Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I was digging through My Favorites on my Internet browser of choice and came across an entry titled “I’m Awesome”. I clicked it and arrived here. Then I browsed my documents in the My Documents folder in My Computer on my computer and found two documents that contained words. Suddenly, I realized that I could somehow formulate a chemical equation that, when balanced, would result in placing those documents here. With complex computer coding, I could even place one of the documents after the other document. The documents were titled “Mediocre” and “6/10”, and I now present them to you.

For the sake of a trilogy, I’ll briefly include the third trip to the doctor I made recently. I got a flu shot and sadly the nurse was courteous and professional. This does not make for an interesting story, so I’ll keep it short. Hopefully next year the nurse will be obese and confuse my records with someone else’s while eating a lobster. I’ll now continue with the two other parts of the trio.

Last week I went to the dermatologist. Something strange happened. I should have noticed the clues: My pre-appointment trip to the bathroom went uninterrupted and nothing was spilled or splashed onto my trousers. The usually bustling waiting room was empty and silent. I was led into the white, fluorescent room with the metal bench ten minutes early instead of the usual 30 late. These signs could only have meant one of two things: Either the zombie invasion had finally happened and the dermatologist’s office was the last safe place on earth, or the doc was up to something. Sadly, as I would later find out with a sickeningly sweet request and a piercing pain through my cheek, no zombies were running through the streets thirstily searching for human flesh.

After a brief wait, a short Indian nurse called my attention and directed me to the appointment room. I leapt upon the metal bench and felt like I was wearing a diaper as I shifted myself around on the pointless paper covering, trying to not appear as an infant. The nurse ran through the standard questions with an accent that made me assume she had spent more time at a NetGear technical support center than medical school: What medication are you on? Any problems since the last time you were here? How long are you? I’m sorry, would you mind defining ‘choder’? She wrote things down and eventually left the room again. One more short wait later, and the commanding officer finally showed up. A tall, blonde woman of 45 or so, she didn’t look like one to enjoy tricking innocent children into allowing her to cause them short bouts of metallic pain. But as Kareem Campbell attests, looks can be deceiving.

She, too, went through the usual questions, most of them the same ones that her Hindu lackey likely didn’t write down. Once that was through she got down to business, inspecting me from all directions like a plantation owner. Something on my right cheek tickled her festering fancy for skin and she asked me for permission to do something that I had previously only imagined 3rd-world sex workers doing. “Now, you have a pus-filled spot over here,” she stated, perhaps thinking that the common term ‘pimple’ would make me cry. “Would you like me to pop it?”

I fell into a state of startled shock for a moment but leveled my head once I realized that this is probably what gets her off, and I’m not one to judge, so I replied with an unenthusiastic “Uhh…sure.” From there, I was expecting her to go with the standard two-finger approach and she would be aroused and done. But she was in the mood for something a little more special, and decided to take it all the way. She laid me back on the table with a crackly crinkle and snapped on a pair of pink latex gloves. If I was going into surgery there likely would have been a mask shooting gas into my nose then, and if I was in a pornographic film there likely wouldn’t have been pants on me, but I was stuck in a strange purgatory between the two.

The lady suddenly swiped a pair of dentist-caliber utensils from a small tray and without further questions helped herself. I think she stole one of the tools, a small metal hook, from the orthodontist located down the hall, and she stole her long, pointy metal rod from that lizard guy on Ripley’s Believe It or Not who shoves it through his testicles. At least it smelled like that one. Anyway, here’s how she used her instruments of pain to conduct a symphony of soreness across my face. First, without any sort of announcement or warning, she plunged the rod straight into ground zero and wiggled it and its razor point around with an odd interest and the precision of the mall employee who pierces 1st grade girls’ ears for $5/hour. She removed the spear and then brought in the cavalry: the dentist’s hook, which I suppose was used to scrape the pounds of skin she had unearthed off into some sort of radioactive medical waste receptacle. By the time the ordeal was over I estimated that I had lost 1.5 gallons of blood, which will likely be shared between the doctor and her nurse during tomorrow’s lunch.

But once was not enough for this lady, no. She set her sights on uncharted territory and again invited herself to blast off two more nukes. As she ransacked my face like a Nazi in Kristallnacht, she routinely muttered salaciously sweet nothings along the lines of, “I’m sorry; I know it hurts,” “Almost done,” and, “I vant to suck your blood.” The latter may be inaccurate, considering my hazy memory due to the blood loss, but I can say for certain that whatever she said was uttered in a thick Transylvanian accent. When she had finally drawn enough blood for her picnic, she told me that she was all done and removed her pink gloves. As if it would make it all better, she gave me a wad of gauze to prevent the three wounds she had inflicted from bleeding out, but that became soaked, bullet-wound style, in a matter of minutes.

I lied to her when I said, “Thanks,” and I filed out of the room. As I exited, though, my stern British upbringing reared its head in my subconscious and I wondered, Was I supposed to tip her? Does the insurance cover pimple popping? What is the standard gratuity rate applied for that kind of act? A waiter gets 15%, a caddy gets 50%, and a seasoned teabagist can fetch upwards of 60%. But it seemed to be strictly her disgusting pleasure, so I figured my being there was tip enough. I boarded my five-wheeled automobile and left the office in my rear-view mirror, hoping to never have a bad experience with a doctor again. But as you should be able to tell by the length of this writing, I was in for a disappointment.

Later that week, but before today, I set some sort of world record by going to three different places in one day: School, Best Buy, and the eye doctor. I say “the eye doctor” because there is only one in the United States. Allow me to elaborate on the latter two, as I assume the majority of the three of you reading this attends school occasionally. Best Buy was on my to-do list so I could purchase the Monster House DVD. It was a half-day of school, so I strolled into the store around 1p.m. and was met with numerous “Shouldn’t you be in school?”, “Where are your parents?” and “DVDs have movies on them?” glares from the blue-shirted employees. I did my best to dodge their glances and quickly picked up my copy of the children’s movie. The embarrassment of purchasing an animated film aimed at 9-year olds suddenly settled in on me, and the fact that I was going to use a $5 coupon on the transaction made me feel like an even bigger idiot. But I held my head up high and thrust the goods over the counter into the waiting hands of the jovial black cashier who I think didn’t know exactly what I was purchasing, thanks to my clever plan of placing the merchandise upside-down. Of course, the title was printed on the back of the box as well, but I’ll also assume she was illiterate, for the sake of consistency. I handed her my paper money and she handed me a paper receipt. I then covertly exited the store and boarded my horse, which I gave a firm kick to and pointed in the direction of the local optometrist, where I was expecting, but did not receive, an easygoing dive into the world of contact lenses.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the waiting room of the Thomas Eye Group was packed like a Sicilian pizza shop (Note: that means ‘a pizza shop in the city of Sicily,’ and not ‘a generic pizza shop that specializes in Sicilian-style pizza.’ The pizza shop in Sicily would be crowded, obviously, because Italians love pizza so much that they will ignore the sweaty stench of their neighbors for as long as it takes to get their thick hands on one cheesy slice). I arrived at least 20 minutes before my scheduled appointment, but the Eye Doctor Calendar is a strange and mysterious device that operates in lenses and retinas instead of hours and days, and as such I had the equivalent of two weeks to spend in the waiting room. Before taking one of the few remaining empty seats, I approached the desk with the intent of filling out some papers and potentially executing a robbery. But my plans were foiled mere feet from the counter as a stuttered stumble resulted in my binder full of World History notes and secrets spilling all about the floor in front of at least 400 pairs of watchful eyes. My foot must have caught on a pair of glasses or carcass of someone who expired before his appointment time came, and the next thing I knew was my arms loosened their grip on my binder, which held an article on Charlemagne that I was going to read, and it toppled, upside-down, until it reached the floor and exploded in a pulpy mess. My knees hit the floor at roughly the same time, and I kept my head low as I pretended that no one in the busy room had seen a teenage boy and his schoolwork fall straight onto the ground for no apparent reason. I quickly worked to shuffle the papers back into their respective pockets and scurried right to my seat. (Note: Avoid Office Max’s 2-pack plain white binders. They’ve caused me problems in the past and generally are terrible products that don’t justify their $3 price tag or the 3 minutes of Malaysian labor that went into making them. But this is a topic for another time).

