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Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Really? My physical now includes this kind of test?

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Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Really? My physical now includes this kind of test?

Sep 16, 2023 | 6:46 am ET
By Celia Rivenbark
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Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Really? My physical now includes this kind of test?
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Photo: Getty Images

After the usual vital signs check at my annual physical, the nurse looked at me with a kind smile.

“OK, now I’m going to say three words and I’m going to ask you to recall those three words a little later.”

She said the words slowly and distinctly, but they were almost drowned out by the chorus in my head screaming IM OLD!!!!! A memory test? I love Lizzo. I am SO not old.

Then she handed me a blank piece of paper and asked me to draw a clockface on it and illustrate ten minutes past eleven.

For the first time I felt a weird kinship with a former president who famously crowed about remembering “person, camera, woman…” during his mental acuity test. He named a few things in the room and got the nuke codes. I can do this!

All I have to do is remember what the nurse just said. Which was…person, camera, feather? NOOOOOO!!!!!!

OK, breathe. “Reason” was one of them. What else? I began drawing a clockface that could best be described as melty looking like I was trying to copy Salvadore Dali. What was my hand doing? Why was I suddenly gripping the pencil like a toddler with all my fingers wrapped around it at once? Also, why was my clockface DRIPPING? Clockfaces are round but my crude, toddler scrawl looked like one of those waterfall countertops people love on those home-improvement shows.

REASON!!! Remember that word! Was “countertop” one of the words? No. It was not. I was going to fail.

 I hurriedly added numbers to the clockface but my infamous “serial killer handwriting” made them look less like numbers and more like ambitious semi-colons. Now to fill in the time. Which was ten minutes past something. Was camera really one of the words? No. It was not. How about kale? Had a “kuh” sound, didn’t it? Like “kountertop!” STOP IT!!!!!!

Ten minutes past what? WHAT????? Eleven! Thank you “Stranger Things.” Whew. I handed her my drippy clock with the tortured semi-colon numbers on it and something that approximated 11:10.

“Good,” she said. I lifted a little prayer of thanks I’d gotten a nurse who could read serial killer fluently. Not everyone can.

“Now do you recall the three words I asked you to remember?”

Three words. Miraculously, I managed to say the right ones and earned another “Good.” 

“It’s nothing,” I said, hoping she didn’t notice I’d popped a hive. 

I didn’t share that I’d been repeating those three words in my head from the moment she said them. 

She could’ve been telling me I’d gained 47 pounds in the past year and she wouldn’t have gotten a reaction so intent was I on remembering those words. 

I dunno. Maybe everybody does that. Or just garden-variety neurotics like me. And if I had flunked remembering the three magic words, I was prepared to show her my phone which revealed seven days in a row of “Genius” rankings on my NYT Spelling Bee game! So what if it takes me all day. Showering is so overrated.

When you get older, you learn a few little memory tricks. Like how, in social settings, it’s always best to say “Nice to see you” instead of “Nice to meet you” on the off chance you’ve already met the person and don’t remember their face.

I didn’t share with the nice nurse that I once blanked on my husband’s name when attempting to introduce him to someone I may or may not have ever met. Mercifully, I managed a seamless cover story that no one could’ve seen through: “I’ll let him tell you his name because he just loves saying it!” This led to quite the puzzled stares before I gracefully exited to “go get some food to put in my eating place now.”