I went to the hospital yesterday. I’m not sick: I’ve got a vision problem that refused to wait for attention any longer. Due to some small retinal tears, I have been viewing the world through drifting clouds in one eye. I had laser surgery, but apparently it hadn’t done the trick. I put off one appointment as COVID-19 was climbing toward its peak. But I couldn’t wait forever. So I grabbed my mask, mustered up my courage, and ventured forth.
Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown looks more like a country club than a hospital. That’s what you get when a wealthy family owns most of the town. But right now, no matter how posh the hospital, it feels a bit scary.
The parking lot, usually packed with cars, instead had scattered cars, most of them with their engines running. I found out why as I approached the entrance of the clinic building. A sign asked visitors to call in from their car, wait until they get a phone call inviting them in, and made it clear that no one but patients are allowed inside.
I was brought right in, and two nice ladies in masks asked me questions about how I was feeling, took my temperature, and asked if I’d travelled anywhere lately.
I laughed. “I’ve gone nowhere,” I told them.
They laughed, too.
When I got to the doctor’s office, the receptionist, shielded behind a hanging plexiglass sheet, asked me those questions again. The waiting room looked like a closed restaurant; the chairs were all pushed together, making it clear no one was welcome to wait around. I was the only one in the waiting room.
My appointment was odd, too. Masks all around, lots of sanitizing, all of us being hyper-careful about everything.
“It’s my first day back here,” the nurse told me. “We all got reassigned to deal with the virus when it first hit. It’s been strange. It’s really good to be back.”
The doctor, a very nice, socially awkward guy, examined the inside of my eyeball, and concluded I needed another laser treatment.
So there we were, almost nose to nose or, in this case, mask to mask, silently getting the job done.
When it was over, I asked him whether this whole situation had been weird for him.
He proved a master of understatement.
“A little,” he told me.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.