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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Feel Your Balls Once a Month

One of the firm joys of gaining new employment, even if you hate it, is going to Occupational Medicine for your pre-employment,-oops-we-hired-you-already-but-nevermind-about-that physical examination.

"If you get Joe," my nurse educator warned, "he's going to say some asshole thing to you, so just be prepared. He says something obnoxious to everybody we send down to Occ. Med.-- it's so embarrassing."

"Hmpf," I eloquently replied, staring out the window, wondering silently if this was really my life.

"We sent a tech down there for a physical and he asked if she drank alcohol, and she said, 'No' and he laughed at her. 'Uh, you look like you drink to me,' he told her. He's a total asshole."

Even armed with the knowledge that I was most likely going to confront a world-class, four-star dickcheese at 2:00pm yesterday, I was nevertheless thrilled to get out of a locked mental ward on the company clock. Because I am obsessed with following the rules and never doing the wrong thing if I can avoid it, yesterday morning I asked my supervisor,

"So, I have my doctor's appointment at Occ. Med. at 2:00pm. Do I still get to take my hour lunch, or do I have to eat it during the time when I'm having the appointment done, like, driving to the appointment or back?"

She stared at me.

"Are you serious? Take your hour lunch. My God."

Yes, I'm serious. Though no one ever believes it.

I laughed to myself when I walked up to the building that says "Occ. Med." on the glass door. When I hear someone say "Occ. Med." I always think of some swarthy-assed, dark and thoroughly unshorn Middle Eastern man named "Achmed." Of course, I was the only vaguely Middle Eastern-looking man in this particular building. It was just me, the lumpy receptionist in dark blue scrubs with a Phillies emblem, and the doctor.

Well, the Physician's Assistant. Joe. A P. A. Joe, the P. A.

I'm usually not a snob about titles, but I kind of want my physical examinations done by an M.D. Does that make me an old fashioned tightass? Probably, but if a gloved and lubricated hand is going up that old fashioned tightass, I want it to be the gloved and lubricated hand of a medical doctor. And that's just the kind of patient I am, damnit.

I suppose I've been spoiled by the fact that I still have the privilege of visiting the same General Practitioner who gave me my first vaccine, a bowtie-wearing, corduroy-trousered, gizzard-necked gentleman who graduated medical school sixty-one years ago. When I look into this man's eyes, I know there is very little he has not seen out of those eyes in all these years-- from gaping wounds in the Korean War to my fever-ridden eldest sister on long-forgotten house-calls in the late 1960s. This is a man who, when my wife goes to see him in the colder months, picks up her coat and holds it for her as she slips her arms inside the sleeves.

My doctor. Mine.

After having my vitals taken and my vision checked by a nurse, I sat in the exam room for twenty-eight minutes, waiting for this P. A. to come in. He was in his late forties, and I was pleasantly surprised when the first words out of his mouth were an apology for making me wait so long. But, in the next breath, he lost points.

"Well," he said, "was it a long time? Shit, I don't even know. Um... what's your name?"

Oh, dear.

He asked where I was working. He could have looked at the paper right in front of him, with the name of my employer emblazoned all across the top of the page, but he didn't. I told him.

"Jesus," he said, "you a psychologist?"

"No, but the patients all think I'm a doctor. They call me, "Dr. G."

He laughed. Yeah, it's funny-- because nobody calls you doctor anything. They just call you "Joe." Because you're just "Joe."

He proceeded to tell me that he used to work at the facility where I now work.

"Don't turn your back on any of those sumbitches," he advised, "not even for a second. And memorize where every goddamn panic button is in that place."

"Okay," I said.

He did his physical exam, reporting that he heard no wheezing when listening to my lungs, which is a nice thing for a career asthmatic to hear. Then, he listened to my heart. He frowned.

"Did anybody ever tell you you have a heart murmur?"

"No," I said. He listened again. And then again.

"Well, I heard some skips the first time, and then I listened again, and it was perfect, and then, just for shits and giggles, I listened a third time, and didn't hear it again-- so, you know, I don't know what that means-- if no one's ever told you that you have skipped beats or a murmur or mitral valve prolapse. I don't know."

Oh, well that's good!

"I do have an R.B.B." I told him.

There was a moment's silence.

"What's that?"

There was another moment's silence.

"A Right Bundle Branch Block."

"Oh," he said, and then quickly changed the subject to me taking my pants off for a hernia examination. I undid my belt, unbuttoned my trousers, and unzipped my fly. Just when I had pulled my pants and underwear down to my knees, he said,

"Oh, shit-- I forgot to check your eyes and ears and throat. Jesus! I'm all screwed up here."

Ah. Well, this is awkward. You know, because I've got my pants halfway down and Captain Dickarson is at parade rest out in the open. But, sure, go shine a light in my eyes. No problem.

And that is what he did. He then moved down to my junk. The old turn-your-head-and-cough routine that we know so well from countless stand-up-and-cough routines. While he was eye-to-eye with my material, he said,

"In two extra seconds, I can see if you've got testicular cancer-- so why not, right?"

Wow. What a sweet talker-- how could I refuse?

So, he rolled my schnuts around and said he didn't feel anything. He stood up, pulled a BIC pen out of his shirt pocket and said, "I was looking for something about half the size of the end of this pen. Feel your balls once a month."


"See, if you were fifty-- I wouldn't have done that to you. But prime age for testicular cancer is 18-42 or something." He paused. "Wait-- I didn't even ask you hold old you are."

"You did actually-- I'm thirty. You wrote it down there on your paper."

"Oh, yeah! Well, great to meet you," he said. I smiled my traditional, pained half-smile, half-wince I give to people when meeting them has minutely yet irrevocably chipped away at my faith in humanity.

"Yes," I said, "likewise, Joe."


  1. I'm laughing so hard it hurts!

    Also, I misread your post title AGAIN. This time I thought it said "Feed Your Balls Once a Month." Which, you know, could also be important.

  2. Poor Joe. God bless him. Do you reckon he checked his own balls just before checking yours? He sounds the type...


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