Charlie’s Too Fast Day
They were a nice looking older couple. Most of his hair had turned gray before turning loose; his wife’s hair was a stylish silvery gray. As they entered the ophthalmologist’s office he held the door open for her.
“I’m Charlie Benson” he said, trying to get the receptionist’s attention: she sat head down behind the counter. “I’m ten minutes early for my appointment.”
Fat lot of good that will do, he thought. The waiting room was crowded with restless people flipping old magazine pages. Overbooking and making people wait is a sorry way to run a business.
“Take these and fill them out” the receptionist mouthed robotically, handing Charlie a clipboard with four pages underneath the clip. “Return it to me when you are finished.”
“What? I’ve been coming here for twenty years. You’ve lost my records!”
“No, we haven’t” she retorted defensively. “You will have to fill those out before you can see the doctor.”
“Show me my file, then.”
“Sir! If you want to see the doctor you will fill those out. We have to comply with regulations.”
Momentarily debating an unchristian response, Charlie thought better of it and accepted the clipboard. Plopping down on a green vinyl arm chair beside his wife, he took out a pen and prepared to do battle. No doubt there would be stupid questions to be answered. Getting old and getting exasperated easily seemed to go hand in hand.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life, he thought: the beginning of the end. Calm down and don’t blow a gasket. Make your life count for the Lord. You knew it would be this way.
The forms revealed the expected questions about contacts, medications taken, insurance, health history, and included liability disclaimers. Beneath two headings there was a whole litany of medical concerns.
“My Gosh! Lucille, I don’t believe this.”
“Hold your voice down” his wife whispered. “You are embarrassing me.”
“Look” he said, pointing. One column was titled Have you ever had, the other Has anyone in your family ever had. Beneath and to the left ailments were listed. A short response blank was to the right of the columns. “My Gosh, Lucille. When you are our age you have ever had almost everything at one time or another.”
“Just hold your voice down and do the best you can. They only mean in the last few years. You don’t have to go back to childhood.”
“Lucille, ever had means ever had. If I don’t answer that way I’m not being truthful. Look, it asks have you ever had asthma. I did. It hasn’t bothered me since I was five years old but I ever … Oh, my gosh!”
Lucille looked at her husband scribbling furiously. “What are your writing?”
“It asks, ‘Have you ever had chronic diarrhea?’ No. ‘Has anyone in your family ever had chronic diarrhea?’ I wrote, I don’t think so. We weren’t that kind of a family. We didn’t talk about those things. No one was cross-eyed, though.”
“Are you crazy?”
“What in thunder has chronic diarrhea got to do with an eye exam? I’m turning this thing in.”
An hour after the appointment time a cute nurse ushered Charlie into the exam room and took his blood pressure.
“I notice your blood pressure is a little high” the doctor said, prior to starting his examination. “Is that normal for you?”
“Doctor, I don’t take medication. I don’t have high blood pressure. I think your patient questionnaire had something to do with it.”
After the exam and the good news that Charlie had no problems, Lucille drove west toward a setting sun, taking her husband home. With dilated eyes closed beneath dark shades, he leaned back against the head rest.
“Lucille, do you remember Helen’s father? He died. Helen was standing alone in the viewing room beside his casket when an old man she didn’t know came in. She said he stood beside her a long time before he spoke.
“‘Life is like a roll of toilet paper’ he said softly. ‘The closer you get to the end the faster it goes.’
“He wasn’t lying, Lucille.”
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