Sunday, June 27, 2004


One of Nathalie's friends hosted a wine tasting party yesterday. Being a social butterfly allows for a motley crew of acquaintances, so you can always expect a cornucopia of personalities and backgrounds at one of her functions. Although I was in a vegetative type of mood yesterday and initially wanted to lounge around on the couch and read one of my many magazines that I've been neglecting, I thought it would be good for me to get out for a change. Besides, I seldom pass up an opportunity to meet new people, so Nathalie and I picked up a bottle of Chappellet Merlot and headed over.

I love meeting new people. They have interesting stories, interesting lives, and I like the unpredictability of interacting with new personalities. The problem with meeting new people is: "What kind of work do you do?"

When asked this on an airplane, I usually answer with "high school teacher." Specifically 10th grade math and science. Most people are terrified about math and science, or recall miserable memories from childhood, or quickly label me as a boring nerd. Whatever the reason, the conversation usually ends there and I can fly the rest of my journey without the unwelcomed small talk. Thankfully my engineeering background is more than adequate to answer the usual layman's questions if they start pressing for info. And with the televised events of school shootings and drug raids, I have an armada of anectdotes about teaching in modern times.

However, it's a bit different at parties. The difficulty with social events hosted by mutual friends is that you're liable to run into the same people later. Sometimes, God forbid, at work as one of your patients. So I usually end up telling the truth about my chosen profession. Quite difficult to get a patient to consent to an operation when they see you as a liar.

So why the hesitation to reveal what I do for a living? No, I'm not ashamed of what I do. And it's not that I don't enjoy what I do. What I don't like is standing there in front of this new person while they size me of up with their perceptions and misconceptions of what I do. After the onslaught of questions regarding my ability to tolerate cadaveric dissections, massive bleeding, and the pleas for the most morbid thing I've seen, the majority of the time the conversation leads to a question about a mole that's located on their body that they've had for years. They want my medical opinion. Next thing you know, 2 other people are describing their various ailments and want a medical opinion. Should they be taking this new herbal supplement they read about? Should Grandma Mildred get an operation? My doctor put me on this medication, is this better than that one? Will Cousin Joey's birthmark turn into cancer? ...all of a sudden I'm running a clinic.

It's only natural for people to have questions about my job, because it is a fascinating and impressive occupation. But sometimes, I want to leave work at work, and just be me. Plain old me.