“Dr. SW101,” Says the curly-haired assistant, “will you sign this memo.”
I don’t look up. As usual, I don’t read the memo, reaching for the closest pen and signing as fast as possible. I look up at him, smiling cheerfully. “What’d I just authorize?”
“Oh, you just told General Forth that the unit has medical need for 6 additional XBoxes.”
I pause, wondering why I’m so morally opposed to all paperwork that I can’t bring myself to even look at paperwork unless I absolutely have to.
“Xbox,” I say, brows furrowing. “Do you get ’em at the pharmacy?”
“No!” He says, cloyingly earnest. “You’re SO funny, Dr. SW101. You should write a blog!”
“I do.” I say, feeling sardonic, looking dour. I reach for Volume I of Harrison’s Internal Medicine. I lick a thumb and start flipping through the thousand-page tome. “Hmmmm, Xbox. Nope. Nothing here.”
Assistant waits dutifully, no doubt inwardly rolling his eyes while clutching his well-typed letterheaded memo, with my signature still drying at the bottom.
“OH! Right. I’m only in Volume I. Stupid me. I should be in Volume II, where the X’s are.” I pause. “Just a minute,” I say, reaching for the second book. A few minutes of earnest searching, “Nooh. Darn. I just don’t see anything talking about how XBox is an accepted therapy for anything. Not even my favorite disease of all time – mitochondrial infectitis.”
“You’re kidding, right?” He says, now looking worried. “We can get the Red Cross to buy XBoxes for the unit if you say they’re medically warranted.”
“So, my patients – most of whom have seizure disorders, PTSD and post-combat anxiety – can sit around all day blowing each other up and staring at flickering lights? Maybe I should prescribe a Rave too, so we can add drugs to the strobe lights. Or would they be used for the Xbox version of Myst or something?”
Assistant gets all serious, fearing the loss of his beloved memo. He starts reading some of the Pulitzer Prize material, “Gaming has become a central element to the Soldier’s past time. When they return from war zones, the lifelike quality of the Xbox combat games approximate the environment they just left. For many, this represents a “return” to their former lives, thus producing a sense of calm and reassurance.”
“I said that?!” I exclaim, eyes wide. “What kind of crap-pile hash was I smokin’ when I wrote that letter?”
“Oh, huh. Um. Well, if you didn’t notice…I wrote it.” Says the assistant, looking dejected.
Short of tearing the letter out of his hands, and no doubt derailing an already fast-moving train with lots of passengers, I know I’m on the hook.
“Ok. You win. Xboxes all around! On me.”
Relief, profusion, gagging urgency and more of that I-want-to-help-soldiers-but-won’t-listen-to-reason earnestness. “Oh, THANK you! Man, you have no idea what this will mean to the guys.”
“Can we just agree that you got me to sign yet another of those goofy Army things where you’re not really asking for medical opinion but if I sign the memo about 25 people will have busy stuff to do and somebody somewhere will get something to further the impression that they’re entitled to things that the average American pays for?”
“Can we further agree that Xbox is not an accepted medical therapy for anything?
“Yep.” Confidence growing…clearly the doctor is too weak to actually stop any administrative freight trains now.
“Fine. You have your memo.”
He turns to leave. Then turns back, “Oh, and about that memo for the massage chairs…”
But I don’t hear him. I’ve crawled under my desk, looking for the Lost Thumbtack. I don’t “find” the thing until I hear my door open and close. Carefully I look up….he’s standing there, hand on the doorknob. He’s smiling, one of those serious smiles that makes perfectly clear that nobody’s fooling anybody. “Find your thumbtack?”
I sigh. The sound is tired in my ears. “Yes. But I just tossed another one down there to go look for later.” He doesn’t say anything. “Yeah, the massage chairs. Bring me the memo. Until then, take this script-” I scribble onto a piece of paper.
He crossed the room and takes the script from my hand, smiling.
1, bid. Do not swallow.