Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Fun Times with Doctors and Dentists

I think most of our experiences with doctors and dentists are far from fun.  Of course, when I am going to get a gynecological exam I am not looking for my doctor to be a stand-up comic, but I do think a bit of levity could make that entire experience more tolerable.  In fact, I think all doctors and dentists, while in school, should have to pass a class in humor. I mean I know a lot of people whose blood pressure jumps higher the daily Dow every time they wander into a dentist or physician's office.  Certainly a little humor could help to make the visit less likely to promote some kind of cardiovascular distress.

Over the years the doctors I have seen most frequently are Dermatologists.  The woman I am now seeing is able to laugh, joke, smile and behave within the realm of "normal".  The other Dermatologists I have seen, well let's just say the term "normal" doesn't describe them.

 My first experience was with a guy I aptly named, Dr. Mole.  I had gone to my family doctor who said that I had what appeared to be precancerous spots on my face and then he referred me to the Dermatologist in his building.  Obviously he had never visited that office. The receptionist looked like she used to be part of the Addams family.  The office was not bright and open, but dimly lit and felt Hobbit-like.  Great...I was nervous enough about the precancerous thing on my face and now I had entered into a prequel for Harry Potter.  The Mortica look alike led me into another dimly lit and sparsely furnished examination room.  I considered for a brief moment, sucking on the alcohol swabs sitting on the counter just to calm my nerves.

Finally, Dr. Mole moved out of the darkness into the examining room.  He had on latex gloves, a hat, long sleeves, and a mask.  I could only see two small, dark eyes looking at me.  He said nothing, but looked at my face and in a small, tiny voice he said "I must burn these off".

I had no idea how Dr. Mole was going to "burn these off"--a blowtorch?  A candle?  matches?  He then left the room and returned moments later with a large areosol can.  Before I could ask questions he was spraying liquid nitrogen on my face until I started tearing up from the pain.  He did it twice more before he laid his weapon down.

Dr. Mole then looked at me and said, "Never, never, never go out in the sun.  It is bad for you and so you should never go outside when the sun is shining.  See you again in one year" and with that he left.

Boy, was that fun--no conversation--a face behind a mask--burned skin and a brief, squeaky lecture about going out into the Sun.  Not a problem, Doc if I want to live in the Bat Cave with you. This is Arizona and just in case you haven't noticed, there is a lot of sunshine out there.

I never returned to see Dr. Mole again, but I encountered another fun dermatologist a year later.  Can we say "neurotic"  and a bit too trigger happy with the liquid nitrogen.  I swear I would go in thinking I was okay and leave with 30 burned spots on my face, hands and arms.  This woman never laughed or smiled and after one brief surgical procedure yelled at me for bleeding too much.  I believe she is now the official Poster child for several Mood Stabilizers.

Look for a future blog about Dentists...you know, the guys/gals who use your chest for a tray as they drill, spray, hammer and ask you questions while putting their gloved fingers in your mouth.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The National Park Service

Recently I visited Mesa Verde National Park and realized that whoever writes information about hikes and adventures for the National Park Service loves to exaggerate information.

I didn't realize that there were two big tours of the Native American Ruins at Mesa Verde--one being the Cliff Palace and the other, Balcony House.  So me and my group were reading about the tours and the Cliff Palace seemed like a breeze, but the Balcony House was frightening.  It mentioned climbing up steep ladders and crawling through a 12 foot tunnel and lighting candles and getting your last rites before the tour!  It even had a "demo tunnel" at the Visitor Center to give you some idea of how narrow the tunnel was.

I know I am not ready to climb Mt. Everest nor did I feel ready to tackle the Balcony House.  However, the Cliff Palace seemed like a reasonable tour, so I went to purchase tickets from the friendly Ranger at the Visitor Center. This Ranger looked at me, and started talking so fast that I wondered how much coffee she had that morning, and I couldn't quite grasp what she was saying.  Before I could ask for a rerun, she gave me two tickets and shouted "NEXT" and the next unsuspecting tourist nudged me out of the way.  I looked over the tickets--one for Cliff Palace and the other was the dreaded Balcony House!!!

So we crawled through the practice tunnel outside the Visitor Center which was not very long and talked about our claustrophic experiences in life and decided we would go to the Cliff Palace and think about the Balcony House.

The Cliff Palace Tour was like going to Disneyland in the Summer without Snow White and those other characters in drag.  It was physically easy and although the Ruins were impressive, the tour was not.

That's what pushed us to the Balcony House--we wanted a great tour and a Ranger that could provide more than the scripted talk she had rehearsed.  We discussed our Wills and who to notify in case of an accident as we drove to the Tour Starting spot where we were greeted by Ranger Tim and 4 other people.  Tim didn't look like a mountain climber or extreme sports kind of guy. He was in his 50's with a little bit of a belly and when asked questions about the ladders and the tunnel, he said "I do it several times a day".   Figuring if Ranger Tim could do it, so could we, off we went.

The Balcony House Tour was fantastic--six people--a great Ranger who had lots of stories and could answer any question put to him.  As for the death-defying ladder climbs....they were high but not scary or unsafe and the tunnel was tall enough for me to bend over and walk through.  Granted, those over 5 ft tall might have to crawl, but it was perfect for those of us who are vertically challenged.

I went back and reread the paper given at the front gate about the tour, thinking I must have misunderstood how dangerous this tour was, but no, it sounded like something only the very fit or foolish should ever do.  Maybe the people who write these descriptions are frustrated authors of fiction or maybe the National Park Service uses them for the purpose of crowd control.  At any rate, from, now on I am going to definitely hike or go on the Ranger Tour that sounds the most dangerous and terrifying because I know NPS secret!