Call me crazy, but you’d think my law firm would realize that we’re a group of educated professionals who are more than capable of seeking our own medical attention. I don’t think there’s a soul here who doesn’t know that when you feel chest discomfort and shooting pains down your left arm, the advised treatment is to pop two aspirin and promptly get back to work. And if a female lawyer finds herself pregnant, her health is irrelevant. The best she can do for herself medically is determine the month in which she can absolutely no longer physically hide the fact she’s gestating a spawn and then spring it on management. She will then work until the moment the contractions are unbearable, and the next day, like clockwork, her secretary will send a firm-wide email stating, “Mother and child are healthy and doing great,” regardless of her childbirth experience.
Basically, my point is that my law firm doesn’t have a modicum of concern about its associates’ health. You’re either in your office, or you’re dead. As Big Firm lawyers, we make the choice to be too overworked to have time for preventative medical care. Over the years, our waistlines expand from too many late-night meals, we snack on Valium and our college physiques become urban legends. (I swear to Christ, I had a six pack in Cancun senior year.) Sure, a couple annoyingly amped guys keep up with themselves by running miles at a time just to be able to sit still, but past the second year, no one’s a specimen of health.
Imagine my surprise when an HR representative announced at a staff meeting that we’d be having mandatory cholesterol screenings at the firm. What the fuck? Apparently, our insurance company contracted a band of gypsy nurses to come in and do testing on the whole firm. And somehow the high muckety-mucks needn’t be involved because they get full corporate physicals already.
After the meeting, I attempted to demur the very notion with the HR chick, but she lazily gazed at me with that, “What do you want from me?” look that makes you want to pound on the faces of chilly, dead-behind-the-eyes, non-lawyer drones like her who earn a living by making sure an office full of ungrateful bastards receive sexual harassment training and flu shots. Talking with other associates, no one seemed to have much objection. I was the only one blown away by the preposterousness of the whole event.
The day of the test, I was, of course, under a tight filing deadline with zero patience for anything. I rushed down to get it over with and barged into a scene even worse than I could have imagined. Instead of individual offices—or even nurse stations with patricians and curtains—the conference room was wide open with testing tables in all comers. It looked like one big HIPAA violation.
I filled out a clipboard full of paperwork while I waited in a line 12 deep. It felt like a group of newly enlisted Army privates getting basic training physicals. Men—actual lawyers—were at the stations, stripped down to their undershirts, while others in line stood and stared. Only thing missing was someone saying, “Turn and cough.”
I was eventually directed to a buxom nurse with “Cheyenne” tattooed in script on her upper left breast. (Her name, conveniently.) She was polite enough, asking me to either roll my sleeve or remove my shirt so she could take my blood pressure.
After she had taken my waist measurement and completed a body fat analysis, the publicly demeaning process continued as I sat down so she could draw blood from my finger for the actual cholesterol test.
Last thing I remember was her saying, “I just need to get a sample. I’ll put it in this machine, and in seven minutes, viola—we’ll have your results.” I was sweating bullets and the room went white as I felt myself involuntarily fall out of the chair and onto the floor, cracking my head on the cart with the “Managing Diabetes” pamphlets.
When I came to, the nurse reviving me wasn’t Cheyenne. It was my high school girlfriend’s mother who never liked me much after that pregnancy scare in ‘98. Apparently, she’s the managing nurse of this mobile death-sentence clinic. As my consciousness further resumed, I realized she was uncontrollably laughing straight into my ashen face while everyone in line busted up too.
“It’s always a guy who passes out. Can seem ‘um coming a mile away because it’s usually the big, exasperated guy who bitches in line.”
“Get up. Cheyenne will have you out of here soon.”
After three more checks of my blood pressure and blood sugar, Cheyenne read me the riot act. She told me to call my doctor and make an appointment immediately. She then launched into the importance of eating healthy, lots of fiber, Omega-rich fish, low cholesterol, decreasing stress, quitting smoking. All the healthy stuff.
But who the hell can stop smoking when you’ve missed an afternoon’s worth of work and became the firm’s humiliated damsel? At some point, the partners will quit making jokes about my weak stomach, and the housewife hens from my parents’ neighborhood will stop murmuring about Mrs. Stephen’s account of how the asshole who once almost knocked up her daughter passed out in front of his colleagues. But until then, I’m just “that jackass.”