“Faith is the antiseptic of the soul…it pervades the common people and preserves them…they never give up believing and expecting and trusting.”
-Whitman, Leaves of Grass
I really don’t know what to say, but looking at that graphic makes me want to use bad words when I say it. Here’s another fun one:
What’s with that BS wink in the middle? Is it supposed to feel chummy? Or is it an inside joke between the governor and the graphic designers: “Yes, you tooooooe-tally need to wear a mask. Of Coooooooourse it’s helping.” Because that’s what it looks like to me – mocking deception.
The Boy had a cold last week – stuffy nose anyway – so we decided to get him tested. Abundance of caution and all that. The last thing you want is the scorn from your neighbors if your snot-dribbling child is running around out there putting everyone’s grandmas at risk of certain death, only to have to shamefully admit you haven’t even had him tested.
There’s a walk-up testing station 5 minutes from home. I went online to make the appointment, and of course it kicked off the dread sense of tentacular government omniscience. I felt marked, immediately, and only missed a printable badge of some sort to be cut out and pinned to my lapel whenever I left the house. Registering on the website initiated four (4!) separate text messages to my phone, and 2 or 3 emails, all within seconds of each other. The testing site itself was distinctly Orwellian on a cold, blustery, gray October morning. A winding, taped-off queue area in the back corner of a vast parking lot, sparsely peopled and all the more desolate looking for the social distancing duly observed. The destination? Beige shipping containers where the greeters sat behind plexiglass and signs with behavioral instructions like “Do not place ID in basket until asked to do so.” The only thing preventing me from calling it Soviet is the lack of police or military. I wish I would have taken some pictures, it was fantastic. I doubt very much they would have let me, though.
It all moved quickly enough, and the woman who checked us in was wonderful – cheery, positive, helpful, and bundled up like a Floridian in Canada. I asked if they had space heaters: “Nope.” I asked how long she had to be there: “Until 5:30. But we get breaks to go warm up in the other building.” It wasn’t a building, but who was I to step on her obvious decency? I had only registered The Boy for a test, but she asked me if I wanted one, too. I said sure. She said, “OK. You can ignore the text you get – I’ll fill out your forms for you myself. Quicker that way.” That was an unexpected level of helpfulness from that otherwise dour scene.
The test itself is pretty awful. Both nostrils, and I think my sample may have been contaminated by some toenail fungus that the swab managed to pick up when the nurse/technician (I don’t know her qualifications) was finally done snaking it into the depths of my body.
The Boy was terrified. As he watched me, the PTSD from his recent nasal cauterization kicked in, and he started to refuse the test entirely. It was getting a little uncomfortable in there, as time went on and we weren’t making any progress. Eventually an enormous fellow in a Department of Health parka lumbered into the container, making me wonder what nonsense I was about to be involved in. But he must have been related to the receptionist because he was as jolly as Santa Claus, and said that they could give The Boy a kids version of the test. Much less invasive.
All in all about a 20 minute process. They gave us each a QR code I could scan with my phone to find our results, both of which arrived in under 24 hours. Both of them negative.
Good thing there’s an even bigger eye, watching even that one.
I went to the doctor yesterday for a physical exam. It was only my second time seeing this particular doctor – I switched a few months ago because my previous doc was female (sexist!), and doctoring at this stage of life can get very personal very quickly. As a man I feel better with a male doctor at the helm of my particular ship. The other problem with my last GP is really the more significant matter, and that’s that she always seemed unsure of herself. Had a kind of nervousness about her. It did not instill confidence. I only landed in her office at all because years ago I had hurt myself or had some other mildly urgent situation, and when I called to make an appointment with my usual guy, I found out he retired. I grabbed the next available appointment, and it was with her. Thanks for the heads up, doc.
So, today, physical. I like this doctor a lot. Outstanding demeanor, obvious intelligence. In the course of a conversation about some minor nuisance that’s just part of being alive, he said it was that way because “that’s how God made you.” It completely threw me. This is Seattle. That’s malpractice material out here. I’m willing to bet that he has had patients who found a different doctor after hearing that from him. Anyway, he said it, and I went blank. Stopped listening a little. I started getting flooded with the thoughts: Is he watching for how I react to that? Do I look like it didn’t phase me? Do I look uncomfortable? Am I making any facial expressions (from the mask up) that indicate apprehension? All of those were possible because of how confused I was for a moment. I felt like he was testing me. The Seattleites I know who believe in God are few, and the rest of the Seattleites I know never say anything nice about them. So put aside any thoughts I might have about religion, to hear him say that relieved me. It was the sudden exhilaration of re-discovering an animal, long since having logged it and written it off as extinct. I wanted to get up right then and there and hug him for five minutes or so – to thank him for inviting God into the exam room like that.
And I don’t really know why. I think it was just that it was so different from what I’m used to. It was the kind of complete, casual sincerity that Linus needed for summoning the Great Pumpkin to his pumpkin patch on Halloween:
As I get older, I find my appetite for common decency growing, my thirst for simple natures intensifying. And I find that when I ask “why am I this way” and am presented with the answer that “that’s how God made you,” it satisfies my hunger and quenches my thirst. As a youth I would have rebelled. I would have thrashed about in the brackish waters of an intellectual lassitude that believed there was merit in being reflexively anti-religious. As an older man I’ll want more, eventually. Even the most devout know full well that “because God” isn’t appropriate as a final answer to anything from a sprained ankle to a brain tumor. But in the beginning and at every step along the way, it does carry the brilliant, tranquilizing anaesthesis that always comes from the Truth. You hear it and you know. I heard it today, and I knew, and that’s the best way I can think to say it.
Oh by the way, I’m healthy as hell. The doctor was impressed. I had the full bloodwork done at my last visit and everything is optimal. He kept using the phrase “young and healthy” to describe me. Must have said it half a dozen times during the visit. I fixated mostly on the young part. Because let’s face it, you can call me young as many times as you want, but it rings a little hollow in the context of a conversation about scheduling a colonoscopy.
-Are we burning off our fingerprints yet, Comrade Citizen?-