Monday, February 12, 2007

My uncle, the doctor

Every once in a while, my summer school vacation would coincide with my Uncle Doc needing a receptionist, and my mother would volunteer me for the job.

Uncle Doc was not an easy man to deal with. For one thing, he hated paperwork. This would not have been a problem except he was the doctor for the local Pepsi-Cola bottling plant, and had to fill out reams of workers' compensation paperwork. The piles of paper were a mile high and the patients were always on the phone asking what had happened to their applications. I used to follow Uncle Doc around with a pile of forms, trying to fill them out myself. We had conversations like this:

Me: Uncle Doc, what kind of injuries did Florence Smith have?

UD: Lacerations and abrasions.

Me: Henry Jones?

UD; Abrasions, contusions and lacerations.

Me: Art Robinson?

UD: Contusions and lacerations.

The lacerations, contusions, and abrasions were endless. Still, Smith, Jones and Robinson wanted their forms filled out so they could get their money and return to contusing, lacerating, and abrading themselves ASAP.

Then there were the dogs. Uncle Doc was a dog lover, and he usually had one or two dogs in his office and a few at home as well. They were company for me during the long hours Uncle Doc was at the hospital and I was at my desk, answering the phone, reading Bartlett's Quotations, writing angst-filled poetry, and filling out the daily ACL reports. Sometimes they scared the more jittery patients, though, when they poked their heads into an examining room unexpectedly.

Uncle Doc and I did not see eye to eye on my future, either. He dreamed of my going to a finishing school where I would learn to be a lady. He envisioned me pouring tea and being a gracious debutante. Riding to hounds, English saddle. I, on the other hand, couldn't wait to escape suburban boredom, go to Greenwich Village, and lead a life of chic, stylish debauchery while writing the aforementioned angst-filled poetry and smoking cigarettes, blowing smoke rings through my nose.

Fortunately, the summer would eventually end and I would go back to college, leaving him with his dreams, his dogs, and stacks of workers' comp papers to be filled out by my luckless replacement.

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