I didn’t want to call the doctor for a pain in my toe, but it woke me in the middle of the night. Knowing too much but not enough, I was sure I had something serious, perhaps lethal. I became haunted by the thought of a galloping infection that would become systemic, untreatable, and all-consuming.
I called the next morning for the appointment. As I approached the doctor’s building, I grew confident, most likely because of the visit, unexpectedly helped by the doctors’ building … a rectangular, solid block of bricks and cement with windows set back in the four stories like a bunker; a concrete stronghold that would last forever.
I rode to the third floor on an efficient elevator, limped to the office, checked in, sat, changed my seat away from a coughing patient not covering her mouth and was called before I had a chance to open my phone for messages, waiting no more than five minutes.
I was escorted to the examining room, sat, looked around at the diplomas, took off my shoe and sock, took out my phone again and sat barely two minutes when the very professional-looking (neat, pressed white coat, crisp shirt, matching up-to-date tie, polished shoes) doctor came in. We chatted, small talk … family, vacations, weather, and sports. His expertise and engagement relaxed me. I was confident that he would take good care.
He sat and just as he slid his stool over to look at my toe, the fire alarm went off. “Let’s go. Out.” Sock on, unlaced shoe on. As I walked out of the office, I went by the kitchen, and there I saw a smoking microwave spilling out a toasty odor of something left forgotten, vaporized. Smoke filled the room, triggering the efficient detector, b…eee…p, b…eee…p … as it should. I walked down the stairs following a herd of relaxed, seemingly carefree patients and employees.
Outside, in the cold, I tied my shoe. Three trucks arrived in minutes, blaring sirens. Firemen dressed in long fireproof coats, thick heavy pants, and long bright yellow jackets, gloves, boots, durable helmets with shields on the front and bearing apparatuses like tanks, axes, and crowbars, poured in like a swat team. They oozed confidence. With no surprise, they found the source and out they came within minutes.
Back I went to the office, repeated the sock off process and in came the doctor who looked at my toe and asked, “Do you walk in cold weather?”
“Yes, chilblains. Probably related to the cold. It’s like a small burn at the end of your toe. Just dress it with a salve. You’ll be fine.”
“Great. Neat diagnosis. Thank you!” Whew. I would live.
Out he went. “Let me know if you have any problems.” I was confident, content, pleased.
As I was donning my sock, he propped open the door. “I forgot the pizza in the microwave. I tripped the alarm.”
Laughter unseated my painful toe.