Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Tuesday, April 12

Arrogant Secretary's Syndrome

Arrogant Secretary’s Syndrome (ASS): noun. The tendency to assume that some knowledge or ability should be universal and that people who do not have it are worthy of contempt. [Note: This is not limited to secretaries. Like the Philadelphia Chromosome or Christmas Factor, the name is based on where it was first described.]

When I was nineteen, I worked for a temp agency and did a four-day filing assignment. The office had seven secretaries, whose chief function was to receive people who came in to fill out forms.

Throughout the day, many people would fill out the wrong form. Again and again the secretaries would point out that the wrong form had been filled out and exasperatedly point out the correct form. There was a large display that held all the forms and described who should fill which forms out.

‘I don’t know how some people make it through life,’ one would say.

‘I can’t believe these people, taking our time to explain to them what is written right there.’

I sat in the back, moving files into the office’s new cabinetry, observing them.

At the end of the second day, I stopped at the display to look it over. At the top, in big black letters, it instructed people to fill out Form A. At the bottom, in small letters, it said that if they had exception 1, 2, or 3, they should fill out Form B instead.

On the drive home, I thought about how so many people made the same mistake. Time after time, people came in and filled out Form A, when they needed to fill out Form B. The secretaries all agreed that the issue was people’s intelligence, but all manor of people were making the same error. The people who filled out the correct form were people who had been in the office before. Those people greeted the secretaries by name. This, to me, was clearly not a question of intelligence, but simply of experience. The secretaries, upset or jealous because they had a rather meaningless, dull job, sanctified themselves by priding in their mastery of which forms to fill out, while lawyers and engineers were simply too stupid to do it right.

I realized that if the sign were slightly modified, most people would fill out the correct form, saving the secretaries a lot of trouble, but costing them a lot of superiority. I resigned myself to completing a job with sanctimonious people who were more vested in their own superiority than helping people.

That night, I read Thoreau and was well content.

The next day, I sat filing and listening to them working and occasionally, faux-patiently explain that the people needed Form B, not Form A. I was doing my best not to injure eternity. About a half hour before lunch, one whispered to me that it was Harry’s last day and they were all going to lunch at the cafeteria down the street. She said that I could join them, if I wanted.

It was a 1950’s style cafeteria, where you go down the line, point at things you want and put them on your tray, then pay the cashier before you sit down. When I got to the front, my total was $5.47. I only had four dollars in my wallet. I started to look at my tray to figure out what I could give back, when one of the secretaries behind me said, ‘I have it. Don’t worry.’

She paid for my whole meal. I knew from comments they had made how tight money was for them, and while five dollars seems a laughable amount to me now, at the time, it was not.

No one spoke of it at the table, but on the way out another one came up to me and said, ‘I remember how tough it is when you’re starting out. Do you have enough money to get yourself home?’

I did, told her so and realized that we all suffer some form of ASS.


Blogger hot babe writes:

This has a very Wed feel to it.

When I was 19, I wan't going home after work to read Thoreau. I have to ask- was this before or after the heroic horse ride?


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

I'm glad a story by a doctor about the secretarys' sense of superiority has a happy ending... or I might have to comment on it.


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

It's amusing that you have always had a problem with spending too much at restaurants and only the scale has changed.


Blogger Erik writes:

Hot Babe~

This happened probably sometime within a month after the horsy ride.

And I know, nineteen is a bit old to still be reading Thoreau. Most people are over the transcendentalists by the time they finish high school. What can I say? I was a late bloomer.

Anon # 1~

I didn’t see the point of writing about arrogant doctors, everyone knows they are arrogant.

What I think is more interesting is how everyone has their arrogances, regardless of how much prestige they have. Perhaps arrogance is simply more offensive when someone seems to hold a prestigious position and dismissible when they do not. Therefore people are more likely to be offended and notice it when confronted by an arrogant doctor.

Example: Apparently, you ‘had to comment’ on it even with the ‘happy’ ending. Also, the correct spelling is not secretarys; it's secretaries.

(By the way, something about you is familiar. Are you by any chance a lesbian, Jewish lawyer living in North Miami Beach? I thought so. Keep trying to remain anonymous, it might work sometime.)

Anon #2, if that’s your real name~

Actually, that is the only time in my life that I have ever spent too much in a restaurant. Funny how something can happen once, and then never happen again


Blogger Damon writes:

I'll have the Top Ramen.


Post a Comment


Medical Records

Season Three

Season Two

Season One