Yesterday when my husband and I went to the supermarket, our usual checkout lady, who knows a few things about us, had some medical questions for my husband. This, I have discovered, is not uncommon, once people find out my husband is a doctor these things usually follow. It has happened repeatedly in the last few years, and my husband handles it very well, but always with the same stern finality: "you really need to talk to your doctor about this".
I used to think this sort of thing was a joke, but seemingly, if you have any relation to medicine at all, people seem fit to ask you for medical advice. Yet I don't hear about such things happening for other professions. I mean, you might know someone who is an accountant, and ask them to do your taxes for you, but you usually end up paying them, not just asking advice on the fly. But really, there doesn't seem to be much call for frequent advice from English majors...or is there?
Thinking back to my college years, I remember all the papers I had to read and edit, with advice that would help them write a good paper but removed me from the responsibility of writing the paper for them. I was very strict about that - I would always help someone with their paper, but would never agree to write it for them. I simply helped them forge the way to a better paper, and made them think about the things they were trying to say and how they could say them better. This carried through my adult life, as it seems I always had friends in college or high school, and I like to think I helped some people learn how to write well. It seems, that like doctors, I was asked for advice all the time! Hell, even my first year in Greece, my doctor (of all people) kept bugging me to help him write some medical paper in English. I didn't.
Now I have to wonder how many other professions are used and abused in this manner. The car mechanic who always has to check out his friends' cars. The electrician who hooks up his neighbor's home entertainment system. The cook who is constantly plagued with requests for advice on spices and recipes. How much "free" knowledge is passed around on a daily basis?
In a way, it reminds me a bit of The Stand. The Free Zone people were constantly in wait for a doctor to arrive. People who had certain skills gave of their knowledge to help build their new society. But where do you draw the line? At what point does it become not a point of society building but self sustainment? When would people start charging for their services? Could you build a world where monetary exchange was not necessary, ever? This is something that always seems to be taken for granted in the world of science fiction - but could it ever really happen?
In the end, I guess I realized I actually miss helping people with their papers. And perhaps my husband would feel a bit forlorn if people stopped asking him for medical advice.
Nah, probably not.