This week I had my six-month follow-up recheck from my cataract surgery last spring. The eye center is in Dothan, the only place I could have the type of surgery I wanted. The center always tells you to allow 2.5 to 3 hours for your appointment. The two minutes you get to spend with the doctors are wonderful once you finally work your way up the food chain to get to them. The initial two hours are spent with underlings, in various stages of training and expertise who often don’t have a clue why you are there or what they are supposed to do with you except “protocol.”

After checking in, I was called to another desk to electronically sign for permission to do whatever they needed to do that day and bill my insurance. I’m not sure what I signed, as I never actually got to see the documents. It made me a little nervous because when I was there for surgery six months previously, they had me sign for the wrong surgical procedure. I didn’t know because I never got to see that document, either. Thankfully, the OR nurse caught it. So, I may have signed away my firstborn. Then again, if they really want him . . .

I started out, as usual, at the bottom of the food chain. A young woman led me back into a room, typed away on her keyboard for a few minutes, then asked, “What’s going on with you today?”

I rolled my lens-implanted eyes (which she couldn’t see, as her back was turned to me) and resisted the urge to say, “Don’t you have that information at your fingertips? It should be right there in my file.” I have been known to pose this question after I have been asked for the thousandth time something that should have been repeatedly noted in my chart. But I exercised restraint.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I was told to come back for a six-month check after my cataract surgery.”

She excused herself to go ask someone higher up. Then she came back and announced I might need laser treatment to correct any film that might have built up on my lenses. (Why they can’t let the underlings in on these little details is beyond me.) She pulled up a series of questions on her computer as to what problems I might be having. I answered no to all of them. She excused herself again, and when she came back, she informed me that if I got in to see the doctor and he determined I needed laser treatment but I hadn’t reported any problems, insurance would not pay for the laser.

“Because the doctor doesn’t have enough sense to know what I need,” I muttered. “Okay, put down I’m having trouble with my distance vision seeing street signs until I’m close up.” I didn’t lie; I really can’t see signs until I’m close, but I didn’t think it was a “problem.”

“And put down I have dry eyes. Does that count?”

Of course, she couldn’t answer that question, but she noted it. Then she put me through a series of “protocol” testing that is done every time, after I was asked for the hundredth time about my medications. She had to get help several times, which is okay, as I didn’t particularly want to repeat these tests. On one test, she put in “what the machine told her was my vision,” and conducted more tests.

“I don’t think the machine is very accurate,” I commented. “Everything is blurry.”

“Yeah, it doesn’t really work all that well,” she said.

“Then why do you do this test?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she answered.

Then another woman came into the room and told her she was getting measurements on the wrong machine and she was supposed to be using a machine across the hall. Great. Finally, after two hours had passed, I was parked in the doctor’s waiting room.

An older man came and fetched me for more testing reading eye charts. He showed me blurry letters, and after I said I couldn’t read anything, he told me to guess. Okay. I was hoping that if I got the answer right, he didn’t record that I could actually read the letters. At long last, I was ushered into the doctor’s office, where yet another person went over a lot of the same things I’d already covered.

After another twenty minutes, the doctor came in, examined my dilated eyes, made the determination everything looked good, and told me to come back in six months. I don’t think he even looked at any of the test results. I wondered if next time I could just skip the preliminaries and go straight to the top. There’s no sense in putting all these nice people through all this extra work that they have to do over and over again every time I show up. But I’m guessing that’s not gonna happen. After all, one doesn’t argue with protocol.