Thirty years ago, I only went to the doctor when the newspaper I was working switched health plans and I had to get a new "primary care physician." I'd ask around until one of my friends recommended someone, and I'd call that doctor, and the doctor would make me come in for an examination because he/she drove a Mercedes.
I'd show up with a hangover. The doctor would examine me briefly. On the way out, I'd make another appointment to see the doctor in a year. I'd never see that doctor again, and I wouldn't get the bloodwork the doctor had ordered either. That doctor was a name on a form so I could get health insurance in case I got shot covering a shooting in a lousy neighborhood.
That system worked well. I felt fine. I was a reporter and newspaper columnist, and I was usually hungover, exhausted or enraged, so if I didn't feel good, I knew why.
I'm retired now. I do a local news podcast every day, and I write this column, and I haven't parked my car in a really bad neighborhood in a couple years. I drive through bad neighborhoods now, like everyone else does.
But I'm older now, and I take cholesterol medication to counteract a lifetime of chili dogs, and once you begin to take any kind of pill, the doctor won't give you more unless you show up for two appointments a year, and you'll die without the pills, so you show up twice a year.
The appointments don't take 20 minutes anymore. It's 10 minutes now, since most doctors have more or less given up on touching the patients. They all remain enthusiastic for the prostate exam though, even if they no longer look in your ears. If I was a doctor, and I had my choice, I'd look in the ears.
If you're a married man, I'll give you one tip. Don't complain to your wife about the prostate exam. You wife goes to the gynecologist. She'll just laugh. If she's given birth, she'll laugh harder, and your Harley-Davidson T-shirt will not protect your manhood from her laughter.
On my drive to the doctor's office, I start counting up the dead people I know. My father died when he was 67. I'll be 66 next month. I look a little like him. One of my ex-girlfriends is dead. At least three people I went to high school with are dead. I stopped going on the Facebook page for my graduating class after they died.
I run through the names of my uncles and my aunts, all but one of whom is dead now. She's in her 90s, but she married into the family, so I won't be getting any longevity from her.
"Here's how it works with the men in my family," I told my wife. "We're still winning fistfights when we're 60. Somewhere between 65 and 70, we don't feel too good, and we go to the hospital, and two weeks later we go to Notre Dame Cemetery."
"Those people died years ago," my wife says. "People get better care now. They eat better. There's more medication."
I always have a cigar after my doctor's appointment. Sometimes, I stop for a doughnut and a cup of coffee. And I keep counting my losses.
Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, and iBooks.