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Gifts that keep on giving

I’ve never been one for wearing a white “doctor” coat when I’m seeing patients at the clinic, possibly because I’m not a doctor (I’m a Physician Assistant), but most likely because, as a patient, those long white lab coats always made me feel a little uncomfortable.

It’s one thing to have your surgeon all wrapped up in expensive sterile gowns and masks. It makes her look all expert and technical. They say that “practicing” medicine is an “art,” and those are two words I really don’t want to think about before someone puts a scalpel through my belly button.

But when a guy has finally worked up the nerve to come in to the clinic to confess that ol’ Johnson hasn’t been showing up to work on time lately, it doesn’t seem right for him to have to tell his intimate details to someone who looks like they’d rather be in the back room doing experiments on small furry animals.

I do, however, believe I should dress professionally when seeing patients at the clinic. This is something I haven’t had to do in a long while, mostly because as a novelist I could work in just a thong if I wanted, and as the Assistant County Medical Examiner I never found that my patients cared one way or the other what I was wearing. But for my cash-paying patients who are actually living and breathing, I think it’s reassuring that I at least appear to know what I’m doing.

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So I put on a tie.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this, but let me assure you, I’ve kind of forgotten.

Oh yea. Shirts. Ironing shirts. This is all going to lead somewhere. I promise.

Stacey is generally the one in the family to do the majority of the laundry, not because of any sense of traditional male-female household duties, but simply because it fits more easily into her schedule and gets her out of having to unclog toilets. But while I enjoy the luxury of finding my socks magically matched and my boxers neatly folded, I am man enough not to risk my life by asking her to iron my shirts for work.

Ironing shirts is not an entirely unpleasant task, and it’s something I’m actually pretty efficient at doing. Over the years, I’ve learned to do the various parts of the shirt in a strategic order and have developed a particular rhythm, so it really doesn’t take long once the iron’s heated up. Kind of like sex.

So, I was ironing my shirts the other night, and it occurred to me as I ran the iron over the label on the collar that the little tag was neatly embroidered with the words “no iron fabric.”

“Well now,” I thought, “wouldn’t that be convenient.” That’s actually not true. What I thought was, “You lying SOBs!”

The other day, Stacey mentioned something she had read in a magazine article, that one of the things the early American settlers thought was such an incredible luxury here in the New World was that they could be warm in the winter. And I’m like, “Huh?” The terms “early settlers” and “warm in the winter” seem to me to go together like “the first Thanksgiving” and “microwavable stuffing mix.”

But as we discussed it further, it started sounding more reasonable. Why had the settlers left Europe in the first place? We are taught they were fleeing religious persecution. But really, if you are reasonably well fed and comfortable, are you going to throw your family into the rank bilge in the bottom of some funky rat-infested wooden boat and risk scurvy and plague just so you can more freely burn witches?

No. You do those things because you are cold and hungry.

Actually, it seems perfectly reasonable that witch-burning became so popular in the New World simply because it was so cheap and easy. There were trees everywhere, just begging to be cut down for firewood! No more sending little William to chase after the coal wagon to fight other children over the spilled crumbs and dust. That was back when a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking actually meant something! In the New World there was firewood in abundance; all you had to do was hack the dang tree down with an axe, buck it into rounds, split it with a maul, stack it in the woodshed, and then haul it into the house. There! You could be warm in the winter!

So as I was working the wrinkles out of my “no iron” shirts and about to express my indignation at this horrible inconvenience, it occurred to me that I should just shut up.

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There has been grumbling at our house that we are so “ghetto” because I occasionally drive the kids to school in a less-than-latest-model pickup truck and our home theater has only a 42-inch screen. For Christmas, my youngest has expressed that he will be utterly disappointed if he does not receive his own HDTV and a $500 rapid-fire Airsoft machine gun. Oh, and a puppy.

I’m thinking we should all just be grateful that we’re reasonably warm. I’m thinking about a lump of coal.

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Craig Danner is a novelist and a Physician Assistant who lives and works in Hood River. You can contact him at 541 436-4144 or email craig@wilsonstreetclinic.com.

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