Many people consider themselves experts in at least a few things, such as law, sports, politics or medicine. Especially medicine.
My friend Homer recently returned home after major surgery. He had excellent doctors. They told Homer to take things very slow the first week or two. But on the second day a neighbor scolded him for not exercising more.
“Get up and walk,” the neighbor commanded. “It’s not good for a convalescent to lie around.”
Next time you have an ailment, don’t rush out to see a doctor. First, ask your friends. They will give you all the advice you need. And for free.
“I have a pain in my back. It’s killing me. What should I do?”
Friend 1: “Try a chiropractor.”
Friend 2: “For God’s sake, stay clear of chiropractors.”
Friend 3: “Try one of those new jellyfish remedies.”
Friend 4: “Go swimming.”
Friend 5: “Drink more water. Give your kidneys a workout. I bet your kidneys are the problem.”
Friend 6: “It’s a kidney stone. My uncle had the same sort of pain you got. He like to have died.”
That’s another characteristic of self-appointed physicians. They will scare you to death.
“You have a headache? It’s a brain tumor, for sure.”
Or the reverse may happen. Your medical-expert friends will downplay your symptoms, even if it kills you. Like this:
Jake: “I’m really worried. I’ve been bleeding for a week from several body openings, and last night I had a convulsion.”
Mary: “Relax. It’s just the weather. Everyone in my office has the same symptoms you do.”
An irritating thing about these experts is that they really don’t want to hear about your illness. Everybody wants to talk about his own.
Flo: “My surgeon told me I was the first case he’s seen where a human foot had six extra toes.”
Joe: “Oh, yeah? Well, let me tell you about my tonsils. When I was eight...”
A spine-chilling aspect of some amateur medical experts is their willingness to share their prescription drugs with you. Or to sample some of yours.
I knew a woman in Syracuse named Myrna who would toss down any capsule I had, as long as it fit a general category of illness.
For Myrna, all painkillers were the same. Likewise with medicines for colds, or reducing a fever. I’m glad Myrna didn’t become a pharmacist. Here’s how she would have filled a typical prescription: “I’m all out of phenobarbitryptamine, but I can let you have some cortapistalin instead. It’s got some of the same ingredients.”
No illness receives more diverse diagnoses and recommendations than alcoholism.
“He’s not an alcoholic, he’s a weakling.” “She’s not an alcoholic, she’s a cheap slut.” “Let the guy keep on drinking. He just hasn’t hit bottom yet. Before an alcoholic quits booze he has to hit bottom. Even if it kills him.” “Get her to a treatment center.” “Avoid treatment centers. They give you tranquilizers and take all your money. Take him to an AA meeting. If that doesn’t work, forget it.”
Even bona fide doctors can be frustrating. I met one who knew what was ailing me but wouldn’t tell me. “Just take these pills, cut down on coffee and sugar, and see me in a month.”
“But, sir, what’s wrong with me?”
“It’s a minor metabolic problem. You wouldn’t understand even if I told you.”
On the other hand, some doctors will carefully explain all the details. “Mr. Jones, your breathing difficulty stems from a previous olfactory complaint.”
Jones goes home and tells his wife, “The doctor says I’m sick because I used to complain about the old factory I worked in.”
His wife says, “But you have never worked in a factory.”
Which may explain why some doctors don’t go into many details with their patients.