Everything changed. In an instant, I was cast into an abyss of doubt in which I began to question everything I’d done over the past twenty-five years. Worst of all, this momentous revelation occurred through an interaction that, for anyone else, would be considered pedestrian to the point of dull but, for me, was a seismic shock to the system. Maybe I should have seen it coming. Perhaps I should have prepared myself and braced for the inevitable impact. Or, then again, it might be fair enough. After all, does anyone really expect their life to be upended because they visited the chiropractor?
Moving house means a lot of things. It requires you put your life into cardboard boxes, to remove all trace of yourself from wherever it was you had – until that point – called home and to disconnect yourself from the routines and rituals you’d formed. And, if you’re moving far enough away, it means changing all your service providers. Dry cleaner, grocer and medical professionals – you’re forced to start from scratch. And so it was that I went in search of a new chiropractor.
I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a long time. This is a result of having one leg that is slightly longer than the other, after I broke one falling out of a tree. I wasn’t my best moment. I took a rope, slung it over a branch and tried to swing like Tarzan only for the rope to slide off the end and for me to fall from the sky like a meteor. That is, if a meteor wore gumboots. The resulting break saw me miss six weeks of school and end up with an odd pair of legs. And a lifetime of chiropractic appointments.
I had a guy. I’d been seeing him since my twenties and, each visit, the routine was exactly the same. I would wait in the appropriately titled ‘waiting room’, thumb through a vintage copy of ‘Time’ magazine to catch up on some not-so-current events and avoid making eye contact with the other patients. Feel free to quiz me on the state of the Democratic caucus in 1997 or the cultural significance of ‘The Joy Luck Club’ – I am completely up to date with being totally out of date. ‘Time’ it seems, is not timeless.
When my name was called, I’d enter the treatment room, get undressed and wait in socks and underwear for the chiropractor to arrive. Then the adjustment would begin. It was an intensely physical process that often sounded like someone was walking across a sea of cornflakes as my spine was whipped into shape. Having to get undressed was not my favourite thing, but it’s something you get used to, given enough time.
But moving across town meant I couldn’t see my chiropractor anymore. It was, as much as anything, about a need to move on from much more than regular chiropractic care. It happens sometimes. It was strangely sad to book one last appointment. And then it was done. Now I’ll never keep up with the current affairs of 1998.
As I always do, I left it too long. I don’t know why, but there seemed to be a lot of things to do to settle in and finding a new chiropractor was a fair way down the list even though I’d been lifting, twisting and shifting all kinds of things as part of the big move. Eventually, though, it was obvious I was going to need an adjustment.
I found somewhere within walking distance and booked and appointment. As you do on a first visit, I filled in an extensive questionnaire and waited. Time magazine, from this era or any other, was conspicuous for its absence. When it came time for my appointment, the chiropractor showed great interest in my survey, noting that I’d had surgery on my arm a few years earlier. I replied that she’d see the scar soon enough. Then it came time for an adjustment. The chiropractor asked me to remove my shoes and my raincoat. And nothing else.
Talk about awkward! That comment about seeing my scar would – at best – have seemed weird if not downright bizarre. I remained coatless and shoeless but otherwise fully dressed the entire time. Then it hit me – now that I think about it, I don’t recall my last chiropractor ever asking me to strip off at each appointment. Perhaps I had just assumed that should be the case and he was simply too polite to correct me.
It now seems quite likely that I’ve been turning up and stripping off on a monthly basis needlessly. Maybe (and I can’t be sure) it was required at the first appointment after which I simply assumed. It was so long ago – back when the current events described in the Time magazines in the waiting room were, in fact, current, and not merely interesting from an historical perspective.
This changes everything. Not only do I feel humiliated beyond belief at having stripped down to my underwear for decades of chiropractic appointments, I’m starting to question whether I should have been disrobing on tram trips and visits to the supermarket too, to say nothing of work meetings. I’ll say this much, if I’ve been wrong on this the entire time, it would explain an awful lot.
Having been adjusted by my new chiropractor, I feel a lot better. About my back, at any rate. And that, I feel, is some comfort. Ultimately, a chiropractor’s preference in terms of near-nudity shouldn’t matter that much. But it’s a sign, if it were needed, of just how much things have changed.