Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Definitely not about the kitten

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd write: I had my first colonic today.

There was an article in Time Out New York recently about detoxing for Spring, and they shared the lovely statistic that the average American carries five to twenty-five pounds of fecal waste in his body. That grossed me out far more than anything about the procedure itself, and I've been having some weird digestive problems lately (stress-induced, I thought), so I decided to call the place mentioned in the article, the Natural Alternative Center.

They told me the first appointment would take two hours, to include an orientation and a meeting with the doctor who runs the center. They gave instructions on how to prepare, which included eating salad with lunch and dinner the day before, and to make sure that salad had corn -- so they can track the rate at which food is moving through your body. Ew. They also told me that the first appointment could be paid by cash only, but they took a credit card number as a deposit. I guess people bail a lot. I resolved to be strong and brave and not cancel.

Colonic Ironic #1: The NAC has the least comfortable chairs in the world. I got intimately acquainted with them as I waited a full hour before anything happened. Another patient was watching an orientation video with headphones, and I asked at the desk if I should be watching it too. "Oh, well she's already started it, so you should wait." Hm. Maybe if the receptionist had looked at me during the five minutes I'd been trying to get her attention, I wouldn't have missed so much.

An hour past my appointment time, the doctor who runs the place came out, looked at my name on the list and another woman's who'd just come in, and asked if we'd watched the video yet. As I was getting settled in, I said, "You know, I could have been watching this during the hour I've been sitting here doing nothing."

"Well," said, Dr. Trisha, "no one told you to come early."

That did it. "Excuse me? I didn't come early, I had a one o'clock appointment."

"Oh. Well did you tell anyone you were here?" This bitch was desperate to make this my fault, wasn't she?

"Yes, I signed in, I filled out my paperwork, and then I sat here for an hour."

"Oh. I'm sorry about that. If I'd realized that was happening I would have done something about it."

Okay, I was placated. But the woman next to me looked nervous and asked, "Am I going to have to wait for an hour too?"

The doctor looked at her like she was an idiot and said "No."

My new partner in snark looked at me and loudly said, "That wasn't an unreasonable question, was it?" Dr. Trish walked away looking pissed.

I was glad to have a companion for the video, which was entitled Death Begins in the Colon, and showed, in fairly graphic detail, all the things that can possibly go wrong with your colon if it's not properly cleansed. The best part had to be the section on parasites. We were appropriately grossed-out together. Then, when the tape moved on to plugging products (ranging from herbal supplements to a footstool to help you squat "properly" on the toilet), we appropriately rolled our eyes together. Finally, there were testimonials from happy patients, including the moron at the front desk. Apparently a proper cleansing doesn't make you any smarter or better at your job.

Of course, once the video was over, there wasn't a whole lot of conversation, considering what we both knew we were there to do. And there was more waiting.

Colonic Ironic #2: There are no bathrooms. Of course this isn't actually true, but apparently no one thought it would be a good idea to have one or two outside of an examination room. So when I asked at the desk, about 45 minutes into my stay, for a rest room, I was told that none were "available." Seriously poor planning, people.

I met with the doctor, and decided that no matter how many degrees she has (and according to the video, there are many, at least one of them medical), she is an absolute flake. Of course, one of her degrees in "juicing," so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. She asked me questions I'd already answered on the forms, told me facts I'd already seen in the video, then sent me back out to the waiting room.

Fifteen minutes later, she came out, chatted with the front desk staff, and then told me it would be "two more minutes." It was now 3. Two hours after my appointment time. So I threw a little fit. I was kind of over the whole anger thing by this point, and it's not like I was going to leave, but I felt like throwing a little fit. "These things happen in doctors' offices," I was told.

"For two hours?? On these uncomfortable chairs with no bathrooms?"

That got her. She practically dragged me to a bathroom. She was mad at me. I was suddenly happy she wouldn't be the one actually doing the colonic. She tried to get out of it by explaining that there must not have been an available bathroom at the time that I asked. I pointed out that someone might have told me when one became available. "When I was told it was a two hour appointment," I said, "I assumed that meant the procedure would actually take two hours, not that I'd be sitting around. And now I have to cancel something else I had scheduled." She was unrepentant. I only wanted an acknowledgement that her staff was bad, or even a half-hearted apology. Nothing. Not so much as a free juice.

But then I went into the little room with a very nice man who has chosen a very odd profession. That he's a former opera singer should frighten some of you. He put me at ease and apologized quite genuinely for all the confusion outside. In the course of events he mentioned that he had given a colonic to Stockard Channing. I guess doctor-patient confidentiality doesn't apply when you're not actually a doctor. But hey, Stockard Channing! We LOVE her! And also...ew.

Don't worry, I'll spare you the gory details. Or any details. As with most of my rants, this is really about customer service. But I will say this: The strangest thing about that first sentence up there has got to be my use of the word "first." Because even after all the drama, I'm totally going back. The procedure wasn't nearly as unpleasant as I expected. Not like it was fun or anything; it was decidedly strange and a little bit gross, but it really wasn't bad at all. And lemme tell ya: there was a lot of stuff up there. There's just something comforting about knowing I'm not carrying so much garbage around.

In my colon.

Okay, yeah: ew.

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