Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Two Years and Counting

It’s always the wait.

It is hot today. I took my simple driving pleasure to the parking garage. It’s really cool to rev the engine throughout the echoing levels of the surrounding cement columns. Someday, I am going to go for it and smoke ‘em when no one is looking. Not today, though.

I jog down the stairs to the cluttered main street below. As part of my day job, I have an ID I keep forgetting about, attached to my hip. I’ve been asked once or twice for hospital directions because of it. I just might throw on a lab coat one day and run through the halls screaming, “It’s alive!”

Not today, though.

No matter how many times I’ve been to the same office, I always look up what floor it is on in the main hallway. As I wait for the elevator, I keep re-running the scene from Aliens when Ripley is waiting for the elevator before the harrowing beast gets her. Nice tension builder, but I don’t need any more anxiety as it is.

By now, a wall of impatient patients surrounds me. Everyone is a Ripley. I know the routine. The Pavlovian bell rings as the elevator hits the ground floor and I mouth the same words each time it does.

“Wait for it.”

No one does. Like an attacking force, they batter the people trying to get off the elevator like it is the last elevator of the day. I hop on last and remember to take off my ID. I can’t diagnose today. I’m off the clock.

There is the ceremonial ‘last guy’ who always dives onto the packed cabin. I keep scanning the last inspection notice. You never really know when that weight limit will truly be tested.

We are all partners for a few floors. Friends sucking in the same oxygen. Rescuers to those who try to get off on the wrong floor. Personal space monitors as the doublewide baby carriage squeezes in.

Fourth floor. I take a left. Wrong. It’s a right. Damn, I’ll never get that correct.

I walk past the disinterested “parking validation clerk”. I actually don’t know what she does outside of validating parking passes and looking disinterested.

It’s all deep breathing down the long hall until I meet Mrs. Claus as the main desk. She is a jolly woman, glasses, portly, and always ready with my chart. I had overheard her talking to a patient about the anniversary of her husband’s death. It had been twenty years. I’ve always felt sorry for her after that but she keeps smiling. I suspect she still smiles even when the disinterested validating ticket person gives her grief about walk “all the way down the hall”.

The patient types are wide and varied. I’ve seen the shock and awe. I’ve seen the beginning of their journey. The muttering as to what’s next, losing weight, even tears. I’ve seen old and young. I just try to keep to myself.

I pick up a holiday magazine – 2005. I make a mental note that every recipe in there would take me three hours to prepare. Someone had a three-page article on how lard is making a comeback. That was 2005. I wonder how that worked out for him.

I am not usually a patient person. Today, though they can take their time.

A mother daughter combination sits next to me. I am lost in a chocolate ganache recipe when I am overcome with perfume laced with the pungent scent of Marlboros Unfiltered. The daughter is in her late forties, I’d guess and she keeps cutting off her mother’s sentences. I see the signs of the children becoming the parents. She slugs a diet coke to suppress her wet hacking cough.

I put down the grand year of 2005 and go through some hockey saves. I have a habit of compulsively going over situations where I am playing goal and making saves. It’s a habit. I’ve wakened myself in the middle of the night, kicking out a leg many times.

“Joe, come on in.”

Damn, I’m the only Joe in the room.

The examining rooms are cookie cutter. I wave to Cindy as I walk by. She’s one of my angels. She brings order to the chaos by making appointments and always smiling with her Patriots smocks and funny colored scrubs. I wish my day job had a scrubs-only policy.

“Have a seat and he’ll be right with you.”

What she really means is – I will hear heavy footfalls, a rustle of paper then a large man with the face of a ten year old, will shoulder his way into the room. Literally.

I use sanitizer on my hands for the third time in the office. Why the hell not?

My doctor is a surgeon. Not just a surgeon but also the surgeon. Head of Surgery. The dichotomy between his scalpel and his blunt approach was noted from the beginning. He doesn’t hold back, mince words, sing or dance. I like to think I am his pet project since I am one of ten cases in the world for what they found.

He shoulders his way in.

“Hey…Two years. It’s been two years,” he says. He doesn’t even have my chart.


“The images were perfect.”

I don’t celebrate. I don’t lift The Cup, kiss the girl, drink the milk or pour the champagne. This is my moment. It could have been a moment that would turn back time. It didn’t. It cements my present. It paves the way for my future.

“Good.” That’s about all I got today.

“You are different,” he says. “We will do this in six months again. But everything is negotiable. You are still high risk.”

That’s why I don’t celebrate. I know the picture. I don’t think about it – much. For the moment, I am normal. It is his duty to give me the crude truth. He just doesn’t know that I am going to outlast him into his retirement.

I shake his hand. He has plumber’s hands, which is odd to me given the delicate cutting he does daily. No matter. He could use a jackhammer for all I care.

I stop by Cindy and give her a wink. It’s my “See you in 6” wink.

The whole office nods and I give the final Pope Wave.

Someone someday might cause me to pause and think about my future. Some blip may show on my personal radar.

I will do what I do and that will continue to be whatever it takes. Simple stuff really.

Someone may tell me I have an issue someday.

Not today, though.

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