Do You Drink?

by Al Drinkle

I try to avoid going to the doctor but when I do, awkward conversations inevitably arise.

“Do you drink?”

It always begins as if this line of questioning is just routine, but the topic soon commandeers the discussion.

“How many drinks would you say that you indulge in per week?”
“Well, that’s somewhat difficult to quantify…”

The issue is never relevant to the reason for my visit and the vagueness of my answer is meant to invalidate the question. Instead, it inspires curiosity.

“Are we talking more than seven drinks per week?”
“Yah, probably.”
“How much more?”
“Well, it’s hard to generalize for the average week. But maybe one per day, I guess.”
“So that’s seven, right? One drink per day makes seven per week.”
“Well, perhaps sometimes it’s more like one bottle of wine per day…”
“Oh, I see.”

If my wife happens to be present, she might attempt to safeguard my honesty by pointing out that such a day wouldn’t be much of an anomaly. By this point, the bewildered doctor is more intent on pursuing the quest for the truth than she is with the original reason for my visit.

“So let’s make this more simple – would it be accurate to say that you drink one bottle of wine per day?”
“Would it ever be the case that you drink more than one bottle?”

This line of questioning seems increasingly accusatory and I’m sufficiently reminded why I put off the visit for so long.

“Occasionally. But sometimes less…”

She then takes liberties on the quantities we’re discussing.

“So if we average it out at about one and a half bottles per day, with six drinks per bottle, that makes an average of nine drinks per day.”

I wonder if she wants me to congratulate her on her math skills. For some reason, I still care enough to point out that wine has varying degrees of alcohol and that several of my favourites are probably more hydrating than debilitating. I immediately regret perpetuating this inane conversation.

“Have you been drinking today?”

My wife and I have just come from lunch. A glass of wine is part of lunch.

As the doctor embarks upon a lengthy diatribe concerning the negative effects of alcohol, my mind wanders to the birds flitting outside; I reminisce about my first guitar; I consider Dostoyevsky with a bag over his head on the firing line; I recall a Valençay tartine I once enjoyed… She finally finishes, and with an aplomb that confirms she’s completely forgotten why I sought her services in the first place.

“Okay, noted. So what about this lump on my back – should I be concerned?”
“It’s just lipoma. Completely benign but it can be removed if you like.”

I would like that, and she schedules an appointment with a specialist for me – a good man, and thorough, I’m told. I’m sure that the specialist will not inquire as to how many bags of chips I eat per week (zero) or how often I participate in dessert (virtually never), but like his colleague whose clinic I’m now taking leave of will almost certainly take considerable interest in my drinking proclivities. I can hardly wait.