We’re all feeling much better now, thanks for asking. Well, the eldest still has sporadic diarrhea, my wife has an eye infection, and I still can’t fucking speak properly, but in general this represents a considerable improvement on the situation two or three weeks ago. I also now know that the Japanese word for phlegm is ‘tan’, so every cloud and all that.
I digress. The NHS (National Health Service, if you’re in anyway unsure). It works fairly well, up to a point. If you need something urgently then my experience has been that it’s always pulled through, but if it’s anything that can be put off until later, then put off it shall be. This is surely better than the other way around, but still, it makes being able to walk straight into a specialist clinic whenever I feel like seem like a bit of a brave new world. It also makes the amount of drugs that get prescribed in Japan frankly alarming. At one point last week I was knocking back seven different sorts of pills after dinner, at least half of which were to counteract the side-effects of the other half.
Those of you with more cynical frames of mind (and/or more experience with privatized healthcare systems) may wish to put this tendency to prescribe huge amounts of drugs to doctors and pharmaceutical companies scamming the system. I couldn’t say, and while I wouldn’t disagree I might also suggest that some of it is, at least in part, a result of doctors just giving the punters what they want. Back in the UK if it’s cheaper to take time off work and rest up properly then that’s what the doctor will tell you to do, but how are you going to show off your massively swollen sense of gaman if you’re in bed at home? Because remember, in Japan it’s not the working hard that counts, it’s being seen to try to work hard, even if that means doing a shitty half-arsed job because you can neither see nor breath properly and are infecting everyone else within touching distance with whatever highly communicable disease you happen to have that week (“but masks!” you say. Fuck off with your masks, I say, and learn to wash your hands properly). No, better to struggle into work brandishing your mask and your pills and your inhaler and your mouthwash and your suppositories and show off just how tumescent you’re gaman is, because if you’re going to be sick you may as well be ostentatiously sick. Bonus points for death-rattle hacking and/or if you cough hard enough to make yourself puke.
Not that it’s all bad. I cracked a rib playing rugby a few years back. Now, ribs are those kind of bones that don’t seem to do anything at all, really. They just sit there by a bunch of offal like a nightwatchman at a sausage factory. Not like leg bones; break one of those (and I have) and that’s a major inconvenience. You need a plaster cast and crutches and can’t walk properly for a couple of months. Even breaking fingers and other hand-bones (ditto) puts you out of action for a while: splints and minor casts and, if it’s your dominant hand, writing like a pre-schooler when trying to compose professional missives for an embarrassing length of time.*
Cracking a rib entails none of these myriad problems. Cracking a rib is, in many ways, simplicity itself compared to damaging almost any other bone in your body. Cracking a rib only causes problems when performing two activities:
A list of pain inducing activities which is almost elegant in its concision, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The doctor did, at least. His advice was basically, “Well, there’s shit all I can do, so here are the strongest painkillers I can prescribe. You’re foreign and you’re big, so take double and see how it goes.”
I swear to god I’m not making that up. “You’re foreign and you’re big, so take double and see how it goes.” That’s really what he said (in Japanese, of course), and bugger me if he wasn’t right. I am foreign and I am big. No denying that. The painkillers also, mercifully, blissfully, worked, and so, less happily, did I.
So yeah, more power to (some) Japanese doctors. Load me up with pills and I’ll wave my gaman about with the big boys, and if you want to let me play fast and loose with the dosages then so much the better. Though if you could also sort out the kid’s bowel movements in the meantime it’d be much appreciated; fast and loose is better in some situations than others.
*Can we at least pretend we’re not going to make a wanking gag here, please?