The Old North State requires all its public servants, including me, to pass a physical examination. This initiation should not worry a healthy person like me. I brush, floss and rinse with Listerine. I apply Neosporin to razor lacerations. I drink in moderation. I eat what is convenient. I skip staircase steps with my left leg to keep it as bulky as my right. I once (or thrice) waxed my overgrown eyebrows. I used to benchpress my body weight.
My appearance at work does not represent this healthy lifestyle. I am usually hungry. My ever-present baseball cap is left at home to expose thinning hair to adolescent masses. My tie hangs loose from an undone button. Dry erase marker powder discolors my hands and shirt, smudges my face and darkens my eyes. I am a business-casual soldier of the trenches who fights the enemy with inky knowledge. From one of these daily battles, I arrived at the doctor's office 10 minutes late.
"Are you stressed?" my new doctor asked me.
"No," I whispered. "I love my new job. You should have seen the last one I had." The week's laryngitis had reduced my voice to a car-start wheeze, the kind that suddenly alternates between inefficiently soft and offensively loud without apology.
"Are you a smoker?" he asked.
"I've had one cigarette my whole life," I mustered.
"Was it big and nasty?" he asked.
"It was Black and Mild," I said. "I swear the pack said mild."
"You look like a coal miner," he said.
He looked like a Duke doctor, but I didn't say anything.