Tales from Portland Clinic
Yesterday I had a mammogram. It’s not my favorite but it’s better than a lot of things that can happen at the doctor’s office and I’m grateful I have preventative health care. Having said all that, it is a damn weird procedure.

Every time I do it, this is maybe the 4th time, I think about two things. One is what a bizarre job it must be to spend all day squeezing and flattening women’s breasts. I’m sure there are lots of men who would think: hey, sounds good to me. I wonder how many men even have that job. I’m sure legally it would be discrimination to refuse to hire a man to be a breast technician. They probably aren’t really called that. Mammogramographer? Radiologist? I don’t know. But I bet a lot of women would be uncomfortable having a strange man handling her breasts in such a personal way. I bet there are a lot of women who are uncomfortable having any stranger handling her breasts.

My second thought is that it seems like a fairly primitive process for our modern times. There you are standing with your arms wrapped around a machine, chin up, shoulder down, breath held and your boob flattened to its maximum flatness. (Sexy!). Can’t they come up with a better way?

I get my healthcare at an all purpose clinic in downtown Portland. There are a lot of old people coming into this clinic. As I sat in the waiting room, an elder couple got off the elevator and slowly wobbled to check-in. Don’t you worry when you see an elder couple and both of them can barely keep upright?

She had a cane and he walked very slowly and carried her purse. The receptionist told them to sit down and they ended up in the cluster of chairs where I was. The man stood there looking at the magazines, I guess trying to pick something to read before he sat down. The woman couldn’t get by to sit down so finally she turned around and tottered over to the reception desk. The receptionist asked if she need help and she said, “My husband is in my way so I’m going to sit over here,” and she went to the complete opposite side of the room to sit down.

The man sat near me and after a bit a nurse comes out and said, “Judith?” There’s a long pause and then she says it again. Finally the man says, “My wife can’t hear you. She’s over there.” The nurse tracks down Judith and bring her to the entrance. The man has managed to stand up and Judith says, “You don’t have to come in” and this is an order not a request. The man says, “Oh yes, I do.”

You know every night they probably stare at each other across the kitchen table wondering when the other will die.

Then a guy came in with one of those walkers that doubles as a seat (whoever invented that should have a giant ambulatory care center named after him or her) and wearing a hat that said World War II Veteran and singing “Strangers in the Night.” He came out of the elevator singing and the staff all said, “Hi, Leo.”

They took me back and when I got out of the changing room they asked me to wait until the boob-crush room was free. There were two chairs in a corner and Leo’s walker-seat was in front of both of them. The walker was draped with all kinds of bags of stuff and also had an American flag on it. I moved it a bit so I could sit down. The staff was trying to get Leo into a gown for whatever radiology procedure he needed. He had to come out and find his paperwork and when he saw me sitting there he asked if I liked music and when I said yes, he sang “What’s It All About, Alfie?” and then the radiologist wrangled him back to the exam room.

It was the best mammogram warm-up show ever.

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