Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Trip to The Doctor’s and The Russian Art of Standing in Line

There are many good things about the Russian health system.  
First on my list is home visits!  Yes, doctors here still make house-calls.  If Sophia is too sick to go into the office or if she has a temperature, we call the clinic and our doctor will come to visit us sometime that day!  As a mom, I rely on and appreciate this service.  Those of you who have ever had to get a sick child dressed and out the door to the doctor’s office can appreciate this service, too, I’m sure!
When Sophi had chicken pox our doctor, Svetlana, came to visit us twice.  Each time, Sophi was anxiously waiting for her.  She loves her sweet doctor!
The last, post-chicken pox, visit we made to the clinic.  
Here it is, our clinic - just a 10 min walk from our apt building.  (See that pole right there in the parking lot?  One time I backed the car into it and got a little fender scratch - but that’s a whole other story . . . )
Sometimes, on “baby day,” the font of the clinic is covered in baby carriages!  Seriously, there will be more baby carriages than cars in the parking lot!  Come to think of it, they should just make a carriage lot out there - complete with lanes and everything!  
I remember at our clinic in Moscow, we (Moms) all had locks for our carriages.  If by chance, you didn’t have or forgot your lock, you could give the security guard a few rubles and he would keep a special eye on your carriage for you.  You may think this is a little over the top - - but carriages are some kinda nice here!  It is nothing for a baby to be riding in a $200 -$400 carriage - and in Moscow it can go up to $1,000!  SO, please watch my carriage, Mr Security Man!  
Sophi is modeling the must-have for all medical facilities in Russia.  These are called “bahili” in Russian. In English . . .  well, I’m not sure what we call them - anyone know?  Maybe just plastic shoe covers?  Sophia and I bought these, 5 for 5 rubles, at our neighborhood pharmacy.
You aren’t supposed to be able to go into the Dr’s office without these over your shoes.  But, of course, there are people who break the rules.  
I have to be honest and say that these are a real pain for a 4 yr. old to keep on.  They kept breaking and ripping open as Sophi maneuvered the halls in search of playmates.
She even got some snacks off of one mom and her little girls waiting in line.
Ok, at this point I need to stop and explain a little about the great art of waiting in Russian lines.  There needs to be a book written about the “rules” and all the amazing experiences and unbelievable human behavior that are a part of the line waiting universe.  It is that, you know, a whole world of it’s own, complete with different cultures (depending on where the line is formed), language, and rules.  I’m telling you, a book needs to be written!
First step in line joining is to ask the question - out loud, to everyone waiting -  “Who is last in line?”  Then, you wait for the answer, “I am.”  You must go to that person, look him or her in the eye and make sure they see and know you, and you must say out-loud, so that person will hear and all the people around will hear, “I’m behind you.”  Then, you wait for a confirmation, out loud, from that person, “Horosho” or “Ok.”  If you miss any of these steps . . . you don’t exist to the line dwellers - you are a non-line-person and will not be included in any of the line activities.  “Vso” - that’s it.
If you do complete the necessary steps, you are a line dweller and may leave the vicinity of the actual physical line, go do something else for a while, even go join another line if you want to!  When you come back, as long as you haven’t missed your turn, as long as the person before you is still there, well, you’re still in the line!  
These rules are hard and fast and if you break any of them you are at serious risk of the whole line turning against you.  And this, my friends, can be dangerous.  
I’ll never forget the terror I felt as a line of about 50 people turned against me at the Smolensk train station ticket counter.  It was horrible . . people screaming. . . pointing. . . even my dear friend frowned at me for being a line rule breaker.  This is serious business.
At the time of the train station incident, I was still new to Russia and didn’t fully appreciate lines.  But, I do now . . . I’ve waited and waited and waited  . . . in all kinds of lines and I now understand.
That, is why I took the next picture.
See that couple standing in the background, hovering near the doctor’s door?  
The woman is looking a little “shifty-eyed” isn’t she . . . 
They are hovering for a reason . . . 
They are about to act without the authority of the line - they are going in “biz orcheridi”/without the line.  
They are about to face the wrath of the line dwellers in full force.  
(Most of us had been waiting for over an hour.)
And, they don’t care.  
In fact, as they left the doctor’s office, I distinctly saw smirk of triumph on the man’s face.
Disgusting . . . despicable . . . line cutters.
Even now as I write this, a well of emotion is springing up in me  . . . the shear audacity of the line cutters still gets to me!

We did finally make it in to see our sweet doctor.  She works so hard and such long hours.  On this day she was without her nurse (who keeps all the records - everything is hand written - there isn’t a computer in the clinic) and feeling overwhelmed but was still so sweet to Sophi!

Every child/person has a health book and every entry into that health book is hand written - everything - by the doctor or her nurse.  
I felt so sorry for our doctor on this day - even thought about offering to help write for her.  
Sweet Dr Svetlana is overworked and underpaid - - but she cares for my child and even takes time to play a little with her.  She is a good doctor in this way . . . and I am thankful for her.  
Even if we did have to wait over 2 hrs  . . . 
in line  . . . 
to see her.

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