Counting me, there were six of us; college spies. Maybe that is a grammatical error; we were spies who happened to be in college. Well, maybe that’s a half-truth. We were co-op students with rather high security clearances, working at a place in the DC area which made the type of things of which Nancy Pelosi would deny having any knowledge. I was a mathematics intern—not a bad step on the rungs of the career ladder given that the dean of my math department had tried on more than one occasion to get me to change majors. Everyone I worked with had at least a PhD in math. At least I had enough firing synapses to know I would never be their intellectual peer.
During the summers, we six would report at one of the complex’s gates, flash our badges at the marine guards, make our way past the military weapons testing facilities, and head to our basement offices. At lunch time we’d break out our briefcases, and take out our tools of the trade—Frisbees, bag lunch, sun tan oil (this was in the days before anyone could spell SPF, pure Hawaiian Tropic.) Within minutes we’d be stripped down to our cutoffs, running across the field where the helicopters landed, and dripping with sweat. After lunch we’d help draft differential equations whose aim was to read target signatures sent from one of our missiles at a Soviet or Chinese aircraft. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
That was then. Now we are aging adolescents clinging woefully to rapidly fading images of summers past, whose idea of getting wasted is drinking multiple espressos. Gone are the days where we could abnegate responsibility. We matured, at least a lot of us. We’ve learned pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing. We’ve accepted it to the extent that we act like we know what we’re doing even if we don’t and, we do it.
Pretending is a skill. Guys do it all the time, secretly hoping no one will notice. People who answer your hospital phones do it too. Sometimes patients will settle for an answer; any answer. It’s sort of like bluffing in Trivial Pursuit—if you bluff with enough confidence, your opponent may not even check your answer. For some patient questions, there are three states of being; not knowing, action and completion. The goal is to move as rapidly as possible from the first state to the third. If the patient proves to be a problem, the patient care rep should finish each sentence with the phrase, “In accordance with the prophecy.”
Of course, if face-to-face interaction proves to be too much, you can always tighten up the dialog. For example;
RING …RING …
Welcome to the Patient Care Hotline.
If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.
If you are codependent, please ask someone to press 2.
If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5 and 6.
If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want.
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully to the little voice until it tells you which number to press.
If you are manic-depressive, it doesn’t matter which number you press. No one will answer.
If you are delusional and hallucinate, please be aware that the thing you are holding on the side of your head is alive and about to bite off your ear.
Thanks for calling.