Last week, Brooke went to the dentist for a routine cleaning, which is a pretty big deal. Because when it comes to doctors Brooke harbors a level of distrust normally reserved for auto mechanics and street magicians. Not only does she find their inclination to dole out prescriptions suspicious (“If the meds really cured you, doctors would go out of business”), but she is convinced that, like every other blue-blooded capitalist venture, doctors are out to make a buck any way they can. Which isn’t to say that they’ll steal your wallet while off making a urine sample, but when it comes to costly tests, procedures, and medicines, their prescription is always the same: Apply liberally.
So when she made the appointment to see the dentist (going against another of her mantras: “Why go to the doctor if nothing’s wrong?” – as though we didn’t just watch the episode of “House” last night where a small boy comes in with a simple cough and nearly dies from something auto-immune), I was happy.
She left right after lunch, turning to me halfway out the door to say goodbye.
Me: “Good luck. Call me if you need anything.”
Brooke: “The dentist is stupid.”
After an hour, I began to get worried. Not that something was wrong, but that Brooke had been sitting there in the waiting room this whole time, her distrust growing more and more (“They sit you out there surrounded by sick people so you’ll be more inclined to sign off on unnecessary tests once they call your name!”) Finally, I got a phone call.
Me: “Hey! How’s it going there?”
Brooke: (on edge) “Can you do me a favor? I need the phone number for our insurance company.”
Me: “Is everything OK?”
Brooke: “Yeah, I . . . uh . . . I just need the number.”
From 1-10 on the weirdness scale, it was a 7. Still, she didn’t say “Edie” – the code word we devised if we ever needed to alert the other person that we were in danger. As in, “Oh, everything’s fine here. I’ll meet you later at EDIE’S like we planned.” So I went back to work and waited.
Over an hour later, Brooke came home. She walked through the door gingerly, as though she had just experienced something traumatic. Without saying a word, she sat at her desk and said, “I have some work to catch up on, but I’ll tell you about it later. I did something bad, something you can’t ever tell anyone about. But it’s OK now.”
In my head, I pictured the grizzly scene at the dentist’s office: blood, slain dental assistants everywhere, Brooke’s dentist tied to his chair by miles of dental floss, overdosing at that very moment from a sweet-air gas leak, a copy of Brooke’s heavily padded invoice stuck to his chest with the sharpened end of a toothbrush. It was disturbing.
That night in bed, Brooke revisited the topic. Scared that this conversation would quickly turn from pillow talk to aiding and abetting, I treaded lightly. “No need to tell me! It’s late, and everyone should have secrets.”
But she insisted.
“Listen, I’m not proud of it, but . . . OK, so I’m sitting there in the room after getting my x-rays done and some chippy dental assistant comes in with my chart. She starts saying that I can’t just get a regular cleaning, I need some special cleaning.” (Oh, no.) “She proceeds to pull out this laundry list of things that I need: tests, anesthesia, special toothpaste." (Dear God, I hope she didn’t have children.) "So immediately, I tell her that I need to talk to the doctor about this.
So the nurse leaves the room and I’ve got a bad feeling about the whole situation. I think, ‘I could just leave. I should – I should just leave.’ But then I remember that they already took x-rays and did a consultation. I signed all these forms, and they have my insurance information. So now I’m scared that they’ll find me if I just leave.
But then I notice that the nurse left my chart when she went to get the doctor . . .” (Cut to scene of me stuffing clothes in a duffel bag, checking the bus schedule.) “It just – it all happened so fast. I needed to act quickly because the door was open and the doctor would be in any second, so I just grabbed the chart, emptied out all the identifying forms, and stuffed them in my purse.”
Besides the fact that I’m pretty sure this sort of thing (i.e. stealing medical records) is frowned upon, if not straight-up illegal, I was concerned. Mostly because my girlfriend’s adorable quirkiness just went into overdrive. Like if her adorable quirkiness was the equivalent of a puppy playing with a kitten, this act was now a puppy pushing a kitten down a slide made of rainbows, while a mini-pony sat on a nearby stump playing an acoustic version of Feist’s “1-2-3-4”. Batshit adorable quirky.
She was quick to continue:
“But it’s OK! The doctor came in a few seconds later and explained everything to me. She was really nice. It turns out a lot of the stuff was optional, and she was just being safe with the special cleaning. So I told him that I needed to call my insurance company to see if they covered the special cleaning – and hey, they do! – so when she left the room again I quickly stuffed the papers back into the file. Except I forgot to replace this” (produces yellow envelope from purse) “which I was worried might have been my x-rays, but it turns out it’s empty! So everything’s fine!”
And while I do question Brooke’s liberal definition of the word “fine,” I’d be lying if I didn’t think it was totally hot that my girlfriend tried to lift her medical records from her dentist during an attempted escape from the office. Not that I’m planning a career shift to confidence man anytime soon, but if life is one big bit and you’re the proverbial mark, then having a partner in crime can come in pretty handy.