The Best of Andy Rooney

Several years ago, I had a frank talk with my doctor. He's 10 years younger than I am, and I told him that there were things I expected of him, and one of those things was that I expected him to outlive me. I had no interest in breaking in new medical help.

Well, the worst has happened. My doctor is alive but he retired. That was an eventuality I'd never considered. It was a bad back, HMOs and paperwork that drove him out of the office and I have no right being resentful of him. I am, though.

Now I have to find a new doctor. My retiring doctor recommended his replacement, and I went to her once and tentatively liked her. But now she's leaving the office because she feels she was neglecting her children in favor of her patients. That's what I wanted her to do, and I'm sorry she's leaving, even though I was a little uneasy about how good-looking she was.

Now, I'm faced with a brand-new problem. I've never had to go out and look for a doctor, and I don't know how to do it. You wouldn't catch me going to anyone in the Yellow Pages, and you can't take advice from your friends about their doctors because it would be unreliable. Everyone says his or her doctor is great. I don't think I ever heard anyone say that they go to a doctor who is bad or even only fair. People like their doctors, whether they're any good or not.

A newspaper ad is a possibility, I suppose:

WANTED: Doctor. All purpose; no specialists need apply. Must be neither too young nor too old. Please submit price of yearly checkup and other pertinent figures. Need dedicated physician more interested in my health than my money. Good opportunity for someone interested in a patient with good future illness potential but with genetic longevity. Prefer M.D. who gets into office early.

The trouble with a newspaper ad is that no good doctor would answer one. I don't want a doctor who's looking for patients. I want one who's so good and so popular that he doesn't have time to take on a new patient like me. If I find a doctor who accepts me as a patient, I'll be very suspicious.

There are minor factors I'd take into consideration getting a new doctor. For economy's sake, I'd prefer one who accepts HMO patients, but I'd also like one so independent that he wouldn't join an HMO.

Proximity to my home is a factor. The appearance of the doctor's waiting room is another. I don't want to sit there for half an hour with nothing to read but a 3-month-old copy of Scientific American.

I'd like to know a little about the doctor's lifestyle before I sign up. It wouldn't bother me if he were pretty well off, but I don't want a doctor whose wife drives a Mercedes convertible. I'd prefer that he mows his own lawn.

Before I sign up with a doctor, I'd want to examine his examination room. Usually the nurse says, "Please remove your clothes. The doctor will be with you in a minute." Then I'm left stark naked with no place to sit but a cold, plastic-covered metal chair and nothing to read but the doctor's license to practice.

My retiring doctor also had a sign up that said: "Advice for living a long life: Have parents that lived a long life." This didn't give me a lot of confidence. I'm not susceptible to humor when I'm naked and about to be examined.

I have one last and important thing I want to know before I sign up with a new doctor. I'm going to call the office and make sure I can find my way through his telephone answering system before I die of old age.

This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published Aug.12, 1998

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