And there was I, trying to look engaging and light-hearted.
'The blue tee-shirt looks nice, though,' he added, to compensate for suggesting I looked as though I had cervical spondylosis.
I'm proud of knowing terms such as cervical spondylosis. It's all down to having trained as a medical secretary when I was eighteen. We had to learn medical terms with all the Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes so that we knew the difference between hypothermia and hyperthermia and didn't condemn someone to an early grave by getting it wrong on the doctor's letter.
When I first trained in the late 1970s, we didn't even have audio typing, let alone computers. I went into the doctor's office and took the letters down in shorthand on a spiral notepad before decoding my scribbles and typing them up.
|Fran kept her fingers on the key for hours before remembering it was 1979 and she wasn't connected to a printer.|
One's shorthand, especially taken down at speed, isn't always reliable. I have a couple of funny shorthand mistake stories for you.
Once, I typed up a letter dictated to me by an orthopaedic surgeon. 'Thank you for sending me Mr Smith. I am recommending he undergo a Baloney amputation.'
When I took the letter in for the doctor to sign, he nearly had a coronary because of the laughing.
'What have I done?' I said.
'It's not Baloney,' he said, snorting. 'It's below-knee.'
'Oh,' I said. 'I did wonder. I thought maybe a Mr Baloney had invented the procedure.'
'He may as well have done,' said the doctor. 'I'm calling it a Baloney amputation from now on.'
2. Another secretary in the same hospital wrote in a letter, 'Thank you for referring Mrs Jones to me. I have carried out tests on her gynaecological problems and recommend she has a day at the sea as soon as possible.'
Her doctor, similarly, nearly fell off his chair when he read it.
'I said "D & C",' he said. 'Dilatation and curettage.'
'I've never heard of that,' the secretary said. 'I did think it was strange, but I thought that maybe you were one of those unorthodox doctors who prescribes yogurt and rest, or cranberry juice and a daily walk.'
You know, I think I could write a book along the same lines as 'Being Miss' (see under the spondylosis photo for details) all about being a medical secretary, my career for years before I became a teacher. There are so many good stories. But it would sound dated now, with tales about Pitman shorthand and carbon copies and patients' cardboard files and correcting mistakes with a gallon of Tippex, so that people would have to read it with a 'Dictionary of Ancient Secretarial Customs' alongside them.
I did write a radio sitcom recently called 'Receptionists', based on some time I spent working in a GP surgery. I sent it to an independent radio producer, but he sent it back saying, 'Sorry, but the first page didn't make me laugh enough, so I didn't read on.'
Not one for euphemism, then.
I should have sent him my Baloney letter with a note saying, 'This made a doctor laugh like a drain in 1979. So, what do YOU know?'