Although I don’t expect to get a lot of takers, I am absolutely sure that I have identified a surefire method for getting bad news. It is only a two-step process, so I’m sure anybody can do it. I know it’s easy for me. The first step is to get old, and by “old” I just mean the top part of middle age or so. If you’re lucky, you will take the first step automatically. All you have to do is wait. The second step requires some action on your part, but it is pretty easy. Then, once you have aged a little, for bad news you just go straight to a doctor.
Most of the bad news is in the numbers. You know, the numbers that come back from those lab tests they like to have you take, but don’t let you look at. This number is a little high, that one’s a little low, and oh, that one down there looks funny. And here’s a bonus. This is yet one more thing that they did not teach you in school: there is at least one, and perhaps as many as half a dozen, pills attached to each one of those numbers.
So somebody drains a little blood out of you. That blood goes to a lab somewhere, full of automatic machines. One of those machines goes “Ka-ching!” The lab send the numbers back to your doctor. You go see her, she tells which numbers look funny, and a machine somewhere in her office goes “Ka-ching!” She tells you what pills you are going to take to fix the numbers. That makes a machine at the pharmacy go “Ka-ching!” And just a little bit later, a really big machine at a pharmaceutical company somewhere goes “KA-CHING!!”
In all of the places where that money sound goes off, we are not much more than numbers. Bank account numbers, credit card numbers, physician account numbers, and chemical test numbers. That is annoying. We are not individuals anymore. We are something to be quantified by the numbers in a lab test, which can be looked up in the tables in a book to see how closely we approach the absolute norm.
What a crock.
Although they apparently don’t teach it in medical school any more, each of us is an individual, with both the right and a strong likelihood of being outside the norm. We are not numbers, we are people. Doctors, pharmacists, and drug companies are in such a rush to get our dollars that all they can see is numbers, just the numbers of all those dollars. I can hear the medical and business school instructors now: “Pay no attention to that noise. That’s just the patient. We don’t need to listen to them!”
And they don’t.