Saturday, November 3, 2012

All Joking Aside

Out of interest, I travelled once to a alternative therapies conference on back pain. It was an interesting experience to listen to the diverse opinions and the seriousness with which the proponents of the treatments described their results. At a break in the conference for lunch I was seated next to a young women practitioner of a discipline with which I was not familiar. We engaged in a short conversation as she seemed very pleasant and was surprised when I told her I was a medical doctor. She said, " Pardon me for saying this, but why is it that medical doctor's handwriting is so illegible?" "Well", I said," it's because we are taught to write bad. In second year medicine, the Course, 'How to Write Bad 201' is taught." "How can that be?" she said credulously. I waited for a glint of humour in those eyes but it didn't appear. "Well," I said, piling it on, "we then can't be held responsible for what we wrote, since no one can read it but us!"  "Good heavens ," she said, " I didn't know that!" I looked for any sign of amusement but the was none to be found in that serious mien. Up the ante was my way to deal with the matter. Surely in that stretch she would see I was joking!  "Yes," I said, " and in the Course in third year medicine, 'How to Mumble, 301' we complete the skill set 'How to communicate without doing so'. That way we avoid any trouble such as 'You said this or that'." "Well", she said as she rose from the table, "I'm glad you told me that!" I could see that I was in deep trouble. She didn't get it. My humour fell flat. To disavow it now would be disingenuous and reaffirm what she wished to believe, probably in the first place. I had just trashed myself and medicine in the face of an attempt at ill advised humour in the wrong arena. I could imagine the furtive looks of disgust from the assembly in the coffee hour later. I slunk away and listened to the rest of the meeting in the shadows.  As so many of my loved ones have said before, "Why can't you ever be serious for once?"

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