“Isn’t it about time you started back to work in the ER?” my wife asked as she walked by my desk. I was working quietly on the computer. Well, OK. I was just fiddling around on Facebook. But I wasn’t bothering her, was I? “Is that any way to treat a returning combat veteran?” I asked, cocking my head to the side while trying to look indignant.
“Pulleeze,” she moaned. “Didn’t you tell me that the war was over and that you didn’t have anything to do? You may be able to pull the wool over everybody else’s eyes, but I know what you did while you were over there. Pretty much what you’re doing right now. Besides, you’ve been home over a month now. And two weeks of it we were on vacation. So isn’t it time you ‘climbed back into the saddle, cowboy?’” She made a clucking noise like she was spurring a reluctant horse.
“You know, the psychiatrist warned us in Warrior Transition class there would be friction with our significant others when we went home. He told us that our wives would try to make us feel guilty for taking time to rest and relax and adjust. Sweetheart, I have to be careful. You never know what will happen. You keep this up and who knows I might start having flashbacks and go postal on you. How would you feel if you knew you were responsible for driving me into ‘shell shock.”
She just hung her head and shook it back and forth.
“Besides, I’m waiting for my stimulus check. I heard that Obama was sending everyone a $12,000 check to get the economy going again. That should allow me a few more days off don’t you think?”
“I’ll give you a little stimulus,” she said starting to bristle.
“Oh, that’s right. Behind every successful man is a woman…with a gun pointed at his head.”
“Oh, poor baby,” she mocked. “You are so abused.”
“Hey, everyone else is getting a check or a bailout. Some of those guys who got bail out checks even got bonuses. Why shouldn’t I?”
“Because somebody has to pay for all those checks and bailouts,” she smirked. “And that’s where you come in, baby. You are the big ‘sugar daddy’ who is going to pay for it all.”
“You really enjoy poking me in the eye, don’t you?” I said, slumping forward in a funk.
“Congress and the president are spending money like a college girl with her first credit card. And you think it’s my patriotic duty to pick up the tab.”
“I heard that, Dad,” shouted my daughter from downstairs, “And I resent the comparison. I’ve got to go to work now. Don’t talk about me while I’m gone.” Actually I was quite proud of her. After seeing her first post-collegiate paycheck–and the huge chunk taken by taxes–she had started to ask some serious questions about the role and value of government.
“Seriously, sweetheart,” my wife chimed in. “Somebody has to be an adult in this country and continue working to keep it all going.” And after a pause, “I know that’s hard for you, but somebody has to do it.”
“What’s hard for me? Being an adult or working?”
My wife just gave me a knowing look.
“Now I’m being serious. What’s the point of working? The more you work, the higher your taxes. Besides, soon the government is going to run everything. It won’t matter whether you work hard or not. We’ll all just be good comrades. It’ll be like the good old days of mother Russia. I’ll pretend to work and they’ll pretend to pay me. Get me some vodka, woman!” I reached over and started to slap my wife on the tush, but she looked at me with look that said “Touch me and prepare to die a slow agonizing death.” I thought better of it and simply waved my hand in the air in a mock grand gesture. “Can you believe that they have the audacity to send checks to people who don’t pay a dime of taxes and call it a tax cut?”
“Oh, so the fact that you’re still hanging out around the house is an anti-government protest? Why don’t you make yourself useful and make a ‘No More Taxes’ placard and go picket the federal building?
“Maybe I should,” I said, taking the challenge.
“Or you could write a letter to the paper, or write your congressman, or …”
“OK, OK,” I conceded. It was clear that she had my number on that one. Despite my complaining, I hadn’t done anything to change the situation. “Isn’t it about time I started thinking about retiring?” It was clear that I wasn’t getting anywhere on the first excuse, so I thought I’d try number two.
“You’re not even close, Buster. Besides, didn’t you tell me that 50 is the new 30. That puts you 25 years from retirement. Besides, have you seen our 401k recently?”
“You are not affirming me. Keep this up and I’ll be depressed and senile. Besides, who needs a lot of money? We’ve never been in this for the money. I remember back in medical school when I was trying to decide what specialty to go into. I had the opportunity to go into orthopedic surgery and make the big bucks. You supported me going into emergency medicine because it sounded interesting and exciting.”
“You didn’t go into orthopedics,” she countered, “because you said ‘Dr Plaster’ would make a goofy name for an orthopod. You kept talking about that proctologist named Harry Butt and how he should have gone into ophthalmology.”
“They don’t need me up there anymore,” I said, quietly moving on to excuse number three. “The ED is fully staffed. I don’t want to take shifts away from the young guys. The way they are all having babies, they need the work.”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head in exasperation. “Haven’t you even read the workforce survey this month? 45% of EPs say that their ED is understaffed. If they don’t need you at your department, other hospitals will need you. I’m not letting you get away with that one. Besides, I’m sure you’ve seen the pages upon pages of great jobs in the classifieds. Even in this economy there are a lot more jobs than people. You should count yourself lucky.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know I’m lucky to have a job that I love and …” I looked over at my wife as she silently held her hand to her forehead and made an “L” sign.
“Oh, so you think that just because I’m not running out the door to my next night shift in the ER, I’m a loser, huh?”
“Oh, no sweetheart. I don’t think you are a loser. I just think you are lazy.”
“Lazy?” I almost roared. “You think I’m lazy?”
“Oh, sweetheart,” I begged, breaking from my bluster for a moment. “Would you mind tossing me the remote. I don’t want to miss the last episode of ‘ER’.”