I was in my chair for long enough to listen to a 52-minute album on my electronically rectangular musical playing device while reading a six-page article about that fat Charlemagne and selected pages from a paperbound novel. My estimation is that the elapsed time was roughly 52 minutes, but my calculator isn’t equipped to execute advanced trigonomic functions, so don’t quote me on that number. After the seasons had changed, a nurse emerged from a corridor at the end of the long room and shouted my name. I heard her and picked up myself and my belongings and followed her down a winding series of doorways and into one of the uniform, dark rooms. I took a seat in the brown chair that had a large, swinging set of eyeglasses for tarantulas in front of it. I started fidgeting with the hundreds of lenses and played out a scene in my mind where I broke the device just as the doctor walked in. The thought was accompanied with a laugh track, but was quickly dismissed when I realized, sadly, that my life wasn’t an episode of Smart Guy, and breaking that kind of thing would probably result in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of having Moe sneak in to the office and replace the machine with a dummy unit the next night to no one’s suspicion. My life was a lot easier when it was an episode of Smart Guy. The nurse quizzed me on the standard questions to which I gave some standard answers. When she was through wondering about my vision, she changed the subject to complaining about her employer. For what seemed like 15 minutes she ranted on and on about how poor the office’s system of patient management was. Apparently they schedule several patients into the same time in order to increase productivity, confusion, and anger. This was, she said, the reason for the circus of people in the waiting room. I nodded my head in agreement with her as I thought, “This is incredibly unprofessional.” Eventually she got her bearings and decided to shoot a mysterious orange liquid into both of my eyes. I got to mop up her sloppy leftovers myself with a tissue and got a glimpse of a cabinet full of Tang and spoons out of the corner of my eye. I have a feeling that orange liquid wasn’t the one she was supposed to use. She flipped through the lenses as I looked into them and told her which were clear. Once that was over, I was forced to stare deep into a dark box at a red laser beam. I was sweating as I braced myself for the usual puff of air directly into my eyeballs that is so unexpected and awful that it can only be compared to a rapist’s fart. But that fart never passed. I sat there expecting the terrible blast of gas for at least a minute, but it turns out that the nurse only wanted to pretend she was playing Goldeneye and act like she was using the laser and tried to line up a headshot. After she made the laser-shooting noise with her mouth, she told me to sit down in the secondary chair as my accomplice boarded the captain’s seat. “That’s not the puff of air machine?” I asked, not knowing that the machine is called a tonometer.

She abruptly said no and that was the end of that. She wrote some things down on sheets of paper, interviewed and tested my accomplice, and led me to another room. This one was brighter than the other, but it was still full of posters featuring many pictures of the same smiling children, where each blurry picture features a different disabling eye disease that their grandparents have. Again I waited in the brown chair for several minutes until the doctor finally showed up. He was bald and wore glasses. Considering my mission was to insert contact lenses into my eyes, his wearing glasses wasn’t very reassuring. He went through many of the same questions that the other nurse did; either they keep two sets of everyone’s records for fun or he couldn’t read. He also scribbled down my answers and tried to strike up a conversation with me. He asked me what book I was reading, even though the title was clearly exposed on the counter, but he couldn’t read so I suppose that makes sense. I told him and he furthered questioned about the book’s contents. Again I told him the answer while thinking that I was there to have my eyeballs checked out, not to discuss literature with a bald illiterate optometrist. He picked up the book, flipped to a random page, and began reading the text aloud. I would have told him that I know how to read, but apparently he doesn’t get enough books in his diet and read two entire pages. Eventually he caught on that I wasn’t as into the conversation as he was and finally looked at my eyes. The eye exam took him about 40 seconds, roughly 1/10 the amount of time it took him to browse my book. The scientific conclusions he drew from the tests were that my vision was okay, which I could have told him several weeks before the exam. He also recommended that I purchase something called Ocusoft Lid Scrub. It’s some type of soap that I’m supposed to rub all over my eyes while in the shower, because apparently my eye lids are home to a swarming cesspool of bacteria that is going to ruin my vision in the near future. I have two problems with this: 1. I don’t know where this supposed bacteria is coming from, because I stopped swimming with my eyes open in my neighbor’s above-ground septic tank years ago. And 2. Ever since I was an infant, I have been trained by my masters to not put soap in my eyes. The lone exception to this rule was Johnson & Johnson’s gentle shampoo, which can be lovingly squirted into eyes to the squirter’s content, but that was introduced several decades after I graduated to more adult, harsh shampoos made from the sweat and blood of buffalo. So when the doc suggested that I lather this strange potion all over my eyeballs, I laughed in his face and shouted, “Are you joking? Maybe you should lather some Rogaine on that que-ball of yours, Ace!” Actually, what I did was nod my head and told him that I would look for the product and purchase it. What he didn’t know was that I was lying. He then started to read my accomplice’s newspaper that was on the counter aloud. I don’t know what his problem was or why he couldn’t purchase his own subscription to the newspaper, but he had a voice that sounded like his mouth was full of mucus and his large nose was full of boogers and the teachings of Abraham. He read an article about Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s and received no response. He shook my hand and surprisingly didn’t try to read the words on my sweatshirt out loud and shipped me off to yet another room.

