It’s now been a few days since I have been out of work due to the government shutdown.

It’s now been a few days since I have been out of work due to the government shutdown.  I miss my job and hope that everything works out soon.  Otherwise, I have no comment on the why’s and the how’s about things like this happening.

I’ve given my life to science – not like the fellow who kept me from going to dental school, but to work on future cool things in space.  It really wasn’t that fellow’s fault.  He was just there when I visited the dental school in college with other students who were interested in becoming dentists.  They pulled back the sheet, there he was… and I no longer had the desire to be a dentist.  I guess it would be more appropriate to say this fellow had given his body to science.

At work, I get to do math.  I enjoy it.  I miss it.  I also miss my medical practice.

My medical practice?

Yes, my medical practice.  It’s been doing very well.

About a year ago, I had to change phone numbers at work.  I kept getting these calls from people telling me not to call them anymore.  They never believed me when I said I hadn’t called them.  They were yelling and screaming at me and saying some pretty rough things.

The best I could figure was that a collection company had either purposely or by mistake used my work phone number for what folks could see on their caller identification.  They would call and leave folks who owed money threatening messages, and then the folks saw my number and called me back.

I asked for a new number. It solved the problem.

In the last few months, I have been getting a couple of calls a day for medical advice.  It seems my new number was listed on a website for our clinic at work.  For the first week, I told folks that there was a mistake and I would see about getting the clinic to put the correct number on the website.

Now please understand that what I’m about to tell you is true, but I let every person who called me my mistake off the hook pretty quickly and let them know that I was a mathematician, not a doctor or a nurse and any advice I was giving had a relative large probability of being useless.

People continued to call.

I answered the phone as I always do, “How can I help you?”

If the person asked, “Is this the clinic?”  I said, “No, they have listed my phone number somewhere by mistake and I’m trying to get someone to figure it out.”

Not all folks asked if they had the right number for the clinic, some went right into telling me their ailments.  What was I supposed to do?  I like helping people.

My Papa had all of the Foxfire books.

In addition to teaching you how to dress hogs, build log cabins, make cheese and hunt bears, the Foxfire books contained medical advice including how herbs and other things could be used to treat various pains and injuries.

I had watched my Papa spray Lysol on everything from dandruff to fleas; I even assisted him on occasion.  Papa also thought that “soda waters” were medicinal and you should drink at least one per day.  He was partial to Nehi, but admitted Coca-Cola actually was the most potent.

We weren’t “Coke People,” preferring an RC or a Double Cola to a Coke when we wanted something that wasn’t orange, red or purple.  But when things got dicey and you had to go for a sure cure – you pulled the cap off of a bottle of Coca-Cola.  It was more of a medicine that it was a soda water.

The experience with my grandfather, as well as watching various movies and television shows, allows me to diagnose and treat a number of basic illnesses and other things that hinder people on the job.

“Hello, how can I help you?”

“Do you have anything for an upset stomach that I could stop by and pick up?”

“You don’t need to stop by, just go get a Coke out of the machine and drink it.  Don’t get a Pepsi; you have to drink a Coca-Cola.  I’ve also heard that a rhubarb root worn on a string around your neck will also help. 

Oh, by the way, this is not the clinic.”

“Hello, how can I help you?”

“I’m having trouble with a tooth.”

“Which side of your face is it on?”

“The right side. Why?”

“Well, you should take your shoe and sock off of your left foot and tie a string around the little toe on your left foot.”

“Are you kidding?”

“No, I am not.”

“Do you have any other advice?”

“Well yes, this is not the clinic and you should probably go to the dentist.”

“What are you?”

“I’m a mathematician who thumbed through my Papa’s Foxfire books many years ago.”


“Hello, how can I help you?”

“I feel a sore throat coming on and I wanted to see if I can stop by.”

“You can stop by if you need to, but I’ll tell you what you need to do.”


“Well, I have heard that if you tie a dirty sock around your neck when you go to bed, it will cure a sore throat.”

“You are kidding.”

“No, I’ve really heard that.  I’m from Alabama.  I wish I could get you and this other fellow together who has a toothache.”


“He probably has a dirty sock available.”


“You know this is not the clinic.”

“Do you really think the sock will work?”

“I’ve never tried it, but let me know if it does.”

“Hello, how can I help you?”

“My allergies are acting up.”

“Have you tried going to the doctor?”

“What are you?”

“I calculate the probability of things going wrong and give free medical and legal advice with no guarantee of results.”

“Well, what would you do?”

“Have you tried Apple Cider Vinegar?”

“That sounds nasty.”

“It is used to treat all sorts of things including sinus infections, warts, acne, gout, sunburn and arthritis.”

“Does it work?”

“I really don’t know, but it can be used as aftershave if it doesn’t.”

“Is this the clinic?”

“No, it is not.”

“Hello, how can I help you?”

“I have a rash and I want someone to look at it.”

“Have you tried spraying Lysol on it?”

“No, why would I do that?”

“It might work.”

“I’m not spraying Lysol there…”

“Stop – this is not the clinic.  Try the Lysol at your own risk.”

“Why did you tell me to use Lysol?”

“You said you had a rash.  Now if you told me you had fleas or dandruff, I would have prescribed the same thing.”

As you can see, I need to get back to work.  The three to five minutes I spend during the course of the day providing medical advice is very important to a lot of folks.  Ok, maybe a few folks and maybe it’s not that important.

I will note I have had two repeat customers/patients.  I’m not sure if they called back by mistake or if they value my opinion, it really doesn’t matter. 

I’m thinking about getting a new lab jacket that doesn’t have paint on it.


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