Forgive me if I repeat myself

One of the pitfalls of trying to keep a blog going with new material is that, sadly, the irritations and frustrations of its author may persist unchanged with time.  The worry that one has griped about something already and the related temptation to gripe about it again regardless are probably best kept under a vigilant blogger’s gaze, lest his loyal readers (all dozen or so of you!) mutter discontentedly and grow bored.

And yet, sometimes life pushes the temptation button a bit too hard.

So I apologize for ranting this morning about something I am certain I have already ranted about before.  I regret that it could not be helped.  Furthermore, I apologize to readers who may or may not be my mother (it was nice chatting with you yesterday!) that the swearing that is shortly to commence also cannot be helped.  This post will not be sufficiently cathartic without it.  I regret this defect in my character and beg your indulgence.



But if you are accompanying your child for a medical appointment, I implore you to put your goddamn fucking cell phones away for the duration of our time together.  Away entirely!  This does not mean “pause briefly in your texting to look up when I enter the room.”  This does not mean “answer my questions in a manner you consider satisfactory while simultaneously checking your Facebook updates.”  This means “taking the device from your hands and placing it in an appropriate receptacle until such time as our interaction has concluded.”

Is the world a fascinating place, full of scintillating new facts and rumors and fun?  Boy, howdy!  I get it.  But there is literally nothing in the whole wide world more important than your child’s health, at least as far as you should be concerned.  Nothing.  And if the reason for your coming in to see me was important enough to get you here, it’s important enough for you to disconnect from the datastream for the duration of the appointment.  Period.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Russ…hold on a minute *updates Twitter* sorry, okay, I like everything you’…no, wait, *responds to text message*…re saying here, but you need to…*comments on Facebook*…accept the new reality of, wait…*updates Twitter about this doctor who is staring daggers through me*…or world.

  2. I bet you’re really looking forward to parents wearing Google glasses, huh?

  3. Russ,

    How do you feel about a parent reading/taking notes from a device? When we visit the pediatrician, we usually have a list of questions that we put into a shared Note so that both Zazzy and I can access it and to ensure we don’t forget it. Naturally, we have to whip out our phone in order to pepper the doc with our slew of questions (though I assume this is somewhat, if not entirely, tempered with the age of children you tend to work with). We’re also likely to be tapping notes into it based on her responses.

    I can’t ever really think of it being an issue during a parent-teacher conference. Sometimes a phone will go off and a parent usually rushes to silence it, not realizing they hadn’t already done so already. I vaguely remember someone taking an “emergency” text or call during a conference once, but it generally does not happen. Thankfully.

    I agree with you, in general, about our general addiction to our devices. However, as I note in my first paragraph, I think we sometimes assume people are always dicking around when they might be engaged in legitimate business. Zazzy will often object to my phone or laptop usage, but most of the time, I’m reading things… usually this blog or a book on my Kindle app. Somehow, that doesn’t feel the same to her as if I had my nose buried in a book. And I sort of understand it. But I also think there is a tech-aversion at play, at least in part. Of course, the potential for these devices to be used for dicking around means that dicking around can often be disguised. “Of course I wasn’t playing ‘Words with Friends’ during the meeting. I was taking notes!”

    • I have no problem with people referring to their handheld devices for notes or questions they’ve written. It would be silly to object, since I would never object to a handwritten version of same. People do it all the time, and it doesn’t irritate me at all.

      What I object to is obvious, unmistakable texting/Tweeting/Facebooks status checking/etc. I would object to a parent reading a novel on similar grounds, but since I can’t remember a single time where that’s happened I have little reason to gripe about it.

      • Hear, hear.

        I sort of went on a tangent there. Zazzy will sometimes say, “Why are you on your phone!” in a way that she would never say, “Why are you reading a book!” She’s not alone in this… I think we’re all still learning how to respond to rapidly changing technology and the pervasiveness of screens.

        Along those same lines, I’ll say that I had to make a mental adjustment when her OB/GYN practice went digital and doctors came in armed with iPads and mini-computers on which to take notes. Somehow it felt different than pen and paper, even though it wasn’t.

        • I am completely guilty of doing this to Jason. I admit that I’m jealous of the extent to which the blogosphere now lays claim to my husband, and every once in a while I’ll grumble about him having his phone out at the table and he’ll say “I was just looking up the answer to the question you just asked me!” or some other such totally respectful use of the device.

          My impulse isn’t anti-tech, though. Not at all; I love having, as Jason puts it, an exo-brain that means I carry a universal translator, encyclopedia, and news feed with me wherever I go. And it’s precisely because it’s so fantastic that I feel jealous. Jealousy comes from feelings of inadequacy, and I know I’m not always as interesting as the Internet. But, my husband’s job is to be plugged in, so I’m gradually getting better about it.

          • I love this.

            Its hard to our loved one with others, hard to see that while we might be the center of their hearts, we are not the center of their attention.

            After nearly 34 years of marriage (next month!) and 38 years of together, both my sweetie and I are still learning and re-learning this. It’s often two steps forward, one step back. And I suspect there will be a day, not too many years from now, when that progress finally begins reversing as we slip out of competency and into the neediness of aging; should we be blessed with that time.

  4. I’ll attempt a weak defense — patients often wait a significant period of time for a doctor’s attention, which in turn is only a few minutes long. The expectation f the parents is that there’s going to be a lot of idle time in a doctor’s office.

    That’s not to say that once the doctor actually arrives, it’s good to stay plugged in. But you may have caught them in the middle of something.

    • It’s one thing if they’re wrapping something up and then put it away. It’s another thing entirely when they (as is sadly all too common) stay glued to the stupid thing the whole visit.

  5. This is why I’m a big fan of cell phone blockers and support their legalization.

  6. Go through the drawers, take out some non-latex gloves, a couple of tongue depressors, some swabs, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a selfie.

    As much as I pay for insurance, I am *ENTITLED* to such a picture.

  7. Hurray!

    I beg those same parents, parents who go to other exam rooms, parents who are too old to have children young enough to take to exam rooms, and non-parents: put your cellphones away outside the exam room, too; for some percentage of the day greater then the percentage of the day you take those phones out.

    A common sight of late is children playing in some park or another, with a parent nearby who’s engrossed in the phone, not the child. I cannot tell you how much this disturbs me. Or a young couple sitting in a fine restaurant together, waiting their meal, each engrossed in their cell phone, not each other (I sometimes wonder if they’re texting each other? Nah). I cannot imagine what same family/couple might do at their own dinner table, presuming they bother to cook meals or even sit at the table while they consume whatever food-like substances the eat. But this tool, presumably a tool for communication, is the greatest disrupter of communication I’ve ever witnessed. Worse then TV.

  8. taking the device from your hands and placing it in an appropriate receptacle

    “Because if you don’t, I will, and you might not like the receptacle I’m going to use.”

  9. I have to give a vote for the parents looking up / typing on the phone.
    I’ve been in doctor’s offices, with both the dad and the son sitting there, no eye contact, seeming to be totally absent mentally. The dad is busy taking notes and the kid is listening but staring out the window. It’s very disconcerting and off-putting. But it is also the best way they have to deal with what is sometimes a difficult conversation.

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