I think I mentioned once, or twice, that I've had a few joint problems of late, thanks to the ravages of age and way too many years' hard work pushing pencils around notepads, etc.

Most of the aches and pains have been in my neck and lower back, no doubt caused from driving thousands of miles of rural roads in a truck with sprung suspension, then craning and straining to read the hen scratching that my note taking resembles (did I mention that my eyesight is declining as well?).

The latest manifestation of getting old appeared recently in my left shoulder, a pain that gave me pause considering that my long-suffering wife (living with me for 26 years causes suffering) has just recovered from having both shoulder joints replaced with spare parts of titanium and plastic. I helped her through those ordeals and shudder at the thought of having to follow her example. I am not as good a patient as she is — I tend to whine and whimper a lot.

So, I got myself to my doctor, who sent me to another doctor, who sent me out for x-rays, which showed that I needed an MRI to determine what was really going on in my left shoulder (fortunately not the one I cast with when fishing).

On the list of things that creep me out, an MRI ranks right up there with scraping fingernails on a chalkboard. Being trapped in a tube the size of a coffin is not my idea of fun. I survived for the half-hour or so of incarceration by keeping my eyes tightly shut and mentally fishing every trout stream I've ever visited, pool by pool, cast by cast, fish by fish (I caught many more this time than I did initially).

Good news: no surgery needed on my shoulder. But finding that out was an adventure.

The doctor, while reading the films and giving me the good news about no rotator cuff tear, discovered he had the wrong MRI — another Ron Smith (imagine!), but this one was about three years younger than the real one, me, and had not been in the building since 2002.

A search for my MRI ensued. They couldn't find it. Could not match any MRIs with my date of birth. I got a bit annoyed, especially when they suggested I might have to start over with another MRI — free, of course, but still on my time and inconvenience.

And did I ever mention how much I hate to be in closed places that remind me of a tomb?

They finally managed to cross-reference the date I was MRIed (I made that word up.) and identified the only set of films that could be mine. At least they think they were mine.

The doctor went through the films again, apologized profusely, did not charge me for the visit (20 bucks, big deal), and offered to give me an injection or two for the pain (the shoulder, not the torment I was suffering at the thought of another MRI). I declined the offer, preferring to try a six-week regimen of exercises first.

Anyway, by that time I was not confident they would inject the right stuff into my left shoulder (or was it the other way around?).

Then they sent me to their physical therapy section to schedule an appointment to learn how to do the exercises. The earliest opening was almost two weeks out.

I'm considering a second opinion.