The Physician's Bureau was actually a lovely lady who had an old-fashioned switchboard in her apartment, and she would take the messages and call the on duty doctor at home. She was also available for children of doctors (like me) who wanted to chat with a kind and caring adult.
Some of my father's patients were too savvy for this arrangement, and would call him directly at home, and to hell with the Physicians Bureau. I was told to be stern and turn them away. It didn't occur to anyone that it might be difficult for a child to disobey one adult (the crazed mother) to appease another adult (my mother, who hated the interruptions on father's free time ... father didn't really care).
One particularly persistent mother called during the cocktail hour on one of father's "off" weekends. She was not going to take "no" for an answer, particularly from a child. She told me her two-year old son had swallowed a safety-pin, and she needed to talk to my father immediately. She would not let me hang up, and I was too polite to just do so.
My father was about 1/4 of a mile away at a cocktail party. This woman convinced me to get on my bike and go talk to him, and she would just "hang on."
Bigod, I got my bicycle, which was one my mother had in 1912 (no, I'm not kidding) and heavier than whatever Atlas had on his shoulders. I struggled up a large hill, and down the other side, ran into the large cocktail party, and found my father.
After I finished panting for air, I told him that Mrs. Pain in the Ass was on the phone, at home, holding, and that she needed to know what to do about sonny-boy, who had swallowed a safety pin.
My father asked,"Was the safety pin opened or closed?" If it's closed, it's no big deal, and will pass through. If it's open, it can be problematic, indeed.
I jumped on my bike and tore back to the house, ran inside, grabbed the phone, and gasped the question. The reply? "I don't know."
Back on the bike, back up the hill, back down the hill, back into the mob to find father. Yes, she was still holding on the phone. "She doesn't know," I told him.
Perhaps it was my crossed eyes, perhaps it was the fact that I was reeling ... I'll never know, but father took mercy on me. He got into the car and drove home to take the damn call. I followed on my bike. Yes, she was still on the line.
I caught hell every which-way that day. For letting a patient bamboozle me into tracking down my father. For disrupting my parents' "social life." For tying up the party line for more than an hour.
I should mention that all the hell-catching I got was from my mother. My father was an old-fashioned doctor who thought a doctor should be available at all times for his patients, and yes, he did house calls. Every night after work. And any time there was an emergency.
Okay, he probably wasn't the most attentive husband and father, because he was never around, but he was one hell of a doctor, and everyone loved him.
But I still don't like telephones.
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