Try not to make a rash decision

Joe is a man of few words, but this was ridiculous. The other day he came in to the surgery, turned his back to me, then bent down and dropped his trousers and drawers, all in one fluid motion and all before I could scream, 'For God's sake stop!'

'What do you think?' he said.

This was an open and ambiguous question, to which many answers might have been appropriate, so I deliberated for a long moment.

'You have beautiful soft skin,' 'I think I should pray for a quick death,' 'Look at those fine, taut muscles; have you been working out?' were all considered and rejected before I finally settled on: 'I think I wish I was a thousand miles away, lying on a beach with a young lady massaging aromatic oils into my rippling muscles.' I'm not totally opposed to complementary therapies, you see, when they are used in the right situation.

This was the incorrect response, because he started to reverse, inch by dreadful inch, occasionally looking round to ensure he wouldn't bump into any sharp objects. This was a smart move, and showed his experience of my hazardous surgery.

Denial is a powerful mechanism; deep down, I'd known the truth right from the very first drop. Now I could deny it no longer; it became slowly but implacably clear that he wished me to peer closely and intimately between his buttocks.

I hadn't taken any prophylactic cyclizine and was more squeamish than usual. I have a delicate constitution and dislike physical contact, except when it involves complementary medicine. I practice a no-touch policy, believing firmly as I do in the primacy of the history. 'Wait long enough,' said some old galoot at my medical school, 'and the patient will tell you the diagnosis.'

You can imagine my distress, cornered against the desk as the spectacle edged closer and closer; I could see every wobble in the mighty cheeks.

'There's a rash!' I screamed, 'I'll give you some cream.'

'And?' the cheeks mimed threateningly.

'And an antibiotic,' I sobbed.

Sometimes there are worse things than abject surrender.

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh.

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