Friday, January 15, 2010

Antisocial & Cynical Me

Recently, while in the middle of a conversation with an old high school classmate at a family gathering, a middle-aged woman who I had never met before ran up to me.

"Are you a doctor?" she blurted abrasively, stepping between my friend and me.

"Pardon me?"

"I said, 'Are you a doctor?' That man over there (she pointed to my father, who was in the middle of his own conversation) says that you are and that you'd be able to help me."

Ughhh! I've had several conversations with my father about not referring me "consults," especially when I'm holding a beer in my hand at a party.

Unfortunately, my father likes to play by his own rules. And when you're nearing eighty, there's only one rule--"I'll do whatever I want." He's even had friends run up to the house to "ask me something" or "take a look at this" while I'm in town visiting. As I said before, ughhh!

After I realized that this was not a joke, I had no choice but to listen this woman out.

"Anyway, I got bit by a bug last week, right here," she spoke, sweeping her forearm in front of me, revealing a small pimple, "and it won't go away. What can you do?"

Well, I knew what I could do. It involved my steel-toe boots and this woman's ass. I was at a party, for God's sake! Or, I guess I could have set down my beer and grab the defibrillator paddles for this life-threatening emergency.

Instead, I decided to take another long sip of my draft beer. A perfectly chilled beer that was hitting the spot. Hmm--decisions, decisions. I knew this would make me look extra attentive and reflective about her question, me there dragging out that sip and pondering her illness. I mean, I wanted to look like I cared, right?

Unfortunately, I spilled some beer on my shirt during my pondering. Make that attentive, reflective, and clumsy.

She continued waving her arm in my face, anticipating my diagnosis.

"Well," I started, "if you had come to the ER while I was working, I might have tried to lance it, but I doubt there would be any drainage. Since it's small and hardly red or swollen, though, I think you will be alright just to use warm soaks on it and give it time to heal itself."

She started to open her mouth but I cut her off.

"No, it doesn't need antibiotics," I said.

"How did you know?" she asked, surprised.

You know how I know? I'll tell you how I know. Everybody wants antibiotics when they have a problem. Heck, President Obama should have just sent each family a four-pack prescription of amoxicillin instead of tax relief money. The economy would be kicking like no tomorrow, all problems solved.

She looked down at her arm again, my eyes following her's back to the minuscule bump. I hope she didn't expect me to pop that menacing pimple with my own gloveless fingers! Give me one more beer, though, and just maybe...I think I could do it, using the same technique we all used when popping our face pimples in puberty. Thankfully, though, I was of clear mind.

I was hopeful that we were done, but oh no.

"Hey," she continued, "look at this." She pulled her short-sleeve shirt from her left shoulder to expose her bra strap, her bra, and unfortunately, her boob. She was hardly fazed. Did I mention I was at a party with a lot of people around?

"Oops," she said, pulling up her bra but still exposing a shiny new scar on her anterior shoulder.

"Wow," I said, taking another long, reflective sip of what was left of my beer.

"Shoulder replacement," she said, a proud smile creeping onto her face.

"Wow," I repeated again, now making a mental list of how I could possibly repay my father for this referral. Would it be wrong or considered rude to give your eighty year-old father a wedgie? Could adult services come after me for that?

"Yeah," this woman continued, "my doctor said I was the best patient to ever have this done."

I nodded my head. The old "you're my best patient" line, successful once again.

Actually, I must admit, this woman was very nice and pleasant, in her own way, but I really didn't want to go down that road with her of all her past medical problems. I can spot that trap ten miles away. And I was at a party holding a beer, not working in the ER. I'm sure I would have enjoyed her company if not for her forearm pimple and shoulder scar.

I'm sure of it. Almost sure. Pretty sure. Okay, not sure at all. Actually, probably not. Alright, nope, I wouldn't have enjoyed her company regardless.

After she finally left, I got back to my classmate, who was flabbergasted.

"Does that happen often?"

"Yes, unfortunately, it does," I said, keeping my answer short. I really wanted to whine and complain about just how often this does happen, whether my father is around or not, but I reminded myself that nobody really wants to hear about someone else's problems.

"That's cool," said my classmate, "because I've been meaning to ask you about this toenail..."

Needless to say, I haven't been to a party since. Well, okay, maybe just one or two...

