By the skin of my teeth
Last week I went to see a private dermatologist about my spotty, scaly face.
It did not go well.
First off, I headed to the Calle Santiago – one of my favourite streets in Alcalá for its sheer “Spanishness” – and looked for No. 15. Unfortunately, the street numbers were in no particular order, although they were all odd (as in not even). There was a line of 11, 19, 7 and further up (or down) 13, 17, 21.
In emulation of Harry Potter seeking Platform 9 and three quarters at King´s Cross Station (where ARE the fractions on my keyboard?), I scrutinised the wall between 13 and 17 for 15 and even had a quick look across the road to the even numbers, just in case. No luck.
Maybe it only becomes manifest in motion, I thought, darting right, left, right 13/15, 15/13, as fast as I could. A miniscule, disused entrance seemingly abandoned as Joseph Bonaparte quit Spain did now become visible to me, but there was no Number 15.
Passersby were beginning to think I was tap-dancing, so I called the dermatologist´s receptionist who advised me to look for a pub called Amsterdam. The clinic was next to it.
Amsterdam? But that´s across town, I thought. Oh well, maybe they´ve opened up a second one. So up and down, or down and up, I went, my appointment time coming and going, but no Amsterdam 2.
By this time, my dermatitis was itching its way into parts not even Heineken could reach.
Fortunately, help was at breakfast. There was a serviette-weilding trio standing at a tall table outside the Mesón José.
“Excuse me, but is there a pub called Amsterdam on this street?”
“Tut, tut. Calle San Diego.”
“I´m looking for a dermatologist.”
“Yes, upstairs. Pablo.”
“Yeah, yeah, he´s a friend of mine.”
Luckily, Alcalá is a pueblo masquerading as a town and everybody knows everybody else.
Then it hit me.
I was on the wrong Saint James street! The dermatologist was on San Diego and I was on Santiago. Diego and Iago are cognates!
Off I ran to the Amsterdam, stress hormones rendering my face positively reptilian. I had a quick fantasy of bursting into the bar and blowing the three twenties in my purse on drink, but I needed the cash for Dr. F.
So up I went, stretching my sore face into a placatory smile for the surly receptionist. As a young family emerged from the Doctor´s room, I took a seat in the spacious waiting room, happy to be in the one place where it was socially-acceptable to resemble something out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
I was sure I was going to be there all morning. There were two couples waiting already and two more came in alongside me. I was late and might have to wait till everybody else had been seen to. So I resigned myself to reading through the pile of beauty magazines beside me, trying not to find them directly insulting to me in my crustacean plight.
Since making the appointment I´d envisaged what might happen. It was a €60 consultation, so it would probably be a good forty or fifty minutes long. Better wear trousers, I´d decided, in case I need to sprawl down under a state-of-the-art magnascope so the Doctor can inspect my keratogenous physog. Better try and remember the things I used to be allergic to. I hope I can say them in Spanish.
I was just wallowing in pages of photo-shopped perfection, when Dr. F.´s door opened again and a couple strode in. Five minutes later, before I´d finished learning, appropriately, that topos (spots) are in fashion this autumn, I was called in myself.
It was twenty past ten.
Dr. F. shook my hand, tuteándome, which was nice. He sat a yard and a half away from me at his large desk and asked me what the problem was.
“My G.P. said I´ve got…”,
“… sebhorreic dermatitis.”
Good start. Seems to know his stuff, I thought, and from across the table too, though he was wearing thick glasses.
“And he prescribed this.”
I clattered a bottle and a tube onto the table.
“Not bad stuff…….,” he conceded with a sigh.
The fifty-something Doc got out a big prescription pad.
“What are you washing your face with?” he wondered, apathetically.
“From the fridge,” I added. I didn´t want him to think I was a goatherd.
“What are you moisturising your face with?” he was just about able to bring himself to ask.
“Coconut oil,” I said, with some defiance. I´m not entirely cocoloco, people on the net swear by it.
Dr. F. dragged his pen over the pad saying there were thousands of remedies for my condition. The effort of choosing one seemed to exhaust him. Finally, he said, “wash with this, va fenomenal. Moisturise with this. Va fenomenal. Take Vitamin H. The truth is, va…”
“fenomenal….” I agreed.
“So I won´t be stuck with this?”
“God, no,” he said, slumping defeatedly in his chair, and in answer to my query about diet he shrugged and said “ diet, pshaw, pues…”. Then, managing to drag his ennui over to a small storeroom, he tossed three little sample creams at me and a tube of something with Derma on it.
“See if you can tolerate this,” he said.
“If you can, great, if you can´t….,”.
Obviously it´s not his face that looks like the Battle of Hastings, I thought.
“I´m allergic to benzoates, cinnamates and preservatives in the 220 E Number range,” I avowed, challengingly.
Another, lighter shrug.
“So what´s the cause, Doctor?”
The shrug crept up to his mouth.
The good Doc shoved a prescription over at me, shook my hand and guided me into the storeroom. God, I´m so disfigured I´ve to stay in the cupboard, I thought, panicking, but it was actually a third door – the way out, straight into the jaws of the receptionist.
€60, she demanded, without the lightest blush of shame or tinge of rosacea.
It was twenty-two minutes to eleven.
Downstairs, I really considered hitting the Amsterdam, but I was skint, apart from my busfare. So I went home and looked up what the doctor had prescribed.
I, and the vast majority of the dermically-challenged, am sensitive to most of the ingredients. I´m sure some of them kept the crumbling, Russian Space Station in orbit for a while. A few seem apt for eliminating plagues of termite ants. A couple could force the Amazon and Antarctica to swap places.
I´m not using any of that stuff on my bum, let alone my face.
€60 for that.
How can Dr. F. justify charging such rates for a ten-minute consultation?
And what´s more, who would pay money for something like that?
People like that are just plain mad.
N.B. The names in this post have been changed to protect the wealthy.