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March 2003 - The Doctor

So I sat myself down here at the keyboard, you see, to compose this month's exciting edition, and for some obscure reason I fell to looking back at directories and lists of the numerous Comments past, rather than getting on with the Comment present.

It's the best part of two-and-a-half years now, that I've been here for your enjoyment on the wonderful World Wide Web. It only seems like about ten minutes ago that I was struggling to put the first pages up on view.

It all gets easier the more times you do it, as I'm certain some famous actress must once have said to some infamous bishop!

But, looking back at all the lists, one thing is outstanding in its obviousness. I seem to write far more than you do.

I wear my poor fingers to the bone on this keyboard every month, but you lot seem very reluctant to point your jolly old mouse pointer at that "Click Here to Write" button down at the bottom of the page.

YOU too can be famous, you see! Your words of wisdom can appear in the Carbuncle Correspondence Column for the world to see. Bouquets or brickbats, it doesn't matter, they're all welcome.

I mention your ability to write in, deliberately early in this month's edition as I have a strange feeling that I may be about to generate a flood of complaining correspondence.

There's little I hate more than people who moan on at great length about their illnesses. That said, I now intend to moan on at great length about mine!

Well, I've not been well you see.

I've had this bad shoulder for months now and nobody seems to be able to tell me what the real trouble is. There have been suggestions of broken bones, trapped nerves and even stress.

Which is why I've spent a lot of time recently visiting the local doctor's surgery.

Now I have to say that whether it's at the doctor's, or anywhere else, I have a very low queuing tolerance threshold.

No matter where I am, I positively hate to be waiting around. I'm one of those people who has got to be doing something. I can't think of anything less productive than waiting in a queue, especially when the nearest thing to something productive to do is reading a 1986 edition of Punch.

That's one reason why I only have about two haircuts a year. If I walk past the barber's and see there isn't a queue, I'll pop in and get a trim. Trouble is, it's only about twice a year that there isn't a queue, so I seem to have got myself a name for cultivating the "shaggy" look.

Barbers, dentists, doctors, they all seem to generate queues.

That's why I was overjoyed, a while ago, when a card popped through my door warning me that my doctor had dispensed with the old "arrive and wait your turn" arrangement, in favour of a brand new system of pre-booked appointments for the great privilege of getting to see him.

However, it wasn't until somewhat later that I first had any cause to try out the new system, in anger, as it were.

First of all, you have to ring them up to make your booking!

Now, we're all switched-on, streetwise internet people here aren't we, so we all understand how easy it is, communicating over the phone is, don't we?

NO, we don't! Have you tried to ring a doctor's surgery at 9.15 in the morning? Beep beep beep, there's more beeps in the engaged tone on a doctor's number at 9.15am than used to come out of Sputnik One!

In that leaflet they sent out all that time ago it says that unless it's an emergency, you should book your appointment before 9.30 in the morning.

I think that's a careful ploy to make sure they don't get too many bookings. They say that, then they make sure they've only got one phone line for you to ring in on. Why is everyone else sick TODAY?

9.30 comes and goes, still beep beep beep. 9.45 comes and goes, beep beep beep. 10.00 arrives, beep beep beep.

Thank goodness for last number redial on the phone, as I object strongly to paying an extra five pence to "key 5 for ringback"!

10.10 and you nearly clear down by mistake as you actually hear something you thought wasn't possible, ringing tone! Then more ringing tone, and more, and more. The receptionist's gone off for coffee!

Luckily the phone that's got last number redial also has a loudspeaker on it, so you leave the call ringing and stick it on the speaker.

Five minutes later, she's back refreshed from her break and actually answers.

"You want an appointment today? Couldn't you have rung us earlier?" "NO, I (expletive deleted) couldn't, you've been engaged".

"Is it an emergency?" "NO, it's just severe deafness from listening to engaged tone for an hour".

She eventually grudgingly agrees to "fit you in" at 4.15 the following afternoon. Comes to something when you've got to arrange to be ill the day before it happens! So you struggle on through the day with your bad shoulder, just looking forward to tomorrow.

Tomorrow arrives and you set off in order to arrive at the surgery at 4.14 promptly. You book in at reception and are sent to the waiting room. All that's wrong with you when you enter is a bad shoulder. Now the ten other people in there are going to cough and sneeze all over you so when you eventually leave you've picked up six other ailments from the germ ridden atmosphere.

You hear one of the others mention that her appointment was for half past three and suddenly realise that the 1986 edition of Punch is about to come into it's own.

"He's running a bit late today isn't he?" you hear another sickly individual mutter between coughing his guts up. Then the wheezy two year old throws the wooden monkey at your shins.

You hold Mr Punch close to your face and try to become invisible. Then you wonder what horrible skin disorder you've just picked up from fondling the same pages as thousands of other patients over the last seventeen years.

Rather like when you listened to the engaged tone, 4.30 passes by, then 4.45, then 5.00, and eventually you're the only one left waiting.

Then the tannoy finally bursts into life once again and you're called into the inner sanctum.

"Oh, shoulder, not much we can do about that without any X-Rays. Better pop up the hospital tomorrow morning and get some snaps taken. Ask them when they'll be ready and then ring up for another appointment after I've got them back." It's under your breath, but you SCREAM!

You have this sudden realisation that you've got to go through it all over again in about a week's time. It's at this point that you wonder if it wouldn't be easier to just live with the pain.

That's the main reason why I HAVE been living with it for the last couple of months. An aching shoulder is much less painful than queuing, honest.

And as for the appointments system being a better way of going about things, the nicest thing I can say is that I have my doubts.

I've been back four times now and never been earlier than three quarters of an hour after my appointed time at getting in to see him. I AM getting to know the cartoon on page 24 of Punch quite well now though.

The quickest part of the whole saga was the X-Rays. A 9.00am appointment and I was in and out by twenty past, including a couple of re-takes because they say my neck's too thick and they had to turn the wick up a bit.

So, all together, the last couple of weeks have been a bit busy for me. I seem to have split my time between here and the doctor's waiting room.

On the assumption that I'm fit enough, the next edition of Comment will appear on the appointed day at the beginning of April.

I hope you'll all keep well until then. Right, I'm off, where's me pill bottle?

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