The Incredible Shrinking Man

Incredible-Shrinking-man-film-stillLast week I went to the doctor. It was nothing serious–at least it didn’t start out that way–it was just a routine visit. Kind of a maintenance thing. However, in the course of this “maintenance” visit, I was made aware of potentially life-changing information:  I’m shrinking. At an incredible rate.

See, when they called my name and led me out of the waiting room, they brought me to a little corner of despair where they keep the scale and the wall-mounted “how-short-are-you-now?”-o-meter. I hate both of these devices and particularly dread this part of each doctor’s visit.

As was usual, they started with the scale. Now, normally, this part is a little awkward because while I’m not obscenely overweight, neither am I what you might call “fit”.  With the right clothes on, I look fine (if you squint), but if you really take a look . . . well, it’s not necessarily flattering.  At any rate, normally, when I climb onto the scale, the nurse clicks her tongue, shakes her head and makes a notation on my record.  Probably something about too many donuts.

However, this time, I was actually excited to get on the scale. Oh, it’d been 2 years since last I stood on that little device, but I knew my weight was down. In fact, I was willing to bet I was about 11 or 12 pounds lighter than last time. And so, with that confidence in my back pocket, I hopped onto the scale and waited for the digital numbers to stop ticking. And sure enough:  they showed a weight loss from last time of about 12 pounds.

The nurse, with a bit of surprise (and, I thought, disappointment), noted this in my record, even commenting on the fact that I was significantly lighter.

She then motioned toward the equipment on the wall–the “how-short-are-you-now” o-meter.  “Stand over there.  Back against the wall, head up straight, heels against the wall, chest in . . . “

I complied. Back straight. Eyes forward. Legs together. Chin rigid, strong.  And let me tell you:  I felt TALL.

She manipulated the equipment, sliding the little measuring bar until it hit the top of my head.  “Does that feel about right?”

“Yes.”  I was confident.  Cool.  Collected.  And why not?  I was 12 pounds lighter than 2 years ago.  More fit than ever.  And, did I mention that I felt TALL?  I can’t describe the feeling any better than that.  I just felt TALL.  Normally, I feel just the opposite.  Normally, when I stand up in the office where I work, I find myself eye-to-eye with people who are still sitting.  I’m not joking.  I work with such tall (some might say average height) people that I routinely spend every day feeling as if I’m about 12 years old among a gathering of grown-ups.  Normally, that’s the case.  But not that day.  That day I felt TALL.

And then the nurse spoke up:  “5 foot, 6 and 1 quarter.”

It was so matter of fact.  A veritable non-event for her.  But that short, er, simple declaration, that reading of the scales, was world-shattering to me.

I was trying to process whether or not I’d heard her correctly when the import of the measurements hit her. Her face split into an eager smile.

“Ooooh!  This is interesting!” she said, looking over the papers in her hand, flipping back through years and years of notes.  “Did you know that just 2 years ago you were 5′ 7″  Just 2 short years ago!  Did you realize that?”

I half-nodded since I was still processing the results.

“And did you hear that you are now 5′ 6 1/4″?”

I nodded again.

“You know what that means, right?  You know that means you’ve Shrunk, right?”  (I’m certain she used the word in the capitalized form for effect.)  “You know that means you’ve Shrunk at least 3/4 of an inch in just 2 years!  That’s amazing!”

She made a couple more notes in the book and then turned around to lead me to the room where I would wait until the doctor came.  However, after taking a couple of steps, she turned around and looked back at me.  She tilted her head to one side and stared for a long second or two before smiling and shaking her head.

“3/4 of an inch in two years!  Wow!  If you keep shrinking at that rate . . . well . . . ”  She trailed off, turned around and continued on her way to the examination room with me trailing along behind.  Like a small child who needed a sticker and his mommy.

She showed me into the room and closed the door as she left.  And there I sat, my little legs dangling off the chair, just short of the floor by about 3/4 of an inch.  And while I sat there, I did math in my head.  And I realized that if I continue shrinking at that rate, by the I’m sixty-four I’ll be 4′ tall, probably 180 pounds, and I’ll need a ladder to get into my car.  I’ll need a booster seat at restaurants and I’ll have to have one of my kids reach things off the top shelf of the refrigerator for me.  I’ll have to sit on phone books at work so I can reach the computer keyboard, but in so doing, I will move my feet farther from the floor.  I’ll have to . . . .

My thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door and the entrance of the doctor.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  At least now we could get on with the business at hand.  The maintenance check up.  We could infuse the situation with some professionalism, this doctor and I.  We could put away all this talk about shrinking and we could discuss important things like . . . .

“So,” the doctor broke into my thoughts as she flipped through some papers on a clipboard.  “So, it seems you’ve shrunk almost 3/4″ in 2 years!”  An amazed whistle escaped her lips.  “You know how amazing that is, right?”

Yeah.  I’ve heard.

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