A friend died last week. Not a close friend, or even someone I'd talked to recently. We did residency together, and practiced in the same city. But as time and geography do, we hadn't been in contact for a while. Not that we ever had a falling out, as much as we had our own lives. Occasionally we ran into each other at various places, and it was always good to see him.
He died of shit luck. That's all. And he was in his early 40's, a year younger than me. When a young person dies we always hope they did drugs. Or committed suicide. Or some risky behavior we can blame it on so we can say, "Geez, I don't do that sort of thing, so it won't happen to me". Not here. Just shit luck that can't really be prevented.
In residency we had all kinds of odd adventures, besides the usual war stories of medical training. Like when our hospital paid for the residents to go to a Neurology Academy meeting in Seattle. A bunch of us played hookie, and used our department stipends to go barhopping. Since we had no money for cabs, we were limited to bars in walking distance from our cheap motel. And they were all gaybars. So we wandered in and out of 10-15 gaybars over the course of the day.
All the geeks in neurology residency (let's face it, that was all of us) would watch Babylon 5 together once a week, and he and I would argue about it for the next week.
When I was trying to decide if I should ask Mrs. Grumpy to marry me, he gave me some advice that helped push me in what's turned out to be the right direction.
And it just sucks. Like me, he busted his ass through a combined 14 years of college, med school, residency, and fellowship. Then building a solo practice from scratch. And now he leaves behind a wife and 4 kids (younger than mine, too).
Anyway, don't mean today to be a downer, and I'm not looking for sympathy. Just venting.
But since this is a humor blog, I'll end it with a memory of him.
He was known for being gruff, and didn't really give a shit about what people thought of him or who he offended.
There was a day in the late 90's, when a drug rep had brought lunch to the practice we'd both started out in. She was obnoxious beyond belief. She would not shut up. And at the end of each sentence she'd ask "With this information, is there anything else I can do to help improve your patient care?"
We were trapped. And being new physicians, I was afraid that if we walked out we'd get in trouble, as her company was sponsoring some research at our institution. Gruff wasn't as concerned with this as I was.
So at one point in her sales monologue from hell, I passed him a note that said "We're trapped and will die here". He passed it back, and had written "I'll take care of it".
A second later she asked her standard "With this information, is there anything else I can do to help improve your patient care?"
And Gruff said, "Yeah! Show us your tits!"
She froze in horror, and in that second we both bolted.
We didn't get in trouble. Better yet, we never saw her again, either.
Goodnight, Dr. Gruff.