I haven't been to the doctor for a very long time. Occasionally I get 'Are you dead?' letters and invitations to have my blood pressure and cholesterol checked. I ignore them. At my age and with the current fetish for treating every deviation from perfection as an illness, it's certain they'll find something wrong with me. If I get sick I'll call in. Otherwise I see no reason to occupy the doctor's time, nor do I have any desire to sit in a waiting room full of sick people.
Today, a letter arrived.
Oh, a questionnaire. I assumed it would be along the lines of 'Are there any hereditary diseases in your family, a propensity to heart attacks, stroke, or cancer perhaps?'. You know, the sort of things doctors used to ask about in the old days.
Maybe it would be along the lines of 'You haven't been ill for years. What's wrong with you? Are you some kind of freak? Get out there and fall over something or catch something. Are you trying to put us out of a job?'
It was a single sheet of paper so I'd never have found the questionnaire if it hadn't had that handy PTO and arrow printed large there. So, my intelligence already insulted, I turned it over.
It should enlarge if you click on it. There's no need, really. It has two questions - do you smoke, and what kind of ethnic are you. That's it. As I read it, I can opt out of answering the ethnic question, which just leaves one question.
I'll answer that question and send it back. I am going to lie. I am going to tick 'ex-smoker' and if I should have the misfortune to have to visit a doctor, I will always say I have stopped smoking.
In a sense, that's always true. I can't smoke indoors except at home and at the Smoky Drinky places therefore every time I enter any other building, I stop smoking. I start again after I leave but since I'll only ever discuss my health with a doctor indoors, at that point in time I am not able to smoke and have therefore stopped smoking. Not 'given up'. Stopped. It's different.
They will always ask 'Do you smoke?'
My answer: 'I have stopped. I have an Electrofag. Would you like a demonstration?'
'Do you drink?'
'Not for some time now' (where 'some time' is defined as 'not in this waking period. Yet').
Assuming I don't die before he gets around to asking why I visited, he might even get the chance to do some actual doctoring. You never know. Although judging by Mummylonglegs' experience, it isn't likely. I wonder if, in among all the training in social engineering, medical students get the chance to learn about medicine too? I hope there's at least some of the original course left.
What I'd really like from the doctor is my death certificate so I can send a copy to the taxman. They're a bit strict on that one, unfortunately. You have to really be dead. They can spot it if you're faking, too.
The prepaid envelope goes to the 'data collation department' of the small health centre here. A Righteous title for the receptionist who has to sort the answers. Add to that the letter's claim that the information is added to your record and then 'held in the strictest of confidence' (oh, ha ha ha) and I think it's clear why I have no compunction about lying to these people.
The absolute killer is the first line of the letter. 'The Government requires...' I should be rushing to provide the government with information irrelevant to the function of government? I should consider my answers carefully and not lie to the government? Why? They have no problem lying to me.
They have made my life a misery for years. Now they are tracking smokers, and I, for one, have become too suspicious of their motives to put my head out with a target on it.
Besides, if every smoker took the same line, what justification would there be for funding ASH? The government's own figures would show we don't exist.
That's the message. Now for the bottle.
It contains - or to be more accurate it now mostly contains - Aberlour 10-year-old. It was, after all, a successful day.
Update: I've only just noticed something. The letter has my name and address on the front. On the back, at the top of the form, is a space to write my name.
And my date of birth. From the doctor's office. Of all the people who should already know that, surely the doctor's office has to be top of the list?
I think a little test is in order. Will they notice if I fill in the wrong name and date? Risky, mind, they might just send the padded van.