View From Behind the Mask

“What is laid down, ordered, factual is never enough to embrace the whole truth: life always spills over the rim of every cup.”

- Boris Pasternak

After a week of self-imposed quarantine and far too much hot lemon and honey, I felt the need for some medical advice. For one thing, I was sick to death of hot lemon and honey. For another, the decision to return to work wasn’t coming easily, between bouts of coughing. The coming week’s concert schedule was challenging: two programs and three concerts over five days. Was I still contagious? Would I ruin the lovely cadenzas with my relentless coughing? Could I please have something else to drink?

Off I went to the H1N1 Assessment Clinic, filled with resolve either to speak to a doctor, or take one look at the plague-ridden, be-masked throngs and turn around and go home.

I arrived shortly after the place had opened for business. The arena’s parking lot was jammed, which didn’t bode well. Finally I parked on a nearby sidestreet, and wheezed my way across the parking lot. From a large door streamed healthy-looking people bearing shopping bags and good will. Farther along, a smaller door with a pink sign on it remained firmly shut.

Large door: flea market.

Small door: H1N1 Assessment Clinic.

I drew as deep a breath as I could, which was followed by the inevitable cough, then I pushed open the small door. I was greeted by the sight of row upon row of chairs awaiting occupants. The place was empty, but for one person in the far distance who was chatting with a nurse from behind a mask.

I was instructed to put on a mask and wash my hands before being guided to the vast waiting area (the one filled with empty chairs; in fact, a non-waiting area) where I filled out a form. It was actually the nurse who waited while I finished what I was doing, the novelty of which did not escape me.  She took my vitals, which included a highly cool finger clip-on thingie that told her all manner of things, including, I’m sure, what I had for supper last night and what’s on my Wish List. I should have asked her if there were any interesting plot ideas swishing around in there, but didn’t think of it.

It was hot behind the mask, and when I coughed it wasn’t too pleasant. No matter. Within seconds I was mask-to-mask with a fourteen-year-old physician who was keen and competent. She listened to my only slightly crackly lungs (must have been that Halls wrapper I inhaled at the start of an earlier coughing fit), we discussed our business, and less than twenty minutes after I arrived, I was on my way, thinking about lozenges to ease the residual coughing.

Was I still contagious? No. Would I ruin the lovely cadenzas in the piano concerto? Maybe.

I followed the flea market crowd back out through the parking lot and felt a little more like a member of the human race.

Perhaps a nice cup of mint tea might be waiting for me at home, for a change.

But first I had lozenges to buy…

(To be continued.)

Categories: General.