When I first set out on “Mission: List,“ this week‘s column‘s item was most certainly not included. It‘s not a list entry I would recommend anyone else add to his/her own personal list, nor was it an experience I‘d like to repeat.
Medical dramas are always so intense, keeping viewers in suspense until the last possible second when they reveal that all the patient has is a bad cold and, oh yeah, a baby on the way. The writers build things up and concoct crazy storylines filled with dramatic one-liners and sarcastic comic relief from the intern in the corner, who is just hoping not to get yelled at. There‘s always a next line ready and the actors can play the parts flawlessly, knowing that happy hour always follows “that‘s a wrap!“
This past week I came as close as I hope ever to come to living in a bad medical show. I was at UCSF medical center for a problem with my hands (I know, writer with a hand problem … the irony abounds). After ordering X-rays and sending me upstairs, downstairs, down the hall and around the corner, the doctor asked if I would be willing to be their teaching patient (guinea pig) for the day.
Quick cut to me sitting in a folding chair at the front of a mini-conference room (think the size of your bathroom) holding out my hands to a group of seven people in white coats desperate for some hands-on knowledge about my particular problem (pun intended). After 15 minutes of ’20 questions,‘ the real madness ensued. All of a sudden, 14 hands came at me, feeling all my hand joints, and asking permission to feel each other‘s knuckles so as to have a comparison to my swollen ones.
I‘m sure you‘re wondering what malady has befallen me. I‘m uncomfortable making private my health information, so let‘s just say it‘s something that normally affects people of retirement age and rhymes with carthritis.
OK, back to my medical drama: I‘m a 21-year-old college senior, but I must admit I‘ve never had a guy hit me with this line: “Can I feel your thumb joint one more time?”
So, I sat watching all the doctors, wondering what the right course of action was for a person in my situation. I was missing class, sitting in an arthritis clinic (yes, I was the only one without a walker or cane), and wishing I were back in Davis trying to come up with a rationalization for my newest form of procrastination instead of starring in my own episode of “House.“ What was my next line? What emotion should I display? Anybody??
It occurred to me later, when I left the room and all I could do was laugh, that life isn‘t like a medical drama. Life is messy and unscripted; the comic relief is often not funny, and the situation doesn‘t end with the director yelling “cut!”
Viewing my life as a pseudo-drama for a few hours allowed me to remember that things are never as simple as the next line written in a script. There is no right way to handle a situation all the time, and knowing the right thing to say is seldom as important as just saying something. Relationships are messier and more complicated than Ross‘ “we were on a break“ and sometimes less profound than “Gossip Girl“ would have us believe.
I had my senior year pretty well planned out: attend classes I need to graduate, run the sorority I‘m committed to and work a part time job. I didn‘t factor in being diagnosed with a chronic ailment most common in people who qualify for a senior discount. So where does this fit in? The answer is, any plan we have for our lives is really just a best-case scenario. There‘s an old saying “man makes plans and God laughs,“ and I heard God laughing really loudly this week. My challenge is to make sure I keep laughing too.
Emily Kaplan has discovered she might be just a little clumsy. Anyone having any suggestions about how she can surround herself with bubble wrap should e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.