Do You Want Ketchup With Your Fries?

By Howard J. Bennett, MD

I recently decided that I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. I’m not sure what prompted this decision, though I have been watching a lot of “reality” TV lately. I didn’t tell anyone about it at first. I didn’t tell my patients because who in their right mind would want to go to a doctor who didn’t want to be a doctor anymore? I didn’t tell my astrologer because if I stopped being a doctor she might cancel my 10% “doctor’s discount.” I didn’t even tell my wife because I knew she’d smile and say I was having a mid-life crisis. Our conversation would go something like this:

Me: I can’t stand it anymore. I have no time to myself and work is driving me crazy.

My wife: I’m sorry sweetheart. I can see how tense you are. Why don’t you buy a motorcycle or go bungee jumping or have an affair with one of your gorgeous nurses. I’m sure you’ll snap out of it in a couple of weeks.

Me: I knew you’d say that! Why can’t you be less understanding, like my partners’ wives?

The only one I told was Genevieve. Dear sweet Genevieve. She’d know what to do. Alas, Genevieve has always been rather self-indulgent and nowadays she spends most of her time curled up on the couch watching CNN. After waiting ten minutes for her to finish licking her paws, I knew our tête-à-tête was going nowhere. So, feeling dejected, I opened the pantry and scooped out her evening bowl of Friskies. Then I picked up a copy of the paper and looked through the want ads.

The first job I tried was a Hot-Dog vendor. Qualifying for a vending license is almost as hard as a medical license. It’s a pretty good job, though. Lots of fresh air, you get to make your own hours, and no one wakes you up in the middle of the night because they’re dying for a dog with everything on it. I found a great location across the street from the Social Security office.

But a funny thing happened during my second week on the job. A guy came by at noon for a couple of dogs, a bag of chips, and a Diet Coke. I filled his order in a flash, but I couldn’t help noticing the irregular shaped, black lesion on the side of his neck. Although I was no longer a doctor, I told the guy he should get the spot checked out.

He came back to see me a few weeks later. He told me he had a Stage I melanoma and thanked me for saving his life. Pretty soon the melanoma guy was sending his friends to me for hotdogs and medical advice. I tried relocating to another corner, but they kept finding me. So my stint in processed meats was over almost as soon as it began.

After my hotdog period, I got a job doing manual labor with a construction company. My dad built houses when I was a kid, so I had lots of experience with a hammer and nails. It was great working in the hot sun—the heat, the sweat, and despite the aches and pains, my muscles hadn’t felt this alive in years. I got along with my co-workers pretty well, though I couldn’t master the way they whistled when nice looking women strolled by.

Then one of the guys got smacked on the head by a steel beam and had a seizure. Somebody tried to force a stick in his mouth so I ran over, kept everyone at bay, and reflexively checked his vital signs until the ambulance arrived. I told everyone I was just doing first aid, but they all started calling me “doc,” and I was queried endlessly from then on about everything from bunions to receding hairlines. I quit the following week.

I had a nice tan at this point and thought I might do better with an indoor job, so I applied for a position as a floor sweeper at an upscale hair salon. Sweeping hair is very relaxing, and the first month flew by without a hitch. No one got sick or injured, and I blended into the surroundings like a medical student at Grand Rounds. Then, a few days ago, an impeccably dressed man in his early 60’s grabbed his chest during a pre-cut shampoo. I was hoping it was just an episode of reflux, but no such luck. The guy turned grayer than his suit and slumped over like a sand castle at high tide.

I stayed put for a second, waiting to see what my co-workers would do. They all just stood there, of course, so I quickly moved into high gear. I dropped my broom, pulled the guy to the floor, and started CPR. Then I barked out orders like I was a cast member from ER. By the time the paramedics arrived, the man’s clothes were a mess, but his heart was beating again.

I’m sure you can guess the rest. I was promoted to chief floor sweeper, and all of the old ladies who frequent the shop asked me to give them physicals. It wasn’t all bad news, however. It turned out that the guy I saved is the head of a major movie studio. He came back to thank me, and when he found out that I used to be a doctor, he hired me to write a screenplay about my career crisis.

So we sold the house and moved to LA. My wife is now a bungee instructor and I drive a Harley to work. As far as the gorgeous nurses go, well, you can’t have everything.

© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

First published in Stitches, The Journal of Medical Humor January 2004.

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