Just a Symptom of My Occupational Disease

By Doug Jentoft

"An epiphany awaits us all. Look around, be patient, and don't be sorry."
—Shadout Dickles D.C.

I am a new student at the local chiropractic college. I am going to be a doctor. A real professional. Now, I never really thought I'd ever attempt something so ambitious, 'cause that I am not, but every once in awhile I'll get irky… it compels me to some threshold. These are times of drawn-out explanations.

I don't know. Do I want to help people?

An alumnus from the college gave an interesting speech the other day. He owns a private practice on the North Side. He told little life anecdotes; perverse allegories he requested we keep off the record ("Stop the tapes, please"). They really happened. He wanted to make an impression. ("Husband asking his wife to put out for the mailman 'cause he's always so cheerful and punctual. Hell, she even made him eggs with bacon." )

The college contracted this alumnus to provide some motivational speaking for us. It shook up the regular routine, which is good—convincing us common schnooks that we're all ordinary people, taking on an extraordinary task. We all possess the inner strength to locate the knob that will shift our life force from endure to prevail.

Back when this alumnus enrolled years before, his classes had progressed in drudgery, with a burned-out, hippie mentality. There were narrow, dark hallways. Thoreau choked on balls.

Then came Trimester Five. It might have been spring. His wife was nine months pregnant, due up in those lousy dorms. Through some practical, spousal responsibility he learned a specialized, hippie-frontier, bone manipulation, or herb, or license… I forget, and I don't really care. It worked though, and his wife's labor ordeal spread like laxative glory—a great comparison to what many more ladies endured back then.

The word spread. All his wife's acquaintances, relatives, and pals were streaming in, wanting his treatment when their time was due. All of a sudden people were looking at him differently. The professional guise had befallen him and he was going to take it all the way! The dean eventually reprimanded him for practicing medicine without a license. Word was getting around. Our hero lied, and of course, the dean believed him. He graduated, mildly departed, and started a private practice chock-full of next generation's protégés. Happy ending.

He had come into his own. It was the spark. He found his bridge to chiropractic… real self-worth… ordinary people… blah, blah….Tear me…. Bury me….

The '70s marked a transition in the cadaver/student relationship. Who knows who Upton Sinclair was? Anyway, during the demolition of the 200 North Ashland campus in '68, the college sent a professor to clear up a few issues, onsite. He claimed that all the femurs, skulls, and broken coccyxes found by the backhoe were college property and not some satellite depot of Ed Gein's. For years the students had tossed the entrails and bones into some pit under the building—unwanted leftovers. I mean, those were the days. Anyway, somewhere along the way the cadavers must have formed some sort of way-out union, 'cause someone along the way shouted that this shit wasn't in their contract!

Nowadays, they've got them all prepped from far away, shipped from far away. No more Regurge-a-Tinas, swooning onto the lab-room floor when their dissection literally cries uncle. No more body-part practical jokes. No more trying to impress that dorm girl with a cleverly foot under her pillowcase. By the mid-'90s it had gotten so bad that even making yuks toward a cadaver's diminished state-of-being would earn one a reprimand out in the hall.

We were learning medical terminology one day for Small Group, and Carol kept saying, "Rule out? Is 'Rule-out' the same as 'R/O'?" I contorted my face and neck, doing my best rendition of a certain diagnosis photograph defiled inside my folder, and said, "Rule out Bell's Palsy!"

Bell's Palsy

It was instant yuks. Suddenly, she's my biggest fan. "Do Bell's Palsy! Do Bell's Palsy for everyone!"

I told her I wasn't her monkey. Nevertheless, she coerced me into the impression. What didn't help is by the week's end, Ptosis, Periorbial Edema, and Acromegaly were additions to my line-up.

Ptosis Periorbial Edema Acromegaly

I had arrived, come into my own. A scofflaw to whatever insensitive moral decadence I'd found myself fallen into.

The stakes run higher. Now, there's full-class pressure to sweep through all 30 diagnostic countenances, conditions, and impressions by the time Tuesday's Diagnosis final comes round. I'm trying to invoke reason: "There's no way I can raise my blood arsenic levels high enough for Mee's Lines to show at midnail. Not within a fortnight!"

Mee's Lines

Alapecia Areata's easy. It only requires shaving a chosen flank of the skull. Psoriasis entails driving numerous pockmarks into the fingernails with an awl. Iritis can be achieved, relatively easily, through a campaign of acute but sustained bong-hits. Gynecomastia, or "bitch-tits," develop, sound and sure, with transgender hormonal supplements. Gangrene? Painkillers with extensive topical applications of dry ice. It's all common sense, really.

alapacia Areata Psoriasis

Iritis Gynecomastia (this is a guy!)


Now a surge envelops me as I embark on my campaign of extraordinary acts. By test day, if potential is achieved, the slide show shall be nothing more than an artifact.

"Look at me! I'm a revolutionary, and one hell of a test aide at the same time."

I've bought an appointment calendar and it's fully ledgered. By Wednesday, I'll be accepting calls. I'm expecting a flurry of questions backed by rigorous consultations. And that dean, the one who buggered our beloved alumnus/motivational speaker with all those half-assed accusations? He's been dead for years, taking one on the slab. What rights does he hold?

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Copyright©2002 by Doug Jentoft

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