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At the GP, I make a crucial discovery – not about my health, but about my personality | Zoe Williams

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SAt some point around your 40th birthday, you receive a letter from your GP asking you to come for a technical check-up, and from now on, this letter will arrive every five years and the first time, everyone ignores it. definitively. The second time I had mine, it was in the middle of the first wave of Covid. Wait, the math isn’t stacking up on this: maybe the second time I skipped it, again. Then maybe the pandemic has militated against the recall of the surgery, or somehow, even though it’s not near my birthday, and I’m neither 40 nor 45. years, and certainly not 50, I received the blow. In fact, a text. Just come and get on a machine, he implores. At any time of the day, there is no need to chat with a nurse.

I met my ex-husband on entering. “How come you went to the doctor when I also go to the doctor?” ” I interrogated. He nodded, in a shorthand developed over time to indicate that this is the list of questions you are no longer allowed to ask once you are divorced, as well as, “What is that big crack in your wall? And “Have you seen Line of Duty?”, And in fact, now that I’m digging, this list goes really long. I can’t stand not being allowed to ask intrusive questions. I feel like a working dog, bred for generations to hunt sheep, transported to an environment without sheep, then berated for chasing cars.

Inside, the machine stood in a corner, and around it were everyone roughly my age that I had ever seen in the neighborhood. There were two women whom I vaguely recognized as having had children older than mine in elementary school. The guy who ran the corner store, before it was turned into a children’s photography studio, before it went bankrupt, to the delight of anyone who preferred when it was a store, was standing on the machine. “This machine won’t tell your weight,” she said in a metallic voice. Obviously now all I wanted to know was how much he weighed, even if it was none of my business and, realistically, I could have guessed.

It is etiquette, when walking around a prison, not to ask anyone what is going on. It is fashionable not to chat with strangers in the reception room of a practice. These are more than just conventions: there are situations where people may find themselves that they don’t want to describe to a stranger, and these situations are more likely to occur in a criminal or medical setting than in a bar. cocktails. But I had a bunch of questions, and not being allowed to ask them made my quest for knowledge more imperative. I wanted to know how the kids in the school gate troop were doing, what high school they were in, how they found it, what their background was like, if they had tattoos or piercings or whatever. Only middle-aged women need to find out about this stuff and we can’t explain why.

“This machine won’t talk about your weight,” the weighing robot repeated to a new patient, who replied, “Maybe you just don’t talk at all? And we all chuckled, then quickly looked at our feet, and damn it, he was exactly the kind of person who wouldn’t mind chatting, only now that he was gone, and I’ll never know if I did. ‘had half recognized from the dry cleaners or some other place, and I didn’t even know how much it weighed. Two other women knew each other better than we did, and one had recently quit her job, and she was trying to describe why, except that strong emotions were interrupting the narrative coherence, and the other was making no effort to get to the root of that. here, just by saying “Mmm, what a horror”. Attractive. Like watching an unsubtitled movie in a foreign language.

I have become a person who wants to mind everyone’s business. I was there to paint a picture of the sad statistics of my waning vigor and, instead, took an inventory of all the things that have recently interested me, which, in fact, is all. Culturally speaking, the passer-by is such a fun figure, but what the culture doesn’t understand is how much we appreciate him.

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