I shouldn’t have come here, I thought, as I leaned over to look at the list of names posted outside the GP’s door at the clinic in the shopping center. “What time is your appointment?” an older woman with a head covering asked me. I hate this question. I don’t know the other people on the list and if I tell the truth − “My appointment is for 6:30” – she could reply, “So you’re after me, I’m at 6:20,” when her appointment is really only at 6:40. As it is, doctors are always running late and no one ever goes in at the scheduled time.

“Six-thirty,” I answered truthfully, as I glanced at my watch and saw that it was now 6:35. “So you’re after me,” said the woman. “I’m at 6:20, and there’s somebody before me.” She pointed to a man who was playing some game on his cell phone.
“He’s at 6:10.”

Maybe I’ll just go home, I thought. Now I’ll have to wait another hour until it’s my turn, and I think I’m really fine. It’s probably just a little fatigue, a little bit of a cold. I really didn’t have to be in such a hurry to make a doctor’s appointment. Maybe I should have waited until the morning to see how I feel.

Another woman comes in and scans the list for her name and appointment time. “What time are you?” the older woman inquires. “Six-forty,” replies the patient who arrived at 6:40, covering her mouth as she coughs. “So you’re after him,” says the older lady, gesturing toward me. “There are three people ahead of you,” says the woman, who has appointed herself operations manager.

“Oh, look he’s leaving now,” she says as the door to the doctor’s office begins to open. “It’s your turn,” she tells the guy with the cell phone, who charges for the door in a flash.

There’s nothing wrong with me, I know it, and it’s going to be kind of embarrassing to go into the doctor’s office just because of a little tiredness and a tickle in the throat that started this morning. I’m sure I don’t have a fever, I tell myself, as I nevertheless casually touch the back of my hand to my forehead, hoping against hope that a fever might have shown up. But no such luck.

“Yes?” says this doctor whom I’ve never been to before, when my turn finally comes and I sit down across from him. “I feel ... a little ... um, not so hot...” I stammer. “It just started so I thought − I’ll come right away and...”
“Card please,” he commands. I hand it over, he swipes it and hands it back. “Yes?”
“So, um, I think I feel something in my throat,” I say, pointing to my throat as if this is the first time he has ever heard of such a body part.
“Does it hurt when you swallow?”
“Um, not really,” I reply, shamefaced.
“Do you smoke?”
“Yes.”
“How much?”
“I try not to go over a pack a day,” I lie.
“You’re aware that it’s already doing you a little harm, and before long it will be serious harm.”
“Yes,” I respond and, like an idiot, attempt a lame joke. “But I’m afraid of dying in a car accident.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” he asks, realizing that I am a complete idiot and giving me an enrollment form for a workshop to quit smoking. I promise that I will sign up. Then he asks me to sit on the examining table.
At his request, I open my mouth and say, “Aaaaaaahhhhh.”
“It does look a little red, but it’s impossible to tell for sure.”

I’m thrilled that it’s a little red − a little is still something, enough so I won’t feel like I’m just being a nuisance and imposing on the health system. “We’ll do a throat culture,” says the doctor, thrusting a long plastic stick into my mouth.

“So what did the doctor say?” asks my wife when I get home just as she’s prepared a bottle for the crying baby. What a tough week it’s been; everybody’s been sick. Fever, germs, sleepless nights, and just when things at home have finally calmed down, I start to feel this slight tickle in my throat. “A red throat,” I tell her.
“Do you have a fever?”

“No,” I say, furtively checking my forehead once more.

“So go help your son with his Arabic homework, and then get him to take a shower.”
In the morning I feel a bit worse. Runny nose, headache, more tickling in the throat but no difficulty swallowing − yet. And no fever. I drive the kids to school and then drive to work, feeling very weak.

“How are you?” asks the producer when he notices me looking a bit slumped over and walking slowly. “Not so great. I feel tired and weak all over, and I have this slight tickle...”

“Do you have a fever?”
“No.”

“So listen,” he continues, “we have to make progress with the episodes. We have a presentation next week.”

I sit in front of the computer screen, trying to concentrate, without success. My eyes keep drooping and my headache is just getting worse. But there’s no fever, and the doctor didn’t prescribe rest. I have no right to rest, I’m thinking, as I call the number I got from the lab at the HMO to find out the results of my throat culture.

I leap out of my chair when I hear the words, “It’s Type-A strep, please see a doctor for further treatment.” I feel happier than I’ve been in quite awhile.

“I have strep,” I inform the producer, unable to suppress a huge grin. “I have strep,” I call my wife at work right away to tell her the big news. “I have strep and I need antibiotics. I’m sick. I’m officially sick!”

The drive to the clinic is like a wonderful dream. I listen to upbeat music and sing along the whole time, and I’m still humming as I pick up the prescription for the antibiotics. I smile at the pharmacist and even leave him a tip ‏(which he takes‏). I have strep and I can go home and get in bed! I have a bug and I can read a book without any guilt feelings. I’m sick and it’s official and no one can claim that I’m faking it, that I’m just goofing off. I’m sick and I know it’s a golden opportunity to ignore life’s crazy rat race and rest for a day, two days even. I’m sick and I’m so elated − and I know that all this excitement is the only reason my fever has gone up.