Tradeoffs calculated: Friday night at home versus a slow clinic afternoon


I thought, while composing this poem,

Although I’ll continue to roam

     It’s nice at our fests

     With our usual guests,

And it’s great to have peace in the home.

The clinic load had been slow during the last few days I was in Grand Island.  After a Friday morning with three patients, the office manager told me I could leave at noon if no one was scheduled.

I thought about it.  On the one hand I had a sense that I’d been hired for coverage, and Friday afternoons carry a disproportionate share of medical office chaos; people don’t want to be sick the weekend.  On the other hand, another doctor, with holes in his schedule, could cover.

I thought about the money issue, and I did the math and calculated the tradeoff.  Four hours at my standard rate versus being home in time for our Friday night potluck. 

It’s not about the money anymore.  The idea that I might not do any good because I wouldn’t see any patients made the decision. 

I retrieved my sandwich from the fridge, left my key on the office manager’s desk and stepped into the bright Nebraska noonday sun.   I arrived home four hours later. 

I’m getting good at this business of living in a hotel room for weeks at a time and coming home with my dirty laundry well-organized and my receipts in a box.   Within half an hour I had my car emptied and my bags unpacked.  I took a nap, awakened euphoric, and greeted the guests with a smile on my face.

About five years ago, Bethany started preparing an elaborate Friday evening meal on an occasional basis.  She put a lot of work into fine dinners and beautiful table settings.  The soirees went from occasional to twice a month to weekly.  As time went by we developed a consistent guest list, sometimes adding a traveler.

When her mom got sick and Bethany went east to help, I took to rattling around the house.  I didn’t want the gatherings to stop; they had become a fixture of my week.  But I didn’t have the time to put the whole event together on my own, so I turned the dinner party into a potluck.  I called our friends, saying , “I’ll provide the main dish.  What would you like to bring?”

Within three weeks I discovered that some people really can’t bring anything to a potluck, and none of them minded helping with the cleanup.  So during my weekly calls I’d say something like, “I’m serving smoked salmon.  Would you like to bring or clean?”

We have a good time at the potlucks.  We discuss the larger issues of the world and the smaller issues of the community.  An attendee since moved away, one of our daughters’ college friends, worked in broadcast news, and her “story of the week” would serve as a springboard for conversation.

When we’ve finished eating, we do the dishes together.  The fellowship continues while we clean plates and set serving pieces back in the breakfront. 

Once in a while I bring out a bottle of fine spirits.

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