Last Thursday was mammogram day. Birdie never really dreads it, but after it has begun, she wonders why she didn’t have the sense to dread it. Once she is in the midst of the pulling and spreading and mashing and redoing this angle and that magnification, she remembers that this all happened exactly the same way last year. A sort of mammary deja vue which is intent on stripping her of any modesty, dignity, or sense of privacy she thought was her right. She finds that when she approaches the jaws of mammary inspection, she goes into her zone. That zone in which she detaches herself from what is happening.
Of course, before Birdie walks into the room, they have had the machine packed in ice, so that if the attempt to flatten her breast between two hydraulic plates is not uncomfortable enough, they can rely on the frigid temperatures to push her over the edge.
The tech directs Birdie to slip the gown off one shoulder and step up to the machine. Birdie is always hesitant at this point as she is not sure of mammography etiquette. Should she flop her breast on the plate before her or wait for the tech to take it in hand–literally–and arrange it as she likes. Invariably, Birdie’s indecision causes just enough delay that the technician grabs Birdie’s breast, spreads it out on the bottom plate like it is made of silly putty while she steps on pedals that raise and lower and tilt Birdie’s breast at her discretion. All the while telling Birdie to step back, lean in, reach over, relax her shoulder, and raise her chin. Then she says, “Ok. Hold it right there. This may be uncomfortable.” These technicians are masters at understatement. She then directs the machine to press Birdie’s B cup to the thickness of papyrus. She cautions Birdie to hold her breath, which is the first suggestion Birdie is glad to follow, as the required removal of her deodorant is starting to have its effect. Then, it’s over. Well, that pose, anyway. There are usually three poses for each breast. This is the only time Birdie is glad she has only one breast. Of course, it doesn’t end there.
The technician asks Birdie to wait while she runs over to the radiologist. Birdie picks up a magazine and begins reading about Brad and Angelina. It is an out of date issue, but how can news about America’s favorite couple ever really get old? It was reported they had just adopted their 42nd child from a 3rd world country and were considering getting married, but there was the problem with Angelina’s “possible” anorexia. She now weighed only 72 pounds and her lips were bigger than her upper arms. Also causing problems was Brad having love trysts with Jennifer Aniston, who felt she could no longer hit the snooze button on her biological clock, and was also considering adopting. Maybe a child, but possibly a 3rd world country. It wasn’t clear. Birdie’s attention was drifting.
The tech returns and explains that they need to make another go at it as things were not quite clear enough to suit the doctor reading the film. So they do their dance again, this time trying to get Birdie further into the machine without actually climbing up into it. She instructs Birdie to do several things all at the same time, which are virtually impossible to do all at once unless one is in the circus.
They finish and she leaves, giving Birdie an opportunity to read more about Brad and Angelina. She comes back, goes into tag team mode, and hands Birdie off to a more efficient, skilled, and apologetic technician. This tech takes Birdie into a different room with a more advanced machine. One with a zoom lens. This technician asks Birdie to do what the other lady has already asked her to do except she adds explanations for why Birdie is still in this purgatory–all the while commiserating with her for the inconvenience and discomfort. Birdie has retreated even further into the zone, but at the same time, she is calculating at what point she is going to announce she’s had enough and will walk out, put on her clothes, and leave them with whatever ill focused, ill exposed pictures they have managed to capture.
The technician finishes and requests that Birdie wait; Birdie resumes reading even more about Brad and Angelina. After a bit, Birdie is sent next door to her surgeon, who wants to see the results before he releases her. She takes a seat in the waiting room and picks up yet another magazine that is obsessed with Brad and Angelina. Pretty soon, Birdie feels someone’s eyes on her. She looks up, and Doctor is standing in the doorway grinning. He says, “Go on home. It was nothing. Just a bad picture.”
Birdie says goodbye to Brad and Angelina, steps out of the zone, and walks to her car.