Height of Insult

January 2, 2024 at 2:42 p.m.

...by Dick Wolfsie

I hate to bore you with the health complaints of a 76-year-old, but I’m hopeful my experiences will help others. My story begins with a medical scare and a series of doctor appointments. So many, in fact, that the phlebotomist at my internist's office started welcoming me with "Oh, no, not you again!" which is not the kind of greeting I want at a lipid lab. By the way, all is fine.

In the course of the diagnostic process, they scanned my brain. Inside the MRI, I felt like a cigar in its tube. During the hour-long procedure, I had a flashback to a high school trigonometry class where I also stared at a blank ceiling, listening to strange indecipherable sounds. At the hospital they give you a little buzzer to press if the experience becomes unbearable, a courtesy never afforded me by Mr. Lowenstein, my 12th grade math teacher.

A nurse called the next day to say that after examining my brain scan, they were pleased to report they didn't find anything. Obviously this was good news, but did the test results have to be phrased quite that way?

I visited a few specialists, each exam requiring that I have my blood pressure, height and weight rechecked.

I had never really paid any attention to my height. On my license, my passport and all medical questionnaires, I always listed myself as 5' 10"—not as tall as my dad (a strapping six-footer) but taller than my mom, a petite 5' 3". I knew I was 5' 9 1/2", but I always rounded it up. I mean, who was I hurting?

"Okay," said one nurse after measuring my vitals, "blood pressure 123 over 80, height 5' 8", weight 165. Very good, Mr. Wolfsie, now please step over here and…”

 "Whoa! How tall did you say I was?"

 "That would be 5 feet, 8 inches—in your socks, which adds a little, of course."

 "Look, first of all, I'm 5' 10", maybe 5' 9 1/2", and second of all, these are nylon dress socks, and very thin."

"Whatever you say, Mr. Wolfsie. Please grab one of the blue robes off that hook on the door…if you can reach it."

That afternoon when I got home, I asked my wife how tall she thought I was. "Well, let's see, when I'm in heels, I'm taller than you, and I'm 5' 7", so I guess I'd say you are 5' 8". And you're still about as cute and adorable as can be."

"But when we got married, I told you I was 5' 10".

"I figured you rounded it up from 5' 7".

And that's the end of the story. No life-threatening illness, but I'm either a pathological liar (misrepresenting my height for almost 50 years) and need some psychological counseling—or I am (and this is tough to admit) shrinking.

I haven't decided which one it is. I guess it's going to depend on which one is covered by my medical insurance.

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