One day recently I am with a client in an exam room. As I am bent over his dog's ears, peering into their mysterious depths, he says, "Hey, I saw you in the grocery store the other day, but I was afraid to come say hi."
I look up at him in surprise.
"Afraid to?" I ask. "Was I looking excessively cranky or homicidal?"
"Well, no," he says. "It's just that I figure people probably come up to you and bug you all the time about their pets when you're out and about, and I didn't want to take advantage."
Well. What a thoughtful man.
"Well, thanks," I tell him. "I appreciate your consideration about that... but you can come say 'Hi' anytime - well, unless I'm having a giant fight with my boyfriend or something," I add with a grin. "And to be honest, you aren't the kind of client who takes advantage anyway, so don't worry about it. I hardly ever go anywhere without running into at least one client, so I'm kind of used to it. Most of the time it's not even embarrassing," I say, cheerfully.
"Now I want to hear about the ones where it is embarrassing," he says with a chuckle.
"Oh, trust me - you don't," I assure him, laughing. "I've had more conversations in restaurants with people about their dog's - um - personal habits than you want to hear about. For some reason that subject puts some people off their appetites, but luckily even the most graphic coversation about 'discharge' isn't enough to put me off my dinner. Still," I add wistfully, "it would be nice to be able to actually finish my dinner while it's still hot."
"People bug you while you're eating?" he asks incredulously.
"Oh, yeah... eating, shopping, at the gas station, in the locker room at the gym - although there you can usually bring it to a conclusion by getting into the shower - at the movies, over coffee - you name it. It's a small town and I've been in practice here for 15 years, so I pretty much count on seeing at least one client anywhere I go, sometimes three or four."
He nods thoughtfully. "You're like a rock star," he says, musingly.
"Yeah, except for all the glamor and the money," I agree, laughing. "Plus I think if you're a rock star you proably aren't talking about pus, mucus and diarrhea over your bagel. Just a hunch."
At any rate, it amused me that he thought of me in rock star terms. Nothing could be further from the truth, really... if not for the fact that this IS a small town - and I am one of a very small number of vets in the area - I'd be as anonymous as anyone else. I'm not on TV or in the paper - well, not very often, anyway - and my only in-print publications to date have been in professional magazines, which of necessity have a limited audience. What little notoriety I have is limited to a very small population and a very small geographic area. Ninety-eight percent of the time I truly don't mind when people accost me to discuss their pets - past, present or future - and I sort of enjoy seeing some of my clients in a non-clinical setting. Occasionally, I will admit, it's a tiny bit tedious. It's rare, but every once in a while you do have someone who is injudicious about taking up my non-work time, or who seems to have no sense of social timing. Ah, well. These things happen, and to some degree it comes with the territory. It's not so bad for me, in my little corner of the world. Rock stars and movie stars, though - they have to endure much more intrusion, all over the world, and for less important reasons. After all, it's one thing for someone to come up to me and say "I just wanted to thank you so much for helping my pet" (or me, or my family, or for volunteering your time, or what have you); it's not even a problem if they ask, "Say, Doc, my rabbit has his neck all twisted to the side. What d'you think it is? Should I bring him in?" It's another thing entirely to have someone fling themselves panting at you, attempting to yank out a lock of your hair or asking if they can have your baby.
For me, though, it's mostly related to my work, and not so much to weird fantasies people might be having about who they imagine I am based on a character I played three years ago. And if I really WERE a rock star, I'd be recognizable all over the dang place, and nowhere would be sacred.
At least so I was telling myself this weekend, all complacent, whilst standing in the bathroom at Costco in Anchorage. At home, a store that busy would be virtually guaranteed to contain at least one client, but I'd been peacefully shopping with my friends, Yvonne and Jan, for an hour without the slightest interruption. See? Not like a rock star at all. I'm a mere 60 miles from home, and no one here knows me; it takes next to no distance to outrun my public-recognition factor.
"Aren't you Dr. H?" someone to my left says suddenly.
"Er, yes - oh, I recognize you," I add. "Aren't you one of my clients?"
"Yes; when are you working? I have to bring my dogs in for shots," she says. I give her my work schedule, and she nods happily, promising to see me there within the week, and goes on about her business. Huh. That's unusual, I think, drying my hands.
"Hi, Dr. H, how are you?" pipes up another voice. I look behind me and there's another client, smiling and full of holiday cheer.
"Great, thanks, and you? How are the dogs?" I ask her.
"Oh, we're all fine, thanks," she says happily, wishing me a merry Christmas as my friend Yvonne stares at me, eyebows raised.
"I can't take you anywhere," she mutters to me, amused, as we exit the bathroom. "You're not even in your home town and clients are chasing you down." Well, okay, I admit it's a bit weird to be waylaid in a public restroom, but what are you going to do? It's odd, but so what? I'm still a rock star...
Except for that pus and mucus and diarrhea thing....