(Alex Fine/for The Washington Post)

I went to the doctor the other day. This would not ordinarily be news, but because of the pandemic, it is. For six months, like many people, I’ve been practicing home medical care. It has not gone well.

For one thing, my technical knowledge is limited to the research I did for a fraudulent humorous quack medical book I wrote 20 years ago. How disreputable and ignorant was it? For proper optical hygiene, for example, I suggested vigorously scouring your eyeballs with a toothbrush.

Anyway, the following conversation occurred in my house:

Me: Can you check the heel of my right foot?

Rachel: Whoa. That’s definitely something.

Me: “Definitely something” is your official diagnosis?

Rachel: It might be a carbuncle. I think if you can get it out with scissors, it’s probably a bleb. I am the only person in this house who can see the bottom of your foot, other than the dog, so I am the resident expert.

Me: You have no idea what you are talking about.

Rachel: No, but I think we could apply homespun remedies that have been used by ignorant idiots for millennia. We could bury a potato under a harvest moon, and see if that works out. We could also apply a poultice of whatever is around.

We looked around. Mostly, we found mustard and peanut butter and rainbow sprinkles. We don’t shop that much anymore. I did buy epsom salts, because I heard it was good for feet, but when I read the label I learned it is mostly used as a laxative.

We decided to watch my lump for a bit more time, and we did, until it became the size of a prune. Finally, I went to a podiatrist. Now you might think that confronting a doctor in a mask is no big deal, since doctors wear masks a lot, particularly if they are operating on you, which this doctor proceeded to do. He used scissors.


Doctor: It’s just a thing on your foot.

I swear he actually said that.

Another thing that happened during my home-medical period was that I now am missing a tooth. It’s a molar. I got it pulled and then the pandemic hit before I could get an implant, and then there were stories that in a pandemic dentists are more dangerous than Russian umbrella-stab political assassins. So I never got the implant. Dentally, I present to the world like a meth addict.

I do have an actual medical professional in my family whom I can, and do, go to for advice. It is my daughter, who is a veterinarian and who is very careful about not pretending to knowledge she doesn’t have. She knows everything, however, and humans are animals, too, and she gives good advice but I need to be subtle. When I call her I have to begin with a disclaimer such as “Okay, imagine I am a gopher ... ”

Anyway, I am trying to still stay away from doctors, which is why I didn’t bring Buster the cat to the local vet when he started convulsing in paroxysms of sneezing. We thought he might have covid-19, until Rachel noticed he had something protruding from a nostril. Using all of my medical experience, I pulled it out. It was a two-inch-long blade of grass.

Money saved: $200. Medical thrill: Priceless.

Email Gene Weingarten at gene.weingarten@washpost.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.

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