I Really Ought to Learn German / Notes from an Annual Physical

I had my annual physical today. It started with an espresso and massage — European healthcare is sooo much more civilized than in the US.

Actually, it started with a lung X-ray. The nurse/office manager in my doctor’s office is terrific: Very helpful, really friendly, extremely professional and very patient-focused. Even with her minimal English and my near-non-existent German, we communicate with little difficulty. Plus she finds me amusing.

Things started out fine. She managed to tell me via German, a bit of English, and lots of gesturing that I should take off my shirt, stand in front of the X-ray machine, and take a deep breath. Easy.

We moved on to height and weight. No problem.

She then asked me to lie down on the exam table: It was time for an EKG. She showed me the leads, and then took out a squeeze bottle. With German, some broken English, and her shaking the bottle over my chest and then mimicking “brrrrrr, cold,” I understood what would happen. Plus, I knew that leads needed a conductor. We were ready to start.

She then returned to a medical cart and said one more thing to me in German, motioning again to my chest. “OK?” she asked, and smiled.

“Yes, of course, no problem,” I replied. Some squirts of cold gel, no big deal, I was ready.

And two seconds later I realized I should know German better.

She was coming towards me with a razor.


She must have seen the look on my face, because she started laughing. She mimicked scraping the razor over different sections of my chest, the places where the leads needed to go. I had agreed to have my chest shaved.

She took the razor and scraped away. Next, she slapped a wide swath of medical tape over the areas she shaved. The tape came away with a surprisingly large amount of hair. My physical was turning into the depilation scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

I was now ready for my EKG and a party in South Beach.

Note to self: Saying “Yah” with a German accent does not mean you understand the question.

For those curious, at the end of the exam, my doctor pronounced me “practically normal.” Which is about as close to normal as I’m ever going to get.

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