This, though, was after I had harked back to the days of my adolescence. I was born down on the northern edge of the southern range of the North American malaria belt; and when I was growing up, if one seemed intellectually torpid or became filled with an overpowering bodily languor, the indisposition always was diagnosed offhand as a touch of malaria. Accordingly, the victim, taking his own advice or another’s, jolted his liver with calomel until the poor thing flinched every time a strange pill was seen approaching it, and then he rounded out the course of treatment with all the quinine the traffic would stand. Recalling these early campaigns, I borrowed of their strategy for use against my present symptoms—if symptoms they were. I took quinine until my ears rang so that persons passing me on the public highway would halt to listen to the chimes. My head was filled with mysterious muffled rumblings. It was like living in a haunted house and being one at the same time.
Office Visits, $10
It required all of two weeks of experimenting with my interior to convince me that whatever it might be that annoyed me, it surely was not a thing which an intensive bombardment of the liver would cure. The liver has a low visibility but is easy to hit.
I had the aversion to seeking professional guidance for the curing of a presumably minor disorder that most robust male adults have. In personal tribute I may add that I have never been hypochondriac in any possible respect. However, toward the end of those three weeks I formed the decision that I would go to see a doctor or so. But I would sneak up on these gentlemen, so to speak. I would call upon them in the role of a friend rather than avowedly as a prospective patient, and take them into my confidence, as it were, by degrees. Somewhere in the back part of my brain I nursed a persistent fear that my complaints might be diagnosed as symptoms of that incurable malady known as being forty-four years old, going, on forty-five. And I knew that much already without paying a physician twenty-five dollars for telling me so the first time and ten dollars for each time he told it to me over again.
Rather shamefacedly, with a well-simulated air of casualness, I dropped in upon a physician who is a friend of mine and in whose judgment I have confidence; and then, after a two-day interval, I went to see a second physician of my acquaintance who, I believe, also thoroughly knows his trade. With both men I followed the same tactics—roundabout chatting on the topic of this or that, and finally an honest confession as to the real purpose of my visit. In both instances the results were practically identical. Each man manifested an almost morbid curiosity touching on my personal habits and bodily idiosyncrasies. Each asked me a lot of questions. Each went at me with X-ray machines and blood tests and chemical analysissies—if there isn’t any such word I claim there should be—until my being was practically an open book to him and I had no secrets left at all.