Jim’s 4 hours with today’s medical/industrial complex

Opinion April 19, 2013 1 Comment

by Jim Harris

I checked in to the eye doctor’s office at 8 a.m., not seeing very well, feeling pretty old. The new office was a gleaming, sprawling complex, abuzz with activity. Patients were rolling in — literally.

Many were leaning on wheeled walkers, propelled more by the inexorable pull of gravity than by any force of their own. They were teetering, wobbling, listing and leaning in various degrees and directions. Most of the men were accompanied by young female aides-de-camp whose job it was to keep their charges from blurting out anything inappropriate and from falling down.

I sat there watching the parade for what seemed like hours, cursing the gods for human frailty and also for making me wait so long. I had important things to do. The elderly gentleman sitting across from me was talking tirelessly to his aide (“You gotta play the lottery every day!”), but when she left to visit the restroom, he turned his attention to me. “It’s hot in here,” he said. (It was freezing.) “Reminds me of when I was in Korea. This Muzak is terrible.” (It was.) “Sounds like a washing machine.” (It did.) I just smiled and nodded. At one point he asked, “How original can original sin be if everybody has it?”

Thankfully, just then a worker popped her head out of one of the many doors. “James Harris? Follow me.” She took off running, and I had a tough time keeping up through the maze of twists and turns. Eventually I wound up in a tiny, dark room with a new person.

“Hi I’m Karen, your eye drop technician. Sit here, lean back. Good. Someone will be with you shortly.” After about 20 minutes, another person (not a doctor) came in, introduced herself and told me to look into a machine that shot a BLINDING LIGHT into my eyes.

I was then sent to a new waiting area, a small alcove with only a few seats, much too close together for comfort. I tried to look unapproachable, but I could sense the 97-year-old guy sitting next to me, staring. “You got stock?” he asked.

“No.”

“You should. You’re a young man. I made $14,000 last month.”

And so we were off and running. About a half-hour later, when he momentarily ran out of things to say, I desperately grabbed the only magazine available in the whole barren landscape: an ancient, coverless copy of some gossip rag. I don’t know what it was called, but it might have been “Cleavage” since that was the salient feature on every page. The closest thing to editorial content was “Snooki” from “The Jersey Shore” answering multiple-choice questions as to her favorite TV shows. Spoiler alert: she picked “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” over Downton Abbey.

Over the next hour or so, I was tasked with following various fast-moving non-doctors to various rooms. The drops had by now made everything look blurry. I just remember seeing lots of backsides disappearing around lots of corners as I tried to keep up. Once in the rooms, I was asked to look into machines that shot more BLINDING LIGHT into my shell-shocked eyeballs, and then sent back to the dreaded alcove.

My last time in the “cove,” I had to pee terribly (as opposed to peeing well), but I was afraid to leave my seat for fear of missing my summons to see the doctor. I was beginning to feel like I was in some sort of marathon mating ritual. I had danced with every dignitary in the village, performed all the required tasks, sat through interminable chitchat but still had not seen hide nor hair of the medicine man. I assumed that it must be bad luck to see him before the moment of examination-consummation.

When the doc finally did appear, it was brief but brilliant. He flew into the room, white smock flapping in the wind, accompanied by a transcriptionist. He leaned over me, put on a magic helmet that shot BLINDING LIGHT into my eyes, then left as quickly as he arrived.

It was now noon. I somehow found my way to the check-out area in a kind of stupor, where I was instructed to “take four of these drops two times a day and two four times a day, but never at the same time.” (Huh?) I was then instructed to wear a pair of huge wraparound sunglasses. All I needed at that point was a plaid sports jacket and a Lincoln Continental, and I could’ve driven straight to Miami Beach and fit in perfectly. Before I left the office, I found a way to suffer one last indignity by walking into the ladies room by mistake. Sorry ladies, I didn’t see a thing; honest.

I kinda miss the personable, old old-school doctors who worked without a cast of thousands, but I know I shouldn’t complain. Anyway, I’m seeing much better now, I don’t feel quite as old, and since I don’t have any more doctors’ appointments lined up, I’m as happy as that older guy in the Viagra TV commercial with a big grin on his face.

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  • blonde

    When you really want an old-school eye exam, call Flourtown Eye Associates (5 minutes from Chestnut Hill) at 215.233.1116. The medical doctor sees patients on time and does the entire exam himself. And he gives explanations in plain English so non-doctors understand.