It has not been a good week for me, dear Reader.
I have been, frankly, sick as hell — to the point I’ve lost about a pound of body weight a day for the past four days due to not being able to keep any food down. Today’s pukefest was the straw that broke the dromedary’s back, and I decided to take the day off to get some rest and go see a doctor.
I enter the neighborhood clinic. I explain my symptoms to the doctor, a man who acts as if he’s in a terrible hurry despite the fact that I am the sole patient in his clinic.
“I’ve been throwing up for days,” I explain. “I have occasional hot-chills, and my joints hurt. I think it’s a flu bug.”
The doctor examines me. He examines me to the point where I want to smack him for prodding my stomach and asking, “How is this?” when the previous several prods have almost made me throw up and I have through gritted teeth informed him of such.
Finally, Dr. Prodder determines that what I have isn’t a flu bug but a stomach virus. He begins writing out a prescription.
“Also,” I mention, “I had to take a day off work for this, so could you please write me a shindansho?” I ask, using the word for a doctor’s certificate. As in, the thing that can prove to my bosses I was actually being seen by a doctor and wasn’t out getting piss drunk or something.
“What would you like it to say?” Dr. Prodder responds.
This takes me back a bit.
You’re the goddamn doctor, I think to myself. You’ve examined me, now just put something about this experience on a piece of paper.
I look at him. He looks at me, obviously expecting an answer.
“Uh … That I didn’t go to work because I felt like I had flu-like symptoms, and that you examined me for it?” I ask.
Dr. Prodder looks at me, tilts his head to one side as if not quite understanding where I’m going.
“As in, mention your condition and prescribed medication?”
As sick as I am, I want to put my foot through the back of this guy’s head.
He grunts, scribbles something into my file and mentions that a shindansho will take chotto (“just a little”) more money. I say that’s fine. And then I’m practically being shooed out the door.
I’m told my bill at the receptionist’s window: 4,200 yen, or roughly $42. In America I wouldn’t have blinked at a bill like that, but I’ve gotten used to doctor’s fees here regularly being in the $5-$10 range. Regardless, I fork over the cash.
Once outside, I give my shindansho a glance-over. Unlike the last one I received for that time when the people of Tokyo decided to screw up my back, this one is actually handwritten.
And the writing is so terrible that I can barely make out what it says.
“Virus … Work … Medicine something. What the fuck is this?!”
I get frustrated, move my attention from the shindansho to the printout of my bill.
Visitation fee: cheap. Medicinal fee: cheap.
Cost for written materials — i.e., my shitty illegible shindansho:
3,000 yen. Thirty goddamn U.S. dollars.