I am one of those people for whom the mention of a disease is the same as a diagnosis. This is particularly true when those public service messages come on the radio, listing the 14 signs of edema--invariably, I have all 14 symptoms. Like this:
Public Service Announcer: "Do you have skull apathy? Skull apathy afflicts one out of ten men who were present during atomic bomb tests and then later fell into the Love Canal. Listen closely to these symptoms:
"Has there recently been an obvious change in a wart or mole, such as pulsating colors or bird whistles?"
(Ohmygosh, yes! I have a mole I've been calling Bullwinkle, because that is sort of who it looks like, and lately he seems to have developed a funny bend in one of his legs.)
"Do you sometimes believe you can see Al Gore talking without moving his lips?"
"Do you think you are like everyone else?"
"Do you have trouble booting Windows 95?"
"Do flames shoot out of your eyes when you are driving at night?"
(Yes! Well, sort of.)
"Are you troubled by cold sheets, swooping bats, percussion grenades?"
(Yes Yes Yes!)
"Did you cry at the movie Titanic, even though there were other guys in the theater?"
"If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is probably too late to see a doctor. In fact, you probably lapsed into a coma somewhere after the third question. Have a nice day."
Just great, now I've got skull apathy and I'm about to go coma. I zoom home and breathlessly dial my doctor's telephone number, assuring the receptionist that this is a life and death emergency and yes, I have insurance.
"This is Doctor Spleensplitter."
"Doctor Spleensplitter! This is Bruce Cameron! Thank God you answered the phone."
"Oh, I'm... I believe I picked up the wrong line."
"Dr. Spleensplitter, I've got the top ten reasons to have skull apathy, plus I can feel a coma coming on. You have to help me!"
"What sort of symptoms are you experiencing, Mr. Cameron?"
"Well, I have this mole shaped like a moose, only lately it looks like it has developed a limp."
"Well then. Maybe you should see a veterinarian."
"Plus, I sometimes see Al Gore using Windows 95 without moving his lips!"
"I need some of those same pills you gave me last time."
"Mr. Cameron, those were placeboes."
"Yes, that's what I need, more placeboes! Only more powerful ones."
"More powerful placeboes."
"Mr. Cameron, may I ask you a very important question?"
"Yes, I have insurance."
"No, not that. I was reviewing your file the other day..."
"You were? Why, do you suspect I've got something even more serious than skull apathy?"
"No, actually, it's because our staff requested a whole new filing cabinet to put it in, and I wanted to see if there was anything in there we could throw out. Mr. Cameron, do you realize you've complained of nearly every malady known to man?"
"Plus some I'd never heard of before. Wake Apnea. Sudden Shower Syndrome. Reverse Appendicitis. And now this new one..."
"Precisely. Mr. Cameron, has anyone ever suggested to you that you might be suffering a bit of hypochondria?"
"Hypochondria? Is it serious? What are the symptoms? Tell me straight, doc, how much time have I got?"
"No, it isn't serious at all. In fact, a lot of people have it, in some form or another."
"So I caught it from somebody else?"
"Mr. Cameron, hypochondria is merely a term for people who worry obsessively that they may have some disease or affliction."
"Well, I am worried! I'm worried I might have hypochondria! Are there any placeboes that can be used to cure it?"
"You're not understanding me, Mr. Cameron. It isn't a real disease."
"You mean I'm sick with something FAKE?" This opens up a whole new realm of doom that I hadn't even contemplated before. I swallow, feeling the first trickle of a whole host of phony symptoms. "What's next, a CAT scan? An MRI? Should I have my internal organs removed? Doc, I'm too young to have hypochondria. I was just beginning to live life to the fullest!" Well, maybe not to the fullest, but I had just purchased fresh batteries for the TV remote and was looking forward to a night of crisp channel changes. Now it seems pointless, somehow.
"Mr. Cameron, I'm afraid I'm not making myself clear, here. There's nothing really wrong with you. You just have a morbid obsession."
He thinks he is fooling me, with his medical jargon, but I know what morbidity is. From the Greek word "Mortimer," which means death. Mortician. Post Mortem. Today I mort, yesterday I morted, tomorrow I will have mortalized. Tomorrow.
"24 hours." I whisper.
"I appreciate you calling me, Doc."
"Well, I didn't call you."
"Whatever. I just... having one more day to at least put my life in order, maybe catch one last episode of Baywatch..."
He sighs heavily. "I'll call in a prescription for some placeboes right away. Treated aggressively, you should be well on your way to recovery by the end of the week."
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1998
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