to be enjoying herself so much that I have to believe that she was suffering from some sort of dementia, because what the fuck? ‘I’ve got some free time, so I think I’ll spend it down at the Urgent Care waiting room.” That’s fucking crazy-talk right there.
There was also a young woman who suffered from what people these days call a “developmental disability”, although when I was young we would have just said that she was retarded, and no one would’ve gotten their undies in a bunch over it. I felt bad for her. She was obviously not feeling well and the strange environment scared her, but my pity was stemming more from the fact that her father looked like a specimen of Cro-Magnon Man come to life. Seriously, wherever this guy works, I’m willing to wager that it’s in some sort of museum and the words “Our Ancient Ancestors” appear over his head. (The mother seemed more or less with it, making me think that their courtship involved more than a little dragging by the hair followed by being violated in a cave.)
The rest of the time I spent in the waiting watching Bonanza on TV, because patients like nothing more than to watch a television show in which every single actor has long since died. Makes everyone feel downright brimming with vitality in comparison.
I’d never watched a full episode of Bonanza before, probably because I had more important things to do, such as anything other than watching Bonanza. I did find it interesting that the Cartwright family had three types of relationships with their neighbors: There were neighbors they helped, neighbors they punched, and neighbors they shot. And that was it. I guess if the Cartwright boys showed up and asked you if you wanted some help with something, you were well advised to say yes.
Little Joe: Well, howdy, Mr. Whitaker! How are you today?
Whitaker: Uh, fine, Little Joe. How are you doing?
Little Joe: Well, I’m just a mite concerned about Mrs. Whitaker if you don’t mind me sayin’ so.
Whitaker: What do you mean?
Little Joe: It’s just that she looks so forlorn and lonesome all the time. Me and Hoss here wouldn’t mind keepin’ her company from time to time, if you know what I’m sayin’.
Whitaker: Now, you stay away from my wife!
(Little Joe and Hoss cock their guns)
Whitaker: …By which I mean, go ahead, boys! Help yourself!
Little Joe: C’mon Hoss! Let’s lay a little Ponderosa pine!
(Yeah, that’s right: Bonanza humor. Am I on the fucking forefront of comedy or what? Don’t answer that question.)
Finally, because even in Arizona it looks bad when people die of old age in the waiting room, the doctor was able to see me, by which I mean that he wasn’t. Doctors are too important to be bothered with fucking patients, so they pawn off all of the work on Physicians Assistants, who are exactly like doctors, except they don’t have the experience or training of a doctor. You shouldn’t worry, however, because they charge the same amount as a doctor, so it all balances out.
After I turned down an offer to have holes drilled in my head to “let the demons out”, the PA wrote me a prescription for some different painkillers, and I was on my way. I still don’t know what’s wrong with my back, but I got some drugs, and the PA told me to come back in three months to have my tires rotated, so I’ll just assume that everything will work out in the end. And if it doesn’t, well, the Cartwright boys are always willing to help a guy out.