Thursday, November 25, 2004


No, not that kind of pain. The title of this blog entry refers to the experience of waking up at six o’clock in the morning in complete physical agony, which is how I began my day. Near as I can tell, I have developed a facio-cranial infection that may possibly involve an upper tooth or a lower sinus cavity or some mysterious grey zone between the two, which has been slowly festering since Monday. My first approach to the problem – ignore it and it will go away – didn’t seem to work especially well, so I spent most of this unexpectedly long day trying to procure the attention of a doctor or dentist on extremely short notice, both to no avail.

I was first rebuffed by my dentist, whose office has apparently had to downsize so radically that it no longer employs either a receptionist or an answering machine. Can you remember the last time you dialed a phone number that did not eventually redirect you to voice mail? No? Well, let me remind you of what it’s like: the phone just keeps ringing and ringing and ringing, without so much as a hint of explanation. After calling several times over the course of the day – Is she on lunch break? In surgery? High on nitrous oxide? – I fell into despair, having belatedly remembered that my dentist is a New Yorker by birth and has quite probably returned to her native land to celebrate Thanksgiving. Fuck.

I was subsequently turned away from the McGill drop-in clinic on the pretext that I had arrived too late: i.e., one full hour before the posted closing time. I couldn’t help but notice that there was only one other person slouched in the normally crowded waiting room, afflicted, presumably, with some entirely pedestrian ailment like the common cold or genital warts, but this fact was lost on the heartless and logic-deficient receptionist who dismissed me from the clinic with a wave of her hand. I left planning the lawsuit I would posthumously file against my alma mater, the proceeds from which shall be used to start a foundation for poverty-stricken graduate students with abscesses.

My final measure and last resort was to call Info-Santé, the twenty-four hour health services hotline that is one of perhaps three good ideas the Parti Québécois implemented during their last term in office. Of course, this required my spending forty-five minutes on hold, during which time I was free to speculate about the true nature of my condition. What if I’m having an aneurysm? It seems implausible, but these things do happen to people. I mean, look at REM’s drummer. I bet he didn’t think he was having an aneurysm, being a famous rock star and all. But then he had one and they rushed him to hospital and he nearly died and they put pictures of his CAT scan in the band’s tour book. Or maybe a stroke? I have been on the Pill all these years and now I’m paying for all the sex I used to enjoy so freely with a fatal blood clot. Or what if it’s cancer? Ohmigod, that’s it – when I finally see a medical practitioner they will sit me down and tell me I have a sudden-onset brain tumour and have only three weeks to live and that it’s my own damn fault for being a smoker. In exchange for pain medication, they will force me to sign a waiver that allows them to display a colour picture of my disease-ravaged corpse on cigarette packs to be sold throughout the country with a caption that reads “Smoking kills graduate students.” Or...

NURSE: Allô, Info-Santé...
V.H.: I’m dying, aren’t I?
NURSE: What are your symptoms?
V.H.: Cancer. I have cancer.
NURSE: I recommend that you see a dentist tomorrow.
V.H.: I prefer to be cremated.
NURSE: I can give you the number of a dental clinic if you wish.
V.H.: I have to write a will. Do you offer a will-writing service?
NURSE: What is your postal code?
V.H.: At least I won’t have to pay back my student loans. That’s something.
NURSE: Thank you for calling Info-Santé!
V.H.: But what does it all mean? Allô? Allô?

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