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The Fish Bowl

by Zaphra Reskakis


While sitting in the waiting room of the ankle and foot specialist recently, filling out my insurance information, I looked at the fish in his aquarium .Their moving mesmerized me for a minute and I remembered the fishbowl in the forties and fifties. The fish bowl was the collection box on a table in our doctorís office. It was based on an honor system and on a sliding scale, based on whatever you could afford that day. Dr. J. was my pediatrician, as well as my motherís gynecologist, my dadís prostate physician and the internist for all of us. It was Dr. J who gave me the happy news that I was pregnant in 1956.

After waiting for a few minutes in the waiting room, Dr. J with a stethoscope around his neck came out and took you into his office, sat across from you writing in your chart and listened as you asked questions or gushed out all your complaints for as long as it took. He sagely looked at you and nodded, answering your questions and alleviating your fears. He then escorted you to the exam room, left and you would undress and put on a gown. Dr J. would come in. He would prod and probe, checking pulse, blood pressure, lungs, heart, ears, nose, eyes and throat, urine, checking you from head to toe. In a few minutes you would return to his office. He was an excellent diagnostician without the help of modern technology. If he felt it was necessary to confirm his diagnosis, he would order blood work and x-rays. An hour or so later, you left, fully satisfied, feeling Dr. J cared. Before you left you dropped what you could afford in the fishbowl. By the late forties because of the IRS, the fishbowl was impractical and it was replaced by a woman in white who was receptionist, nurse and bookkeeper.  

Two weeks ago I went to my internist. After waiting an hour and a half in the waiting room, the receptionist tells me to go into the office .My internist says hello and as he looks at the computer he asks what he can do for me. I tell him I came for a checkup .He asks if there is anything different. I quickly tell him my ankles and feet hurt and swell up. I go into the exam room where a technician takes blood and my blood pressure. My MD comes in picks up the stethoscope on the table, checks my chest and heart. Tells me   everything is fine, all this without my having to undress. As he is walking out, he says he will call me if there are any problems in my blood test. I remind him about my ankles. He turns back, looks at my feet says that his receptionist will give me a referral for an orthopedist and a prescription for the pain. The receptionist gives me a prescription, and a referral to the ankle and foot orthopedist. I write a check; six weeks later I will be partially reimbursed by Medicare and my $260/monthly premium supplemental insurance. Twenty minutes later I leave the office, wondering why I came. 

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