My rendezvous with Dr. Stein

A few days ago I saw Doctor Stein by the elevator of the RE clinic. He was rushing in from the employees’ garage and I was coming from the street. It was impossible not to acknowledge each other – we were the only two people there.

I felt a pall of awkwardness. It was the sort that I experienced as a child when I walked in on my parents having sex. It has to do with seeing a figure of authority out of the normal context, I think.  There was Doctor Stein, in his pedestrian clothes, rushing to his job like everyone else. And there I was, fully clothed and upright, which in Doctor Stein’s presence felt more violating then being naked and prone.

We acknowledged each other politely.

“I’m late,” he said as we stepped into the elevator. “Traffic”

Did he mean traffic of the unexpected sort — due to a car accident, for example? Or did he mean normal rush hour traffic?

And if it was normal rush hour traffic, why didn’t he acknowledge that his lateness was his fault rather than imply the blame lay elsewhere?

Still, I nodded sympathetically and asked him where he was coming from. This seemed like an appropriate question, since he had offered the information about driving.

But then I wondered: Did Doctor Stein realize that some patients – those less emotionally grounded than I — might use this information to stalk him?

I remembered What About Bob? in which Bill Murray follows his supremely arrogant psychiatrist on his family vacation. Surely Doctor Stein had seen this movie. Maybe he was one step ahead – maybe he lied to me about hometown for this reason. Maybe he really lived two blocks away, in a spacious condo overlooking the Hudson.

I contemplated Doctor Stein’s likely reaction if I offered assurance that I wasn’t planning on stalking him.

“Don’t worry, Doctor Stein,” I would say, laying my hand on his shoulder, “your story is safe with me.”

“Oh good,” he would say, “You’re clearly not like my other patients. I actually live in a spacious condo overlooking the Hudson.”

Instead I stared at the elevator’s digital display, trying to look disinterested. In a few seconds, we were back where we belonged.

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6 Responses to “My rendezvous with Dr. Stein”

  1. Hi, I clicked over from the ICLW list (thought I was too lazy to sign up for the list myself). I read your “pre-history” page just now and wanted to say that I struggle with the class issues of ART as well. I got the news from our RE about a month ago that we would likely need IVF, and I’ve been struggling with the whole idea of it (not that we can afford it anyway). I am looking forward to reading your archives to see what your insights have been.

  2. That is an awkward elevator ride… I often felt like there was a bias in the dynamics of the relationship between doctors and their patients. They know so much about us (they’ve seen us naked!) and yet we know so little about them. I have many times wondered what their lives must be like once they leave their white coats behind. And yet, one time my OBGYN came in late and began tearing up and proceeded to tell me that she was getting a divorce. So I went from always wanting to know more to feeling uncomfortable for knowing so much. Can’t win!

  3. Stopping by from ICLW. I love your posts and your writing style.

    What an awkward situation! I once saw my gyn grocery shopping at Walmart and it took me three aisle passes to realize who it was! I don’t think he recognized me, what with pants on and all.

    Best wishes.

  4. I hate situations like those. I work for a university and ran into our president one day at the post office. He was dressed in spandex from head to toe and had on Top Gun sunglasses and a bicycle helmet. I didn’t even know what to say to him. It was terribly awkward. LOL
    ~ICLW

  5. excellent story. there’s this ridiculous novel about a woman who stalks her therapist: the house of love. one of my favorites. i read it obsessively at some point in graduate school. i’m sure it was satisfying some fantasy about stalking my therapist/advisors/doctors, etc.

  6. What a weird elevator ride! My husband once saw our RE at the gas station and the only awkward thing to him was that he was driving a porsche. I don’t know what I would do if I ran into ours somewhere…

    ICLW #43

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