“Wait until you see what is waiting for you in the next exam room …”
My clinic nurse was barely able to contain a smirk. This meant one thing to a doctor in training: the next patient must be a “train wreck,” with so many things wrong that I would never get beneath the surface during my brief visit. I was running 30 minutes behind, so I took a deep breath.
As I opened the exam room door, I was greeted heartily by the Wentworths, who both stood up when I entered. This couple in their eighties appeared to have stepped out of a 1920’s bandbox, some sixty years after their attire would have been the height of fashion.
Mr. Wentworth wore a wide lapel pinstripe three piece suit, with suspenders, a starched white shirt and paisley bow tie. He held a derby hat in one hand and his wing tip shoes were spit polished shiny. His wife was in a high necked lace blouse and woolen skirt, with a fur collar jacket clasped in front with a large brooch. She wore a felt hat over her perfectly coiffed white curls, set off by pheasant feathers pointing jauntily from one side. Her gloved hands clasped a purse and a closed lace parasol. I invited them to sit.
“Doctor, we are so glad to meet you. Our neighbor told us we must switch doctors since you’ve taken such good care of her! In fact we drove clear across town to come here!” Mrs. Wentworth gushed. “We had a little trouble finding your clinic and it took awhile to find parking, but here we are! Isn’t that right, Charles?” She reached over and patted her husband’s knee with her gloved hand. He smiled and nodded agreeably and clasped her hand in his.
“How can I be of help today? “ I began, thinking how sweet they looked together.
“Well, Doctor, you see, it’s my nerves. I just have such a difficult time with my nerves. Isn’t that right, Charles?” He smiled and nodded again agreeably and gave her hand a squeeze. “It just seems to be getting worse and worse …”
“Tell me more about how your nerves affect you, “ I asked, jotting notes quickly.
“For instance, while Charles was driving here today, I was just such aflutter about whether we would be able to find you, and whether we would find a parking spot, or whether we would miss our appointment altogether. We even got up an hour earlier to get ready. Even so, I managed to tell Charles to turn right when he should have turned left and so we ended up lost. I thought my heart would beat right out of my chest, I was so worried! But I got us turned around and back on the right track. And here we are! Isn’t that right, Charles?” He had dozed off, head nodding.
“You both still drive?” I asked hesitantly.
“Oh, no, Doctor, not me! I’ve never driven! Charles has always been the chauffeur in our family. He is such an excellent driver. Isn’t that right, Charles?” She nudged him with her elbow as he had started to snore softly. “Oh my, I guess I did wake him up a bit early today. But Doctor, it’s gotten so he has to be reminded about where to turn and when to stop, even in our neighborhood when we drive to the store. So I make sure I tell him exactly what to do, and he usually does just fine. Charles, wake up! I’m talking about you!”
Mr. Wentworth opened his eyes, blinking, and gave his wife another pleasant smile.
“Mr. Wentworth, how did the drive go for you today? “ I was curious how he would respond. He turned his gaze to me, and my heart sank, knowing the truth from the empty way he looked at me. He would not have a clue.
“Oh, it was fine, just fine, thank you for asking, “ he offered good naturedly.
“Mr. Wentworth, can you tell me who the President is right now? “ I asked. Mrs. Wentworth flashed a puzzled look at me.
“Why of course, it is Mr. Roosevelt, “ he replied confidently.
After arranging a ride home for the Wentworths, I called the Department of Motor Vehicle Licensing, letting them know I was sending them a drivers’ license that needed rescinding.
Predictably, Mrs. Wentworth’s nerves got much better.
Emily Gibson is a family physician who blogs at Barnstorming.