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How To Skip The Line At the McGill Clinic

One student's account of how an otherwise three hour wait became ten minutes


A snippet from my memoir: The Life and Times of a Miserable McGillian.

        […] When flu season rolled around, and it came time for the annual migration towards the clinic doors, every student had a unique twist on how they were zip in and out, line-free. There were myriad tricks up each student’s sleeve, ranging from the most pragmatic to the utterly absurd. My method was, in my mind, the most unfathomable, complex of them all, yet somehow I managed to pull it off.

        The seasons were just beginning to change, as they tend to do. The once lush leaves on the trees of the hill overlooking the bustling city were just beginning to don, almost perfunctorily, a yellowish, autumn coat. But down at McGill, there was a different change underway, especially for one particular student: me. Autumn at McGill is invariably branded with a series of miniature plagues. One such epidemic has gotten the moniker, “The Frosh Flu.” As frosh rolled to an end, everyone bearing tired eyes and hoarse voices, I woke up with a lump in my throat. Not just any lump, but a painful, red, sore patch that hurt when I moved. It looked as if someone had removed my tonsils and replaced them with two slices of grapefruit. Moreover, I was in a daze. As I layeth in my Molson Hall bed, springs pricked my back from every direction, and all I could hear were the parties, going off like fireworks. I was tired, but I couldn’t sleep. It was as if my mind and my body were waging war over my right to snooze, and I was just another casualty of this war. And don’t get me started on the moisture. Suffice it to say, I sweat more during that period than in any sport, in any humid, midwestern summer, and in any uncomfortable social interaction combined. My days, the first days of university life I should add, consisted of me wearing a doctors mask to BMH. It took several days of misery for me to convince myself to go to the clinic.
       All I remember from the clinic was the flickering, fluorescent, ceiling lights. I entered the clinic at 8:30AM, thinking to myself that I’d cunningly beat the rush, only to see a growing stretch of coughing students as far as my eyes would let me see. I sauntered up to the counter window, received several forms from an automated woman, graying, mid-fifties, and went back amongst the diseased crowd to fill them out. The clinic is a competitive playing field, an audition, in which each ailing actor must outshine each other’s performance of symptoms. I’m not much of an actor, aside from my brief stint in high school, but my performance on that fateful day not only won me a ticket to the front of the line, but could have won me on Oscar. 

        I took the stage, forms in hand, and approached the counter. The robot looked up from her screen reluctantly, scrutinizing me as if I’d suddenly taken off all my clothes and smeared butter across my chest. Sweat was pouring down my forehead under the spotlights. Inadvertently, I began to sway, feeling a little dizzy.  I thought nothing of it. She asked for my ID number. I mumbled. She asked where I was from. I said something like, “Mmmples” (Minneapolis). I wasn’t aware that this was unusual, nor was I even cognizant enough to know that I wasn’t even from the gorgeous municipality of Mmmples. But her face, suddenly full of concern which soon morphed into fright, told me otherwise.
         Before I stumbled backwards, my clammy palms sliding back across the counter, somewhat like Mufasa, I remember the white overhead lights dimming and then blurring. The next thing I know an exuberant young nurse with a ginger beard was assisting me onto a wheelchair and handing me a juice box.  

       So, while there is no message or moral to this brief story, I’d like to leave you with a surefire way to skip the line at the McGill clinic, or any clinic for that matter. It wasn’t easy. It will require some labour.  In fact it may require contracting what one doctor claimed to be the “worst case of mono she’d ever seen.” So I wish you the best this upcoming flu season, and best wishes on every trip to the clinic.


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