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Here is a True Tale of Medical Calamity! (swoon.) I switched physicians recently, primarily because my previous physician was so logjammed with patients that tending to my various hysterical medical conditions became sort of prohibitive. For example, the last time I visited her offices it was so overcrowded that, during my exam when she grabbed my scrotum ANOTHER PATIENT COUGHED!! People! Big kiss!! (lawsuit pending.) I also had a problem with all the donkeys in the waiting room, but I've been told this is typical of doctors who participate in HMOs.

Yesterday I had my first visit with a new physician -- a straight-talking character with little patience for procedural bullshit. Yes, my new doctor is James Caan. While filling out my very thorough new patient questionnaire in the waiting room -- do I consider myself at risk for HIV/AIDS? do I support a woman's right to suffrage? if i could pick between being born deaf or being born blind, which would i choose? would i be willing to kiss a rabbit between its ears? -- I was continuously disrupted by a crumpled elderly woman, who made very public her desire to "eat some soup!" She was practically dwarfed by the aluminum walker that supported her tiny frame, and wore a loose-fitting sweatsuit and oversized Velcro sneakers, the official uniform of a person who no longer dresses herself. And she was desperate for soup.

She kept instructing her nurse aide, Sylvia, to find a suitable location for the purchase of soups. When Sylvia explained that the doctor's office did not provide soup but could offer her a cup of tea in its place, the junior-sized senior exploded into rage. "GOD DAMNIT I DO NOT WANT TEA. TEA WILL NOT FILL ME UP! I NEED SOUP!!!" Judging by her miniature stature, I imagine tea would have filled her up just fine; honestly, a blast of fresh air would do the trick. (later, she apologized to sylvia in way that was clearly uncomfortable for everyone else within earshot. i could feel the air stiffen me as the soup lady, employing a stage whisper which was probably close to inaudible to her own deaf ears, consoled her rattled nurse aide. "now sylvia," she pleaded, "you know i love you very much. i love you with all my heart and i would not want to send you out into the terrible cold. i do, however, need soup. so what are we going to do, sylvia, my love? what are we to do?" witnessing this scene was not unlike sitting through an oscar clip from the tina turner film biography, what's love got to do with it?)

After receiving nothing more nourishing than stony silence from Sylvia, the soup lady turned (ever so slowly) on the busy receptionists behind the desk. Ignoring the headsets plugged into the receptionists’ ear sockets – or perhaps too near-sighted to see them – and, further, ignoring the telephone conversations with which the receptionists were already busied – or perhaps too impaired to hear them -- the soup lady berated the staff with soup-related questions. "Is this place clean?" "Do they employ natural-born Americans there?" "What kind of soup do you think I’d like?" Fielding this question could have meant tampering with Pandora’s box, given her prior outburst, but the receptionists handled it deftly by shrugging and returning to their calls.

Soup lady then targeted the rest of us, the real or imagined-to-be-infirm denizens of the doctor’s waiting room – people who had at least one thought on their minds more distressful than the proximity, cleanliness, and variety of local soups.

I felt her blind gaze on me, her corneas straining through a gauzy cobweb of astigmatism. Her fingers cracked and curled, and she said-shouted, "You there. Can you help me, young lady?"

Young lady? I don’t think there was ever a moment in my life past the age of six, when my parents finally trimmed my Keith Partridge tribute haircut, that anyone, young or old, ever mistook me for a woman. And if there was occasion to do so, it was not this day. My face was covered in a thick, black beard. (with handsome grey flecks around the chin, as my ASPCA adopt-a-jew advertisement would surely describe it.) And it couldn’t have been the way I was dressed; I was wearing a bulky and very concealing military-issue winter parka over my "Hooters" uniform. (i didn’t have time to change, and those nude stockings are surprisingly cozy in this adversely cold weather.) I did not look like a woman.

What must this woman see, if anything? She was obviously aware of my presence, since she knew enough to single me out from all of the other young ladies in the waiting room. Perhaps her vision, like that of a timber wolf, affords her only the faint detection of heat-producing masses. In any case, I told her I couldn’t help her, and that I was sorry. And then I finished eating my bowl of minestrone – my appetite was so weakened by all the commotion this woman caused that I wound up discarding half the bowl in disgust – and eagerly counted down the minutes until my physician would place a gloved hand on my scrotum.*

*As I sat down to write this, I had originally intended to create a very scrotum-centric story, concerning my current panoply of self-initiated, genital related health scares. However, I soon discovered that my scrotum, though of great interest to me and the 35,622 individuals and families who subscribe to my Webcam service, it is quite possibly not as intriguing to the other people who happen upon my site whenever their top reading choices haven’t bothered to update. In short, I listed several concerns to my new doctor, all of them directly related to my body’s ability to produce clean, effective sperm. I provided substantial supporting evidence, researched from WebMD. After I completed my laundry list and put down my clipboard, the doctor peered at me over the top of his eyeglasses, and asked, "Todd, would you consider yourself an anxious person?" I had hoped to leave his office with a great supply of Cipro and a referral to fertility clinics and holistic penis medicine specialists. Instead, I barely avoided a prescription for anti-anxiety medicine.

At one point, the doctor asked me if my therapist – he correctly assumed I was seeing one – was a woman. When I replied, "yes, why?" He simply laughed and said, "I guess that’s just the way the world is going." His assurances were a great comfort to me, but I still made him hold my scrotum briefly before he turned me away. I wasn’t going to let him off scot-free.

WE FIRST MET ON 01.27.2004

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