Search complete October 31, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I’ve got my genes to thank for my eureka moment. Inherited from my father, along with a great love of fried potatoes, booze and fags, is asthma. Yes, of course I effing know I shouldn’t smoke. In fact, I even had a freshly converted Allen Carr evangelist here on Saturday night and some of his evangelism must have had a subliminal effect because I’ve forgotten to smoke since Sunday. And, anyway, asthma provided me with a useful German lesson. As I psyched myself up for a trip to the quack one day, I boned up on my German grammar, and discovered, to my delight, that it is DER Inhalator, DIE Praxis and DAS Asthma. When I mysteriously become fluent in German and get a job as a German teacher – not to be confused with the dream job. I’ve taught language before. The hardest job I’ve ever done. Not that I’ve done many jobs, really. But it was harder than sitting around drinking tea in Russia for a living, let me tell you – it’s the example I’ll give everyone for them to get to grips with gender.
I plan to become a doctor’s surgery receptionist. In Germany. I see only a couple of necessary qualifications and, while I agree that it would be better, for tradition’s sake, if I were a woman, I am sure that I’ve got every requirement covered. For, as I see it, to work in a doctor’s surgery in Germany, one need only be skinny, obese or old-&-dim. I plan to fill the latter category’s professional shoes.
I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if my health’s actually a bit of a mess – I’m so glad we’re not seethrough – but I don’t normally bother with quacks. As I’ve reported before on these here pages, either they’ll try to convince me I’m a woman or, as not reported, bollock me for doing a sedentary job. And the time I had my ears syringed was almost too pornographic to go into. So I won’t. But with asthma, there’s no way round it. There’s delaying it, which I do galore. As long as I’ve at least got an empty inhaler lying around the place, my body’s normally kept placeboishly in order. But Scotland beckoned of late, and any interaction with the Celtic world is almost bound to set me wheezing, so I dashed to the local chest-quacks to get me some real drugs.
A queer thing about being here, and my ludicrous working-life, is that I’ve got posh health insurance. It’s the only type a freelancer can get, and it’s worth every penny for the half second of respect it gets you in dealings with strangers. As I’m hopeless at haughtiness in the day-to-day, I do get a minor pitter-patter as I see the staff sit up in their chairs, speak nicely and make every effort to get me an appointment as quickly as possible. And it’s the one bit of naughtiness I’m vaguely prepared to exploit at the expense of your regular Germans. (Oh god, I remember, with massive internal cringe, that I used to jump queues in Russia too, though this was against my will. Foreigners were constantly given preferential treatment in Russia, and I would close my eyes as I walked past a snaking line of utterly beautiful folk, mentally cutting my heart out with the venom of their stares.)
So I walked into my chest-quacks’ surgery. I sauntered up to the reception desk. Three women sat at it. One skinny. One obese. One old-&-dim. My natural preference was for the old-&-dim one, especially as the other two were under 12 and I thought I might have to give them some sweeties or talk about pop-music. “I’d like to make an appointment, please,” I said to Ms. O-&-D. She began flicking tomes ahead in her Big Book and was clearly aiming to give me an appointment shortly before Armageddon. I thought we’d better truncate this charade so I whipped out my posh insurance card and slid it under her nose. She had a slow-motion eureka moment all of her own and told me, mustering as much of a Hollywood smile as 60 years of being drunk every day would allow, that I could, should I so wish, take a seat, as they weren’t that busy, and a doctor would see to me straight away.
I sat in the waiting-room, having champagne and grapes fed to me, for the microscopic hiatus until the doctor decided to stop surfing youtube and came out to fetch me. But it was long enough to garner an understanding of the anthropology of doctor’s surgery receptionist hierarchy.
The young thin and fat ones of the triumverate should, ideally, be employed about a week apart. This instantly gives the more senior of the two a feeling of importance and perhaps means she won’t be quite so hopeless at her job. The younger of the two, meanwhile, merely makes up the numbers – perhaps it’s a Brussels requirement – and makes laughable attempts at answering people’s queries. “Ja, so ven can I make my next appointment?” asked a stern German pensioner with a Mrs. Thatcher haircut. “Er – pause to blow huge bubble-gum bubble – dunno. Wanna give us your number and I’ll ring ya?” Luckily for the young one, Mrs. Thatcher thought this must be technology and progress combining to make modern life difficult again and she went along with the youngster’s incompetence.
The only moment when the thin and fat young ones can have a second of solidarity is when Ms. O-&-D weighs in on proceedings. Ms. O-&-D had mastered the layout of the surgery after 45 years there and was awfully good at pointing people in the direction of the adjacent waiting-room, but her skills ended there. Otherwise, it was all blank stares and dribbling…
I put out my cigar, told the go-go boy his services were no longer required, and popped into the quack for a half-second chat. His computer told him I had private insurance so he thought he’d better do a few extra things like bestethoscoping me to squeeze a few more euros out of the transaction. He then gave me a repeat prescription and sent me back to the ladies with a bill… to be settled immediately.
I reappeared before Ms. O-&-D. A vague flicker of recognition spread across her sclerotic features. She fiddled around with some paper lying on her desk to give her a moment’s extra breathing space. Annoyingly, the least senior new one – obese, in this case, though the body-shape-seniority index can also work in the other direction – decided she’d better get in on the act. I duly handed her my bill. She looked perplexed. “Whassat?” “My bill.” But she couldn’t cope with this rare conundrum and bowed to Ms. O-&-D’s greater wisdom and experience.
The bill was for 19 euros something. Alas, I had no change and handed over a 20-euro bill. I think I sensed a moment of joy in Ms. O-&-D’s haggard visage as she had a quick thought along the lines of, “That’d get me five cans of Oettinger and four packets of woodbines,” but then she realised there was work to be done and staggered off in search of some cents. I stood nicely, declining offers of caviar from fatty and skinny. And stood. And stood. For a while I wondered whether this was a new take on mugging and whether I’d bump into Ms. O-&-D caning fags on Schönhauser Allee. But just as I was thinking I might take another glass of champers and lap-dance after all, she reappeared, tottering and apologetic, with about 5 euros in coin change. “But you only owe me 4 cents,” I protested. “It’s all we’ve got,” she retorted, and pretended to be busy by looking at the computer, which she thought was a complicated lamp. I thought it would be patronising to say, “Yes, aber you can take away the four euros straight away and that would make the change much closer to the mark,” but happily bade the staff farewell – I think I may have said hello instead of goodbye in all the excitement – and skipped downstairs and put my ill-gotten gains towards two inhalers and a packet of fags.
So, just as I soon as I learn German for, “Fucked if I know,” my application’s in the post.