The doctor asks if I’ve had a productive cough.
I laugh, inhale some exhaled mucus, choke, cough through it like a warrior, and wheezy laugh some more.
“Of course not, silly. So far the darn thing hasn’t swept my floors, trimmed the hedges, or even acted like it was about to entertain my kid for the afternoon. I’d classify this cough as Mostly Useless,” I explain to the clearly clueless white jacket.
“No, ma’am. Has the cough been productive, as in producing matter, substantive…,” he flexes his scholarly muscle (looks like a bow tie and wiry glasses) in my direction.
I’m not impressed. I know some English.
“Like I said. The cough is fruitless, impotent, pointless, unhelpful, lazy, unproductive,” I try to make my “Take that!” trademark smirk (lips puckered all sassy, head weaving to and fro, menacing diva eyes). It comes off a little Barbara Walters Takes The Sleepy Pills With Scotch, and I worry the winning facial expression might be lost on the doctor.
“Ugh. Ms. Nelson, ok. Just fill this,” he hands me a prescription as he shoots a sterile look my way. I think he was going for Blue Steel only to come off a little mean/ Ice Cold Stethoscope-ish.
I leave the office, shaking my head. Not in disappointment, I’ve just found that shaking my head about while hacking produces the most mucus matter. It occurs to me that maybe that’s what he meant by “productive cough”. I read his spotty handwriting. He’s scribbled out an order for a month’s worth of mood stabilizers. I regret not going to medical school in that moment as I’m pretty sure the old doc and I are lost in lack of translation.
What happened the last time you misunderstood basic English?
Does anybody else think calling a cough “productive” is like calling Lindsay Lohan a lady?