I don’t like going to the doctor. Dentist. Optometrist. Whatever. I’ll avoid it until someone drags me there. (Cue story about when I broke my kneecap and insisted I didn’t need to go to the hospital, even though I was in so much pain I couldn’t even reach the blanket on the couch that was one inch outside of my range.)
Somehow I ended up being tricked into going to the doctor yesterday. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. My supervisor was taking me. She is around my age and speaks decent English, but when it comes to explaining jargon she’s not so good (who is???). So, to be honest, I didn’t even know what kind of appointment it was. I had the general idea that it was just a regular health check-up, but I was a bit worried as to what a “regular” health check-up is like in Japan.
Anyway, I met my supervisor at the Board of Education to go to the appointment. I thought we’d be going to a doctor’s office. Maybe the hospital? Oh, City Hall? Ok…
We walked into the lobby (Pay attention, kids! That’s the key word!) to find a long line of women waiting. My supervisor and I waited in line to get some paperwork stamped. Then we were off to our “appointment.” It was then I realized this was no ordinary appointment. Instead of going into a room with a doctor, we made our way through what can only be described as “stations” to complete the different parts of our exam.
First stop was in a trailer outside of City Hall. Yes, a trailer. Once inside I learned it was an X-ray…trailer. Ok. That’s fine. Not so scary. (Minus the weird trailer part.)
After that we made an array of stops. There were tables set up around the lobby for things like checking blood pressure, checking vision, and they took a nice blood sample (ugh!). There was even a hearing test set up in one of the storage closets. (There is nothing weird at all about going into a cramped storage closet, maneuvering your way around large boxes to get your hearing checked.)
Of course, the best part of the event was the urine test. Yeah ok. We’ve all done it before. They give you a cup. You go into to the bathroom, do your business, stick the lid on the cup and seal it, then stick it in the little metal door. Then some nurse or doctor or whoever takes it out from the other side. Easy. Anonymous. Most likely only medical professionals ever see your cute little pee cup.
Not so at this appointment. My cute little pee cup was on display for anyone who wanted to see.
For this part of the exam we were given a cup, just like you are in the States. However, this cup wasn’t much sturdier than your average Dixie cup. There was also no lid. We headed straight into the regular women’s bathroom. This is where I started to panic. Where was I supposed to put my cup after I was done? There certainly weren’t those special little metal doors where a medical professional could take it out from the other side. This was just a regular bathroom! All the other women seemed to have no problem. One by one they went into a stall, did their work, and came out with their cup.
This is not my scene. I hate bathrooms. I actually have nightmares about bathrooms on a regular basis. The line began to dwindle down. It was my turn. Cautiously I entered the stall. It was so small! How was I supposed to manage this WITHOUT SPILLING MY PEE??
Cue interlude about how clumsy I am. I trip a lot. I spill things. When I eat, somehow my food ends up on other people.
I was nervous. I took it slow. I used every ounce of my will power to make sure I didn’t spill that cup. Apparently, what must have seemed like 15 minutes later to my supervisor, I emerged from my stall. My supervisor was standing there, waiting, her own pee cup in hand.
“Are you ok?” She asked quizzically. Apparently not spilling pee is really easy for her!
“Yes, yeah, I’m fine. Now what?” I asked as I kept my own pee at arm’s length, and the same time trying to keep it arm’s length from anyone else in the crowded bathroom.
“We go out here and give it to this man,” she said, gesturing toward the lobby.
Oh good. We bring our pee cup into the LOBBY, past other people, to the man sitting directly next to the front entry doors. THEN WHAT??? He was just sitting at a little desk! Where was our pee going??
We walked over to the desk. He said something in Japanese and gestured to a tray on the desk in front of him. My supervisor put her cup down. I followed suit.
There they were. Our little pee cups. Side by side, just hanging out in the middle of the lobby of City Hall. No anonymity. Her pee on the left, mine on the right.
The doctor then put two little test strips into our cups. They quickly turned all sorts of colors. I have no idea what he was testing for, but I didn’t care. I wanted to get as far away from my pee as possible. But we weren’t done yet. The same doctor weighed us and measured our height. All the while, my little cup was jeering at me from the table just next to the scale.
I managed to be weighed without doing anything stupid, but when I moved over to have my height measured, I was so preoccupied by my pee (why was it still staring at me???) it took me awhile to realize I was standing backwards. The doctor was not amused. Why are Americans so stupid? I’m sure he was wondering.
After that, he made some marks on our paper work and, rather unceremoniously, poured our pee straight into a container on the floor near his feet. He was just hanging out all day with a big bucket at his feet of pee from various women. What a job.
(I feel all this pee in the lobby is in direct contrast with this post of mine: It’s the little things.)
Overall, I guess it wasn’t so bad. Strangely enough, the fact that it was in all in Japanese and that we moved from station to station made the visit a little less nerve-wracking for me. Since we were always on the move I didn’t have time to sit and stew in my own imagined horror.
Also, it was 100% free.
Yeah. It might have been in the lobby of City Hall.
And there might have been a sketchy X-ray trailer.
And I did have to carry my own pee through the lobby in a poorly constructed cup with no lid.
But it was free.