She will go out of her way to avoid dropping it, will actually take her conversational partner through a labyrinth of roundabout comments. Oh, I work in the medical field.
Because the D-word changes things.
I've been noticing it for a while - when I'd tell people I was a medical student, they would gush. Oh, you must be so smart! I could never be that smart! And I would shrug, smile bashfully, and reiterate my mantra of medical school. It has nothing to do with being smart. I'm just too stubborn to give up and too dumb to know when to quit. They would laugh. The never believed me.
I noticed it when we moved to our new town, after I graduated. We are "the young couple" in a neighborhood where children are grown and grandchildren are being born; our neighbors came over to meet us shortly after we unloaded the Penske yellow truck and settled in to survey the property. We got the young couple questions - do you have any kids, where did you move from, what brought you here? Oh, I answered, my job. And they asked what I did, with the sort of easy affability that people seem to have toward a couple young enough to be their children. And I said I was a resident, in family medicine, at $hospital.
And things changed.
They're just as friendly, just as good of neighbors, and the lady across the street still tells me I work too damn much every time she sees me, but there was a shift in their attitudes that day. And it came with the next thing anyone ever seems to say. Oh. You're a doctor...
There are the obligatory jokes to follow - everyone has a bruise or a wound or a sore finger that they laughingly display - and there is the obligatory discourse on what I want to do when I'm done with residency or what it means to be a resident at all - but things have changed, conversationally. The people I'm talking to have moved from a spot just a little higher on the social strata than I am (Established and middle-age trumps young and starting-out) to one notably lower (Doctor, lawyer, CEO trumps most standard professions) and they know it. There's a little less isn't-that-cute in their voices and their eyes, and it's because I'm a doctor.
The peds nurses call me Nykki and give me crap. The OB nurses sass everyone. The nurses on heart and vascular feed me wasabi dipping sauce. The medical floors call me Dr. B or they use my full last name, but you can always tell the ones who haven't worked with me - they're deferential, polite, respectful; it's "doctor" this and "excuse me, doctor", and they jump before I speak. The ones who know me will ask questions. I get respect from them, too, but it's an easy respect, mutual. They've learned to ignore the d-word.
I can walk into an exam room in my clinic and tell a mid-thirties woman with three children how to change her disciplinary style so that they listen to her, and her husband will call me later and thank me for lecturing her. I can ask my patients about their extramarital affairs, the quality of their sexual function, their bowel and bladder habits and their desire for anchovy pizza without being called nosy. I am a repository of more facts about more people than I ever wanted to know, and it extends outside the office.
At a house closing, the selling couple heard the D-bomb and told me all about his heart dysfunction and hospitalizations, how he was feeling, what medications he was on. At family gatherings, I am invariably asked to "take a look at this, could you?" I know about my neighbors' health problems because they told me even though I'm not their doctor. I have had my advice solicited on such various and diverse specialties as cardiology, general surgery, endocrinology, and oncology.
(Some of you, O Best Beloved, may recognize yourself in the above. Rest assured, I don't mind. I'm illustrating a point.)
When we were in Kaua'i, on the phone for the Red Cross, I called an area hospital. "This is Nykki with the Red Cross Kaua'i, I'm looking for some extra blankets for a group of potential refugees. Might you have any?" She put me on hold. I got tossed from person to person. Nobody seemed to know. Finally, someone hemmed and hawed. "What was your name again?"
This is Dr. B- with the Red... I didn't finish the sentence. I got my answer. No blankets, but a list of places to call. "Sorry, Doctor..."
It has real power, and it's easy to see how it could be intoxicating. I don't approve of the physicians who throw their titles around, but I think I'm beginning to understand.