“I was feelin’ so bad, I asked my family doctor just what I had.”
—“Good Lovin’”1966 by the Rascals
“It’s a reaction to something I’m taking,” I told my doctor last week, just like I knew what I was talking about.
In less time than it takes to say, “common side effects,” she listed my meds and supplements in a phone app. “Vitamin C might be reducing the efficiency of the antibiotic you’re taking, that’s all.”
You looked it up on your phone, I thought to myself? Seriously? Doctors are supposed to just know that stuff. That was not the first time I had that thought, however. That same question crossed my mind in the late 60s at East Texas State University before it became Texas A&M University at Commerce.
Time blurs the names of those in Coach “Boley” Crawford’s PE class that day. You’d think I could at least recall the unfortunate student’s name who misjudged a trampoline bounce buying him a painful landing on his arm.
“It’s broken,” Coach Crawford said, then asked who had a car parked nearby. I volunteered, being careful not to reveal that my car was in a faculty lot via a counterfeit parking pass purchased from some guy at Pope’s Pool Hall in downtown Commerce.
A couple more guys volunteered to help, like me, sensing the opportunity to miss PE and maybe another class, too. We were off on our mercy mission for medical help when I remembered my next class was E.W. Rowland’s civics class.
Warnings spread every semester about Rowland’s class: don’t sign up for it. At registration, I needed one more class to meet my 15-hour minimum load and fit my work schedule at LTV Aerospace Systems in nearby Greenville. They helped fund my education in exchange for painting skills acquired in my uncle’s body shop the summer before: skills that I was applying to Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft bound for Vietnam faster than you can say, “Ho Chi Minh Trail.”
“Civics—that’ll work.” It wasn’t until after I had paid my outlandish $400 tuition fee and was out the door that I looked at the instructor’s name: Rowland.
“How hard can he really be,” I scoffed in an attempt to make myself feel better. My question was answered faster than you can say, “epic fail.” He was still checking roll when I slipped in the first day of class. He finished, then asked, “Have I missed anyone?”
“Aldridge,” I said.
Looking at the names on his list then at me, he said, ”Mr. Aldridge, I called your name, why didn’t you respond.”
“I came in after that.”
“Well, Mr. Aldridge, that means technically you’re late. Would you share with us why you were late to the infamous E.W. Rowland’s class? Was it an elephant stampede; a swarm of locust; or worse?”
“No sir,” I said softly. “I work nights.”
“If you are to succeed in my class, Mr. Aldridge, you will find some means to overcome trivial excuses. This won’t happen again, will it?”
“No sir,” I replied.
Shaking that encounter from my mind as I parked at the doctor’s small office, obviously once a residence, we helped our wounded classmate inside.
Old doc “whatever his name was” ushered us into his only exam room, saw the arm, and confirmed Coach Crawford’s diagnosis. “It’s broken.” He then pulled a book off the shelf, laid it on a table and started flipping through the pages mumbling, “… broken bones, broken bones.”
Panic filled the injured’s face. He looked first at the doc then at us with eyes pleading, “Get me out of here.”
Quicker than you can say, “this won’t hurt a bit,” the arm was set, and we were headed back to the gym. PE was over, as was most of the next class period. I had missed Rowland’s class.
As everyone exited my car, one of the guys asked, ”You going to class?”
“No,” I said. “I’m going back to the doc’s office. I need an excuse for an elephant stampede or a locust swarm, and I’m just praying one of them is covered in that doctoring book of his.”