It was a simple enough store front. Unassuming, paint chipping a little but a clean parking lot outside the low one story building. I went in and walked down the rickety ramp, then sat down on a hard-backed wooden chair next to a tired, worn couch with a hideous print and stuffing peeking out of the ripped seams at the front end of both arms. She was in the office directly across from me. I could hear her talking on the phone, loud and young and energetic and determined to get her point across. I was right on time for our appointment, but I guess the business of the refi and supporting documents was already underway when I got there and had to be completed before she could turn her attention to me and my “problem.”
I heard her hang up and then she came out of the office, three quarters legs and one quarter dazzling smile. She didn’t bother to approach me or shake my hand. She told me her name, and then said, “Okay, let’s go to the back so we can get you all taken care of.” I had never done this before, never needed to in fact, and I must say I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure if I should tell her what I needed or just wait to see what she had in mind and follow her lead. She made the decision for me, her smile radiating charm and confidence and telegraphing that yes, indeed, she had done this many, many times before. To her, I was just one more.
“All right, here it is,” she said, taking the machine out of its case and plugging it in. “Now, I want you to pay attention, because I’m going to show you exactly what to do with it, then I want you to repeat the instructions after me to make sure you understand, okay?” She batted her eyelashes and leaned forward to retrieve a piece of paper that had fallen from the case, revealing the color of her underwear. Of course, I tried not to notice, but under these circumstances, I mean … I really was nervous.
“Now, it’s really very simple. The on button is right here,” she said, pointing to it, then pressing it firmly. The little machine purred and vibrated obediently. She turned it back off. She then proceeded to show me how to put it together, take it apart, clean it, everything I would need to know.
“It’s brand new, of course,” she said, struggling a bit with one of the moving parts. “You have to grab it and twist it pretty firmly. You’ll think you’re breaking it, but you won’t.” Another practiced smile. “See?” She twisted and inserted and twisted again for effect. I gulped.
“Now, this is the soft silicone part that fits very snugly. You don’t want any movement here, and you can adjust the straps if you need to, front and back, so that it fits just right. You see?” she asked, leaning over towards me again. It was certainly a lot of information about positioning and pressure and temperature and on and on. She guided me gently through each phase of the act. “You’ll need to make sure that you do this every single night, okay? Every night.” Yes, ma’am, I’ll do my very best. You can count on me.
It was a lot to take in, especially since this was my first time. I hadn’t been there more than twenty minutes, but I was ready to go. Her enthusiasm, energy, focus and technique never wavered. She was a pro.
Finally, she stood up, took my payment, flashed one more bright smile my way and motioned for the door. I thanked her.
“It’s no problem. I’ll tell you a little secret that might make you feel better. My boyfriend has one just like this, and he and I are both very happy with his.”
Armed with that knowledge, I opened the door to the waiting area and the tired couch and saw another middle-aged man waiting his turn. He looked a little nervous too.
I shouldered the compact black case that held the CPAP machine and all its attachments, walked back up the ramp, left the building and drove home. I hoped that if I did everything just the way she had taught me, I would be having some pretty sweet dreams later that night and for many nights to come.
Greg Smith is a psychiatrist who blogs at gregsmithmd.