Strictly Verboten

     Jane said that I may not, under any circumstances, write a column about my colonoscopy.
     So the bottom line is, I won’t do it.
     It would be fundamentally ridiculous to make myself the butt of my own jokes.
     No, it would take considerably more cheek than I’ve got to make an ass of myself that way.
     I would like to know, however, why it is that the colonoscopy doctors – I believe the technical name for them is spelunkers – feel it is necessary to present you with color photos of the procedure as you stagger out the hospital door.
     This seems to be standard practice these days. The photos are part of the deal. I have no idea what to think of these photos.
     I could understand it if the spelunker found diamonds or rubies in me, and wanted me to see them in their natural setting. But he did not find them. I must have put them someplace else.
     Does the doctor want me to understand that my insides look like ideal habitat for mysterious undersea creatures that live near volcanic vents?
     That my insides, in fact, look like an undersea creature? Or a volcanic vent?
     Not that I am complaining about my doctors. No, no. I like all of my doctors here in Vermont. Aside from lawyers, more cruel and untrue things surely are said about doctors than of any other profession.
     As news editor of this page, I see many lawsuits against doctors every day. Some, surely, have merit. I cast a chary eye upon most of them.
     One day I saw two doctors sued in two courts, far apart. One family sued a surgeon for operating on a man who was obese, and the fat man died.
     Another fat man sued a different doctor for refusing to operate upon him because he was obese.
     So what’s a doctor to do?
     Now, it’s true that one reason I like my doctors is that we live in Vermont. Lots of doctors come here so they don’t have to work insane hours in big-city hospitals. They don’t have to make insane amounts of money to keep up their practices. Some doctors come here so they can work four days a week. Some come here to “retire,” and work only three days a week.
     The U.S. medical system is not only insane, it’s brutal on doctors, especially young ones. All the doctors I’ve seen here seem happy, which is something I cannot say about the doctors I had in sunny, overcrowded Southern California. Not that they were not good doctors. But they didn’t seem happy.
     My favorite story about medicine in Vermont is the day I called my general practitioner’s office and told the secretary I wanted to see the doc about something that was not an emergency, that could wait.
     “Umm,” the secretary said. Then she sighed, and said sadly and apologetically, “I can’t get you in until tomorrow.”
     Since I am not allowed to tell you about my colonoscopy, how about this story my grandfather told me. He played regular pinochle games with his pals, including my Uncle Ralph, a well-known ob-gyn, who delivered me and my brothers and sister.
     One week a new guy sat in, a dentist, and he griped about his work.
     “Sometimes I think that if I have to look into one more patient’s mouth, I’ll scream,” the dentist said.
     And my Uncle Ralph replied, “You think you got problems.”

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