Doctor calls shots, gets under my skin

Bob Morrissey

I had just finished undergoing my yearly physical when Dr. Pillmartin asked — well, more like demanded — that I put my clothes back on before he’d comment on the general state of my health. He watched patiently as I struggled with the buttons on my shirt and then surprised me when he grumbled, “You need iron.”

“I what?” I said, not understanding him. “My shirt’s hardly wrinkled— and, just so you know, your cheap imitation of a Chinese person speaking English is deplorable.”

“You’re nuts,” he shot back.

“And how would you know?” I replied. “You’re a GP, not a psychiatrist.”

“I’m not talking about your shirt. I’m talking about your hemorrhoids. You’ve lost some blood. You need iron. Get it, now!”

I apologized for the misunderstanding and gingerly took my seat in front of Dr. Pillmartin’s desk. He still hadn’t removed the rubber glove he used while probing my prostrate. In fact, I had asked him not to don the glove; that I didn’t mind if he left a thumb print. I mean, who would see it?

By now, Pillmartin had regained his composure and assumed his normally pleasant bedside manner, only this time at his desk.

“Let’s face it,” he said, slowly removing his glasses and tenting his fingers. “At 79, you can go any time — tomorrow or in 10 years … probably alone. I see you stumbling and falling in a blizzard. You’ve dropped your dog’s leash, and the last thing you see is your little companion running toward a big city snow blower. In seconds he’ll …”

“Stop! I hate it when you digress,” I loudly interrupted. “Just tell me if I’m OK — and, PLEASE take that glove off. I want to know if you found anything serious. What about my incontinence? I thought that’s what you were referring to when you said I can ‘go any time.’ I didn’t think you meant dying. What about my loose stools and pink eye? Did you even notice the toenail fungus and warts? What about my bad breath?”

“Calm down,” Dr. Pillmartin said, backing up, slightly. “There’s not much we can do because most of your ailments are chronic.”

He then gave my hand a comforting pat. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t prolong your life by making a few minor lifestyle changes.” Then he hesitated. “And you know what that means?”

Oh, oh, here it comes.

“Please,” I said, “don’t tell me I have to give up playing my air guitar.”

Dr. Pillmartin furrowed his brow. “I’m afraid so because of your arthritis. If only you could air strum and do aerobics simultaneously?”

“No way, I’m afraid of heights,” I said. But then I had an idea. “How about if I play air piano? You do it sitting down. I promise I’ll go easy on my fingers by playing only ballads. I’m crazy about Moon River.” I hum a few bars, for effect.

But Dr. Pillmartin had his reservations. “Wouldn’t that still require lots of lateral motion?”

“Only when I play a Jerry Lee Lewis song,” I said. Sensing I was getting nowhere, I added: “How about air harmonica for when I don’t have cold sores? You can do it lying down. And it’s right up my alley: you don’t need teeth; it’s all in the gums.”

“An excellent compromise!” Pillmartin said. “So it’s settled. Now, any more questions?”

“Just one. Does my little my dog make it through the blizzard?”

“No,” said Pillmartin, sadly. “But we found his leash.”


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