One of the advantages of having reached old-age, other than the obvious of not having died young, is that I now have Medicare. I won’t quibble over the fact that I pay more for Medicare than I did under my previous Tricare plan, as I am making great use of Medicare by spending a lot of my free time at doctors’ appointments. However, I discovered at my last primary health care appointment that I am now required to have a Medicare appointment once a year, as well.

Not surprisingly, the Medicare appointment cannot be scheduled on the same day as the doctor’s appointment. I don’t know who stays up nights in government bureaucracy to dream up these rules, but I’m sure they get paid big bucks. After all, it would make too much sense to schedule the appointments for the same day at the same clinic to be a convenience to the patient. Not to mention the extra carbon footprint it requires to drive to the same clinic for a separate appointment on another day. I thought government was supposed to care about the environment. I could also point out the fact that requiring a senior citizen with slow reflexes to make another trip across town exponentially raises the possibility of them being in a car accident. But I don’t make the rules. I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical explanation which no one can seem to tell me.

So, I dutifully made my Medicare appointment. The nurse was very nice as she took my weight, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation, and asked me a lot of questions (which could have been asked on the phone, saving me a trip to the clinic). My weight, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation could also have been checked from the doctor’s visit I had the week before, but that would make too much sense. Still, this was her job and she was required by Medicare to fill these squares, so I cooperated.

Then she told me she was going to show me three words that I would have to remember later. This was where things got intense. The pressure of having to remember those three words filled me with trepidation, as I just knew I was going to flunk that test. Shoot, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast most mornings, and I can forget a person’s name five seconds after being introduced to them. What if I couldn’t remember those three words? Would I be committed to a home for senile old people? I began to sweat. She showed me the three words and my brain put them on an endless loop. I have no idea what else she said after that, as I kept running those three words through my head.

She then handed me a piece of paper and told me to draw a clock with the hands pointing at 11:10. No! You’ll mess up my loop of three words! I tried to separate my brain into two camps, as I filled out the numbers on the clock by rote, while repeating those important three words that I couldn’t afford to forget. Then I made a mistake with one of my clock hands and had to cross it out. She told me that was okay. Whew!

She went on to counsel me about diet and exercise, most of which went in one ear and out the other, as I had to remember my three words and couldn’t waste space in my brain on other information. Finally, she asked me to repeat the three words. Yay! I could get them out of my head at last. I managed to pass the test to her satisfaction. Thank goodness! I am still free to walk around in society.

I still remember two of those three words, much like I remember a fount of useless information, such as the telephone number and zip code I had as a kid. But don’t ask me the name of the nurse. I don’t remember.