A Little White Lie
I find that I have developed a habit of lying to strangers about what I do for a living when making small talk…say on an airplane or when chatting with someone I have just been introduced to and will likely never see again.
Now, I consider myself a very honest person. My husband would say sometimes painfully so. I LOVE my job. I frequently tell clients and friends that I have the best and worst job in the world. “Best” because I am rarely bored, love my patients and have wonderful clients. I get to go into work every day and become an investigator, a teacher, a researcher, pharmacist, comforter and of course, a healer. Worst, because my patients can’t (or won’t, as I am prone to believe with some of my suspiciously cognizant feline patients) tell me where they hurt, what they ate, or how long they’ve been ill.
So why do I lie to such nice people that I should have nothing against? It is certainly nothing personal. But divulging that my chosen career is an animal doctor inevitably invites one of several responses:
“Oh! My dog/cat/ bird/rat has diarrhea/vomiting/a rash/a lump…what do you think it is?”
“My pet’s last vet visit cost soooo much money”
“So, you’re not a real doctor, right?”
“Can I have you look at my rash/lump/indescribable lesion on my (insert inappropriate body part of your choice here)”
Now, don’t misunderstand. Should I run into a client at the supermarket and they have a quick question about ‘Fluffy’, I am happy to do my best to answer if possible. If family or friends ask my advice, I will be happy to offer it, to the best of my ability without access to diagnostics, medications, or even, often, ability to examine, although my advice usually ends with “you should see your normal vet and get that checked out to be sure.” I am not legally allowed to give advice on human medicine, as your human doctor cannot legally give advice to you about your pet. And yes, I am a ‘real’ doctor. Even went to school for 8 years, took many of the same courses and rotations (with a slightly furry twist), and can perform surgery, prescribe medications and everything!
No, the reason I lie is that I have one of those rare careers that nearly everyone can identify with on some level – they wanted to be a vet at some point in childhood, they have a dog/cat/bird/rat that they love and find that they are in front of another declared animal lover that they can share stories with. All true…and I do love a good animal story. But I see and work with animals every day. There is a whole wide world of topics, events, interesting facts that I have yet to learn about and I very simply want to explore them as well. There seems to be no reason for me to dominate an entire conversation when there is so much else to discuss!
I’ve found that “I’m a librarian/proctologist/factory doodad inspector” results in a lot fewer questions, allowing (sometimes) more interesting conversation topics to develop.