Gary Roseman, Professor of English, Retired
Is There a Doctor in the House?
The morning promised nothing unusual. The lawn workers were busily blowing
the newly mown grass from off the lawn, rearranging it amongst the freshly
fallen leaves that lay in a pile near one of the parking lots. Jimmy
Stewart, landscape design instructor, par excellence, was ambling along on
the sidewalk, accompanied by his faithful canine companion Friend, while, at
the same time, one of the occasional visitors from the next door Georgia
Regional Hospital ricocheted down the first floor hallway greeting all he
met warmly and enthusiastically, before being retrieved by the hospital's
unarmed posse and taken away, all the while showing not the least bit of
resentment to his "captors" for terminating what, undoubtedly for him, was
an enjoyable outing in the neighborhood. Millie Pierce, Humanities
department secretary, sat busily typing tests and all seemed right with the
world as we knew it in the early '80s at what was then known as Dekalb
College-South Campus. Just another day at the mill.
I was in my office, girding my loins, preparing to meet my 8:50 class. The
phone rang. a student calling to say that he would be in court today and
would be unable to attend class. I waved to a student standing in the outer
office waiting, obviously, to talk with me. Millie showed the young man in
as I hung up the
Zero Crotts (not his real name) stood before me, all ashen-faced and sober,
bent over slightly, perhaps more than slightly, grimacing in pain.
Recalling a line from Emily Dickinson, I thought, I like the look of agony
because I know it's real.
"You know, Dr. Roseman," he began, "I ain't been in your class now for more
than a week." He continued, " I have this real sharp pain in my back and
can't hardly stand up."
I nodded sympathetically seeing that the young man was weakening by the
"I been takin' aspirin and all that kind of stuff for the past two or three
days, but it don't seem to do any good. I put a board under my mattress to
see if that would help, but it didn't. I just don't know what to do."
Trying to be helpful, while at the same time getting my material ready for
my 8:50 class, I suggested that he try some exercises to strengthen his
back, quit any heavy duty lifting, and perhaps even see a physical
Not seeming to pay much attention to what I had just told him, he asked
about the cost of a complete physical exam, saying that he had been putting
off getting one but now he thought the time had come to do so. Trying to
be helpful, I replied that physical exams were rather expensive but that
many times they were well worth the cost and might be so in his particular
case. "Maybe, a hundred dollars," I told him.
Looking dejected, but with his mind apparently made up, he said, "I guess
you might as well go ahead and put me down for one."
"One what? I asked.
"A physical," he answered, "I think I need a physical."
I looked at the young man out of the corner of my eye. Is he putting me on
or not? He surely is not serious.
"You want ME to put you down for a physical?"
"Yes." he said, "I realize they are expensive, but I think I need one."
"Well, then, you need to see a medical doctor," thinking that would be the
end of the conversation.
But it didn't take. He said again, " I really need to have a physical. When
do you think you can work me in?"
Again, I impressed upon the young man that he should see an MD. He would
have none of it, for whatever reason, I do not know.
Seeing clearly by the clock on the wall that my class had begun more than
five minutes ago and that I would not be able to convince him of the error
of his ways, I suddenly thought of sending him to see Dr. Green. As I
walked out the door on the way to class, I saw Zero in earnest conversation,
still bent over, with Harris Green, Harris, with his familiar "hand on chin"
pose listening intently.
My memory of exactly what happened later is cloudy. Rumor had it that Harris
inquired about the loan of a stethoscope from one of the science
instructors. I was never able to verify the authenticity of such an
Later on, pondering what had transpired, I thought perhaps that donning a
white lab coat, getting a stethoscope, and making $50 or perhaps even $100
by giving "physicals" might not be such a bad idea. After all, adjunct
teaching didn't pay that well.
"Naw," I said; "it wouldn't be ethical, would it???"