You can either be right or you can be happy. You can’t be both.


There are times to be strong

There are also times to sing songs

     Those who are bright

     Don’t like to be right,

In fact we enjoy being wrong.

You can either be right or you can be happy.

My Iowa next door neighbor, Kent, gave me that piece of wisdom.  It’s only true 99.4% of the time.

If you know someone well enough to have conversation, being right usually entails someone else being wrong.  That which diminishes someone close to you diminishes you as well. 

Pessimists are right more often than optimists, but optimists are happier.

A crucial part of my job is to think of the worst thing possible. 

Yesterday I referred five patients to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage; three were sent out by medical transfer plane because I thought of worst case scenarios.

Alas, I was right.  One of them is in surgery as I write.  My heart goes out to the entire family.  And because I cannot reveal data about the patient without consent, I cannot say why I feel such personal sympathy.

I would have preferred being wrong.

Morning clinic went well.   

I am not a surgeon; my medical forte is more cognitive that procedural.  I am willing to do surgery on the skin, and today I started off by removing a sebaceous cyst from a patient’s face.  I was able to take out the glistening sac and its cheesy, smelly contents intact. 

At noon the North Slope Borough Risk Management team came in to talk to us about Workman’s Compensation.  (Alaska has boroughs, not counties.  The North Slope Borough, roughly the size of Wyoming with one fiftieth the population, has between 7500 and 10000 residents, 900 of whom are employed by the Borough government.)  We talked about Work Comp law and procedures while we munched mediocre pizza (two pizzerias in the whole Borough) and fresh fruit.

We talked about the problem of lack of physical therapists, and the fact that the preferred referral center is Fairbanks.  Some of the fine points of Alaska Work Comp law got brought up (example: the employer has to report all on-the-job injuries within 8 hours of occurrence) 

Clinic was slow in the afternoon because most people are at the Nalaqutaak (whale festival and blanket toss). Business picked up shortly after I said, “Gee, it’s slow.” 

Respiratory problems and pain in the bones, joints, and muscles predominated.

At the time of this writing one of the patients is en route to Alaska Native Medical Center for surgery. 

I hope I’m wrong.

At the end of the day I walked over to the guitar player’s house.  Mac, our trumpeter and band leader is in Wainwright and won’t be back till tomorrow.  We played for an hour and a half, and had a good time.  At this stage of our musical maturation our egos have mellowed and we don’t mind giving artistic control over to our leader, who in turn works on bringing out our best musicianship.  Then we can just play and we don’t have to worry about who’s right and who’s wrong.   The guitarist and I agreed that as long as Mac mushes, we don’t mind being the dog team.

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2 Responses to “You can either be right or you can be happy. You can’t be both.”

  1. Leslie Bryant Says:

    It’s great when a doc can be mellow,
    a laid back and compassionate fellow,
    when the fit hits the shan,
    he will do what he can with panache and élan
    then go home and relax with a cello

    okay, a saxophone, allow me a little poetic license

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