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Danny's Piece 'Seeing a Doctor'

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And so this is winter – the season that brings to mind images of snowflakes and snow-angels and snowmen and, well, general snow-iness. Children, wrapped in colourful bobble hats and scarves, happily throwing snowballs at each other before running away, laughing merrily, weaving through a forest of evergreens where robin redbreasts dart from branch to branch, chirping joyfully as red and grey squirrels scamper and frolic, collecting acorns as wild rabbits hop and bounce through white-blanketed abandoned gardens, as couples in love sit snugly in front of a fireplace, drinking hot cocoa and toasting marshmallows on a…

Okay, so that's what winter is like in the heads of greeting card designers and Disney animators.

This is winter where I come from...gale-force winds strong enough to blow the eyebrows off your face, and rain coming down so heavily that fish are actually swimming through it at eye-level, while a biting cold freezes parts of your body you didn't even know you had from inside to out. The sky is grey, your breath is white and your hands are blue. And everyone you meet is suffering from Acute Viral Rhinopharyngitis - also known as the common cold.

Let me say that last bit again, for those of you who missed it the first time round...Acute Viral Rhinopharyngitis – the common cold.

Now, granted, the common cold is not a very pleasant experience. The nose alternates between being as congested as a New York street during rush hour and as runny as...well...a Thai cow track just after rush hour. The back of the throat feels like a mad carpenter is going to town with a roll of sandpaper, your eyes feel like someone's trying to push them out from the inside (probably that same evil carpenter) and your head feels so heavy that you can't believe you've been carrying it around all your life. So...it's not a pleasant experience. But, honestly, Acute Viral Rhinopharyngitis? If a doctor ever diagnosed me with Acute Viral Rhinopharyngitis, I would immediately call my lawyer and start dictating my last will and testament.

Of course, once the doctor told me what it was, I would be courteous enough to give him ten minutes in which to dictate his.

I've never been a big fan of going to the doctor's, and it's not just because they choose to call common ailments by names that sound like the healthcare equivalent of the apocalypse – (did you know, for example, that 'paresthesia' is the technical term for… wait for it… pins and needles?) There's much more to it than that, and it starts in the waiting room…

Anywhere in the universe, a doctor's waiting room always looks the same. The walls are covered in faux-wooden plastic paneling of such an awful brown colour that it got voted out of the rainbow years ago for bad taste. There is a small square table in the middle of the room that was made by that bloody evil carpenter again, and it is on this table that women's magazines from the forties go to die. The chairs, covered in imitation leather the same colour as the walls, only browner, always have one leg shorter than the other three. And upon every single one of these chairs is a sick, grey, wobbling person who has been waiting for three hours to see the doctor, and who, due to the coughing, sneezing and spluttering patients around him, now has at least six more diseases than he walked in with.

"So what's wrong with you then?" asks the doctor when I finally walk into his office, although I'm almost sure that it's his job to answer that question, and not mine. I notice that he has a great, big, black leather swivel chair on wheels that looks really, really comfortable.

"I've got a slight stomachache", I say, "and whatever it was the previous eleven patients were suffering from".

The doctor pulls a lollipop stick out of nowhere and uses it to rip my tongue out. He then shines a tiny light into one eye and then the other, feels my throat and pokes me violently in the stomach. As a final touch, he whips out a prescription pad and scribbles something illegible on it.

"Take six of the top ones three times a day, two of the middle ones six times a day, and one of the bottom three twice a day for six days", he says.

"Would you like to tell me what's wrong with me?" I ask, "or would you like me to guess?"

"It's nothing to worry about", he reassures me. "You've just got a mild inflammation of the parietal peritoneum".

"Which means…?" I ask suspiciously.

"Slight stomachache", he replies, which is exactly what I told him when I first walked in.

"So what's with all the medicine?" I demand.

"The first lot deal with the stomachache", says he. "And the second lot deal with the side effects caused by the first lot. The last lot don't actually do anything, but there are no side effects. Trust me… I'm a doctor".

And then he gives me a bill to prove it.

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it's just my doctor. My mother tries to convince me that he's a good doctor, and that the word 'practice' is just what it's called, and not what he actually does. She tells me that he's been the family doctor for years, and that he's looked after my grandfather, and his father before him, which doesn't particularly reassure me, since they're both dead.

And so this is winter… the time of year when, statistically, most people get ill. No wonder the greeting card designers and Disney animators choose to disguise it with images of woodland creatures and rosy-cheeked children.

I'm off now, because I'm starting to get idiopathic cephalalgia.

Which is a headache. Trust me… I'm an English teacher.

Link: Danny's Piece