Today I had to go for my pre-employment medical.
I can’t say I’ve ever particularly thought about what a Korean hospital might be like, so it would be wrong of me to say that it was nothing like I expected. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
The building itself felt more like a grand hotel, or at least a very posh shopping boutique. Dozens of escalators stretched seemingly to the sky, and huge fountains and ornate waterfall displays flowed majestically all around. Maybe it’s to take your mind off whatever has brought you there: in my case, the necessity of being poked and prodded like a medical experiment before I’m allowed to impart knowledge to 7-year-olds.
And they do it with military precision. One girl was assigned to me, possibly because she could speak English. And she simply marched me around an entire floor of the hospital, from one room to the next, putting me into the hands of the person in each room – who did things to me as if I was a work in progress on an assembly line conveyor belt, before chucking me out to my supervisor again.
Blood pressure taken. Move to next room.
Pee in a cup. Move to next room.
Blood samples taken.
Difficulties arose at this point, as they always do when anyone wants to take my blood. It’s not that I begrudge them it, but my body seems to have other ideas. They can never find a vein, and when they do, the blood comes out very slowly – which must be abnormal, because it always, always makes whoever’s taking it call out in alarm to a colleague for a second opinion.
I was glad to have prior experience of this, because I think I might have been terrified at the sudden appearance of half a dozen nurses flocking around me and exclaiming in Korean. As it was, I just did my usual anti-fainting exercises and tried not to watch them.
Head spinning, I trotted off as quickly as I could to the next room, where I was weighed and measured in several places. Next room.
Eye test. Could barely stand still at this point due to blood loss and vein-search pain, and am pretty sure all the letters were much blurrier than they would have been a few minutes earlier. Next room.
Hearing test. Got shut into a booth thing with headphones and a clicker. This was actually quite good fun. Next room.
Had to perform a semi-strip for some kind of chest scan. I dunno. Next room.
The fastest dental check-up I have ever had: quite literally up into the chair, head back, mouth open, mirror swiftly moved from one side of mouth to the other, all done, get out. Next room.
Colour-blindness test. Next room.
I’m pretty sure this went on for even longer, but I was just dazed by the end of it all, and most of it is a rather surreal and confusing blur. It ended with a woman (who couldn’t speak much English) with a stethoscope, listening as I breathed in and out. This was the bit I was dreading, having chain-smoked ever since June, never mind being overweight and not in the greatest physical condition. My lungs are wrecked, and I know it. I could see it in the woman’s eyes, but I think she was too polite to tell me that I’m a fat, lazy, unhealthy slob. Either that, or her vocabulary was too limited. She settled for a shy smile and “You will please exercise, and eat diet?”.
I couldn’t help laughing. “I will eat diet,” I assured her.