Humor is good medicine. I always tried to inject a little humor into every visit. Making patients smile or laugh, even for a moment, made them feel better. Sometimes, I flopped. Everybody has a different sense of humor. On an occasion, the patient, having been lifted by laughter, responded with a joke of their own.
When patients relaxed and started telling their own jokes, I would get a glimpse of who they really were. Assessing a patient’s sense of humor quickly showed me a side of their personality that the standard review of personal history and their health inventory would have never revealed. Sometimes sharing jokes created a bond/rapport with my patient.
Sometimes, I discovered a side I was uncomfortable with. Either way, joke telling is revealing. Towards the end of my practice, I used joke telling as a diagnostic tool and, on occasion, as a teaching tool.
As a child, one of my favorite jokes was the following:
The president of Mexico and the United States were at a conference in New York. While on a break, they went to the bathroom, standing at the urinal (I’m sure Donn was in the urinal). The president of the US finished urinating first and as he was walking out, the president of Mexico said, “Mr. President, in Mexico, they teach us to wash our hands after going to the bathroom.” The US President responded, “Mr. President, in the US, they teach us not to pee on our hands.”
At the time, I thought it was hysterical. I ignored the fact that it presented a degrading view of Mexicans. Later in life, I went to medical school in Mexico. In addition to finding out that Mexicans were an intelligent, loving, family-oriented people, they gave me the gift of a medical degree.
Mexico taught me humility. Mexicans showed the faulty base on which many of my prejudices were built on. Forgive me if I’ve told this story before (I have CRS, “can’t remember shit”) but it’s important to tell here. I was driving into Guadalajara, returning to school after summer break ended when my car broke down. I was in the middle of nowhere. The Green Machine, their roadside assistance truck, eventually found a water pump and installed it. When it was time to put water in my car, they dished it out of a rusted oil barrel. I turned to my passenger and stated, “I don’t want that shit in my car” at the same time a kid walked over to the barrel, scooped up a cup of the brown liquid and drank it. This family was sharing their drinking water with me. These were not criminals and rapists. These were the kind of people you would want for neighbors or family.
What I used to consider funny now is often not funny. Yes, I still tell jokes at the excuse of ethnic groups or gender, but I tend to tell jokes about my own ethnicity. As to gender, women know how much I appreciate them, so they are fair game. I do wonder if our president washes his hands when he leaves the men’s room. After all, he won’t wear a mask.
EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T PEE ON YOUR HANDS, WASH THEM! MASKS ALONE ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. And, identify and eradicate your own prejudices. Don’t let a journalists color your vision with their ability to slant the news.
Here’s your daily music and a joke.
Three old Jewish guys were sitting around the breakfast table talking about their sexual prowess. The first guy brags that, in the middle of sex, he uses a feather that causes his wife to moan and groan loudly ending in an incredible orgasm. The second guy says he’s sure his wife moans and groans more than the first guy’s wife. He says he uses Japanese wonder balls to bring his wife to a screaming climax. The third guy says, if you think your wife moans, groans and screams more than mine, you are wrong! He says he’s done 1-2-3, then gets up and wipes himself off on the curtains. “You should hear her scream!”