I haven’t blogged in a while, but this seemed like a story worth writing about…there are just those moments that you feel should be committed to paper…or whatever it’s called that we’re writing on these days that seems paper-like.
I was meeting my friend Lisa for lunch a couple of days ago, she and I have known each other for close to twenty-five years. She and I knew each other before I had my first daughter, before I was diagnosed with my brain tumor, before my first brain surgery. She helped bring me home from the hospital after the surgery on the day that I was released. She also helped me raise money for the walk I’ve just completed. We’ve known each a long time.
I was waiting for her in a downtown restaurant…a “bistro”, I was checking my Blackberry for emails, I texted her to let her know I had arrived, and no sooner had I done that, when I looked up and saw that she was coming through the front door of the restaurant. She rushed over to the table, put her stuff down, and asked if I could order her an iced tea while she went to the Ladies Room. She was in a rush because she was coming from work, which is in Brooklyn. She had driven into the city, and she only had so much time before she was going to have to drive back out to Brooklyn-we wanted to make the most of this time we had together. I ordered the iced tea, and no sooner had she sat down, when the guy…a kid really, sitting next to me on my left side
“my deaf side”, asked if I could “just read him a paragraph from an article in the New York Times”? I thought it was a bit odd, but I thought, “why not, and how long, and how bad could this be?” So I did. Lisa was reading the menu to figure out what she wanted to eat, so it wasn’t like it was taking time away from us. I wasn’t really absorbing what I was reading. After I was done reading, he said, “thank you, I just wanted to make sure I was reading it correctly”. I do remember thinking that he seemed to have a good grasp of the English language. I wondered why if he spoke English, and probably read English, did he need someone to read something to him…but whatever. Then I noticed that he was wearing a stethoscope around his neck. At this point Lisa had finished looking over the menu and was ready to order. The waitress came over to ask if we knew what we wanted. I had decided before Lisa arrived what I wanted, so we gave the waitress our orders. I began to talk a bit to this guy…this kid. After I mentioned his doctor paraphernalia, he brought our attention (Lisa was listening now too), to the fact that he was wearing a white lab coat with the scripted “NYU Hospital logo” on it, as if this would tell us all we would need to know. He said, “I’m a Resident at NYU Hospital”. I said, “Oh really?” My first thought was that the restaurant we were eating at was quite a long way from the hospital. My second thought was that the logo was not the NYU hospital logo I was familiar with…not at all…not one little bit. How many people are fortunate, or unfortunate enough to know what the NYU Hospital logo really looks like? The third thing was that it was odd that a doctor…excuse me a Resident would be dining with his stethoscope around his neck if this were in fact their down time, and it must have been his down time, because as I said…we were quite a way from the hospital. The restaurant we were all dining at was in Greenwich Village, NYU hospital is all the way near 32nd Street and 1st Avenue…this is a long way to travel to eat…especially to eat alone-this is about 20 downtown blocks and several more blocks going towards the Westside of Manhattan. He told Lisa and I that he was a Psychiatric Resident. Did this mean he was studying Psychiatry, or that he was a resident in the Psychiatric ward? I asked him how it was to be a Psychiatry Resident? He said, “that’s a big question.” I asked him as a “Psychiatrist” what his feelings were regarding death and dying? He talked a bit about that; he seemed to have some real thoughts about this subject. He thought it was better to live every day to its fullest, and that dying is what was hard. We agree about that…this makes me think he had some kind of information or experience in this area. Was he a doctor or did he just play one on TV? Was he an actor? We were after all, in New York, not far from New York University, which has an excellent theater school. He continued to talk, and I continued to think. I noticed that he had a Martini on the table, and that he had finished half of it. I asked him about his Martini. He said, “he’s off of work”. I thought, it’s lunchtime, and he’s a Resident, but maybe he’s had a very tough day, or maybe he’s just completed a night shift. But wouldn’t he prefer to sleep? I brought up my walk, and my brain tumor…the topic of “Psychiatry” and the “brain” leads the conversation there-he doesn’t seem all that familiar with much of the terminology I was using, but that doesn’t mean anything, often I’ve found myself knowing more about this area of the anatomy than other doctors-it’s a specialized field. I suggested that he take a look at the Brain Matters website. I thought you “never know”. I thought he may be crazy, but he may be connected, or he may be crazily connected. At one point in all of this, I asked him how old he was, and he told me he was 26. He told me he had gone to school 4 years as an undergrad, 4 years as a medical student, and now he was in his first year of Residency…the math worked. He asked me how old I was, and I told him-he found that hard to believe, so either I look better than I think I do, or he was looking for a donator of his own. Finally after what was probably 15 or 20 minutes of our talking, (Lisa chimed in now and then to the conversation with comments and questions of her own), I said, well “it’s been good meeting you, but my friend and I have only so much time, so we’re going to get back to our lunch.” He said “okay, I’m just going to go out for a cigarette, will you vouch for me if they come back and want to know where I went, and let them know that I’ll be back to pay the bill?” I said, “first of all, as a doctor you should know that you shouldn’t be smoking cigarettes, and secondly, I can’t vouch for you, I don’t even know you, why don’t you just pay the bill and then go out and smoke the cigarette?” He smiled. He then grabbed his nice designer shopping bag that he’d apparently brought to lunch with him-inside it was the newspaper with which he had started our conversation. As he was on his way out the door, both Lisa and I looked at each other and said, “he’s not coming back, and he’s not going to pay the bill!” He walked out of the restaurant. I looked out the windows of the restaurant onto the street. You could see everything from where I was seated. Our “Resident” friend went out and lit his cigarette, but he didn’t stay at the corner, he had no intention of coming back inside, he kept on going. Almost as soon as the Resident left the corner, the manager left the restaurant and took off down the street after him. A few minutes later when the manager returned, I asked if he had caught up with the doctor? He said “No, but he had caught up with his shopping bag which he had left on the street.” I asked the Manager what was inside the bag. He told me that there was only a newspaper inside. I guess our “Resident” thought that he would easily be able to pick up a new “meeting device” somewhere else.
So he wasn’t a doctor. Maybe he was a mental patient…a “psychiatric resident”, maybe he was an actor; maybe he was just someone who didn’t have enough money to pay his bill? This was funny and yet not, all at the same time. To me there were two interesting things about this meeting. The first thing was that if he had connected with someone who hadn’t come to know as much about hospitals, doctors, and medicine as I’ve come to know over the years, that perhaps his outcome might have been different…maybe better for him…maybe not. The other interesting thing is that despite his obvious lack of credentials, I’ve met doctors who have had official credentials, and demonstrated less sympathy, compassion and knowledge. This makes me wonder who he really was, and what his real story was about. It also makes me think about why things happen. Guess there were actually three interesting things about this meeting. Ah… New York!