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Tuesday afternoon, Harriet and I made our way, for the third time (we’re counting), to the Orthopaedic Clinic to sign the papers giving Consent to The Amazing Dr. M to slice Harriet open in September and do what he has to do to get us walking without so much blasted pain. I decided that whenever I mention the venerable surgeon, I’m going to use superlatives.  It makes Harriet feel more confident. And, hey, it’s important to keep Harriet calm and confident for the next six weeks — and me too!

When we got there, we walked up to the window that said “Check In”. “Do I check in here today?” I asked pleasantly. That question was not as stupid as it sounds since the other two times I had to stand in a different line. The young blond woman behind the bullet proof glass — it’s not really bullet proof but it sounds more dramatic — rolled her eyes at me and tapped the window where the sign “Check In” was posted. She was not smiling so I didn’t think it was a good time to make one of my smart-alecky quips. Then, she asked if this was my first time in the clinic. No, it’s the third. (I didn’t say “our third time,” as in Me and Harriet, since she might have sent me to a different clinic a few floors up.) She took all my cards and sent me packing to a seat nearby. The same old, same old waiting had begun.

As I sat there, another young woman came bouncing by with an iPad and said, “We’d like you to answer some questions.” I inquired if the questions on this iPad were different from the ones I had answered on my first visit and my second visit to the clinic? Who knows, maybe it was a kind of psychological research project to see how often I answered the same questions the same way. She said, “But you haven’t been here before.” Harriet was getting upset — but I held my cool. Perhaps, I smiled at her as I said it, said young woman would humor me by going back and checking again. I was starting to get a tad nervous about the efficiency of record-keeping at this esteemed clinic. Ten minutes later, she said, “Oh, you have been here before,” as if Harriet and I could forget that. More waiting.

Finally, we were admitted to the inner sanctum where the Esteemed Dr. M dwells. Harriet and I didn’t get a private room this time but were led to one of those curtained off, everyone-can-hear-everything-anyone-says places. As I sat there, the said Doctor swished by with a gaggle of residents following him, white coats swinging. He was starting at the opposite end of where I sat. I got out my book. Then, a young doctor who was not part of that passing parade, came in and introduced himself as a Fellow who was working here in the clinic for a few months. I asked where he was coming from, “Saudi Arabia,” he answered. You’re a long way from home, I quipped. (When I told Yogi Judith this she thought I said he was Lawrence of Arabia. That would have been a whole lot more interesting.)

Anyway, he said he would like to ask me some questions. Sure, I said. Harriet was bored already. His first question to me was, “Is this your first visit to the clinic?” As Yogi Berra supposedly said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Now I was really getting worried about the recordkeepiing abilities of this place. I asked him if he knew the movie Groundhog Day. He nodded yes. So I told him I was beginning to feel like I had slipped into that world right here in this clinic. He at least smiled but said he would still like to ask his questions. I told him I would be happy to humor him so I told him of my first visit in February 2014 when the Marvellous Dr. M sent me forth to strengthen, strengthen, strengthen and the next one last week where he said it’s time, just pick a date and now here I am for Door Number Three.

Then he said, “Do you have any questions for me.” Do I have questions? Is there water at Niagara Falls? I whipped out the page with the 15 questions that Harriet and I had come up with to ask next time we found ourselves in the presence of His Greatness. I had the feeling that this Fellow or Fella was going to screen them so as not to “waste” too much of the precious time of you-know-who.

My first question was, “So explain to me what exactly you are going to do?” Harriet twitched as he drew a pretend-incision down the center of his knee and talked about pulling back the skin and inserting metal and plastic and who knows what else in there. I put my hand over her to spare her the gruesome details. But, you know, all in all, he was good. He didn’t talk down to me, and, most impressively, he took time with me and didn’t think that all my questions about these scary things like blood clots and infection and drugs were needless worries. Then I got to my constipation question. He shook his head and said, that Dr. M would have to answer that one. Finally I was at Number 15 — which is actually Numero Uno in my mind — my 22-Stairs-to-My-Apartment-Another-13 to-the-Bathroom-and-I-Live-Alone question. He shook his head. That, too, would have to be referred to him on high.

I waited some more. But before I could read a page in my book, the curtain was swished back and there he was, Dr. M in my presence. He sat down and said, “I understand you have some questions for me.” We didn’t bother with pleasantries like, “Hi, how ya doing?” I asked the Constipation one and if I should do a cleanse the day before. “Absolutely NOT,” he said. It was the most animated I had seen him in all three visits. “I want you to come into that surgery happy.” I wanted to say that I wanted to come out of that surgery happy. But I didn’t want to waste any words on that.

Then I told him my sad but true story of the stairs and more stairs and living alone and having fat cats underfoot. Please send me to rehab. “That’s assessed after the operation.” That was definitely not the answer I wanted,  so I tried again. This time I changed the arrangement of the words ever so slightly. He didn’t even bother to reply in a different manner. Then I said to him that I suppose if I asked a third time it would be the same answer. This at least got the tiniest of tiny smiles from Himself. Then he was up and ready to leave. As he was pulling back the curtain, I said, “What about signing the consent?” He looked surprised and said you need a date. I said I have a date, I have to sign the consent. “Wait here,” he ordered me and swept out with Lawrence of Arabia right behind.

Minutes later he was back waving a white page in front of my face saying, “This is my signature. This is what I’m going to do — left knee and this is where you sign.” So much for reading the small print. Lawrence slipped in then and had me sign another non-dotted line about blood transfusions and then Dr. M was gone. Lawrence took me back to the waiting room — not on his camel — and left me with the friendliest of all friendly secretaries for more processing. I told her that dealing with Dr. M was like speed dating. She said, “Ah, but what a valuable 30 seconds you get when you do talk with him.” I just hope he’s a better surgeon than conversationalist.