As always, thanks for reading. Sincere gratitude to all who have recently blogrolled or twittered my posts--I appreciate your support. Next post will be Monday, January 18.


Pondering Practitioner said...

Brilliant. My father does exactly the same to me no matter how many times I beg him not to. I think (I hope) it's because they are proud of us - or perhaps I forgot to send him a birthday card this year?!

Marissa said...

it's not just doctors. my poor brother is called by friends of my parents all the time for random computer problems. usually he hardly knows these people and he lives 3 hours away...

Nikita said...

This happens on occasion to us nursie folk. My usual response is "I'm sorry, I don't know, I'm not a doctor. If you're worried, see your GP".

At times, when I am a little concerned, I might slightly reword this as "I'm sorry, I don't know, I'm not a doctor. I suggest you make an appointment with your GP and discuss it".

I really do think your dad is rather proud of you though!

terri c said...

Yup, I think your Dad is proud of you. Also, he is proud that he lived through his children's adolescence and is not above the occasional slight payback perhaps. I don't think a SMALL wedgie would bring you to the attention of Adult Protective Services. Your father sounds like a nice man.

Smalltown RN said...

I can appreciate your experience. Being a Critical Care Nurse I get asked questions all the time....and my pat answer is "have you spoken to your doctor?" Hoping that would shut them up....ooops did I say that? I think that was my outside voice...but you many times at parties I get asked all kinds of questions about thier health or the health of a friend or family's frustrating....I would be happy to help or give my opinion when in the environment to do so...not at a party as in your case. I can only imagine the frustration you must feel sometimes.

Chin up doc....keep on writing I always enjoy reading your posts...

t. said...

"Go ask my son; he's a doctor." A compliment born from pride, I am sure. Should that be repaid with a wedgie? ABSOLUTELY!

Aren't you familiar with William Osler's First Law? The depth of the wedgie should be directly proportional to the irritation factor of the bogus consult.

By the way, while I have your attention, I've had this runny nose for a few days. Any chance of a rx for a z-pac...?

Cal said...

You would run fast from my whole family! They love to discuss all sorts of medical problems, and when they would first get a whiff that you were a doctor it would make their collective day. Run Forrest, run!
On a similar note, I once had a receptionist at the hospital show me her "oh so terrible" scar with pride telling it had once got infected; I had to lean forward and squint and she parted the folds of her neck with pride. To this day I don't understand why she did this.(Sympathy? attention? kinship?)

AtYourCervix said...

As Nikita said, it happens to us nurses too.

I really don't want to see your rash. Honestly. (You do realize I deal with girly parts in my job? You know...vagina, cervix, uterus??)

coulrophobic agnostic said...

AtYourCervix (awesome name, btw), do you really think it's wise to tell people that? I mean, you think random people asking you to look at their *rashes* are annoying...

Lockup Doc said...

It happens to us psychiatrists, too. No bites, rashes, or boobs, but sometimes solicitations for very personal advice. (It sometimes starts with, "I have a friend who___." I'm thankful my father doesn't offer my advice to others!

BC Cook said...

"She was hardly phased. "

She was hardly fazed, not phased. I could have a fulltime job just correcting this on teh internets.

And not everybody wants antibiotics. I have assiduously avoided antibiotics all my life. And what good has it done me? I'm just as likely to contract MRSA or some other horrible antibiotic-resistant infection as the assholes who've been taking antibiotics for their colds. (And the doctors who prescribe them.)

BC Cook said...

"She was hardly phased. "

She was hardly fazed, not phased. I could have a fulltime job just correcting this on teh internets.

And not everybody wants antibiotics. I have assiduously avoided antibiotics all my life. And what good has it done me? I'm just as likely to contract MRSA or some other horrible antibiotic-resistant infection as the assholes who've been taking antibiotics for their colds. (And the doctors who prescribe them.)

rlbates said...


Dragonfly said...

I SO identify with that and I've haven't been a doctor for a full month yet. I've been getting "family consults" since I was in first year! And then phone calls from overseas from relatives saying "its 7am here and we are wondering what to do about your cousins rash". It is generally midnight or after in Australia when they ring!
Oh, and I had to reassert the boundaries recently because someone in my family thought that the "not treating family" thing only applied to medical school. Grr.

Cal said...

