Article Date: 2/1/2005

lessons learned
Fixin' to Go
Some patients have a way of making themselves memorable.
Jack Runniger, O.D., D.O.S., F.A.A.O.

Here in the South, many country folks have a quaint way of expressing things. One example is in the use of the word "fixin'," which means "getting ready to . . . ." For example, "I'm fixin' to go to town." Which explains the following story:

"I'm repairin' to go to lunch," the country boy told his city friend.

"You mean you're 'preparing' to go to lunch, not 'repairing," said the friend. "Repairing means 'to fix'."

"That's what I said. I'm fixin' to go to lunch."

Which is darker?

These different ways of expression often lead to humorous episodes in the office. Dr. Bill Wood reports the following example:

A countryman came to me for an exam. In astigmatism testing I asked, "Mr. Hardy, which one of those lines is darker?" His reply, "Doc, that HORIZONTICAL line is darker."

A year later, Mr. Hardy was in again, and I was gleefully waiting for my opportunity to pose my question again. I said, "Mr. Hardy, tell me which one of those lines is darker?" anticipating hearing again his colorful answer.

"Doc, that HORIZONTICAL line is darker," he replied. "It's a HEAP darker than that DIJONTICAL one!"

Another good example was told to me by Dr. Ed Walker.

I told an old patient that the topical anesthetic would burn a little. When I got through measuring his IOP, I asked, "Did it burn your eyes?"

"No, sir, not much," he said. "But it sho' do wake 'em up!"


Jes' fine, Doc

These country folk are almost always easy-going, delightful people who seldom complain. Which made them my favorite patients when I was in practice.

In writing the lens prescription for such a patient, I inadvertently forgot to transpose the axis, thus placing the 1.50 cylinder axis at 180 rather than 90.

"How are you doing with the new glasses?" I asked him when I next saw him a month later, still unaware of what I had done.

"Jes' fine, Doc, jes' fine. Only problem I have is ever' time I try to wear 'em, I puke like a horse."

An ophthalmologist friend tells me of another good example:

On the first post-op day following cataract surgery, I walked into the exam room where the patient was sitting in the exam chair, with his wife nearby.

"I want my cataract back," he said. When I asked him why, he said, "When I woke up this morning, I took a look at my wife, and I had no idea she was that ugly." I died laughing and his wife just shook her head.

My truck

Another couple of incidents illustrate how your communication with patients can be misunderstood if you're not careful. A plastic surgeon friend related to me this episode:

One of the questions on our patient questionnaire used to read, "What brings you to our office?" A farmer patient answered the question, "My truck." So we decided we'd better change the question to read, "What is the reason for your visit to our office?'"

UAB School of Optometry's Dr. Joe Benjamin, editor of Borish's Clinical Refraction, told me of another such occurrence:

I had instilled fluorescein in both eyes of a patient. Before insertion of hydrogel lenses, I asked the optometric technician to "wash the patient's eyes out."

"I'd rather you leave them in!" she protested.

Jack Runniger, our consulting editor, lives in Rome, GA.  He's also a past editor of OM. Contact him at


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2005