Whatever health visits I have to do, I do them in Switzerland. I have all my doctors there since childhood. I trust them. I understand what they are telling me. I know the procedure. Not too many hand gestures, no weird jokes. But then I got tonsillitis, in summer, in Rome. The time had come to see an Italian doctor.
My tonsils swollen to the size of walnuts and simultaneously sweating and shivering from fever, I did some internet research, found a doctor I liked and gave him a call. He laughed at my accent, asked how I spell my name five times, made a time proposal and changed it and then said I could also come by that very hour. I caught the bus and drove off to the address he gave me, deep out into the Roman periphery.
When I got off after a 40-minute ride, I stepped into what seemed like an abandoned film set of an old horror movie. No one around as far as the eye could see, dark alleys and closed window shutters, the bus slowly disappearing in the distance.
How would I ever find this doctor? I gave him a ring and he promised he would come and get me at the bus stop. I waited in this eerie silence and asked myself what I was doing here while concentrating on not falling over from fever and exhaustion.
A few minutes later he arrived, white doctor’s overall and all, shook my hand and directed me towards one of the big houses with closed shutters that stood on the side of the street while cheerfully chatting about the Pope.
Instead of taking the elevator, he went down the stairs towards the cellar, opened a tiny door and told me to enter. Gone was the friendly face, out came the professional doctor mask. I was finding the whole situation increasingly strange but was too weak to be freaked out, and then felt relieved when I saw a few medical diplomas awkwardly hanging on the wall. There was no reception, no waiting room, no toilet for patients. In a what seemed extremely random gesture he opened the door to one of the connecting rooms.
I expected it to be a broom closet and was right – a big broom closet that had been converted into an examination room. He took out all his doctor utensils which could also have been torture instruments from the middle ages and started inspecting my throat.
He scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it over to me – my prescription. If I wanted a receipt, the visit would cost 100 Euro. If I didn’t want a receipt, it would be 80 Euro. I handed over 80 Euro.
As soon as he had the money, his doctor face turned into his friend face again, he handed me a helmet and offered me a ride on his Vespa back into the centre. I accepted and blame my fever for it.