While I am just beginning to muse in this area, the door flies open and a surgeon walks in, apparently straight from the operating theater. Green scrubs, face mask, gloves, sterile cap over his hair. He pulls off his gloves, puts on a set of new ones, and grabs my nose and stares at it. Dianli! he says in Chinese. Electricity. Then, in English, “come with me.”
I follow him down a concrete hall to another room – the operating theater! An older Chinese man stumbles out, and around him is the unmistakable and alarming smell of burned flesh and hair. Hmmm. I take off my shoes and put on clean paper booties. I walk over to an operating table and, as directed, lie down on my back. Sixty seconds after I had first seen the surgeon he is injecting Novocain (or something similar) into my nose. A cloth is draped over my eyes – hey, no problem, I’m not about to open them! – and I hear the also-alarming buzz-humm sound of an electric arc. Then the buzz sound is closer and I can feel and hear it moving across the top of my nose. Eight seconds of this – I count them off to myself – and the buzz stops. There is just enough of the burned smell to depress me.
Hao de I hear the doctor say – “that’s fine.” I hear him say some more things I don’t understand to the nurse. Naturally I fantasize that they are remarking upon the nose-bridge itself, which is one of several indicators that I am not ethnically Chinese. He sticks a small bandage crosswise across the zapped area and says in English, “You can go.” Less than five minutes after I first greeted my original child doctor, my treatment is complete.
I go out into the hall and send another text message to that original doctor (a more polite form of, Where are you? What do I do now?). He reappears and takes me to the cashier’s window. I have brought a huge roll of RMB with me – might this cost a hundred dollars? A thousand? Will I have to pay in cash? The cashier says something in English that I think is “fifteen hundred RMB,” about $200. Good thing I’ve brought more than that with me! No, she actually meansfifteen RMB, $2. I hand over the money and get a bunch of forms to fill out. She tells me that only two lines are important, so I enter the information in those two. I am entered in the clinic’s records as ‘FALLOWS: MAN.”
Now it’s back up to the operating theater, with the forms to give the surgeon. He takes them, fills them out some more, and tells me to go to the cashier again. OK, I see: the $2 down payment was just my registration with the clinic, plus payment for a fancy Smart Card for me to keep with my patient info embedded in it. Now I have to pay the full fee – operating expenses, consultation, anesthetic, nurse who assisted the surgeon. The calculator churns and shows the total: 240. That RMB, not dollars. A total of just over $30 for the entire treatment, done on the spot.