Article Date: 7/1/2006

lessons learned
The Case of the Used Toothpick
Making something "crystal clear" can be quite a challenge.

Comedian Jerry Clower always enjoyed telling stories about his countrified friend, Marcel Ledbetter. One he told was about a time he took Marcel with him to Boston and took him to a fancy restaurant:

"We got through eating and walked up to the cash register. A good-looking lady was sitting up on a tall stool and had gold chains around her neck, diamonds on her fingers and she even smelled good.

"While I was paying the check, Marcel reached over to a bowl of loose toothpicks, got him one, and commenced to picking his teeth. He was picking 'em good. The lady stared at Marcel. So Marcel put the toothpick back in the bowl and said, 'Lady, I'll bet you a lot of folks use them toothpicks and walk off with 'em.'" 

Obviously he misunderstood what you're supposed to do with used toothpicks. Often optometrists also have problems with patients who misunderstand.


"An attractive female patient who was interested in LASIK wanted to know if she would feel anything during the procedure," writes Dr. John Muellerleile of Owatonna, Minn. "She asked, 'Will they seduce me?' I think what she meant was 'sedate.'"

Children most often are the ones who misunderstand. This is the reason you must be careful in how you pose questions to them. For example:

"What do you have to do before asking God to forgive you?" asked the preacher of the Sunday school class of ten year olds.

"Sin!" said one of the boys.

Dr. Michelle Ahumada, of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., also e-mailed me to tell about an experience with her brother:

"I come from a Catholic and partly Italian family. When my brother was about four or five years old, my mom looked down at him one day during mass when the Hosanna was being sung.

"Rather than, 'Hosanna in the highest,' she discovered my brother was singing, 'Lasagna in the highest.'"

Another email came to me from Dr. Thom Freddo, who is Professor and Vice-Chairman for Research in the Department of Ophthalmology at Boston University School of Medicine and also President Elect of the International Society for Eye Research (the first optometrist elected to this position.)

"Until recently, I have always parked in Parking Lot A at BU Med. Thus I had a parking sticker on the windshield of my car that read, "A LOT." Given the hours that I work, my daughter, Catie, told me that for most of her childhood, she had interpreted, "A LOT," on the sticker as signifying the amount of time I was parked at work."


Perhaps the best example of misunderstanding was one I read in a newspaper column about religious humor:

"Can you relieve me for a few minutes here at the pearly gates, so I can go to the restroom?" St. Peter asked of Jesus.

Jesus agreed. A few minutes later an elderly man appeared at the gates seeking admission.

"Before we decide, we need to know a little bit about your life on earth," Jesus told him.

"Well," the man replied, "I was a carpenter and I had a son who was dead and then came to life."

"Dad?!" asked an astounded Jesus.

"Pinocchio?" asked the equally astounded applicant.


Optometric Management, Issue: July 2006