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Reality check: a rural vet out of his element


The veterinarian describes his discomfort in leaving his quiet, rural environment to spend a few days in a major city where he and his wife were wined and dined, including an episode at a restaurant where the menu was entirely in French.

Here's a capsule view of my small corner of the world:

Every day I travel nine miles each way to and from the clinic on a road that is so flat and treeless you can see the lights of towns 15 or 20 miles away on a dark night. People here drive pickups and talk about tractors and horses. A "night on the town" for us means a 60-mile trip to Lubbock for great barbecue and perhaps a movie.

This is who we are and what we do, and sometimes it feels as though the rest of the world is just the same.

But occasionally I get a reality check.

Here's an example:

I was asked to be on an advisory board for a pharmaceutical company. It was quite an honor, and accepting it meant spending some time in a major city in the Northeast.

The plane tickets arrived, along with hotel reservations and papers for a car rental. They were even footing the bill for my wife.

The hotel was big enough to sleep almost the entire population of Lamesa.

The company spared no expense; hotel room with two bathrooms, unlimited room service, little pieces on candy on the pillow, newspaper delivered to your room every morning and fantastic dining.

On our first night, a limo was scheduled to take us to a fine restaurant. I told Kerri we probably ought to dress up. She wore a nice pantsuit, and I slipped into a pair of khakis and a pressed wrangler-style shirt. The limo driver met us in the lobby and transported us about three blocks to a French restaurant.

We were seated with the others on the advisory board, all of them wearing suits and ties or evening dresses. Uncomfortable was the kindest word that came to my mind as they brought us a menu and filled our water glasses. Our table companions were strangers, and none seemed inclined to discuss tractors or horses.

I unfolded the menu and saw ... French.

Yes, the entire menu was in French. I don't read French at all. I sat there a moment trying to think if I knew even one French word. Nope, not even the cuss words.

Kerri made the discovery about the same time and started kicking me gently under the table.

Not wanting to appear any more ignorant than I already did in my khakis and white socks, I smiled and pointed to two items on the menu as the waiter graciously jotted down our order.

"What did you get us?" Kerri asked out of the corner of her mouth as the tuxedo-clad waiter went to the next person at the table.

"I have no idea. Just smile and eat it when it gets here," I replied.

About 20 minutes later the food arrived. Mine was two brown piles of something surrounded by green leaves. Kerri's was red, and after setting it down the waiter struck a match to it, allowing it to burn brightly for about 15 seconds.

As strained as the conversation was, the food was worse. I could barely choke it down. When no one was looking, Kerri slipped hers off the plate and into her purse. I had no choice but to finish mine because hers filled the purse.

As the evening drew to a close and we started to leave, I asked the waiter what we had eaten. He smiled and said that Kerri had ordered a variety of raw fish and I had eaten "ze liver from ze duck."

I wondered: What were the the odds of pointing to two things on a menu and getting raw fish and duck liver?

I don't know, but the experience did leave me longing for nine miles of flat road and a 60-mile trip to Lubbock where you can read the menu and wear white socks.

Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

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