Saturday, January 13, 2007

You're only old once

This week I had my annual physical, which I always make sure to schedule like clockwork once each decade. After the usual questionairing, the looksee inside the ears, and the head-turn-cough maneuver, I realized something.

Annual physicals should be performed by a home inspector.

When we bought our house, I followed the home inspector as he carefully assessed the condition of the place. His Maglite at the ready, he checked every nook and cranny of the place such that by the time we were done we knew the amperage of every circuit in the circuit breaker, how many kinks were in the gas line feeding the oven, and the genus and species of each and every spider living behind the washing machine. We checked the foundation. We checked the roof. We crawled through the attic. We pulled apart the furnace. We came out of there confident that, in fact, the house was not going to vaporize itself into a pile of dust the moment we moved our piano in.

These days, it seems that annual physicals don't even come close to that level of detail.

The physical was pretty typical. Take the vitals, check the ears, fill the jar, and get a scrip for a blood test. There was even a questionnaire. But as I pondered the answer to many of these questions, I thought to myself, "how would I know?" Have I been getting headaches? Well, sure, doesn't everyone? Does my family have a history of major illness? Well, no, but we haven't discussed their future illnesses, have we? Have I had any irregularly shaped bowel movements? Um, define "irregular". Should I be comparing each one to a bust of Richard Nixon? Have I ever had a stress test? No! Should I? SHOULD I??? Dear God, DO I NEED A STRESS TEST???!!!!

My point is, let's just imagine there was a small alien creature that had crawled inside my ear late one night, and had set up a reconnaissance post in my left elbow. Would turning my head and coughing diagnose that? Could that explain my post nasal drip?

I think I'm beginning to see the virtue of the full body scan.

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