Mind Over Miller: The old switcheroo


Dr. Robert M. Miller plays a trick on those trying to play a trick on him.

This is a story about Almond Roca—you know, those delicious oblong, chocolate-coated candies covered with gravel-sized bits of chopped almonds and wrapped in gold foil. Only a veterinarian would think of this, but have you ever noticed how much they look like something from a cat's litterbox?

Well, a loyal employee warned me one day that our intern (we'll call him Dr. Jekyll) was planning a practical joke on me. A grateful client had presented our hospital with a big tin of Almond Roca, which doesn't last long in our place. Dr. Jekyll had to move fast to retrieve a piece of gold foil to wrap around a cat stool he recovered from a litterbox.

His plan was to put the false candy on my desk after-hours, knowing that we had a staff meeting at seven the next morning. He was confident that I would unwrap the morsel during the meeting and discover its true nature when I held it in my fingers. He gleefully shared his plan with the rest of the staff, not realizing that one assistant, who needed a raise, would betray his deceitful plot.

At 11 p.m., I returned to the hospital and checked my desk. There it was! One neatly wrapped "Almond Roca." I discarded it and left a real Almond Roca in its place.

The next morning, I intentionally arrived a few minutes late for the meeting. I detected an atmosphere of expectancy and suppressed mirth. As we discussed the agenda, I casually slid the candy closer to my cup of coffee. Stone-faced, I noted my loyal partners' expressions. Jim Peddie's eyes gleamed behind his glasses. Bob Kind looked like he was trying to avoid belching—lips pressed together, nostrils flaring, and chin quivering as he watched me closely. Larry Dresher, studiously avoided looking at me, occasionally flashing me a sidelong glance.

Our office manager, Mary Tuttle, was in the midst of a lengthy discourse when casually, almost absent-mindedly, I unwrapped the Almond Roca, without actually touching the candy. After awhile, I picked up the candy in the now-flattened foil wrapper and placed it in my palm. I sipped my coffee. Oh, the suspense was killing them!

Then I started to speak, offering a lengthy opinion about the matter under discussion. As I spoke, I gestured expansively. All eyes were on the foil in my hand, and its contents. As I moved my hand to and fro, emphasizing my words, all heads in the room moved in cadence, their eyes hypnotically attached to the sinister object in the foil. Then suddenly I popped the candy into my mouth and bit down.

A chorus of gasps filled the room, nearly drowned out by Dr. Jekyll's "OH! NO!" as he leaped up, his chair falling over backward. I'm sure he thought that his internship had come to an abrupt end.

I looked around the room with an expression of mild surprise, chewing the Almond Roca. "What's wrong?" I asked. As realization flooded their faces, I pointed an accusing finger at Dr. Jekyll.

"A degree from U.C. Davis," I said, "even when combined with treachery and cunning is no match for experience!"

Editors' note: This column originally appeared in Veterinary Medicine in May 1988.

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his website at robertmmiller.com.

Dr. Robert M. Miller

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