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Listening, a simple courtesy rarely extended

The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention

Gulf News

Dr K, one of a number of general practitioners in the local area, is a person that has lost his professional spark. Work, it is obvious, has become a drudgery. Which is understandable to a certain extent given that one out of two people say the same thing; sometimes two out of two people — a 100 per cent — agree that going to work every day is the dreariest thing thought up by man in the socio-economic scheme of things.

In reality, however, that’s what we have to do if a monthly income we aim to earn. As the popular Aussie group Silverchair stated in a lyric, ‘You say that money isn’t everything/but I’d like to see you live without it.’

Now, it is possible that Dr K doesn’t listen to Aussie rock bands and prefers instead a post-work wind down with chillout jazz, but the very fact that he’s at work every day is proof he shares the Silverchair philosophy. He needs the bucks. The big bucks paid to men of medicine for their abilities to tell us about our bodies amazing things we didn’t ever guess ourselves; and to tell us all this in terms so complex we dare not repeat them for fear of being labelled pretentious or foul-mouthed.

Hypochondria and juxtaglomerular, to cite two. The latter is a challenge for the lazy tongue or even, one might hazard a guess, a tongue in a springy mood. Juxtaglomerular, ironically, is a complex, connected to muscle cells in the afferent and efferent arterioles, all of which sounds obscene if I didn’t know otherwise.

So I can empathise a little with Dr K.

But it is annoying — and I’ve been referred to him three times — to find his attention is only — I’m being generous — 10 per cent with me, the rest of it frolicking merrily in some vacant meadow outside the dispensary.

Ridiculous question

“So what do you do?” is an early question he asks.

The first time I thought he meant, ‘How do you do?’ which, to be fair, would be a ridiculous question to ask in the first place because if the answer to that was, ‘I’m fine, doc,’ the whole point of the visit to the clinic becomes a sham.

I told him what I did, which is not much anyway and doesn’t take too long. He proceeded to ask what I was there for. I told him and he, after a moment of silent meditation, believe it or not asked again, “So, what do you do?”

It’s a question he would repeat twice more thereafter, interspersing those with two askings of “What brings you here today?”

Eventually after a nanosecond’s worth of flashlight in my left ear he pronounced it too waxy and sent me on my way to get the said ear syringed where I was told by the nurse that it didn’t seem over-waxed one bit.

Then followed a visit to the specialist who confirmed no over waxing.

On two subsequent visits to Dr K, I’ve endured the exact same routine.

Which brings me to the thrust of this article: the happy couple, Derek and Brenda Lehman, both in their forties, married several years now with three children all growing steadily through their school years.

Brenda is a talker — one of those born with a spring under her tongue that keeps it bouncing up and down. You’d think that after all these years Derek’s attention would be apt to wander a bit during one of Brenda’s endless narratives. It is not so. Whenever she’s talking, he sits rapt. And he’s blessed with a remarkable memory.

“Remember in 1994 on the trip to Bali you said, Brenda….?,” he will say, and retell some incident accurately.

Derek is the other side of the coin on which the infamous Dr K sits.

It’s people like Derek that give true meaning to the saying, ‘The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention’.

Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia.