hey buddy, you wanna talk about it?

WAY BACK IN 1974, I did a favor for a friend: he was man­aging a small restau­rant on Wyoming Av­enue in Forty Fort and needed the day off. One of his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as man­ager was to tend the bar, which is what I did that day. This was not a drinker’s bar—the ma­jority of drinks were to ac­com­pany a lunch or dinner.

I was 23, still a kid. There was a young man not more than a few years older than me sit­ting at the end of the bar when I came in. He was wearing a med­ical outfit, and he looked like a nurse at a time when male nurses were a novelty.

Nursing a drink.

De­spon­dent. That was im­me­di­ately obvious.

After a while I walked over and asked him what was wrong.

“Hey, buddy,” asked the bar­tender, “you wanna talk about it?”

He looked at me and said, “Do you know what the rate of Cae­sarean sec­tions is in the United States?”

“No.”

He looked at me and said, “It’s be­tween 20 and 40% in a lot of Amer­ican hos­pi­tals. You got that? Twenty thirty forty per­cent of the births in this country are C-sections! I just got back from working in a hos­pital in Sweden for a year. You wanna know what the rate of C-sections is there?”

“What?”

He looked at me and said, “Less than five percent!”

He was angry when he said it. 1

He took a sip of his drink, hook his head, and said, al­most to him­self, “One-tenth of ours!”

I was aware that ours was rel­a­tively high and rising com­pared to the rest of the in­dus­tri­al­ized world. But not like that!

He took a big sip of his drink.

His ex­pres­sion changed to res­ig­na­tion. “Now ask me what’s the number one cause of emer­gency C-sections in America.”

“What?”

He looked at me and said, “Be­cause the sur­geon is late for his tee-off on the golf course.”

I poured him an­other drink and one for myself …


Hey Buddy: photo of a despondent looking customer at a bar.

FEATURED IMAGE: About the photo at the top of this pageL yeah, he’s not in nurse blues, and he’s got a beer in­stead of a bourbon, but if this guy was sit­ting at my bar, I’d watch him with that first drink. Then I’d walk over, buy him his second drink, and ask, “Hey buddy, wanna talk about it?”



 

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For some reason this brings to mind a con­ver­sa­tion I had with a teacher of mine in high school along about 1977. He was re­tired mil­i­tary. Sur­vived WWII and had been to every country in the world ex­cept Russia and China (not easy coun­tries for an Amer­ican colonel to visit in those days!).

He was from the small southern town I had moved to just be­fore high school. Black guy who had come back to the in­te­grated south to make a dif­fer­ence (he gave up on the teaching part the fol­lowing year, died a few years after that).

He once told me that the United States was doomed to fail in the next cen­tury or so. I asked him why and he said:

“The coun­tries we’ll be com­peting with treat teachers like we treat doc­tors and treat doc­tors like we treat teachers.”

I haven’t seen much over the en­suing forty years to sug­gest he was wrong.

Funny I’ve been thinking about Mr. Broxton a lot lately. I think a few of our con­ver­sa­tions might make for good posts…Maybe not today (I’m off) but soon. Thanks for the encouragement!

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