Rolling Stool Blues

        Before we get into an approach to chronic illness, I gotta tell you this story.

        And this time, I’m gonna give you the disclaimer first.  I am not making fun of my patients.  I respect their right to their opinion and try to work with them however I can. 

        As you get older you care for them even more than when you were young.  Of course, it ain’t quite the same intensity as you feel for your wife and children, but nonetheless, it is true to say you develop a genuine affection for them, especially the ones who have been with you for many years.  It is a lot harder for me to deal with death than it was as a young doc.  In residency, I liked my patients, but after twenty-five years, the bond is much stronger.

        And, I am not poking fun at any dreadful disease process.  I hate it when people come down with things that can’t be fixed.  You know the odds are high their life will undergo permanent change, and not for the best. 

         So, I don’t want to be disrespectful, but at the same time patients sometimes do the dang-est things.  This is one of those stories.  You could either get mad or laugh, and I try to choose the latter.

        You know those little rolling stools the doc uses to slide around in the exam room?  They are necessary for much of our work, and there are some exams I about can’t do without them. 

        For some reason I have had a time keeping my folks off those seats.  They aren’t safe, and children and the elderly can fall off.  We’ve never had anyone seriously injured, but my observation is the very ones who sit on them are often those with the highest probability of hip fracture. 

        Our exam room floors were the sterile linoleum type.  They were easy to clean, but I became concerned someone would get hurt when they fell.  When the nurse brought the patient to the room they would direct them to the proper chair, but once you are out of the room for even a minute, people would get restless and move around.

        One year I went on an all-out campaign to keep everyone off the rolling stools.  It was a miserable failure.  I went on for months, and kept up-ing the ante.  We started with signs in the waiting room, then the exam rooms, and then attached them on the top of the stool itself.  It reached the point where the seats were plastered with stickers and looked about like my mandolin case, which sports bumper stickers from our many travels and shows.  We came up with a variety of slogans.

        “DO NOT SIT HERE.”

        “FOR DR. BIBEY ONLY.”


        It was to no avail.  No matter what I did, I’d come in the room, and some little lady would be seated on the rolling stool.  At times, we’d hear a loud noise, and rush into the room to find someone had fallen off. 

        I tried lectures, and came off as arrogant.  When my efforts to claim possession became too adamant, I sounded egotistical.  I guess it came out like, “How dare any other human sit in ‘my’ seat.”  I didn’t mean it that way.  I became discouraged.

        I did get two responses, though.  The first was from one of my old teachers. I saw most of my old grade school teachers for years, though most have now gone on.  One I am especially proud of just crossed the century mark.  Many of them look at me like they might pop my knuckles with a ruler if I don’t behave.  I see several from my middle school years.  I don’t know why anyone who remembers me from middle school would choose me as Doc, but they do.  Perhaps it is dementia.  Bless their hearts- what a horrible disease. 

       The first response I got was from one of those former middle school teachers.  I came in the room, and there she was on the rolling stool, propped up against the wall.  “Young man, you are going to have to do something about these seats.  They are terribly unstable.”

        I helped her to her feet, and pointed out the signs plastered all over the seat. 

        She peered at the messages over the half-glasses tethered around her neck, and then responded.  “Well, I didn’t see that.”

        I sighed.

        My second response was from a man.  When I came in the exam room, he was seated in the chair for the patients, and the  rolling chair was parked in the opposite corner of the room.  He could not have distanced himself any further without leaving the room.

        “Doc, say them chairs are bad for your health?”

         “Yes.  Yes sir, they are.”  I was pleased.  My plan was taking hold.   

        The patient looked around, and lowered his voice like folks do when they have a personal question.  “Doc, some of dem AIDS patients been sitting in them chairs?” 

        (My wife read this and said the title of this post should be “The Dumb *^^ Blues.”  She has a way of getting to the bottom of things.)

         I never brought up the issue again.  I took down all my signs, called off the campaign, and asked Dr. Lucas, Lynn O’Carroll and Myrd to pick us out some carpet for the exam rooms.  They had said for some time we needed to re-decorate and it seemed like the right time. 

        The carpet makes the work a bit harder for the cleaning crew, but at least now when folks fall off my rolling stool, it doesn’t sound so bad, and the floor isn’t as hard when they hit.  Still no broken bones, too, and I think we’ve improved our odds.

        So much for my skills as an educator.  How in the world do you teachers keep a whole class in line? 

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: short stories

16 Comments on “Rolling Stool Blues”

  1. pandemonic Says:

    Maybe you should consider removing the stools? Maybe someone can invent a stool with a key, where you have to insert the key for the wheels to come down?

    I have a terrible patient room story about rolling stools. My daughter was five and I had her in for a visit because I thought she had an ear infection. (She did.) She’s always been rambunctious, and before I could stop her, she jumped on the rolling stool and promptly scooted across the room. This wouldn’t have been so bad, but her mouth was open and she ran right into the tall metal waste container. You should have seen the blood. She managed to knock out her front tooth. We went right from the doctor down the street to the dentist. Luckily, it was a baby tooth.

    Moral of the story: Get that thing out of there!It’s what is known in the insurance biz as an attractive nuisance.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    True true and true. I like the idea of some kinda key- I might invent that dude- lots of docs would want it.

    Glad your daughter is O.K.- always scary when those things happen.

    Dr. B

  3. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Perhaps an alternative response would be to put three or four rolling stools in the room and require patients to sit in one. Maybe even encourage patients to use them because they’re good for them. If it’s good for you, most people won’t do it. I’m reminded of a story Ron Thomason tells about learning to pick. He says his father left a bunch of tuned instruments around the house and warned the kids not to play with them. As soon as the adults left the room, the instruments were in the kids’ hands. Same story. – Ted

  4. drtombibey Says:

    You know Ted, every time I post something I learn more from my readers than I ever thought about teaching them. Thanks for the thoughts to both you and Ms. Pande.

    As the Lonesome River Band would say, ‘preciate you “Carrying on the Tradition.”

    Dr. B

  5. mrschili Says:

    “How in the world do you teachers keep a whole class in line?”


    No, really, the relationship between teacher and student is very different from doctor and patient. For one thing, we get to spend a lot more time with our kids than you do with your patients, and while undeniably powerful bonds form (I’ve not managed a term without falling in maternal love with most of my students), there’s also a very clear “us and them” relationship. Though I imagine the same holds for doctors and patients (I know that I look to my doctors as types of authority figures – they know stuff I DON’T know, but NEED to know…), the fact that I get to spend two hours at a time with my kids while you’re lucky to spend 15 minutes with a patient is going to do a lot to the kind of relationship you have.

    Honestly? I would no sooner sit on the rolling stool than I would open drawers and start rooting around in there. It’s obvious that I’m supposed to sit in the chairs (or, more appropriately, on the table with the crinkly paper). It’s a respect for property thing for me. (though I do have to tell you that babies just learning to walk LOVE to put their hands on the seats of those stools and push them around the room!)

  6. drtombibey Says:

    mrschile if I ever tour the great Northeast I’m gonna get the English Professor, and you and mrchili to run interference for me. I think Ms. Pande lives somewhere way up in the frozen tundra too. You guys have gone outta your way to make sense out of this southern boy.

    Dr. B

  7. katkmeanders Says:

    Heh, those stools always look more comfy than the patient chairs . Plus, you can scooch around the room, an extra-fun way to fidget. I don’t sit on the Doctor’s stool anymore, but I did as a kid. I do remember having fun sliding around on the stool, but that was at the same time we had those square, low, four wheeled roller thingys to sit on and play “scooter hockey” during PE with. (Just inches above the ground.)

    Yeah, after a search I found some. These things, but ours were wood.

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Lord have mercy. If the young-uns read this and all y’all get your imagination rolling I’m gonna sure ’nuff have the rolling stool blues. Hurry up and patent that doc lock and key seat, Ms. Pande.

    Dr. B

  9. Lynn O'Carroll Says:

    Dr Bibey, I would like to have a dime for everytime Myrd and I have jumped out of our seats to see who had fallen off their seats.

  10. drtombibey Says:

    Those ladies are so quick they’ve caught 87% of ’em. Fast as Cool Papa Bell- they say he could turn off the light switch (or cut it off or mash it as the natives say) and be in bed before the lights went out.

    Dr. B.

  11. twoblueday Says:

    Too funny. Do you impregnate the stickers with any anti-bacterial and anti-viral stuff when you glue ’em on?

    Speaking of contagious diseases, I caught a particularly virulent one from mrschili (milder strains from other bloggers, too). I think its called virtual community/communication spirit. I haven’t been able to shake it. The best revenge, of course, has been inflicting my afflicted self on mrschili daily, if not even more often. The amazing thing is she says nice things about me! So, if you want to blame somebody for me butting into your blog, blame her—you cannot blame me of course because, and as a healer you’d know this, we don’t vilify people for their afflictions.

  12. drtombibey Says:

    Always good to hear from new folks. Tis funny, cause mrschili talks nice about me too- I got a feeling it is ’cause mrschili is a nice person!

    Yeah, the stickers got so grungy I worried about that too, so I was about at the point of taking ’em off anyway. (The anti-bacterial goo was growing something.)

    I agree with you- the wordpress comununtiy is addictive and seems to be a thinking person’s blog. Thanks for checking in.

    Dr. B

  13. sshay Says:

    True confessions: I’ve opened all the drawers and cabinets in my doctor’s exam rooms. (I get bored if I have to wait.) But one thing I’ve never done is sit on his rolly stool.
    Not because I’m afraid I’ll fall, though.
    They just look like so darn much fun, I’m afraid I couldn’t keep myself from knocking on other exam rooms and challenging fellow patients to races up and down the hall.


  14. drtombibey Says:

    Now my mental image for the night is a whole bunch of young-uns and their moms, many of whom are writers of romance, racing up and down the office hallways in a giant rolling stool race, and then webloging the event. I have opened a Pandora’s box here.

    I better go take a Tylenol PM or something equivalent. (The blog does not endorse any specific medications.) I ain’t sure I can sleep.

    Dr. B

  15. katkmeanders Says:

    Hee hee! *gaffaw*

    Plus, Dr. B., your patients probably think “If it’s safe enough for the honorable Doctor to use, surely it is safe enough for me.” What you oughta do, (*dreams*) is set up a night at your local gym for all the rolly chair addicts. Have a whole bunch of those little scooter things, give the addicts one, and turn ’em loose with a rubber ball to kick around and play “scooter soccer” with. That’ll get it outta their systems, won’t it?

  16. drtombibey Says:

    Might well work. But, I only made a “B” in Orthopedics- I’d better get one of my consultants to stand by. Dr. B

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