A little word about Lithuanian office visits…

IMG_0002So about a month ago, I get out of the shower and take a look at my face. This isn’t all that unusual, most of us do it (take a look at our own faces, if you’re looking at my face that might be unusual). Anyway, I notice that while I’m in need of a shave, there’s a weird patch of… nothing, just under my right nostril (see picture).

Interesting, I think. I look like a 70s era cocaine fiend and jokingly ask Rasa, who isn’t so keen on my facial hair to begin with, if she’s been waking up in the middle of the night to shave a part of my face or apply depilatory cream? She denies it, rightly so, and don’t think about, shaving the rest of my face to match.

A few days later, I have a general doctor’s appointment anyway so I ask about my forgotten follicles. My GP doesn’t know but suggest I go see a dermatological specialist. As this is the top guy in town (possibly even the country), she warns it may cost a little bit, “but no more that 20€,” she explains. That’s fair. When I ask about him speaking English she assures me this isn’t a problem. Great. She then warns he’s only in the office from 2-5 and there’s usually a line, so get there a bit early.

So on a Friday (the day I have afternoons free), I make my way up the hill to his office. Finding it is no problem but when I step inside, there’s no one at the reception desk. Odd, I think, but okay. So I wait.

And I wait.

I wait a little more.

Eventually a nice woman comes by and asks why I’m waiting? Well, “asks” is a bit of a simplification. I don’t speak Lithuanian and she doesn’t speak English so we pantomime at each other for a few minutes until I realize what she’s asking and take out my slip of paper with the doctor’s name and address. She looks at, nods, and points me to a door just around the corner. I point at the reception desk with inquiry in my eyebrows. She shakes her head and points again, then points to the few people sitting in chairs in the hallway.

I get it. No need to check in, just wait in line. This waiting in line thing is fairly normal so I’m cool. And it’s pretty easy, you just ask around until you find out who the last person in line is and you know you go after them. Simple as pie (Not simple as Pi, that’s something else entirely).

So I wait about 20 minutes until it’s my turn to go in. I step inside the office and the doctor, an elderly man with energy to spare is bustling around, even while standing still. He motions me to a chair before either of us say anything. I set my bag down and he starts speaking in a language I do not understand. And I tell him so. See, one of the best phrases to learn if you’re going to be in a country for a while is “I don’t speak/understand [the local language].” He nods and looks at me. “Paruskie?” Russian? I shake my head. “Angliškai?” I ask? “Do you speak English?” He laughs and shakes his head “no” and smiles bigger – then points again to the seat. “No problem” is the message I get.

He starts looking me up and down. I point to my face where the empty patch is ominous in the middle of my once proud mustache. He nods decisively and “asks” if I’ve had any injury or surgery in that area. Once I realize that’s what he’s asking, I say no and explain it started only a few weeks ago. Knowingly, he turns to his shelf and carefully selects a book, bringing it down for me to see the pages as he starts to flip through it.

I think he might be interested in getting a reaction because for the first 30-45 seconds, he keeps flipping back and forth across pictures of diseased genitalia. Interesting, sure, but not what either of us really want to see. Finally, after about a minute (a very lounge minute) of searching, he finds the entry he wants:


He stabs his finger down on the title then, watching my eyes, guides my reading of the entry. When I finish the paragraph, I look up and meet his eyes. He asks “Do you understand?” I point to the entry and to my face. He laughs and smiles and nods, then slams the book shut and replaces it on the shelf. Grabbing my arm, he extends his own hand out to shake mine. I accept and we shake hands. Then he points to the door.

I ask, “we’re all done?” Yup, we’re all done. I make the universal symbol for “what do I owe you?” He shakes his head and opens the door to let me back out into the hallway, where the person who got there after me is waiting to enter.

All in all, the entire visit lasted about 6 minutes and cost me nothing more than bus fare. No paperwork, no muss, no fuss. And I knew I had nothing to worry about. Certainly a far cry from what I was used to.

2 thoughts on “A little word about Lithuanian office visits…

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