By Craig J. Cantoni
Feb. 12, 2009
It had been five years since Winston had been to the doctor. The last time was in January, 2009, the month before the Stimulus Bill was passed.
Although he was doubled over in pain from whatever ailed his digestive tract, Winston spent two hours standing on a packed public bus to get to the doctor’s office. He could no longer afford gas for his car, because gas was selling for $8 a gallon, due to hyperinflation from the Stimulus Bill and to global warming restrictions on oil drilling and production.
Strangely, as Party officials passed the bus in their chauffeured Chevy Suburbans, the exhausted, resigned expressions on the faces of his fellow passengers didn’t change. They showed no sign of anger at the brazen hypocrisy. Many still wore their Obama Hope & Change buttons, like a drowning man refusing to take off a heavy overcoat that is pulling him under the water.
The line to the doctor’s office snaked down the hallway and out the door of the office building, which, like most office buildings, was now owned by the government and inhabited by Party apparatchiks and businesses controlled by the Party. The formerly pristine building had turned grimy and shabby, resembling buildings in East Germany before the Berlin Wall had been torn down.
After a three-hour wait, Winston was finally shoved into an examining room. “Take your clothes off and sit here,” said the gruff nurse in the soiled scrubs as she pointed to a blood-spattered examination table. Above the table was a large poster of the new Health & Human Services Commissar. The caption read, “Big Brother is watching your doctor for your good.”
The nurse turned on the wall-mounted telescreen on the way out of the examining room. A smiling face of Tom Daschle appeared on the screen. At that moment, Dr. Weinstein walked in, carrying a stopwatch and wearing a Hope & Change button.
“Hi, Dr. Weinstein,” Winston said as he simultaneously smiled and grimaced in pain. “It’s been a long time.”
Getting a blank stare in return, Winston continued: “Don’t you remember me? We used to be active together in the ACLU.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dr. Weinstein stammered as he glanced up at the telescreen, with fear spreading over his face. “Look, I’ve been allotted five minutes by the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology to examine you, so stop wasting time with small-talk.”
“What’s the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology?” Winston asked.
With that, the image of Tom Daschle began speaking from the telescreen. “The National Coordinator of Health Information Technology was a provision put into the Stimulus Bill of 2009, based on an idea of mine to improve medical outcomes and reduce healthcare costs by taking judgment and the profit motive away from doctors. As with all doctors, Dr. Weinstein has to follow strict procedures and protocols in order to protect your privacy and health. Remember, eavesdropping ensures privacy, and inflexibility ensures good care.”
“Two minutes left,” said Dr. Weinstein as he looked at his stopwatch.
After Winston hurriedly described his symptoms, Dr. Weinstein typed some information into the telescreen. A few seconds later, a bottle of medicine wrapped in brown paper dropped from a pneumatic tube into a bin.
Looking at the telescreen, Dr. Weinstein s spoke loudly, “It’s wonderful how efficient healthcare has become. No paperwork. No middlemen. No greedy pharmaceutical companies.” Handing the bottle to Winston, he said, “Here, take a tablespoon of this once a day.”
On the way home on the bus, Winston tore the paper wrapper off the bottle. The label read, “Soylent Green.”
An author and columnist, Mr. Cantoni has been having severe abdominal pains from ingesting too much hope and change. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.