Saturday, December 17, 2005

Is the Lit major in?

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.


The SeaWitch said...

I think it happens in all professions Mel. Because I worked in advertising so long, everyone wanted me to do their ads, brochures and billboards for free. Even now, they'll ask me to do logos and resumes for free. What's worse is that they think they're doing me a favour..."keeping me busy". LOL Because our stores do sales, service and repair of computers, people are forever trying to get him to fix theirs for free. I had to put a stop to it since he was spending hours working on each computer and the most anyone offered of their own free will was 5€! Our cleaning lady makes more than that PER HOUR.

My twin sister is a communications director and people are always asking her to write business plans for them to take to the bank. My younger sister is an artist and people constantly want her paintings for free or ask her to paint their dog/cat/kids for free.

I always tell people I'd be happy to help them with their fee is 30€ per hour. That usually stops them dead in their tracks. Thanos should tell people that for a certain amount of money, he'd be happy to give them a check up. Pretty soon, I think they'd stop asking for free diagnoses.

adfjkaj said...


I have a friend in the states who is a GP (Pathalogos I think in Greece).

When people ask him the same thing, he politely gives them his card, and says, "Oh, why don't you call my office and set up an appointment."

Thanos said...

Well, I think this is a two-pronged issue.

For one, the social aspect. What are you going to talk about with an electrician or a doctor at the check out counter? Wires and cholesterol respectively. Now, as long as this is just social banter, I am happy to respond and make small talk (never giving actual diagnoses, prescriptions or courses of action - that is up to the person's physician not me). It's acceptable and it can range from flattering to tiring sometimes (I am other things, not just a doctor =p).

For another, there are freeloaders, who want to be spared the expense (such as it is here - ridiculously low) of a visit to a doctor's office. These people ask the most annoying things out in the street or over the phone and are prepared to lift their shirts or drop their pants for a "quick look-see". These people you give your card to. Or, if you're smart, don't give your card to and refer to someone else =p

St. Caffeine said...

While I don't see this as an undue burden on me, I sometimes experience a similar thing. When folks find out I'm an economist, the first thing many ask is, "Where should I put my money?" My stock answer: in the bank.

As (I imagine) with doctors, there are lots of areas of specialization within economics and mine is NOT financial management/investment. If you want to talk about the latest WTO negotiations or even public finance schemes, then we can have a conversation.

By the way, just started The Stand. Given that you enjoyed it so much, I'm afraid I'll have to skim parts of your posts to avoid spoilers. So far I only have two criticisms. One is a little time inconsistency thing, but I imagine that'd be hard to keep straight in such a long book. The second is that he seems to make his unlikeable characters too unlikeable. I know Frannie's mom is a "witch", but he just seemed to pile it on a little bit. Still, lots of pages to go.