Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Power of Initials

I took my car in to the shop last week to visit his Car Momma. I've been going to this garage for years and I know most of the mechanics. I've run into Car Momma at the hair salon with her head wrapped in a towel. I've heard about her son, his school activities and her home renovation projects. She's heard about my vacations and seen my climbing pictures. I've always been on a first name basis with the people I know there.

This time, I had to leave the car and get a rental. I left a voice message with the rental desk and when the rental guy called me back at work I answered the phone with my usual, "Dr. ClinkShrink". Now, my garage knows what I do for a living and it's just never been an issue or really even a topic of conversation once the novelty wore off.

The difference this time was that the guy worked on my car was new to the shop. When I arrived at my scheduled time the next morning, he was standing in front of the shop, clipboard in hand, waiting for me. "Dr. ClinkShrink?" he asked and he shook my hand. He had all the paperwork waiting to go, my rental was lined up and waiting, and every reference to me was preceded by "Dr.". I gotta tell ya, it felt weird. Eventually he asked me if I was a medical doctor, explaining that he asked because "there are a lot of people who go by 'doctor' who aren't actually MD's."

My first thought was: "blog material".

I never go by my title or my initials when I'm off duty. When I first graduated from medical school a got several letters (hand-written, pre-email) from my mother addressed to "Dr. ClinkShrink" or "ClinkShrink, MD", but that was about it. I think (and still do) that people who flash their initials around are a bit obnoxious. This was just the first occasion that I really was struck by what initials can do. (And no, I don't plan to make a habit of flashing the 'MD'. It just felt too weird.)

And for the record, I did make a point of telling the rental guy that PhD's earned their degrees too.