Old School, New School: Good mourning


When Dr. Codger invites Dr. Greenskin to a morning meeting, the young associate fears shell get eaten for breakfast for dismissing the bully technician the old-timer cant live without.

Just a spoonful of cold glop helps the criticism go down. (Illustration by Ryan Ostrander)The evening after the “Actright Affair,” our beloved Dr. Greenskin sits at home, feeling conflicted.

Deep down, she knows something needed to be done, but she can't help wondering whether her actions were a little too impulsive. After more self-reflection and a Moscow Mule in her shiny new copper mug from Amazon.com, she sighs, “I am who I am. Something had to be done, and I managed a difficult situation when I needed to.”

Dr. Greenskin makes a mental note to follow up with her boss the next time she sees him and tries to set work aside for the rest of the evening. She unpauses Netflix to resume her binge of Better Call Saul and unsticks her frozen lower lip from the frosty copper mug. Time to settle in for some much-needed R & R …

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Dr. Greenskin's downtime is interrupted by an alert from her phone-the tone she's chosen for messages in the “work or otherwise unpleasant” category. She picks up her phone with a sigh and reads the unwelcome text bubble.

Dr. C: We need to meet for breakfast tomorrow. Please come to Larry's Diner at 7 a.m. so we can catch up before work.

The young associate replies in the affirmative while muttering that it's going to be a Unisom night, for sure. Tossing the phone aside, she turns back to the screen to see what shenanigans Jimmy and Mike will encounter next.

A full mug of feedback-hold the sugar

At 7 a.m. sharp the next day, Dr. Greenskin opens the door to Larry's Diner to find Dr. Codger in a booth by the window, cradling what is surely his third or fourth cup of coffee. After some less-than-cozy salutations, Dr. Greenskin notices that Larry's menu includes nothing even remotely akin to avocado toast. With little appetite anyway, she orders a bowl of rolled oats and settles in for a tongue-lashing.

Dr. Codger is clearly doing his best to start things out kindly, though his tone seems strained.

“I definitely want to hear your side of what happened,” he begins, “but I think I have a pretty decent idea. I've worked with Mrs. Actright for almost 40 years, so I'm well aware of her faults. This situation is the most serious I've faced with her, ever. She threatened to quit yesterday, and I had to rush out late last night to meet her in person because we can't afford to lose her. I bought us some time by offering her extra paid vacation days so she can think things over and I can work on resolving this issue in the hospital.”

Greenskin feels a bit sheepish about the turmoil she's spurred, but she manages to find the confidence to bring up the real issue at hand.

“I really am sorry that this is such a troubling issue, Dr. Codger,” she says with genuine remorse. “I didn't mean to cause such a stir. However, I think this issue has been brewing for years and is only coming to a head at this moment because Mrs. Actright has been left to her own devices for so long, without guidance or correction.”

Dr. Codger isn't having it.

“Dr. Greenskin, I also read the veterinary business journals and am aware of the corporate trends and how newer clinics maintain and develop their staff,” he says coolly. “What you need to realize is that the hospital you currently work for has been around longer than any other clinic in the area-long before any of that business babble you get in your email inbox every day. When I started this thing, I did much of the technician work myself. Mrs. Actright and I were the only two employees for a good number of years. We were focused on survival through hard work.”

Dr. Codger pauses to gulp his freshly refilled black coffee.

“All of your heartfelt desires to talk about our feelings and develop people through staff meetings and fancy CE events-all of that is luxury,” he continues. “I don't deal in luxury, Dr. Greenskin. I have spent my career fighting to keep the practice alive as a valuable service to the community, and I have done that. I've not always done a perfect job, but I've done it. The bottom line is, I really wish you would've handled this thing a bit more gingerly. I'm in a pretty tough spot right now, as you can appreciate.”

Dr. Greenskin looks down at her bowl of room temperature gray mush, feeling about as useful as one of the shriveled raisins anointing the gloppy pile.

Dr. Codger waits a few moments, but sensing that his associate isn't ready to respond, he continues, “The question now is, what do we do and how do we move forward? I would love for you and Mrs. Actright to chat it out together, but I don't think that's going to work. The best I can figure is that when (and if) she returns, all three of us will need to sit down together so I can serve as a mediator.”

Determined to get this day off to a better start, Dr. Greenskin reaches deep into her positivity stash.

“I know we can work through this together,” she says. “I've shared some good times with Mrs. Actright, and I'm confident she'll return. While she's on vacation, I'm hoping you and I can spend a little time to better understand each other's expectations going forward. I sure don't want anything like this to happen again in the future, and I bet we can avoid it if we take time to hold hands and gab about our feelings.” She winks at the old-timer.

The grizzled doctor tries to hold back a smile while draining his last cup of joe.

“I'd like that, Dr. Greenskin. Now get back to the clinic and do some work!” he says, trying to regain some of his gruffness.

The coffee may be gone, but the problems are still percolating

Is Mrs. Actright gone for good (with good riddance)? Or will she continue to be a wedge between our two docs? How much longer can Dr. Codger prioritize his personal relationships in the hospital before realizing that the time has come for real change? When will Dr. Greenskin understand that human relationships are more dynamic and complicated than anything outlined in her social media feeds? Stay tuned for the next episode of Old School, New School!

Dr. Jeremy Campfield lives near Sacramento with his family, including an aging mini Aussie and an obstreperous pitbull mix that some mistake for a chocolate Lab (to the delight of her owners). When the family is not getting their hands dirty in the garden, Dr. Campfield indulges in his love for the outdoors with hiking, kitesurfing and climbing aboard any two-wheeled contraption. Please remember: Watch for cyclists, share the road, and pass them like you love them!

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