Optometrists always seem a little afraid of things. We’re afraid of health care reform, online glasses and contact lenses, our office manager (well, at least I am after being married to her for nearly 34 years), the IRS, HIPAA, meaningful use, larger-than-average optic discs, thinner-than-average corneae, antitrust laws, state boards, national boards, surfboards, and on and on. 

Dude, we are supposed to be scared! Cavemen who weren’t scared to death by every little thing were the ones who were eaten by the saber-toothed tiger. Our bravery genes were chewed and swallowed and lost forever.  

Studies have proven that the physiological response to fear in the body is the same exact physiological response to excitement. Therefore, if you are excited about your chosen profession, then you are also scared of it. And vice-versa. 

Fear Itself

Now, I don’t spend a lot of time actually feeling fear in the office, but there are a few things that make me want to run down the hallway screaming and flailing my hands like my hair is on fire. One obvious example is if my hair were, in fact, on fire. But this has only happened a handful of times in my practice, so no big deal. 

What else scares me? Well, one example is anything involving plumbing. In 34 years, I’ve never found a staff member who can be trained properly to jiggle the handle when the toilet keeps running. They’re afraid of it, too. They’ll interrupt me when I’m in the middle of needling a rust ring to have me deal with that one. 

What about a 4-year-old who really, really needs cycloplegia? (This is why my son loves being a surgeon—the patients are unconscious.) I used to just muscle the kid into submission. But since I turned 61, the average 4-year-old can now whoop me, so that doesn’t work any more. 

How about the abject fear produced when a 59-year-old former Air Force pilot who’s +1.00-1.25 x 056 shows up and wants contact lenses? I would rather face him in his F-18 than in my chair. 

And, eeeeeoowww, the “my-last-doctor-just-gave-me-a-bunch-of-contact-lenses-so-why-won’t-you?” patient. I try to explain that contact lenses are like meth, and that’s not free, right? This kind of patient usually understands this simple analogy, and then tries to pay me with meth IOUs. 

I scream at the sight of a juice box in the hands of any 2-year-old. Might as well just take it from the toddler and dump it on my new shirt myself. 

How about the “where’s my checkbook” fear when an order comes in COD because I’m 90 days behind on the last order of $12.37? Terrifying. (By the way, where is my checkbook anyhow?)

I get petrified when we have a lunch staff meeting and they all want food from the healthy vegetarian salad place up the street. I’m afraid I’ll need IV glucose by 2 PM. 

Speaking of my staff, I live in mortal fear of running out of bottled water and being on the receiving end of The Look. You know The Look. It’s the one they teach all females to make any man feel like a stupid idiot. My daughter could peel paint off the walls with one glance when she was 7. Now that she’s a mom, I’ll only look at her through a welder’s helmet.  

Doctors, what are YOU afraid of? Just pretend the patient is unconscious. Works every time!