The Freudian Slip-per

For the past nine years since I had a major life-altering surgery (aka kidney transplant), I have been visiting India every six months for routine check-ups and consultation to assure myself and my family that all is well. This new routine has been a boon in disguise in many ways, as I get to meet my family every six months and catch up with every one more often than I would have.

Over the past few years I have also identified and established set places for tests, consultation, doctors and so on, in order to maintain a continuity in my health management. A flip side of which is I notice weird trends that happen within the same establishment. One time, I had the most amusing experience with respect to the healthcare industry’s stand in Mumbai with respect to footwear!

My routine usually consists of a technician arriving at home to take samples for testing. Then I visit my dentist and ophthalmologist to check my teeth and eyes for any issues. Some years, I also get an ultrasound done if it is recommended and finally, armed with all these tests I go visit my nephrologist who recommends changes to medicine dosage or any other care I need to take specifically for the next six months.

Now, the technician is a different matter as they visit me and not the other way round. It is therefore understandable that they would remove their footwear when they enter my home, as part of Indian protocol with respect to footwear.

Moving on to the dentist, he is probably one of the only doctors in the whole city who is a stickler for time. So much so that if I am so much as a minute late, I could be in danger of my appointment getting cancelled. In his case, the footwear is removed in a corridor between the lobby and the room with the dental chair, understandably to keep the room sterile and free from the dust of the outside world. This has been the routine consistently for the last nine years.

The ultrasound place has reached a point of mass confusion. Nine years back when I visited the place, they had just renovated and were conscious of dirty footwear messing with the new parquet flooring. A sign on the outside said “PLEASE KEEP YOUR FOOTWEAR OUTSIDE BEFORE YOU ENTER”. It has thus become a matter of habit for all who frequent the establishment on a recurring basis like I do, to follow this routine without so much as a glance at the notice. This time when I visited however, I noticed someone had altered the notice to say “PLEASE DO NOT KEEP YOUR FOOTWEAR OUTSIDE BEFORE YOU ENTER”.

I noticed a dozen slippers, shoes and sandals already teeming around this innocuous notice. But since I did read it, I kept mine on and valiantly marched on. I suspect someone’s footwear got stolen, or maybe several someone’s and so the establishment changed their stand, and their notice, but failed to communicate it to the patients. While I was mulling over the contradiction, an old man suddenly created a commotion at the entrance.

He was just leaving when he found his slippers missing. Immediately someone came to his apparent rescue. The notice was pointed out, with the fine print below that said “We are not responsible for theft of your personal belongings”. The poor man squinted to read the fine print and called his family asking them to pick him up, with a pair of slippers in tow. Then he came back in and sat in the waiting area, mumbling about how the notice always said remove your slippers and no one told him.

He mumbled for a good fifteen minutes but when he saw no one really reacted, he finally lapsed into silent waiting. Eventually his family arrived and created a second round of commotion, insisting that the notice had been swapped only the day before as they all have some or the other medical issue and have been coming all week for x-rays and ultrasounds! Somehow the administrator convinced them that the policy had changed years ago and they left, mumbling among themselves at the injustice of Dada’s slippers getting stolen!

It’s fun to watch when someone else is affected by all these policies. But when the victim is you, then you land up writing a story about it instead! It so happened that after all these slippery slopes, I arrived at the eye doctor’s office. Now the eye doctor had a small office which he shared with his physiotherapist brother. A notice outside his establishment said “Do not remove footwear here, we are not responsible for theft”. And a notice outside his consulting room, just a short walk from the waiting area said “Remove your footwear before you enter the consulting room”.

My routine for the last six years in this eye clinic has always been – enter clinic > remove footwear outside the doctor’s office > meet doctor > come out and wear said footwear > leave!

I personally found this very efficient as at any point of time, only one pair of shoes would be loitering in the waiting room. Genius!

While none of the notices had changed, the administrator had probably had a fight with her husband that fine morning, or had changed the rules and not bothered to change the notice. Whatever it may be, here I was sitting minding my own business with my sandals on in the waiting area, chatting with the husband happily when suddenly the administrator gives me a look that could kill and says “Remove footwear now!” I was slightly taken aback at the tone and the timing. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went:

Me: Is the doctor here already?

Her: No! But remove your sandals and sit barefoot

Me: Why? The notice says remove just before you enter doctor’s office!

Her: This is doctor’s office!

Me: This is waiting area!

Her: (Panting)

Me: (Fuming)

Husband: Hey, it’s fine why don’t you take your sandals off right there and I’ll wait outside.

And an awkward peace treaty was formed. I am yet to clarify this change in policy and contradiction with the notices, but decided to let go that day. After all, I am due for a visit in six more months!

Author’s Note – This post originally appeared in SiyaWoman. The content has been slightly changed for relevance to present time. Republished with permission from SiyaWoman. Link to original post –


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