I’m usually not concerned about germs when I visit a doctor’s office. Call it blissful ignorance or denial, but it isn’t usually something I worry about too much.
At recent visits to my girlies’ pediatrician, I’ve noticed the ginormous bottle of hand sanitizer sitting out at the sign-in sheet and again at the checkout window. I’ve taken advantage of those opportunities for added precaution. But, I didn’t really worry. Until today.
I visited my own doctor’s office for a back “injury”. (I say “injury” because, yet again, I have no idea what I’ve done to myself. When I think more about why I don’t know or remember anything I’ve done to hurt myself, I conclude that I injure myself so frequently that I just don’t even pay attention to them for long anymore. Except for when I cut off the top of my thumb…but that’s another post.)
I noticed the lady behind the glass window handing the little old lady signing in before me a mask. A mask. Then, my eyes caught sight of the sign sitting on the counter, “Our masks are for your protection.”
Eww! OK. Now, I’m completely creeped out.
As I step up to the clipboard, I glance down at the two pens on the counter. One attached by a short chain to the clipboard, the other, a black Paper Mate that has long ago lost its cap, lying nearby. A little voice in my head reminded me of a warning I’d heard on television, or from a friend, or passing someone in the hall…”Always use your own pens. Do you know how many people touch those pens?”
Then I heard my own voice reminding me to calm down. “I have a killer teacher/mom immune system and this is all just paranoid thinking.” Plus, I didn’t want to look like a jerk/idiot rifling through my purse that desperately needs to be cleaned out and reorganized looking for a black pen. Well, looking for any pen that isn’t pink, purple, lime green, or orange. Or a highlighter. Or a marker. (I’m always prepared.) So, I took a deep breath (and held it), chose a pen, and signed the board. It was like the office supply version of Russian Roulette.
As I took my place in the waiting crowd, strategically chosen to be equidistant from all the other waiters, I sank four inches into the seat of a chair that had obviously been a popular choice for a while. I scoped out my fellow waiters…and began to feel very young and very healthy. Every other person in there was well over 70, frail,…and wearing a mask. Well, with the exception of their caregivers. They might pass for mid-40s or greater. My eyes darted from mask to mask, sizing up the wearers. Were they sick? Did they think I was sick? Should I be worried about catching something, or should I stand up and announce, “Don’t worry. No germs on me! I’m just here for a bad back. You know how it is when you pass 30…it’s all downhill from there, right?? Ha, ha!”
I needed to consult an expert.
I texted FireDaddy.
Me: they have masks for u to wear in waiting room. it’s creepy.
FireDaddy: it’s going around.
Me: should i wear 1?
FireDaddy: it’s up 2 u
Me: what would u do?
FireDaddy: i’ve been vaccinated
And just like that, he left me high and dry. It was like the dream where you show up somewhere naked, or arrive at an event or work an hour early because you forgot to change your clocks, or when your friend gives you a gift even though you both agreed you wouldn’t exchange gifts! How could he do that to me? He scoffs at me for getting the flu shot every year – and then he goes and gets vaccinated for the swine flu? How selfish is he??? Doesn’t he care about his own wife? The mother of his children? THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE AND THE BEST FRIEND HE’S EVER HAD???
The blonde lady behind the glass called my name again. It was time for me to update my forms, so she handed me a *gasp!* clipboard and form to complete. This time, I dug into my purse and found my own germ-infested pen to use. (Let’s face it. Those pens are used frequently by my own nose-picking, finger-licking, germ-carrying kiddos.) After all, the germ you know is better than the germ you don’t know, right? I busied my mind as I completed the redundant form. Unfortunately, it was an unusually short form - front side only with only two signatures on the back. That’s it? When I don’t want to do this kind of stupid paperwork, there’s like five pages of it – asking me questions I practically have to call my mother’s mother to find out the answers to! Today I get one stinkin’ page – and like a third of the page was “N/A”!!!
I crossed the room carefully, holding my breath, to return my assignment. As I turned back towards the sinking chair, I noticed the end table with magazines. Ha! Not on your life, germie-poos! I’m not falling for THAT old trick! (Today…)
And so, I sat. I brought a book, but couldn’t bring myself to read it in that moment. I sat and held my purse in my lap, looking like a frightened little ol’woman, I’m sure. “Please call my name. Please call my name. Please call my name.”
Finally, they called my name. I moved as quickly as I could with this darn aching back. (Getting up is really hard these days.) As I came close to the door to the back of the office, I silently wished the nurse would open the door wider so I didn’t have to get so close to her to pass through the threshold. I followed her to the scale.
“Don’t you think we could just skip this part today? After all…it’s right after Thanksgiving…which came on the heels of a month or more of gluttony for me. Don’t you think? Please?”
I shed my shoes, dropped my purse, opened my mouth for the thermometer (telling myself those flimsy plastic covers really can protect me from the creepy germs inside other people’s mouths), stepped on the scale, and I closed my eyes.