Again, I go with Neighbour to the clinic, with the huge brown X-ray envelope, and National Service letter and forms. The security guards at the number generator prints out number slips, and tells us to register.
We wait for our numbers to be called. The nurse behind the counter takes my forms, asks me to pay one ringgit for registration. No, National Service isn’t sponsoring you all the way, so that’ll be one ringgit please, thank you, here’s your number, wait outside this room, right?
I wait an hour and a half for my number to be called outside the doctor’s room. Everyone’s coughing or sniffling, red and runny eyes, children are bawling and crying, germs flying around. You’d get sicker just waiting outside a doctor’s office, go in for your treatment, and come back next week to be treated for that cold you caught outside his office last week.
You can tell who’s been drafted into National Service, all those teenagers sitting around with huge brown X-ray envelopes.
Nobody talks to anyone else, everyone just sits, shuffles, coughs, sniffles, stares at the wall. Nobody talks to me, except for a Chinese woman who sits next to me and asks me in an Australian accent, Wot’s the time roight now?
My number is called by the automated system, the same woman’s voice I hear in the hospital, the passport office, and who knows where else. I enter the room. A Chinese doctor sits behind the table, the nurse seated comfortably across the table from him.
Everything okay? asks the doctor, brandishing his stethoscope and checking my heartbeat over my shirt.
The nurse sticks up the X-ray on the light panel. The doctor takes a quick glance at it and says, Good, normal. Okay then. He fills up all three pages of my pink form in half a minute. I can barely make head or tail of his handwriting, but I suppose he’s writing Okay and Normal on everything, all three pages. I wait for more tests for the form, hearing, speech, and so on, but he hands the forms back to me in a final way.
Okay, that’s done now, he says.
That’s it. Where are you posted, by the way?
I tell him.
Where’s that? Never heard of it.
(Aiyah!! Not again…..)
* * *
A girl with a VERY familiar brown X-ray envelope outside the room asks me, What did they check in there?
Just my heartbeat and a look at my X-ray.
What about all these other tests on the forms? She takes out her pink form and waves at the three pages of various tests.
Nothing. He’ll just write okay on everything.
Well, this is a government clinic, after all, says her mother. Good value for one ringgit, though. Saves time, too. You wouldn’t want them to be checking you all over for two hours, ya?
Ya kan. Betul juga. Good point.