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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

My Cup Runneth Empty

I mentioned earlier that I recently saw my doctor, and was bamboozled into submitting to a full physical exam.

Well, maybe not ‘bamboozled’, exactly. It was for my own good, I’m sure. And there was neither bamboo nor booze involved, so far as I know. Certainly not both. This is not some sort of voodoo tiki doctor I’m going to here. Moving on.

“I’m surprised they didn’t send some burly guy named Vinny to work some blood out of me in the meantime. Some of these HMO docs are hardcore.”

At any rate, part of the deal in getting my foot healed up was submitting to a battery of lab tests. I told the doc fine, I’d run by the outpatient place near my house the next morning. Or the day after. End of the week, at the latest.

Later that day, our house went on the market — which is a whole other extended saga, but suffice it to say that having holes poked in my arms and fluids sucked from my body was really low on my list of priorities. For about three weeks. I’m surprised they didn’t send some burly guy named Vinny to work some blood out of me in the meantime. Some of these HMO docs are hardcore.

Finally, I made it over to the lab. By that point, I’d forgotten exactly what I was being tested for — cholesterol, cholera, swine flu, goose rabies, cat hair, who the hell knows? But I drove in, really to step up, bleed out, and be on my way. I strutted up to the counter to check in, gave the girl — who pretended to be very unimpressed with my strutting, I might add — my name, and waited to tell her into which arm I wanted the needle jammed. Instead, she threw me a curveball:

Fine. Here’s your cup. Bathrooms are down the hall.

Um… a bored bitter nurse says wha, exactly?

She didn’t look like she wanted any guff — which I could tell with great certainty covered a question like, ‘Great. What in the hell do you expect me to do with, or in, this little thing?

So I took the cup, found a bathroom and pondered my options. I knew the doctor mentioned blood tests. Maybe this was some sort of ‘self-service’ lab where you draw your own blood, pour it in the cup, and save a frazzled tech some work. But I didn’t see any needles in the room. Not even a razor blade to slice with. If I sawed back and forth on the toilet handle just the right way, I might break the skin, but it was sort of a long shot. If they wanted blood from me, they were going to have to be a little more straightforward about it.

That didn’t leave many options. I could only think of four or five other things that I could possibly deposit into the cup for the doctor — and only two that any sane person in modern society might be willing to hand to their primary caregiver. Still, two is more than one, so I didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to be doing in that bathroom.

So I went back out to the reception area, empty cup in hand, and tried to play dumb. Not much of a stretch, under the circumstances. The nurse lady rolled her eyes and informed me:

Some of the tests here require a urine sample. Get that done, and then we’ll take blood afterward.

But… I didn’t know I’d be giving a urine sample.

Well, just do the best you can.

But I just went to the bathroom before I came here.

Just do. The best you can.

That last bit was spoken with one of those implied ‘or I’ll stab you in the eyehole‘ looks that mothers, teachers — and nurses at reception desks, evidently — are so very good at summoning. I decided to be a good little urine patient and toddle back to the bathroom to do the very best that I could.

Which meant standing for ten minutes in front of a toilet, with an empty sample cup in one hand and the business end of an empty bladder in the other. As hard as I squeezed, no matter which muscles I could think to clench, over and over, not a lot of progress was made. There was room in the cup for one hundred millileters, maybe one fifty. Lot of big water drinkers in the medical profession, I guess.

Me, I managed about thirty. With a lot of effort. At least I could tell the doc I’d done some abdominal exercises that week. So I’ve got that going for me.

Of course, when I returned with the cup, I had to endure the disparaging looks from the nurse lady all over again. I’m sure I personally made her rethink her entire career path that day. ‘Why me,‘ she must have asked. ‘How is it I get patients who can’t even find a way to pee right?

That’s me. Lowering other’s expectations of humanity since 1970. I should get T-shirts printed.

Luckily for us both, there was juuuuust enough liquid gold in the cup for them to run their tests — and it was a different nurse who wound up taking my blood. If the woman at the desk had done it, she’d have probably stuck me with a lawn dart and hooked me up to a funnel. Six quarts later, and I’d either be dead or I’d have the local blood bank renamed after me. And possibly both.

Instead, I made it out alive and with the merest shred of dignity left. If nothing else, I did have the good sense to ask, eventually, precisely what it was that was expected of me. I didn’t go and deposit any of those unspeakable things I’d thought of into the cup on a whim.

On the other hand, I feel sorry for whoever opens the medicine cabinet in that bathroom next. Hoo boy. Man, if they didn’t need a doctor before, they’ll sure as hell need one after.Some biological samples, you just can’t unsee.

Permalink  |  2 Comments

2 Responses to “My Cup Runneth Empty”

  1. At your last paragraph: Shudder (Heebie jeebies, thanks, Charlie).

  2. Jenn Thorson says:

    Ah, our communicative and supportive health care system at its finest.

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