The other day I went to the grocery store. Because it was summer in Georgia and therefore hot with a capital OMG, I wore a set of scrubs. You know what scrubs are – the lightweight cotton garments worn by health professionals and are easily laundered, easily bought at any department store and according to TV and movies, easy to pass oneself off as a health professional.
But identification with the medical community is not why I wear scrubs. I wear them because they are comfortable, they were a bargain buy at the Cheap Used Goods store, and they wick the summer sweat off the skin with admirable ease.
I got a few things and went to the checkout, where two young ladies were ready to ring up my purchases and bag them for me. Just as I put my goods on the counter, the bagger concluded their ongoing conversation with, “…but I think I’d rather go for a nursing degree.”
With that still on her mind the cashier turned to me. As she rang me up, she took in my scrubs and my distinctive salt-and-pepper hair and asked, “What are you?”
“Beg your pardon?”
She nodded at my shirt. “What do you do at the hospital?”
I used to work at the switchboard for nearly twelve years at a hospital, but I didn’t feel like reciting my work history to a stranger so I simply answered, “I’m tired.”
“Oh, sure. But I mean, what’s your position?”
I gave her a weary smile and repeated, “I’m tired.” Well, I was. It was true. I’m acutely aware that my hair belies the truth that my unlined face denies and therefore gives me an unsolicited dignity. It was perfectly understandable that they would assume I held a weighty degree, rather than be an operator-used-to-be. It’s wearing to one’s soul to witness the looks on people’s faces when they realize you do not fit the fancy suit their imaginations craft for you.
The bagger-and-possibly-future-nurse smiled and commented, “I bet you are!” I finished paying for my stuff and left without further comment. Later I kicked myself for missing a grand opportunity.
What I SHOULD have done was look the cashier in the eye and announce, “I’m a doctor of Phrenology.”
I mean; damn, y’all! I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a Theater emphasis. I’m a certified ACTOR, for Pete’s sake. That alone earns me a bona-fide certificate in Phrenology. For as long as I’ve been dealing with the strange and varied habits of the human race, I’ve earned a doctorate in the “study” of the shapes of people’s craniums in order to determine their psychological attributes. It’s centuries-old… well, bullshit. It used to be considered a legitimate medical field, back in the day when doctors were still using leeches to cure “fits” or prescribing laudanum for everything from headaches to cancer. And people went along with it! Even Queen Victoria allowed a phrenologist to read her children’s skulls. Queen Victoria. If a phrenologist could pass muster with Queen Iron Pants, Herself, then anything is possible.
So the next time I wear my scrubs in public and someone asks me WHAT I AM, as if simply wearing an easily obtainable garment automatically grants me powers beyond the humble title I earned from the University of Central Oklahoma Speech Department, I shall proudly announce, “I am a doctor of Phrenology!”
Dr. Jones, at your service. Now this won’t hurt a bit: let me look at your skull, feel around on it a little, and figure out your personality and emotional tendencies. It’s okay. I’m a professional. I’m a Phrenologist.