You Can Have Fun When You Die


Apr 02, 2014 | 4:18 pm


Gina B. Nahai

You Can Have Fun When You Die

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Journal. View Original.

“So, what do you do?” the doctor asks.

“When?” I answer.

“Just … every day.”

“You mean … for work?”

“Or otherwise.”

“I’m a writer.”

“You are?”


He’s still waiting. I wait, too.

“So … what else do you do?”

What’s wrong with this guy? I wonder. First, he makes me wait in his stuffy, overcrowded waiting room for a whole hour past my appointment time, then he sends in a nurse, then a physician’s assistant to ask what’s wrong with me and why I’m there, as if the 200-page questionnaire the woman at the front desk made me fill out didn’t cover my financial, social and health history. And now he strides in, all fresh-faced and chipper and interested, it seems, in anything but my upper-respiratory condition.

“I don’t know … I teach writing,” I say, hoping this will be the end of the small talk.

“You do?”


Do doctors ever read the answers they make you write in the questionnaires? Or their nurse’s and PA’s notes? Because, really, everything this guy is asking me is already answered on Page 1 of the encyclopedia I’ve had to write while waiting to be called out of the formal waiting room and into a so-called examination room, which is really just another waiting room, but with a bed and sink and a nurse who asks a thousand intrusive questions, then says, “Doctor will be with you in a few minutes,” and leaves. All this, in the middle of a workday.

The doctor’s still waiting for me to say something.

“I have three kids,” I say, “but they’re all grown.”

He’s still waiting.

Is this guy an ENT or a psychologist?

“Can we talk about why I’m here?” I ask.

He finally gives me a prescription for some antibiotics and lets me get back to work. A week later, his office sends a postcard thanking me for my visit and (this is very classy of them) apologizing for the wait. The respiratory issues are resolved, but the question, spurious as it seemed at the time, stays with me, settles in, and begins to weigh like guilt. What do I do, I wonder, and why wasn’t it enough for the good doctor?

I don’t do much, you see, but I spend all my time doing it. In fact, my entire waking life, these days, consists of two states: I’m either writing or not writing.

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Written by Gina B. Nahai
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Categories: Articles

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