Thursday, September 25, 2014

Doctors and Office Politics

If you’ve ever had to hang around waiting rooms or inside examination rooms as often as often as I have, I know your pain. Later this morning I will have two appointments back to back. Visiting doctors has become a part-time job. I go through the motions, signing in, waiting, having my temperature and blood pressure checked. I sit on a thin sanitary white piece of butcher paper and wait some more. In time, the doctor raps her knuckles against the door and it’s time for me to start talking.

One of my doctors is especially physically attractive. I say that as fact, not as drooling chauvinism. This fact would not be especially notable to everyone if you removed me and my own thoughts completely from the equation. It is likely only important to me and maybe a few others patients, though I inflate the presence of beauty for reasons even I cannot easily understand. Here, I live inside my head, not in rationality.

The primary complaint is that I tend to fall in love with my doctors and caregivers very easily. Responding with logic doesn’t seem to work as well as preventative care. I don’t really know any of these professionals, as much as anyone can innately know someone else who one sees for fifteen minutes at a time, three months a years. Bereft of love and companionship at crucial and formative times in my life, I’m a sucker for a sympathetic ear, presented in soothing maternal tones. I ask redundant questions to keep the doctor in the room, then feel sad when it is time for him or her to leave for their next appointment.

I ascribe being needed to the violence and isolation of my childhood. In those days, I wanted to be saved by someone and I didn’t much care in what package it arrived. A kind face and voice activates something inside me, some primal need carried over from our last evolutionary step. I wanted nothing more than a girlfriend or boyfriend when in high school, and I found them eventually. They are all my lovers to an extent.

But as for doctors, I’m aware that these feelings of mine are not and never will be reciprocated. They can never be, even if they were somehow by luck and dysfunction mutually felt, else careers would be ruined. Other doctors in the city told me that the malpractice laws in the city where I was living were especially punitive. They were written in such a way that it made it especially easy to sue a doctor, which rendered quality of care conservative, exasperating, and inflexible.

And into the middle of this high stress cocktail of paranoia and retribution came me. I was a child from a rough home, an angsty teenager with a hopeless and eternal crush on her English teacher. In fact, I had been so starved for affection that real love in any form was addictive. My imagination ran wild with almost no one's encouragement.  It didn’t take much to push me over the edge. I become Thurber’s Walter Mitty quite easily.

A while ago, I was a patient at a medical center, where every employee was housed under the same roof. My primary care doctor was especially skilled at her profession, but I kept running into the same curious reaction among her co-workers. Though never explicitly spelled out, they implied that the doctor had romantic feelings for me. It was like a huge game of I’ve-got-a-secret. Over time, I surmised that she may have said, in complete harmlessness, that she thought I was cute.

In a gossipy, high stress workplace without adequate leadership, drama thrives. While waiting to get a Hepatitis B booster shot, a clinic worker sized me up in a millisecond, scoffing at my presence at even being there. It wasn’t especially professional conduct, but then again, it had not been from the beginning. The nutritionist and I spent our thirty minute sessions small-talking rather than planning out a menu. Time and time again, the doctor kept being introduced into the conversation. I wondered if the doctor was especially socially awkward without a white coat on and that this behavior was tantamount to teasing.

But then reality came crashing down. The drama this kicked up spilled over into the professional relationship between a nurse and the doctor. Theirs had been a contentious relationship from the beginning. A silly crush on my behalf was overshadowed by egocentric power plays and rivalry. The whole time I felt this must be somehow about me, when really I was only a sideshow to office politics. How easy it is to turn everything into sex or romance, when motives go well beyond it.

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