Dr. Methuselah & The Annual Night of the Living Dead

Board Room
From my Laugh Cafe Collection, 2014

Robert’s Rules Of Disorder (Erma Bombeck Invades The Board Room)

When I managed medical groups, my humor imp (Erma) was right there with me at all times. She had her lapel mic tuned to the frequency of my brain, narrating the daily goings on.

Whiners catastrophizing over every little thing propelled her into overdrive. She could catapult from silent background monitoring to full-blown Dennis Miller mode in nanoseconds. She blurted out some of the most hilarious things at the most inappropriate moments.

I had to be particularly vigilant in Board Meetings because, bless their hearts, the hundreds of doctors I worked with over the years gave her so much material. One time I snorted my coffee through my nose after she ambushed me with one of her zingers, so I decided to stop bringing beverages into the conference room in order to avoid future mishaps.

Case In Point: Doctor Methuselah

Each year as the calendar flipped to December, and the winter’s chill was in the air, Erma would lob a snark attack by saying, “It’s that time of year again, dear.”

Mind you, she wasn’t foretelling that the local radio station was set to start playing Christmas carols 24×7, or that visions of sugar plums would soon be dancing in little kiddies’ heads. No, she was warning me that it was once again time for the physician partners in one infamous practice to start their annual pilgrimage to my office.

In these pilgrimages, select doctors would beat their chests like primates and declare open season Dr. Methuselah, the squatter  —  the elderly founding partner. You see, he’d stayed on well past his sell-by date.

Doodling On AgendaThe Year End Board Meeting

Each December, our accountant would arrive and the partners would shuffle into the conference room and take their seats around the table for our protracted evening meeting.

After working through the agenda and opening the floor to comments and announcements, all the partners (except Mr. Methuselah) would stare down at the conference table and wince–bracing themselves for what they feared would follow.

Dr. Methuselah would soon dash everyone’s hopes of a better new year with his dreaded announcement. Yet again — rather than retiring on December 31 as he had vowed [!] — he would utter his loathsome words:

“I’ve given it some more thought. I think I’m going to stay on another year.”

You could hear a pin drop. It was this group’s annual Night Of The Living Dead moment. Like a decaying zombie, grumpy-cuss Dr. Methuselah kept rising from the grave, refusing to retire and go away!

The agony of the partners was palpable. But, being true professionals, they always managed to short-circuit their reflexes and preemptively silence their guttural groans.

I have to admit that the disgusted looks and piercing glances exchanged across the boardroom table made for some memorable Kodak moments. LOL.

About that time, I would turn my head, look out in a different direction, and smile.

A casual observer may have assumed that I was in favor of Dear Dr. Methuselah staying on, but I was not. Dr. Methuselah and I were never fond of one another.

Dear Dr. Methuselah was what the healthcare sector terms a highly ‘disruptive physician.’ Whenever I looked up to see him standing in my office doorway, I knew trouble was brewing somewhere.

On The Air

Erma had much to say about this annual zombie apocalypse.

Erma narrated boardroom scenes like a biased college sportscaster during The Ohio State vs. Michigan game. Disgusted by their inability to stand up to Mr. Methuselah, she cast them as skit characters and reduced their acquiescing dialogue to flippant sound bites.

Looking back on it now, I am happy to say that, all in all– the coffee snorting incident notwithstanding–I did a pretty good job keeping Erma’s existence under wraps during my long career.

And since I was the only one who heard her commentary, no one was the wiser.

However, had a speech bubble ever appeared over my head, I would have found myself in quite a predicament.

Erma and I agreed: although each doctor talked a good game, they all fell short in the follow through department.

Stern doctor leaned over, hands on administrator's desk

Here We Go Again

Rinse. Lather, Repeat. Year in, year out–jointly and severally–each doctor came to my office and vowed that ‘this year’ [!], they would be the one to speak up.

‘This year’ they would display exemplary leadership. “This year’ they hold Dr. Methuselah’s feet to the fire. Yep, every year, ‘The Royal We’ vowed to veto the mere mention of further contract extensions.

“Yeah, right! And a meteor might crash through the ceiling and land in the middle of the Board Room table during the meeting,” Erma whispered into my ear as they walked out of my office.

As you might guess, nothing these well-intentioned doctors proclaimed to do came to fruition. None of them ever found their courage. None of them ever spoke up.

That Was Then

I’ve long since retired, moved south. I’ve been gone from that practice for over a decade. When I looked at their website recently, I chuckled when I saw that Dear Dr. Methuselah still listed as a practicing physician and partner.

No doubt, he’s probably still threatening to retire every year. The other partners are probably still making their pilgrimage to state their positions, but to a new practice CEO. I can shrug because it’s not my problem. That tragic comedy is now someone else’s show.

Yeah, these days,  I have no trains to catch and no one to please but myself. And since I don’t have to play nice with my toys anymore to get a paycheck, Erma and I have some great conversations about days gone by.

I ditched my Mary Poppins Uniform, giggling as I left that crazy getup on my office chair to be dry-cleaned and used by my successor. Please join me in a moment of respectful silence for them.

The Way I See Things

Life is way too short, folks. Despite what anyone else wishes to do, I’m taking the time to laugh. We may as well enjoy what life we have left on this earth; rumor has it that none of us are getting out of here alive.

I’ll end this post here because I have some damage control to do.

Yesterday, while chatting with a new neighbor here in the cul-de-sac, my humor imp Erma piped up and told me to find out when this woman’s baby was due.

Yep, you guessed it … she isn’t pregnant. Oy vey!

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