Physicians in small towns are frequently asked to do any number of civic-minded activities apart from practicing medicine. I usually welcomed opportunities to give back to the people of El Dorado if I felt qualified for the task for which I was invited. For more than 25 years I served as the team physician for the El Dorado Wildcats and thoroughly enjoyed my role in that position. I was invited to serve on various boards, most of which I had to decline because the meeting times conflicted with my schedule as a general surgeon. Early in my career I was invited to participate in a teaching function at the elementary schools, and I was told by the person who invited me; this role was usually reserved for the “younger doctors.” At the time I certainly qualified from an age perspective. In retrospect I wish I had disqualified myself on grounds I was otherwise not qualified. The teaching opportunity I was given was the annual “sex talk” given by physicians and nurses to the 5th graders in each school.
The format for the talk was the students were separated into boys and girls classes and a 20 minute slide presentation was shown which was very general in nature, showing the reproductive anatomy on plastic models and the physiology of fertilization using drawings. There was nothing graphic or objectionable about the slide show. But then the lights were turned on and the expert (me) was available to answer questions from the boys. The nurses were scheduled as experts for the girls to avoid possible embarrassment to the girls.
The first year I was scheduled to be the expert at Yocum Elementary School which traditionally had been equivalent in academics to Hugh Goodwin, which was my boyhood school. As a Hugh Goodwin alum, I always considered “my school” as the superior school but admit my prejudice. I had rescheduled my surgical cases for the appointed morning and arrived on time but with some trepidation in my spirit.
I was shown my room and told there would not be the usual teacher in the room, because the one scheduled had called in sick that morning. I should have insisted on a substitute monitor, but bravely said, “I think I can handle it with no problem.” The school nurse was there to show the slides which went well, and when completed, she turned on the lights; excused herself, and I stood up to all questions generated by the slides. When I asked, “Are there any questions,” an older appearing boy immediately raised his hand and asked an X-rated question which I will not repeat in this post. The class instantly broke into uproarious laughter with most of the boys slapping their sides and slapping one another as if they had gotten away with talking dirty. When I tried to quiet the class with a few loudly spoken words, the perpetrator of the question turned to his buddy next to him and said something I couldn’t hear, and the laughter escalated. I happened to look in the chalk tray behind me and saw a long wooden pointer which I thought I might use to make a loud sound to get their attention. I slammed it down on the desk too hard and before I could say, “Get quiet”, the pointer broke in half, and I was left holding a stub. The class was totally out of control with shouting and laughter. I simply laid the stub down and walked out of the room. As I walked down the hall, I could hear the boys still laughing when I happened to approach one of the nurses. I told her what happened and she could do as she pleased with that rowdy bunch, but I had patients at the hospital whom I needed to see. That afternoon I got a phone call from the Assistant Principal who profusely apologized, saying it should never have happened that a school monitor was not present. He promised if I would consider returning the following year, he would personally be in the room. The next year I reluctantly agreed, but the Assistant kept his word and he was present. I knew him to be a stern disciplinarian, and the boys were polite, respectful and asked a few good questions which I was able to answer easily. Overall I was pleased with the boys and with my performance this time.
The third year I was assigned to be the reproductive expert at Hugh Goodwin, and based on my previous experience, I made certain with the scheduling nurse that I would have a monitor in the room. She assured me there would definitely be a school official in the room. The presentation was to be on a Monday morning at 9 AM, and I made certain I had no appointment conflicts that morning.
About 10 PM on Sunday evening, I received a phone call from a Hugh Goodwin representative telling me there had been a fire about an hour earlier and a significant portion of the school had been damaged. The school would be closed for several days. Plans had to be made for temporary class room space and the reproductive class would be cancelled for this year. I hung up the phone and praised the Lord no one was injured in the fire, and I was given a reprieve from the “sex talk” for another year.
The next morning I went into the Doctor’s Lounge at Warner Brown Hospital, and the usual 5 or 6 doctors were there having morning coffee. Before I could say anything one of the doctors said, “John, word on the street is you are the one who set fire to Hugh Goodwin last night to keep from giving the annual sex talk!” My only response was, “I have to admit I thought about it; but I plead not guilty. Perhaps there was some suspicion of me concerning the origin of the fire, because I was never again asked to participate in this teaching project. I wasn’t upset or offended on either count.