I wonder, if my orthopaedist's gajillion-dollar hourly fee was being extracted from my checking account and not Blue Cross/Blue Shield, whether he would be quite so cavalier about leaving me freezing and naked in Exam Room 3 for nearly an hour.
It all starts out fine: The nurse asks why I'm there and I describe the sound that issues from my knees when I climb, squat and kneel: "It's kind of like... slowly cracking a celery stalk under a summer-weight quilt." (Dorky, but accurate.) She asks me if it hurts and I say yes, most of the time. Am I taking anything for the pain? No, I don't care for pills. I just use the elevator and try not to drop things on the floor. The nurse scribbles and nods in a way that says, "I feel you, girl," then hands me a paper tablecloth and tells me, "Take off everything but your underwear. Don't forget the socks. This opens in the back." And with a click of her pen, she is gone.
It's cold in that room. Cold and... what's the word I'm looking for... blowy. A blanket would be nice. Maybe some hot tea? The paper 'gown' (and I use the term as loosely as the big napkin fits my form) keeps malfunctioning -- over my shoulders and down toward my lap. I see it's labeled size L; must stand for Linebacker. I could try and fish my sweater from the pile of clothes on the floor but who knows when the doctor will show up, and I don't want to greet him with my gown parted like a curtain and my panties center stage.
So I sit. Stay. Start to look around. Stacked on the air conditioner, for my entertainment: Nine different golf magazines. Who do they think they're dealing with? Oh -- look at that! Medical illustrations taped to the wall behind my head. Fifteen minutes later I understand the inner workings of the shoulder. (Complex! Fascinating!) After 30 minutes I have memorized the knee. If I was staring at the gynecologist's wall I'd have learned to birth my own baby by now. But my gyno never keeps me waiting this long -- she's in and out before I know what's what. Women get that you're on the clock; I appreciate that now.
Why, oh why did I leave my iPod in the office? Maybe there's something to this doctors-on-retainer idea. Housecalls and undivided attention... Though I imagine even that could turn into a cable-guy situation if enough greedy patients catch on. "You say you might be having a stroke, Mrs. Goldman? Let me check the book... Okay, Dr. Berman will be there between 9 and 2 tomorrow."
I'm counting metacarpal bones on The Human Hand when Dr. G finally breezes in. He really is a nice man, and a good doctor. He asks, he listens, he does the hokey pokey with my kneecap and even indulges me in a bit of light gossip. (Suburban Jews know all the same people.) His parting gift: A hypochondriac's smorgasbord -- 23 local physical therapists from which to choose. But (this time) the problem isn't in my head, it really is in my knee. "Most of your cartilage is worn away," Dr. G says with matter-of-fact sympathy. "Not much we can do to fix the damage, just try and stop it from getting worse." And then he shrugs, grins and pats me on my paper-clad arm. "Welcome to aging, young lady. It's all downhill from here."