Archive for January, 2011


January 29, 2011

Yes. The National Health Service is as every bit as wonderful as you’ve imagined, you pinkie leftist.

It really is. In Britain, if you have a name and a sniffle, you can see a doctor. If you’re at a walk-in clinic, it doesn’t even have to be your name: they don’t ask for your ID.

No one asks for your insurance or a co-pay either. And you don’t have to fork over $12 an hour for parking. (I’m talking to YOU, Santa Monica Bay Physicians.)

The wait, yes, is long. But it’s shorter than the wait at the average DMV. And there’s something almost warming about sitting there for an hour or two, surrounded by your neighbors, people who’ve come from the four corners of Britain’s former empire – all of us fellow humans, all of us with coughs and warts, sprains and wheezes – knowing that all of us will get the same care in the end. It’s a very democratic feeling.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to socialized medicine. I’m talking mainly about the pee cup situation.



January 29, 2011

On a recent visit to the NHS – for symptoms which will not be blogged about – the receptionist handed me a cup and told me, “Get this ready. The loo is right in the waiting room.”

She wasn’t kidding. Going in, I felt a bit conspicuous: everybody knows what I’m doing. And then: can everybody HEAR what I’m doing?

But the anxiety soon faded, because aiming into a pee cup – especially if you’re a girl – requires concentration. The more so in England, where pee cups are narrow, like champagne flutes. But I managed to finish.  Then looked around for the little pee mailbox they always have in doctor’s office bathrooms.*

Except, apparently, in English doctor’s office bathrooms. I stood there for a few minutes, dismayed, reading the Chlamydia awareness posters and wondering where to put my pee. Finally, I took action: I wrapped the cup in my fist, raised my chin, and fled past the crowd back to the receptionist.

“Do you… want this?” I asked, trying to make it sound polite, like I was offering her a  candy.

No, she said. I was to keep it. In my hand. In the waiting room. For at least an hour.



* You know what I’m talking about: the stainless steel box with doors on both ends. You put the specimen in your door, and the nurse takes it out of her door, without any loss of dignity to either party.