Skill Sets


An actual conversation:

“So you’re a doctor, a physician?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Can I ask you a question? Is it possible to get mild food poisoning? I think I accidentally ate dinner with a fork that touched raw chicken, and I feel mildly ill.”

“It’s not my area of expertise, but I imagine if you ingested a small molecule, your body could fight it off and you would be only mildly ill.”

“What is your area of expertise? I have other ailments.”

“I’m a child psychiatrist.”


I wondered whether a child psychiatrist could treat a childish adult or an elderly adult entering a second childhood. Probably not. It must be flattering and/or annoying to have a skill set that elicits requests for advice. Nobody asks a librarian for advice, except in the library, of course. We were at a dinner party at one of my wife’s aunts once, and the aunt told me there was another guest coming I would have much in common with. It turned out to be a cashier at a bookstore.

I know a rabbi who says that for some reason most people on learning he’s a rabbi start to tell him everything they know about Judaism. Outside marriage counseling. nobody seeks a rabbi’s or a priest’s advice these days, unless the rabbi or priest knows something about plumbing.

Years ago when our kids were little, we belonged to a babysitting coop. One of the couples we often traded babysitting with became lifelong friends. The husband was  finishing a degree in neurosurgery, and we always felt a particular peace of mind when he came to babysit. It one of the kids fell and got a head injury, he would know just what to do. I suppose they could rest assured that when I babysat, if there was a fire, I would do everything I could to save the books.

I have to say that the skills I admire and envy most are handyman skills. I would love to be the sort of guy who can fix a leaky faucet or build a spare room. If everybody had my level of skill in building things, we would still be living in caves. But I never ask a handyman for advice on how to do anything because I can never follow the directions.

Then there’s Google. Friends of ours once hired a guy to install a walk-in shower in their bathroom. He had his van parked in their driveway and was constantly going into the van for twenty or thirty minutes at a time. The job was taking forever.  Somehow they discovered that he was going into the van to watch a YouTube video on how to install a shower. They were not pleased with the result.

I Googled mild food poisoning, and it turns out that the child psychiatrist was right. Most cases of food poisoning are mild, lasting from one to three days. But if botulism is suspected one should go to the hospital immediately. Untreated, botulism can lead to paralysis or death. Of course, I Googled botulism. Symptoms of botulism include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, and slurred speech, which are very similar to the symptoms of drinking too much bourbon. I decided to cut down on the bourbon for a couple of days and keep a watchful eye on my symptoms.

3 thoughts on “Skill Sets

  1. Too funny Alan. Love your sense of humor. And by the way the only symptom of too much bourbon is sadness at seeing the empty bottle… And not having a backup. I’ll keep you in mind me though when it comes time for Mi Shberach

    Liked by 1 person

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