I stand up to leave the meeting. “I’ve got a doctor’s appointment,” I explain. I am with one of the Managers, and he looks up at me with raised eyebrows. For a moment I think he is questioning my excuse and I wait for his comment.
“I do hope you’re not going to tell him anything,” he says through pursed lips.
“Sorry, tell who what?” I answer, genuinely confused.
“The Doctor,” he says and then, since telling the Doctor everything was clearly my intention, he adds, “Never tell Doctors anything.”
I begin to pack my briefcase. As I do so, the Manager gives me the following advice:
When the Doctor asks, ‘Do you smoke?’ You must say No.”
I interrupt. “But I do smoke.”
His eyebrows lift again, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
“Well,” I explain, “I only smoke on Fridays.”
“Whatever for?” Now his eyebrows are so high that I think they might disappear into his hairline.
“Harm minimization,” I explain.
His voice is slightly incredulous. “But why bother at all?” he asks.
“That’s what my Doctor says,” I reply and this reminds him of his original treatise.
“Ah, well, doctors,! Never tell them anything!” And he continues with this explanation.
“After he has learned you don’t smoke, the doctor will ask if you drink and you must also answer ‘No.’ This will be followed by the question, ‘Do you exercise?’ And this time you must answer ‘Yes.’”
“After that there will be a considerable silence in the surgery,” my interlocutor adds.
“And then what should I do?” I ask.
“Then,” says the Manager with a dramatic flourish, “then you must say to him, ‘So now tell me what’s wrong with me!”