Friday, June 7, 2013


Today's adventure:going to the hospital for an ortopanoramica. Doesn't that sound dramatic? Well it does involve a gizmo that takes a theatre-in-the-round-style X-ray of the teeth to show what's left of them, and to predict the location of the next dental disaster sure to come my way.

Despite all the sacrifices I have made to the gods of dentistry, they still refuse to smile on me.

This was my first hospital visit, and as with all things Italian, a learning curve is to be expected, not to mention a whole exotic vocabulary that you need to know.

When your Italian dentist tells you that you need an ortopanoramica, it also means that you will need to see your dottore di famiglia, the doctor to whom you have been assigned, but whose office location and hours have changed without you being any the wiser.

Once found, the doctor will give you a signed richiesta rossa, the magic slip that you will take to the farmacia who will make your appuntamento at the Ospedale for you. But not before asking you to produce something incomprehensible that sounds like ???  And when you say you don't know what a ???  is, the nice lady admits that it's a hard thing to explain.

She then shows you a form that seems to have four categories of numbers, and we begin to get the idea that this has something to do with our income bracket, which will determine just how much this ortopanoramica is going to cost. We are becoming familiar with his type of interaction where no matter how many official papers you are careful to bring with you, the "gatekeeper" of whatever you are trying to accomplish will ask for one paper you have never heard of.

But in this case, the outcome was different. Instead of requiring us to go home with our tail between our legs and no appuntamento, she allowed us to check the box with the highest income, which meant that this ortopanoramica  was going to cost us €37. Compared to US prices, this sounded like a steal of a deal, so we felt grateful.

Once at the hospital for your appointment, it's crucial to know what a sportello is. Could it have something to do with athletics? Nope. That's the window where you have to pay in advance for your procedure, but only after realizing that, just like at the deli counter, you need to take a number.

They were only at #39 and I had #61, which meant that I was going to be molto late for my appuntamento. But then the nice man ahead of me on line suggested I head up to the secret sportello on the second floor, or else I might lose my appuntamento when they all decide it's time to close for lunch.

The rest went smoothly and before leaving, I thought I'd use their well located handicapped bathroom, which had a few interesting features. Many Italians seem to feel that toilet seats are unnecessary, so as can be seen in the photo, someone had set aside the seat. Ditto for the toilet paper, towels, soap and mirror. But as my husband who used the facilities after me pointed out, that bathroom was very clean. Maybe it was just not ready for Prime Time?

I guess I'll find out the next time I have to go to the Ospedale, which I hope will be none too soon.

Actually, it will be soon, because after all that, I expected to at least walk out with my very own ortopanoramica in hand to bring to tomorrow’s dentist appointment. But when I asked for it, the answer was, “IMPOSSIBILE,” which is Italian for “Signora, you’re kidding, right?”

So, five days from now, I will be back to take a deli-style number at the Hospital’s sportello, and hope for the best.  


Mirror, mirror on the wall....
OOPS! Not yet! (That's where the toilet seat is.)

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