A few weeks ago I went to the doctor. It had been a year. A year since my vitals had been taken, and a year since I'd been weighed.

I was there to have a mole removed from my neck. The mole had inconveniently sprouted in a place where it rubbed on the collar of a dress shirt and occasionally intercepted a razor's flight.

The nurse was quiet. She took my blood pressure and then wrote the number in my file. I wanted to ask what it was, but perhaps she was silent because she wanted to spare me news that would drive my blood pressure even higher.

Next, she ushered me from the waiting room into the hall where the scale stood against the east wall. Last year's weigh-off had not gone well and I was troubled to see a scale that looked similar, if not the same, as the scale that had proved so unreliable the previous year. I approached the scale like a man might step on a platform from which he was to be hung.

"Should I take off my shoes?" I asked.

"No," she said. "Keep your clothes on. They don't weigh that much."

Maybe yours don't, but mine sometimes do. I'd rather take off my clothes, but given that the scale is in the hall and nearly visible from the waiting room, I am going to trust I have worn my light clothes today.

I stepped on the scale and she slid the big weight to the right -- 50, 100, 150. Please stop, I thought. I beg you. You've gone far enough.

Then the nurse shoved the smaller weight so quickly to the right that it almost made a whistling noise. The scale read 150 on the bottom and 40 on the top -- that added up to 190.

One hundred ninety pounds? That's what I weighed last year. Do I not get a deduction for miles ridden, laps swum or weights pressed?

"Are you sure this scale is OK?" I asked. "I had the same problem last year. This scale weighed heavy."

"We have it checked all the time," she said. "It's accurate."

I don't remember what she said next but she may have used the word calibration. How do you argue with "calibration." It invokes somebody in a white coat who looks forward to "Science Friday" on National Public Radio.

Rather than argue with Caltech, it was time to look inward. Clearly, I had worn my heavy clothes, starting with my heavy shoes. The scale had also not taken into consideration my keys. Keys can weigh up to 5 pounds, especially when you have a key big enough to unlock a dungeon.

"I think you can subtract 2 pounds," said the nurse, sensing my distress.

Two pounds? Each shoe weighs 2 pounds without a foot in it. My socks are made from the hemp used to tie down the Queen Mary.

Before the visit, I thought I had lost weight. Like many men, I rely on the belt test. If the pants and belt are tight, I've gained weight. If they're loose, I've lost. If they are neither tight nor loose, I'm even. I thought I was trending toward even, if not slender.

I remembered an article I'd read about a man who also thought he'd lost weight (he, too, used the pant and belt test) but then he realized his belt and pants had migrated below his stomach, giving him the illusion of weight loss.

No, he hadn't lost weight; he was just wearing his pants lower. He was a 38 up top and a 32 down below.

Low pants. That was me. My pants weren't tight because they were riding around my ankles like ankle irons.

On the way out of the office, I took off my shoes and weighed myself again. I was a pound lighter. Untethered and shoeless, and without keys, wallet and a years worth of warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls from Hodel's, I might just float away.

These are Herb Benham's opinions, and not necessarily The Californian's. His column appears Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Call him at 395-7279 or write hbenham@bakersfield .com.