The cauliflower bounced in my lap and came to rest inside the ritzy wife's purse.
I arrived a bit late at the continuing-education meeting and stood at the door trying to decide where to sit. After a busy work day, it's hard to make these evening meetings on time, especially when they're 60 miles away.
The crowd was already seated around tables, waiting for dinner to be served. I didn't know anyone, so just chose the first open seat I came to, introduced myself to those at the table and began evaluating them subconsciously, as we all are prone to do.
The meeting topic had attracted both city and rural veterinarians. I always enjoy these kind of meetings because they bring together the wide variety of people and personalities who make up our profession.
The circular table seated 12. To my left was a group from a rural veterinary practice – a vet and four techs, still wearing a bit of the day's aroma. To my right was another DVM, his wife and four techs who obviously had spent their day inside working on small animals.
Conversation was minimal. Groups like this have little in common and often sit on different sides of the veterinary fence.
The city-vet's wife seemed a bit abrasive. She was much overdressed for the occasion and seemed to look down her nose at the country vets. As luck would have it, she was immediately to my right; I, too, was a bit smelly after a long, hot day.
The arrival of dinner seemed to cut the tension a bit. We were served a chicken dish with steamed vegetables. The veggies are good if cooked properly, but can be rubbery if they aren't. These were definitely rubbery. There was broccoli, cauliflower, squash and some other green thing that I couldn't identify.
The servers later came by to pour a glass of wine for those who wanted it. Most of us declined, but the ritzy wife asked them to leave the whole bottle. It didn't take her long to consume it, with a little help from her husband and a younger woman. The more the wife drank, the ruder she became. She went on about how great their clinic was and how smart her husband was. Then she began praising the quality of the food as she chomped down on those steamed veggies. As I looked around the table, no one else had been able to cut even one piece into a bite small enough to eat.
The young lady to my left, from the country practice, seemed a bit shy. Her hands told a story of hard work, and she was not digging those vegetables. I watched her work on the cauliflower. It was so large and perfectly round that she couldn't figure a way to cut it. She tried the fork first. No luck. Then she tried stabbing it with the fork. Again, no luck. Finally she held it with the fork and cut it with the knife.
This led to a remarkable event: When she pressed down with the knife, the rubbery cauliflower suddenly shot off her plate, bounced once in my lap and came to rest somewhere deep within the ritzy wife's partly opened purse.
We just looked at each other with one-cornered smiles and kept listening to the now semi-drunk, overdressed woman go on about something that made her look great and the rest of us look stupid. We never said a word.
That cauliflower was drenched in some high-viscosity sauce that left a stain on my trousers. I could just imagine what it must be doing to the contents of that high-dollar purse. I started to say something, but about that time she looked at me and made some subliminally rude comment about my practice. I just smiled and nodded.
I wonder where she was when she found that cauliflower? I laughed about it all the way home. She left the room that night carrying a cauliflower the size of a baseball and most likely would blame me for it at some point.
Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.