BC Cook, while antibiotic resistance is a growing problem partially due to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics to treat viral illnesses, the finger needs to be pointed to the main culprit here, which is the use of antibiotics in livestock production as growth promotants... most of the antibiotics used in this country are in that area and not in the medical field. While I think a lot of progress as been made lately in bringing awareness to the fact that if you have the flu/cold you don't need antibiotics, not a great deal has been heard about the link between the cocktails of antibiotics given to livestock regularly and the rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria.

As We Like It said...

Classic, as always. Love your writing!

Classof65 said...

My brother is head of trauma med in a large hospital. Whenever someone in the family asks him a medical question, he replies, "Not my specialty. Let me know if you ever get a gun-shot wound."

And that's it. If the family member persists, his answer is, "It's unethical for me to prescribe for family members and/or friends. You wouldn't want me to diagnose something really bad, but not be able to prescribe anything that would save your life, would you?"

That usually stops everyone. Generally the rest of us watch the inquirer very closely then and when they ask what we're looking at, we reply, "We're waiting for you to expire..." LOL

Anonymous said...

Being in art school, my professors always say, "at a cocktail party, you can talk about how ugly Rococo was, and how relieved you are to see that the 80s are coming back...."


1. Talk about art history at a party?
2. Go to a cocktail party?
3. Relieved that the 80s are back?
4. Talk about school at a party?

This happens to my supervisor in Anatomy. One step outside of work or teaching, and someone will say, "are you a Doctor, well, I have this thing..."

I can't wait—NOT!~

Anonymous said...

Cal: right-on

Tetracyclines re-enter our systems double-time through dairy products.

It is scary that this may be partially causing antibiotic resistance in many cases.

Heather said...

BC Cook....."on teh internets"? Perhaps you should check for your own mistakes before double posting and looking for that full time (yes, two words) job. What would your profession be anyway? I sincerely doubt that it requires many brain cells.

Marco said...

Just say 'If you'll just take off all your clothes, I'll just examine you here on the couch (in front of everyone)!

coulrophobic agnostic said...

Heather, "on teh internets" is not a mistake - I guess you might call it internet slang. It's pretty common.

Katie said...

As an editor, I can understand BC Cook's concern regarding typos. But let's be honest: we all make them (Sure, some of us more than others). In a post with very few other grammar erros, I would have let the phased/fazed thing slide. Since it's been brought up, BC Cook is right in that instance. However, I have to side with Heather on the "teh internets" thing. If you're going to mock, make it clear that you're mocking and not mistaking.

Oh, and if we're going to get nitpicky, it's "full-time" with a hyphen.

<>< Katie

Dr. Mongo Lloyd said...

When people show me their 2-inch scars from knee scopes or whine about their sore wrists, I just point out my shoulder-to-wrist scar and my open wound from my necrotizing fasciitis surgeries in November. It's become a very good conversation killer.

WrightStuff said...

Ha! I knew there was a good reason I became an internal communications consultant. No one wanders up to me at parties and asks for a quick employee engagement strategy document or a newsletter. Mostly when they discover what I do they just look quizzical and find an excuse to wander off. Apart from when I worked at Carlsberg of course (a brewery!), now that always got people's attention!

Jade said...

My daughter is a physician and I make every conscious effort NOT to do this to her. I'm and ER nurse and I like my time off so I imagine that she likes hers as well.

In fact, most people who know me and don't work with me are surprised to find out that my daughter is a doctor. It's not something that I find the need to "bring up in conversation."

SeaSpray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SeaSpray said...

Great story, Funny with your long sips of beer.

My first thought was that your dad has such confidence in you and he derives pleasure with pride in directing people to you.

I think if he's almost 80 and not listening ..he's not going to change.

The lady certainly overreacted regarding her bug bite. You handled it well. :)

I used to ask a surgeon things when I worked at the hospital. never occurred to me I was one of "those" people. :) But we did know each other through work. I've seen a lot of staff do that with the docs and then they go into the doc's office. I did. I think they get a certain number of employees as patients because they do take the time to chat/look at something. You get to know each other at work.

I've also seen docs bring things up to employees if they were concerned for them.

But at a social event limits.

Partee! :)

My older son is in the computer field,works a lot and is on call often and people do ask him for favors. Not a big deal if simple but when the simple favor turns into a project I feel for him.

ChrisO said...

At least your dad isn't like this one

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Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.