As my regular readers know, I moonlight as a consultant for various medical market research companies. It's a thankless job, but somebody has to pay for the tomatoes.
So last night I had a dinner meeting with neurologists and sundry other specialists to review data on an up-and-coming product.
These are never fun, because neurologists by nature are a remarkably pathological group of personalities. Back when I worked at Humungous Neurology, Inc. the partners would argue if it was dark or light outside. I think they invite the other specialties to these as a buffer.
But I digress.
So I was seated next to Dr. Harangue, who I'd had the good fortune of not having seen in at least 5 years. In his own mind he's a giant in his field. To those outside his mind he's an obnoxious boil. He may have once been a good doc, but as they say in Hollywood "you're only as good as your last picture". And his was made before Casablanca.
Neurologists will argue over anything. The meal started with a dispute across from me over who's bread plate was who's (right or left? GET YOUR BREAD OFF MY PLATE!) followed by a fight over which fork is used for salad. Somebody actually dragged the maitre d' to the room to settle the issue (no, it wasn't me. I sit still and keep my mouth shut as much as possible).
I'm not much into the swanky places they have these meetings at. I ordered a steak. I had no idea how complex this was.
Waiter: "How would you like that cooked?"
Dr. Grumpy: "Medium."
Waiter: 'That involves a light red center. Is that okay?"
Dr. Grumpy: "As opposed to..."
Waiter: "Well, rare is a pink center."
Dr. Grumpy: "Medium is fine."
Waiter: "I can do medium rare, too. That's a pink/red combo".
Dr. Grumpy: "What's wrong with medium?"
Waiter: "I'll just do medium-rare-plus for you. That's a pinkish-red."
Whatever. I'm trying to order a steak, not pick out draperies.
Then the talk began. Every time a doc involved in the study was mentioned, Dr. Harangue felt the need to interrupt and say "I know that doctor personally. We've been close friends for over 25 years." By the end of the meeting I was hoping they'd mention a study done by Hippocrates or Woodrow Wilson to see if he knew them, too.
After 15 minutes of talking, the speaker stepped out from behind the podium to show us all that his zipper was down, with his tucked-in shirt hanging out of it. A tactful internist promptly yelled "Christ! Your fly is open!" to drop a subtle hint.
Then they brought dinner. The cardiologist next to me had ordered prime rib (no comment), and the waiter accidentally set my steak in front of him, and his prime rib in front of me. I pointed this out, and he quickly switched plates.
The cardiologist had a freakin' FIT! "I don't want that now! It was in front of him! He could have H1N1, or worse! Doesn't the heath department check you places anymore?!!!" It was, literally, in front of me for less than 5 seconds.
So I quietly started my steak, while they went to get Dr. Germaphobe a new prime rib (actually, I think they just brought him back the old one).
The next speaker showed us a seemingly endless series of graphs. After 20 minutes of this, she asked if anyone had any comments. Dr. Phlame at the end of the table immediately raised his hand. "Yes, I want to know why you chose red and blue as the main colors for the graphs. I think mauve and maybe yellow would be much more aesthetically pleasing. Also, I think some ruffles or curvy lines around the slide border would be nice."
This was immediately followed by Dr. Harangue chipping in "Dr. Phlame, do you live under a freaking rock? This company has been using those colors for years. But back to the data, did any of you people think to compare these results to a 1954 study by Longdead, et al?" The speaker (and everyone else there) had absolutely no clue what he was talking about, and Dr. Harangue chewed us out, as if it had just been published last week. When I looked it up, the study investigated a drug (that's no longer in use) for an unrelated condition.
Throughout this excitement the waiters kept refilling our glasses (ENDLESS DIET COKE HEAVEN!), so dysfunctional personalities were not improving with repeated doses of Burgundy and other wines.
In one discussion, to argue a point about a competing drug, an internist actually reached into his pocket and pulled out a product insert. I swear! He had it with him, all scrunched up. After reading from it like it was a bible he sat down and began arguing with a pulmonary doc about when daylight savings time starts.
We made it through another 15 minutes of polite discussion before Dr. Germaphobe cardiologist began tapping my shoulder. "Hey, Ibee!"
I turned around "What's up?"
"Are you gonna finish your roll?"
Stunned, I looked at the bread roll I'd absently left on my plate. It was buttered, and I'd taken a few bites out of it. "Uh, no, I'm full".
"Thanks!" And he grabbed it. So the guy who'd refused to eat an untouched steak was now chomping on my partially eaten dinner roll. Amazing what a bottomless glass of wine will do.
As we sat through another set of slides, Dr. Harangue's cell phone rang. He answered it, speaking loudly enough to be heard in the next county (i.e., his usual volume). "What? Yeah. No, I've got another half hour of this shit. The drug company people won't shut up."
The dinner ended 20 minutes later. To make sure all points were covered, the moderator specifically asked "Dr. Harangue, are there any other comments?"
No answer. It was the only time he'd been quiet all night. He was in a burgundy stupor, slumped face down next to his creme bruleé. He was still there when I collected my paycheck and left.