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Frequently I find I know with certainty what I should have said in a conversation much later. For whatever reason in the moment, I don’t think of it or just don’t say it. Sometimes it’s because I am so caught off guard by something someone says or does that I can’t collect my thoughts to respond intelligently in the moment.

This may be the sort of thing that keeps us awake at night. We re-play a conversation in our head, thinking with total clarity what our response should have been. We come up with the perfect answers and responses in these ex post facto imaginary conversations.

I have been a patient in a doctor’s office in both consultation and treatment when the doctor has taken out his cell phone and started to talk or text. I found this appalling and unprofessional to say the least. But rather than correct the doctor for his poor manners and lack of professionalism, I stayed quiet. I would later think of the perfect things I should have said such as asking if I could get his cell number, or asking if it was his child’s neurosurgeon calling. Ok, maybe that would be a little snotty, but their behavior is simply way out of line.

I have been a patient at a teaching hospital for over ten years where I go for a series of intramuscular, EMG guided needle injections. It is a long, painful procedure. The attending physician has known me since I began being treated there. The residents come and go every six months.

During my most recent treatment, I was lying on a table in a gown being injected with Botox by one of the residents, when the attending doctor took out his phone and asked one of the other residents if he was familiar with a certain app. They got into an involved discussion and were comparing phones. I was able to lie there and continue being treated and think about what I was going to say. I relaxed and took my time.

I looked at the attending physician and said, “Excuse me, boys and girls, may I respectfully request that we don’t play with our cell phones while we are treating a patient?” It was the perfect amount of sarcasm mixed in with a precise factual correction of poor behavior. He smiled knowingly, and put away his phone for the rest of my procedure.

Since this had happened before and I had that after the experience time to think of the best thing to say, I was ready for it this time.

In the hours which followed, I was proud of myself for keeping my cool and thinking of the best thing to say in the moment rather than late at night.

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