By lex, on December 1st, 2003
Brought to you by Navy medicine – the best in its price range!
Perhaps it would be churlish of me to point out that anyone enamored of the idea of socialized medicine really ought to spend a seven or eight hours of their time at sick-call in a Navy hospital. I mean, it does tend to weed out those who are merely goldbricking from those who truly need urgent care. The goldbrickers get a day off, while the very sick merely die, waiting for a visit with the doctor. Kind of like the skit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” where the villagers talk of throwing the witch into the pond to see if she floated – if she did not, she was innocent, and could be buried appropriately. If she did, she was made of wood, therefore a witch and you could BURN HER!!!
I’m taking some risks here – tomorrow is my flight physical, and have been instructed on the wisdom of giving the barber a hard time while you’re sitting in the chair. It is a calculated risk however: neither of my readers appear to be either flight surgeons or remotely related to the Navy medical corps. There’s every chance I get away cleanly tomorrow, and have a whole year after for the kerfuffle to fade away.
Flight Physicals are never very much fun, but tomorrow’s is a “short form,” fog a mirror, take the eye and hearing test, donate twenty or thirty vials of blood, have the dentist root around in your mouth with a crowbar for a bit and you’re basically done. No need for a rectal probing, unless you’d like to ask for it.
“Any concerns about your prostate?”
“No, no, it never felt better!”
“Right then. Off you go.”
As far as I can tell, the absence or presence of a rectal probing is what makes a physical either a short form or long form, respectively. That and the amount of time you’re forced to wait for your rectal probing, pondering your ineluctable fate. Wondering why, oh why? must this be.
You may say I’m making too much of this, you might think I’m anally fixated. All I can say is that you shouldn’t judge a man until you’ve rested on his elbows across the examination table a couple of times.
My issues with military medicine started early in my career. In order to get an appointment to the Naval Academy, a comprehensive physical was required of me. I was 17 years old at the time, and an innocent in the world in more ways than one. To make the rest of this story make sense, I should point out that I come from a part of the country where first names are optional – it was considered entirely appropriate to string family surnames together when christening a child. The result in my case being that my first name is Carroll, and my middle name Fairfax.
All of you that are enlightened, intelligent and superior will realize of course that to spell Carroll with two “R’s” and two “L’s” makes it, prima facie, a masculine name, regardless of the fact that it sounds exactly Like a girl’s name. It’s all in the spelling, you see. The cruelty of course, is that if as a young man you feel burdened by the weight of a somewhat ambiguous first name, it’s difficult to fall back on a casual, “just call me Fairfax” on the playground without getting punched in the eye by the great unwashed. I was forced to grow up faster than the kids bigger than me, and hit harder than the ones my size.
Anyway, we’ve all got our crosses to bear, and I had some experience with the issues involved, so maybe I should have known better. Back to the military medical center: I’m issued my chits for blood work, eye tests, etc. Finally I’ve got one more test to take, and I’m not quite sure about exactly what’s involved. So I go to the room assigned, knock on the door and am asked to enter. A pleasant looking female flight surgeon is inside, all by herself. She looks quizzically up at me and asks how she can be of assistance? I read the chit carefully (nothing’s getting in the way of my going to the Naval Academy!) and tell her that I’m here for my pap smear.
She gives me a strange look, and makes a small choking sound before picking up the phone, saying “just a moment, I’ll need some help with this one.” More people are summoned, one at a time, to hear me repeat my request.
Even at 17, and a babe in the woods, the scarlet flush across my face and the heat under the collar was telling me that it was at least possible that I was being made sport of. I look around the room more carefully, see the table sitting there with the stirrups at the end, see the broad array of torture devices laid neatly across the cloth and realize that something has gone horribly wrong!
Eventually I am released to nurture my shame and humiliation in private.
Fast forward a couple of years (I will omit for now the story of my dental appointment at the Naval Academy where I was on the brink of being sedated to have my wisdom teeth extracted, only to point out to the doctor that this had been done two years previously – not even going to mention it!) and I’m now a flight student in Meridian, Mississippi.
Now, it’s quite possible that all the Navy’s best medical people and top graduates compete to be assigned to Meridian, Mississippi. I just never saw any evidence of it while I was there. Anyway, there was a rather infamous flight surgeon (again, female, known to all as “the Ogre”) who was acknowledged throughout the student pilot community for her apparent ability to check your tonsils at the same time she was checking your prostate gland – all through the same convenient aperture! I don’t care what you say, that’s talent.
Luck of the draw says that when my turn comes around, I get the Ogre as my flight doc. I’ve heard the stories, so when it’s one-on-one time, I turn around hesitantly, drop trou and put my elbows on the table. “No, no” she chuckled, somewhat evilly, “it’s not quite time for that – yet.” First I must lay on the table, nekkid as the day I was born, while she pokes and thumps and counts heartbeats and digits, etc. Actually counts fingers, while I lay there on the table. Because, who knows? maybe I lost one during training and hid it from my instructors…
By way of conversation, to relax me, I suppose, she asks, “so are you getting enough sex?”
Either of my readers would no doubt have had a witty reply to this brilliant bit of repartee. As for me, no ready answer came to mind. The room is cold, mind you – so I’m momentarily concerned that she has a professional reason to ask this question (is that how they can tell?). I managed to gurgle, “doing OK, I guess.” But this is all a lead in to the great archeological expedition that is about to occur once I stand up and assume the position.
It’s awful of course, there’s much snapping of gloves and greasing of fingers. Worst yet is I’m given no wipies with which to make myself proper – off you go! Squish, squish all the way to the head, a long walk with what I’m sure are many sympathetic, pitying glances from the seven or eight thousand-odd retirees waiting patiently for their monthly supply of die-without-em’s prescription drugs, some of whom, by the length of the line, appeared to have reached actual retirement age while waiting for the pharmacy clerk to service their orders.
Not until years later did I realize that there was no medical reason for a populace of 23 year olds to get routinely turned out for prostate evaluations. By then, the emotional damage was pretty much done.
So, yah, it’s pretty much all glory and getting the girl, flying fighters.