You might ask me, if you were an especially astute reader, from whence I got the idea that maybe it is irresponsible and unhealthy for me to commute to work and school in my car. You might wonder if it is solely the influence of one woman with a particularly well developed social and environmental conscience. No, it wasn’t just her.
Like all good stories, this one starts with my testicles.
I didn’t get my license until I was at least 18. I walked or rode the bus everywhere and I was satisfied with that. I didn’t get my first car until I was 20, when I took a job that was nearly impossible to bus to. Eventually I was hooked, just like with smoking. Nonetheless, when I had jobs downtown I gloried in the majesty and wonder of monthly bus passes. All that changed when I started commuting to Mendota Heights.
Smoking and working desk jobs really knocked me out of shape. I started eating anything unhealthy that I wanted any time, and I started to pack on the pounds. Six Mountain Dews a day will kill you with sticky sweetness. At the same time I suffered from a surprising lack of energy.
Anyway, fast forward a few years to the start of spring semester. I had already lost fifteen pounds through my pizza diet and “walking across campus twice a day” exercise plan, but I noticed that I was still feeling sluggish, I was always thirsty, and I peed a lot. Thanks to the educational program known as Scrubs, I figured that it would be wise to make some use of my new student health insurance and get my blood sugar checked.
Hey, did you know that if you’re a temp, you can get health insurance? I did, but watch out, that window of open enrollment is mere hours long and requires a screening by a certified veterinarian. Needless to say, I was uninsured while I was a temp.
In any case, I went in for a physical and some blood work. I practically had to beg to be screened for diabetes. To me, it was a slam dunk — overweight, sluggish, always thirsty, frequent urination, family history — just take my blood already.
By the way, most of the time there is no talking in the men’s room. You could be chatting with a friend on the way in and fall silent mid-syllable as you cross the threshold. You then line up at every other urinal and do your business in cold, emotionless silence. As soon as you walk back up you can pick up precisely where you left off, mid-syllable and mid wild gesture.
Women’s bathrooms are not like this. If you peek through the open door of a women’s bathroom you will often see a couch. Next to the couch is a slip and slide and a mini-bar. I don’t recommend buying anything there since they are always overpriced, but sometimes, you know, you need a cold one while waiting in line. Of course you will be waiting in line, because after all the amenities there is only room left for one stall, and there is never a trough where you can have impromptu light saber battles with your drunken friends, so women wait a lot in the bathroom. All that pleasant atmosphere and waiting leads to a chatty, coffee klatsch atmosphere. Again, there is none of that in a normal men’s room.
As I lay on my back in a paper shift, the doctor put on rubber gloves and began doing the things that doctors do with rubber gloves on. She was terse and professional, just “breath in and hold it” and “turn your head and cough.” That is until it came time for the testicular exam, at which point she started to become chatty. I had that feeling that I get when the guy at the next urinal starts talking sports, his dog, or anything at all. The only proper response is monosyllabism. Grunt and shake, maybe answer a question but do not make eye contact.
Doc: You should palpate your testicles like this at least once a month. Do you feel how I’m palpating them?
Me: Yes, I, uh…
Doc: Make sure that you feel all around in the front, the back, all around. Really palpate them.
Doc: It is very important that you palpate thoroughly and really look for anything that might be a lump.
Me: Thanks, uh…
Doc: So, how much exercise do you get?
Me: Uh, like I said before, I’ve been walking fifteen or twenty minutes a day, just from the lots to work.
Doc: Well, that’s a good start, but you should be getting at the very least thirty minutes a day. Do you commute? I ride my bike to work every day and that’s how I get in my time. Can you bike to work?
Doc: You should check it out. It’s good exercise, and a nice way to get it in if you can’t otherwise spare the time. I know how difficult it can be to balance school and work and still get time for exercise.
Me: Uh, thanks, I’ll think about it.
Doc: Excellent. Well, good news, no lumps.
I don’t think that I ever actually considered the word “palpable” before that exam. The exam itself was not too bad — there were no reverse kung-fu grip tools, no probing, scraping or smearing (which is apparently a pinching and not a smear at all?). Nonetheless, it was very unnerving.
Anyway, that’s where the seed was planted. She never said anything about my weight, just that I needed more exercise. Maybe she talked about the exercise during that particular part of the exam because she really wanted to make sure that she had my attention. I wonder if there will be some other even more critical advice during my first prostate exam.
When I quit smoking it was because I really wanted to. It was hard and everyone hated me for having gotten them all started again and then quitting in the most irritable way possible. I half way wanted to quit for a couple of years, but I didn’t make the slightest effort to cut back until the day I came home with the box of patches. It’s the same way with the bike thing. When Lisa and Stan bought their new bikes last year I sorely wanted the shiny fun that they possessed, but I knew that I couldn’t afford to spend several hundred dollars, and I wasn’t in the mood to fix the bike that I already had.
That’s my story, at least the lurid version that is hopefully entertaining.
(Lisa said that it was good enough to post)