Once again I waited, this time for the third doctor from their mysterious band of carnies to arrive. The room I was in this time, though, was a wonderland full from floor to ceiling with contact lenses. All shapes and sizes of contacts: from circles to ovals and very small to pretty small. They were on all four walls, little packets containing one lens each, all held on white racks lined up one after another. If I had a fetish for contacts, my pants would have been tight, but because I only have a mild desire to eat soft contact lenses, my mouth was just beginning to salivate when the final doctor walked in the door. He was an older man who also ironically wore glasses. He discussed his recent back surgery and asked me a short series of questions that basically amounted to, “I plan to try contact lenses today.” Then he led me out of the office and sat me on a rotating chair at a small counter with a rotating mirror on it. He probably walked back into the contact dungeon to admire his legion of lenses and rally them for their upcoming battle.

I sat by my lonesome at the counter with my accomplice at my left side for a moment or two until a cheery Mexican woman dressed as an employee of the office took the seat opposite mine. “Estas aqui para intentar los lentes de contacto?” she asked, but she really said it in thickly accented English. I told her that I obviously was, seeing as I was seated in the Contact Fitting Station. She looked delighted as she pulled out two small packets of lenses and started to inform me of the ancient secrets of the contact lens. Just like a pair of pants, the lenses aren’t supposed to be inserted into my eyes inside-out. She showed me several different styles of prying open my eyes, from the over-the-head “Slam Dunk” to the around-the-side “Reach Around.” After training myself to perform those tricks, it was finally time to touch my eyeballs with my dirty fingers.

Let me share some history with you: The original pair of contact lenses was the result of a chemical reaction occurring at the bottom of a garbage bag full of Satan’s diarrhea and Hitler’s semen. They’re the most awful, devilish creation to ever appear on the earth, and they more fitfully belong at the bottom of a sewer than in a human being’s eyeballs. While testing lipstick and make-up on animals like chimpanzees is hilarious, testing contact lenses on those poor, defenseless beasts is inhumane and cruel. I struggled with those weapons of terror for almost 40 minutes before having the Senora force one of them into my right eye. Tears streamed across my cheeks like a girl and the skin around my eyes was as red and chafed as my ballsack. The problem may have been my hand’s poor grip on my upper eyelids (perhaps due to the pools of slick bacteria soaking them), or my eyes themselves. My eyes are as wide as those of a Chinaman who’s trying to read a distant sign. Nothing has any business going into them, ever. The only con to this deformity is that I can’t stuff contacts into them, but the only pro is that old perverts can’t stuff their genitalia into them. I suppose I should at least be thankful for that much.

So after roughly 40 minutes I had succeeded in inserting one lens into my right eye. When I had both eyes open I felt like I had a split personality; my left side was horrifically near-sighted and my right side was being held in front of a blasting fire hose. My right eye felt like it was underwater, likely because there was a pool of water stuck to it under a concave piece of corrective eyewear. When I closed my left eye it felt like my glasses were both on, because of the clear vision, and off, because they weren’t on, at the same time. This confused me and made me think I was partially insane for a brief time. Several more attempts at the left eye were then made, mostly resulting in tragic failure. The Mexican woman was very adamant about getting the other one in, despite my enthusiastic retreads of “I think I’m going to stop now,” and, “I really don’t care.” She wouldn’t have any of that attitude and persisted with the zesty zeal of a mariachi band at the finest taco shop in all of Mexico City.

“C’mon, let’s go,” she urged with a large smile and spicy voice. She tried to set up a date for after school the next day to continue my efforts, because she had to leave promptly at 5p.m. to arrive at her second job, which surprisingly was at Federal Express and not one of my neighbors’ houses. I made up an excuse why I couldn’t attend because she really didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t care for those little transparent devils. Eventually I popped the second one into my other eye myself. Maricela (I assume her name was) was excited and cheered accordingly, but I was only thinking about how strange the feeling of opening my eyes underwater while sitting in a doctor’s office was, and couldn’t wait to suction them out. Fear settled in as I realized I would have to touch my eyes no less than four more times in order to remove them, lest I be cursed with contacted eyeballs for the rest of my days. It took several minutes until I fondled my cornea on the right side and pulled the contact off of it. The left proved more of a challenge and eventually fell out in the “Pink Eye-Paulie” method by rubbing my eye until it accidentally fell out.

I declared the mission accomplished and my accomplice purchased the pair of lenses for me to have at home in case I want to try them again. They have been sitting on the kitchen counter untouched ever since that day. The receptionist gave me a pair of paper sunglasses, or “Canadian Shades”, to protect my precious retinas from the sun’s harsh rays after being poisoned by that toxic dilating orange liquid. I walked through the packed waiting room again, though this time in the opposite direction than I had before. The sun’s rays were not nearly strong enough to damage my elephantastic eyes, and I had no use for the flimsy black sunglasses. I put them in the cupholder as I drove away, hoping to never have another bad experience at a doctor’s office again.