Friday, April 17, 2009

Maybe, Doc, it was just one of those things....

Last month I had one of those procedures where somebody sticks a tube down your throat and takes pictures – the somebody in this case being someone I’ll call Dr. Livingstone (if I’m not presuming too much).

I’m happy to say that I received a clean bill of health from the doctor. I’m a little less happy to say that this month I received another kind of bill from the doctor, but one must expect this kind of unavoidable side effect. (Given the amount, one might also call it “collateral damage.”)

As I prepared to write the check, I noticed that the bill, in itemizing the charges, referred to an “encounter with Dr. Livingstone.”


The American Heritage Dictionary lists several definitions for “encounter” as a noun: “a meeting, especially one that is unplanned, unexpected or brief; a hostile or adversarial confrontation; a contest; an often violent meeting; a clash.”

Aside from raising the small point of whether the folks who made that classic star-crossed-love movie “Brief Encounter” were being redundant, these definitions make me wonder whether the good doctor’s practice was using the word correctly.

For one thing, my procedure was not unplanned or unexpected, though I suppose you could argue that it was brief. (And I could argue that it wasn't brief enough.) Was it hostile or adversarial? Geez, it didn’t seem so. I was in a fairly good mood at the time, all things considered, but did I unknowingly breach some kind of patient protocol, and did this tick the good doctor off? Maybe I should have brought a bottle of wine to the operating room.

A contest? Didn’t seem that way, either, though I could easily envision someone making a reality-game show out of it. (“You Bet Your Gullet!”)

A clash? Again, from my own, somewhat drugged side of the gurney, it didn’t seem so. But next time a bottle of wine – and, just to be safe, a box of Whitman’s Samplers – might be in order.

An often violent meeting? Now, that comes a bit closer to the mark, if one defines “gagging” as a violent action. And I recall feeling a bit sore afterward. Could it be that Dr. Livingstone was in a particularly bad mood, angry at someone, or something, and I just happened to be handy?

That certainly seems like unprofessional behavior to me, and perhaps I should consider bringing him up on charges before the state medical board.

But then again, he is basically a good doctor, and I am scheduled to see him again next year for a different kind of procedure, and, heck, anyone can have a bad day once in a while.

So next year I will bring the wine. And the box of candy.

And, just to be extra safe, a copy of the Marquess of Queensbury rules.

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