Examining My Navel
I'm going to sound all falsely modest or worse, and I swear on all that is chocolate that's what has held me from writing this in the first place. In fact, if it hadn't been for the interactions I had in the dentist's office on Wednesday, I would still be poking pointy sticks at it to see how to write this without sounding like some whiny, pseudo-egalitarian candy-ass.
So, here goes:
The scene: Our heroine, entering one of the dental rooms, for fixing of a molar that has chipped, creating twin serrated surfaces intent on flaying her tongue with every word she utters. (Oh, hush. Creative license. Felt like the Grand Canyon.)
Sweet, Chipper Hygenist: "Hi! And how are you?"
Diana: "Just great."
SCH: "So. How does it feel. You know. Being finished with it all. All done with all the studying. I mean you're a medical doctor, aren't you? How does it feel?"
Diana: (blink-blink....Hell, it's been 14 years since I graduated. 11 since I finished residency. Can't really remember back that far....) "Ummm...just great!"
SCH: "I mean, you worked so hard! All those hours! All the studying! And now you're finished! It must just feel great! And now you're a Doctor! Wow!"
Diana: "But you worked hard, too. You studied, put your life on hold. You know what it's like."
SCH: "But I'm not a dentist."
Diana: "Yeah. I know. You still did all that."
(Flash forward to our heroine's dentist, Dr Dentist, coming in to the room)
Dr Dentist: "Hi Diana! So, chipped tooth, huh? How'd you do it?"
Diana: "Heh. Sorta embarrassing. Bit on a turkey sandwich. My jaw slid and I cracked top and bottom molars sharply. Was hard enough to shake me up for a second."
Dr D: "So, you have Wednesday afternoons off?"
Diana: "Yup. I only work two-and-a-half days a week. I have the world's best schedule."
Dr D: "I have Friday's off, but I have to work 11 hour days the the other four days to do it. But I can't complain to anyone who's a doctor about the hours. Boy. The hours YOU guys put in."
Diana: "Heh. All in the past. Your hours are way worse."
I just don't get it.
I'm not pretending here. I really, really don't get it. Yes, the hours were long. Yes, the loans were best not thought about. Yes, the stories were really good (wish I could remember most of them). I have no idea if it was at all like combat. I've never been in combat. But, you see, we were all doing this voluntarily. We all wanted this gig. Med school and internship and residency and all that shitty VA cafeteria coffee was the gold ring. We were really fucking lucky. We were not smarter. We were stubborn, lucky enough to know what we wanted, agreeable to sign away for ghastly sums in loans, and, again, lucky. We were good at deferring gratification. Most of us also were very good at taking standardized exams. Many of us were good at memorizing minutiae and seeing patterns. That's it. That's the sum of it. Not brains. Brains really didn't enter much into it. Trust me. Yes, some are truly brainy. They are a minority.
We were also not the only ones who fell in to this category. Everyone who works at what they do, paid or unpaid, is of the same ilk: Full-time parents, full-time nannies, full-time barbers, part-time barbers who are with their kids 4 days a week, the extremely nice and competent checker at the local Shopko who does everything right and whose line I stand in if she is working, no matter how long it is, etc, etc, etc.
Man! I just don't know how to respond to either the baffling hero worship, as with the hygenist, or the hierarchy, as with my dentist. Misdirected anger, I get. Somebody did them wrong and their trust is destroyed. I am cool with that. Guilt by association. Everybody in medicine is an uncaring, incompetent asshole. The problem with that is that they usually don't take it out solely on me, but the office staff, but that is another post.
I try to never tell people what I do when I am meeting them for the first time in a social situation, for just this reason. I want them to get to know me for as long as possible before they toss on the baggage that goes with the title. The reaction is almost always the same: They either gush or pull back. I really debated whether or not to even put it in the blog, but as it is part and parcel of me, I decided to throw it out there and be done with it. It is exhausting hiding things.
Working in a small town amplifies this, as expected. I truly had to work to get my non-doctor provider colleagues to call me by my first name. People like our Physical Therapist (who is getting his doctorate, for god's sake!) and the Nurse Practitioners. That's all who I've managed to convert. Our Physical Therapy Assistant won't. Our techs and receptionists won't. Our RN won't, despite my threatening to call her "Nurse Lastname" until she does. (Yeah, empty threat. I'm lazy. She knows it.) She maintains that it is not respectful for her to call me by my first name, despite me calling her by hers. I maintain that it perpetuates an unfair hierarchy. She smiles at me, shakes her head at my bolshie ways, pats me on the back and refuses all the same. Yes, we are exactly the same age, born with in 2 weeks of each other. We share parenting woes. We tell crude jokes to each other. Still, crude jokes not-withstanding, calling me "Diana" instead of "Dr Piffle" somehow implies the respect due to me.
Yes, I do get some of it on a basic level. I guess it is easier to take a pill that has the same active ingredient as rat poison if you believe that the person prescribing it has, not just the years in, but some extra magic, beyond the reading of the literature and the certification of the boards.
I just wish we deserved it.
Really, though, we don't.