For the right person, for an ambitious, scholarly physician who thrives on an atmosphere of intellectual competition and one-upmanship, academic medicine can be an exhilarating career. On the other hand, there seem to be many bright but cynical and sarcastic doctors in academic medicine. Revenge against one of these people by one of my colleagues is the subject of today’s post.
Parallels to Poe’s Short Story “The Cask of Amontillado”
My colleague’s desire for revenge grew over a long period of time, as did a similar desire in the protagonist of Edgar Allen Poe’s tale of revenge “The Cask of Amontillado.” In that story, the narrator lures his victim, a wine connoisseur, into a wine cellar on the pretext of offering him a sample of a rare wine, Amontillado. Poe’s narrator says in the opening sentence that…
The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.
Poe’s narrator buries his victim alive. The payback in my story was not so extreme, but it was unique and humiliating.
Chief, Department of Insults and Abuse
In today’s post, the object of revenge - the chief of a clinical department, was no ordinary bully. He was enormously insulting and vindictive, almost always without justification, and he was universally disliked. Let’s call him Dr. Anu.
The details of Dr. Anu’s behavior and whether he deserved such dislike can’t be discussed here. For now, you’ll have to take my word for it.
A Superdoc Has Had Enough
My friend who inflicted the comeuppance was a highly intelligent, skilled and conscientious physician. Along with everyone else, he had endured Anu’s insults and abuse. My friend was leaving the hospital to train at a very prestigious academic medical center, and he despised Anu.
On my friend’s last day of work, as a parting gesture of affection, he pooped in a shoe box and left it on Anu’s desk.
This incident occurred years ago. However, I only realized when I started to write up this piece that when Anu found the box, his misery was only beginning.
What Is That Awful Smell?
Leaving it in the trash can would not be a good option. First, he would have to abandon his office for the rest of the day. Then, what if Anu went home, leaving the box in the trash can? What if the cleaning staff or other employees entered his office to investigate the stench and found the box? Hundreds of people would find out through the hospital grapevine. The lack of any obvious explanation for the mess would make the story even more sensational and worthy of gossip.
Hey Doc, What’s In the Box?
Did he take the smelly box out of his office and throw it away? In that case, the entire hall would have smelled and people might have noticed. They would have wondered: Did Anu soil himself? Did he contaminate himself with stool from a patient? If Anu encountered another colleague or employee in the hall while carrying the box, would he have tried to explain the situation? Wouldn’t the true explanation be the most embarrassing explanation of all?
Anyway, I Think the Statute of Limitations Has Run Out
Certain people can probably identify the relevant parties in this story. Too bad. Anu deserved his punishment, and my friend was proud of what he did. I’m proud of my friend, too.
So remember, revenge is a dish which is best served steaming hot.