"Ugh, I don’t want to go,” my daughter said looking at the calendar. She was scheduled for her first complete physical in another week. Mine was scheduled for the next day.
“Aw, there’s nothing to it,” I reassured her. “It’s a piece of cake.”
Of course I was lying through my teeth. What woman in her right mind looks forward to her annual physical? It’s right up there with having a root canal. I’d given birth to two children and had two decades of physicals behind me yet each time I went I had to tell myself, Just relax, find your happy place.
I decided to skip breakfast the day of my appointment since it was scheduled for early morning. I pulled into the parking lot but the gate wouldn’t go up. I motioned to the attendant who came to my window and told me the lot was full.
“What about those?” I asked, pointing to a group of empty spots. She explained they’d reserved some for a meeting that day.
By now there were three cars pulled in behind me. I watched in my rearview as each driver pointed to the empty spots, and the attendant tried to explain. Eventually, one by one, we backed out and began cruising adjacent streets for parking. I got a spot two blocks away. Once early for my appointment, I was now running late. I picked up my pace.
Just what you want, I thought, work up a good sweat right before your physical. Nice.
By the time I got to the office I was out of breath, hoping it wouldn’t affect my blood pressure reading. Like every exam, I took my physical seriously and liked to pass with flying colours. I checked with the receptionist and was told the doctor was running late. I’m the second appointment, I thought. How could he already be behind?
I joined the others in the waiting area, five solemn-looking people pretending to read. I glanced towards the magazine rack: one left. Fisherman Magazine, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Just as I went to reach for it however, a little blue-haired lady smiled sweetly, and scooped it away from me.
I stared at her. Happy place, I reminded myself. Find your happy place.
Determined to relax, I started tapping my foot to the cool, bluesy music that was playing.
“Catchy, isn’t it?” I said, nodding my head to the beat and smiling at the person next to me. Before long, everyone was tapping their feet to the music; some even nodding along with me. I felt good. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all, I thought.
I waited and waited and started to wish I’d had breakfast. Finally, I was called to one of the little rooms beyond reception to wait some more. I thought I’d speed things up and put on the paper gown I assumed they’d laid out for me.
The nurse came in and seemed surprised. “Oh, you’ve changed,” she said, handing me a bottle. “I’ll need a urine sample.”
Reluctantly, wearing my paper gown, I made my way past the waiting area to the washroom. I smiled noticing everyone was still tapping and nodding to the music.
A moment later I was in the washroom contemplating how on earth they expected women to aim for the little bottle, when someone knocked on the door.
“Occupied,” I said politely.
I was attempting to screw the lid on the bottle when suddenly there was more knocking. I tried to hurry and the bottle tipped and half of the contents I’d worked so hard for splashed my paper gown and onto the floor. The knocking persisted.
It’s freaking occupied! I wanted to yell, but instead, quickly washed my hands before realizing there were no paper towels. Without thinking, I wiped them on the front of my gown, leaving two big wet spots along with the splatter.
I went to leave then looked at the doorknob. Crap, I thought, no paper towels. I grabbed the bottom of my gown, pulled it up, covered the doorknob and turned. The gown ripped. I jerked open the door and abruptly stepped past a large, frantic-looking woman. I thought I should probably tell her there were no paper towels and to watch her step, but decided against it, making my way back to the examination room.
The nurse entered yet again. “I just have to get your weight and then the doctor will see you,” she said. “Follow me.”
I followed her, clutching the back of my gown with one hand and trying to cover the wet spots with the other.
The scale was situated directly across from the waiting room. I looked up to see everyone’s eyes on me, still happily tapping to the music. They were really starting to tick me off.
Happy place. I thought. Happy place.
I stepped on the scale and the nurse announced my weight, loud enough for everyone to hear. Then she said “Oh, no. Just a second,” and adjusted it again, announcing my weight an extra pound higher.
Bitch! I thought, and stormed back to the examination room.
The doctor came in with his secretary, who had the joy of being his accomplice during physicals. He told me to relax and began the examination. He attempted to make small talk so none of us would be aware his hands were on my breasts. He asked me about my kids, and I asked about his. His daughter was still in piano and his son rode horses. My stomach started growling so I began talking louder.
Then we moved on to the uncomfortable part of the exam. Once again, he told me to relax. Then he explained what he was going to do to me, then what he’d do next.
It was starting to sound a bit like a porn flick, and I had a bad case of stage fright. We’d been having this encounter once a year, for years now. I knew what he was going to do, Just do it! I thought. He repeated himself and told me to relax.
Seriously, I thought, this guy was taking his life in his hands. If he told me to ‘relax’ one more time, he was getting a knee to the head.
Finally, examination over, he told me to get dressed. “Open the door when you’re ready for me to come back in,” he said.
I changed from my wet, ripped gown, opened the door and waited, then heard him called to the phone, directly across from my room. Suddenly he was there, talking in hushed tones, looking directly at me, and me at him. Awkward, I thought, very awkward. Should I close the door? I looked away focusing on a framed photograph next to him on the wall.
Eventually, he hung up, came in and sat down. Attempting to break the ice, I commented on the photo.
“That’s a great picture of your son on his horse,” I said cheerfully.
To which he replied, “That’s my wife.”
Get me the hell out of here! I wanted to scream.
He gave me a requisition for some blood work and just when I thought he’d taken it well, said, “I don’t usually send a woman your age, but there’s no time like the present, I’m sending you for a mammogram.”
Great, I thought, Just great. It’s your wife, not your son! I get it! I’d totally ticked him off.
My stomach was still growling as I walked to my car, but I’d lost my appetite. I got home and circled the date of my mammogram on the calendar. Just then my daughter walked in.
“How’d it go?” she asked.
“Nothing to it,” I replied, smiling through clenched teeth. “It was a piece of cake. A piece of freaking cake.”