Tuesday, November 22, 2005

PainWatch: you get what you pay for

I visited the on-campus doc today. The general clinic is located in the basement of Smoo's main building, across the street from where I work. I lumbered in without an appointment, but as I suspected, that wasn't a problem: the friendly receptionists told me I could step into the next room and see the on-duty doc.

The doc turned out to be an ancient, warty being-- part Korean, part toad: a sessile Yoda, rooted to her dwarf-sized stool. Despite her obviously advanced age, her hair, cropped fairly short, was a marvelous, shiny black, perfectly matching the spots on her skin. She barely acknowledged my presence as I walked in; her attention seemed focused primarily on her computer. I'd like to imagine that she'd been surfing lesbian porn sites just a moment before.

After some time, she broke communion with her monitor and peered at me through her Far Side-style glasses. She asked me where it hurt. I explained the salient features of The Pain. She nodded. She asked me to open and close my left hand, then raise and lower my left arm. She asked whether the pain had progressed much over the course of the week-- has it weakened? Has it become more intense? "No," I told her. "About the same." Have you taken any medication? "Yes," I said. "Aspirin and topical application of Ben Gay." (Does the latter count as medication?)

She nodded through all my answers, still more intent on her computer screen than on me. Although I couldn't figure out the Korean terms on the monitor, I guessed from her mouse clicking that she was taking me through a diagnostic algorithm. The computer would lead her to the proper determination.

Finally, the doc croaked: "It's muscular, not a pinched nerve. I'm printing out the prescription. You'll find it at the front desk. A massage is OK, as is a warm shower. You're going to be taking some pills and using cold patches. Pick those up at the front desk, too."

I thanked the gnome and headed out to the front desk. The receptionists expressed relief that they could speak with me in Korean. The usual exchange:

"Seems like you've been in Korea a while."
"About five years."
"Some foreigners have lived here longer and still can't speak much Korean. The foreign teachers who come in here always speak in English."
"Hm. Yeah, a lot of them don't bother to learn."*
"Where'd you learn your Korean?"
"Mainly at university in the States, and from living here, and from taking an intensive class at Korea U."
"Ah. You speak Korean very well."
"No; I have a lot to learn." (My standard reply, always uttered with a smile. It's a ritual formality, but it also happens to be true.)

The cost of my ten-minute consultation, plus prescription drugs and patches: W1,500, or about $1.50, US. I didn't have to show my insurance card; I doubt insurance would have covered such a brief consult, anyway.

It's many hours later. I've taken one set of pills; no effect. I'm going to down some more drugs in a few minutes, then slap on one of the cold patches-- icy, not firey. Ought to be interesting. Maybe I should slather on some Ben Gay first and let the competing sensations of heat and cold duel it out on my skin.

...Nah. Maybe not. Chemical reactions are unpredictable. Mixing Cold Patch and Ben Gay is probably the quickest way to mutate my sperm and shrink my testicles into dried jujubes. I don't want to risk ejaculating retarded kids for the next ten years.

*If this was my moment to defend the lazy-ass expats, then I guess I dropped the ball. I sincerely believe that if you plan to suck the teat of another country's economy for several years, the least you can do is acquire more than minimal competence in the language. Is that too much to ask? I knew a dude who'd spent four years in Korea and hadn't even learned to say "yes" or "no." Nice guy to me, but uninentionally an asshole to his Korean hosts.


1 comment:

Hecknoman said...

Go with the massage. Find a cute, young, available woman to apply it.