My doctor and I aren’t on the best terms. I’ve only met him once before, right when I signed up for insurance and needed a referral for a gyno. He basically looked at me and said along the lines of, “You look like hell. What’s wrong with you?”

I basically said along the lines of, “My father’s dying.”

Then he basically said something like, “You could still lay off the french fries. Or maybe you’ve got some kind of thyroid problem.”

One month later at my pretty, lovely gyno, she said that man was a fool and that I was perfectly healthy. She ran five hundred dollars worth of tests to be sure, but I’m healthy. Now my insurance company is like, “What? Why’s a gyno giving CBC’s? No. Make Pam pay for it all.”

Then that other evil doctor’s office kept calling me every day in February, leaving messages that said, “This is an emergency, please call us immediately,” and I’m already in a hospital in Houston getting bad test results about my dad, and I didn’t want to know that suddenly I’m sick as well. When they finally got back in touch with me, they said, “We just wanted to know your Pap smear results.” That was the emergency. Assholes. Also, they only take cash. Does that sound shady? The place is in Beverly Hills, just about on Rodeo drive (Yesterday’s celeb spotting: Heidi Fleiss. I saw her and thought, “Who’s that scary woman with the square jaw? She looks familiar. Oh. Heidi Fleiss. She has sex with Tom Sizemore now. Ow. My ear. My ear! Ow! Tears!”).

But anyway, why the shifty doctor service? Is it because I’m the only one there with an HMO? Or is it because I still have my original nose?

So I was going to find a new doctor, one that wasn’t so uncaring, but the last one I went to had a scary office and it turns out it was basically a free clinic and he gave me nine pamphlets and asked me to tell all of my insurance-carrying friends to come to his clinic so they can get some money. I had to give a urine sample there and the toilet was broken. That kind of place.

All of this means I had to go back to Mean Doctor yesterday. I went in after my meeting (I didn’t cry once! Yay for me!). He wasn’t even dressed in his doctor clothes, as they were closing in about ten minutes. On Fridays they’re only open for four hours. They take two hours a day for lunch. It’s like the bookmobile of doctors. Regardless, I sit on the table and wait.

Now, I guess he’s been a doctor for a very long time and fancies himself some kind of miracle doctor that can diagnose in a second (see: “You have a thyroid problem”). He also has a tendency to ignore me. His crappy receptionist told me that he just doesn’t hear very well. That’s what you want in a physician, isn’t it?

Anyway, he walks in and I say, “I have swimmer’s ear and I need some drops. I went swimming for four days and now my outer ear hurts really bad and I have swimmer’s ear.”

He walks up to me and puts his hands on my head.

“Does this hurt?”

“No.”

“Does this hurt?”

“No.”

“Does this hurt?”

“No.”

“Does this hurt?”

“Yes.”

He stands back and opens his arms like a preacher.

“You have TMJ.”

He’s beaming at me like he’s just said, “I’d like to solve the puzzle, Pat.” And I say, “No. I have swimmer’s ear. I went swimming for four days and now I have swimmer’s ear.”

“You have TMJ. Put your hand here. Hear the clicking?”

“Uh, yeah. I always thought maybe I had a little TMJ, but that’s not why my ear hurts.”

“Yes. You were biting on something hard lately? Chewing? Biting down hard and chewing?”

“No.”

“Opening your mouth real wide? Or chewing on something hard?”

“I went swimming for four days and now I have swimmer’s ear.”

“TMJ.”

“Swimmer’s ear. I can’t hear anything out of my left ear and it hurts.”

“You want me to look in your ear?”

“Yessssssssssss.”

He goes and gets his earoscope, and he’s telling me that the TMJ is going to make my ear hurt because there’s too much tension in my jaw and that’s what’s causing the pain.

“But I can’t hear out of my left ear.”

“You can’t?”

“No. It’s clogged because I have swimmer’s ear.”

He looks inside my ear. “You use Q-Tips?” he asks. Now, he asks this like a dentists asks, “Do you floss?” so I go, “Yeah.” And then he makes some kind of head motion like he doesn’t believe me.

He walks right over to my chart as he mumbles, “You have an otitis of the external part of your ear.”

Yeah. You know what the rest of the world calls that? Swimmer’s ear.

Then he turns back to me all Hannibal Lecter style and goes, “And never! Use! Q-Tips!”

I don’t see why they sell seven trillion of them a day if we’re not supposed to use them ever. But man, that’s it. I’m done with the Q-Tips. I won’t even listen to A Tribe Called Quest album anymore. Screw Q-Tips.

So he writes out a prescription for antibiotics, ear drops and pain killers. It’s not until I leave the damn office that I see what antibiotics specifically: Cipro.

Fucking Cipro. Look, we had the Anthrax scare and so the country ordered too much Cipro. Now we have to pay for it by getting a Cipro prescription with every cough or cold. The free clinic doctor prescribed it to me in May. Another woman I know had it prescribed as a liquid to deal with an infection on her face. She had to wash her face in Cipro. Another guy was like, “It hurts here.” Cipro. “My cat has a cold.” Cipro. You know why we keep getting prescribed Cipro? Because it costs an assload. Seventy dollars for a week’s supply. And my insurance doesn’t cover name brand prescriptions. There is no generic form of Cipro.

Fucking Cipro. You can’t go outside or you have an instant sunburn. There’s some problem with dairy products eaten close to Cipro time. The only upside is apparently it makes caffeine kick in faster. My pain killers say I’m not allowed to lie down for thirty minutes after I take them. What? Why? Don’t I take pain killers so I can lie down? It doesn’t even matter. They don’t stop the pain, they just make me miserable and sleepy. The drops hurt and have totally clogged up my ear since yesterday afternoon. I’m cranky.

But it’s been a lot of fun to walk around, grab someone by the temple, close your eyes and then go, “You have malaria.”

“No, I have an ingrown toenail.”

“That was caused by the malaria.”

“No.”

“You have rickets.”

“Doctor, I have pinkeye.”

“You lost your arm in the war.”

“No, it’s the flu. See? Both arms.”

“You have the measles.”

“I don’t! I got vaccinated against that when I was a baby.”

“Rubella, then.”

“No, same vaccination.”

“Scurvy?”

“I have a yeast infection.”

“From the Cerebal Palsy.”

“What?”

“Here. Take the Cipro.”

“But I don’t have that much money. Can’t you just give me amoxicillan?”

“Do you want to die from TMJ? Then take the Cipro.”

“But…”

“I’ll diagnose cancer if you don’t take the Cipro.”

So we went to the pharmacy and as I waited for my expensive Cipro supply I did the only thing that could make me happy at a time like this: I bought school supplies. There was a back-to-school sale and notebooks and dayplanners were cheap. I bought an August to July 2003 dayplanner that wants me to fill in my teachers for each semester. It makes me so happy. Sometimes I miss school. It’s not very often, but buying school supplies and the smell of Trapper Keepers makes me miss school. I also bought some O-Town pens. You can’t stop me.

I used to get sick when I moved to a new school from the stress and the sadness of moving, so buying school supplies with an ear ache was just like any other time I started a new school as a kid. And then, because it was the only other thing that could make me happy: We went to McDonald’s. Take that, Dr. Psychic. I had french fries.

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