When You Think You Can’t Do Anything, There’s A Lot You Can Do

My son’s car was stolen from the streets of downtown Dallas about three weeks ago. He was visiting a friend, parked legally for about twenty minutes, and it was gone when he came out. His initial thought was that it was towed, and when he called, he was told that he would need to call back at 9 am (this was about 11 at night). So, the next morning, he called and was told that there was no record of it being towed. He called the police, and when the officer arrived, his first words were, “What, did you pull a drunk last night?” I suppose this was because my son had slept on his friend’s sofa and was still in the same clothes. I should say that he had owned this car for 5 weeks, and loved it dearly. Anyway, the officer went on to berate him for not calling the night before, even though he had been told to wait. Things went no better with the detectives, who basically told him that this would be a needle in a haystack search, and that the information would be entered into a database, but nothing more could be done. Despite multiple sightings of the car in the DFW area by tolltag hits and photos over the next week, the Dallas PD maintained their bland, unconcerned approach, failing to answer or return calls, and offering nothing further in the way of help.

Well, the car was recovered and the perpetrator arrested–by a neighboring city’s police department, who thought activity around the car was suspicious and ran the plate. So, what was the problem? The Dallas police were right—lots of cars get stolen, they don’t have the manpower to go search for each one, and the odds are heavily stacked against them. What did we want them to do?

We wanted them to care. I wanted one cop to say to my son, “I’m sorry this happened. This sucks for you.” He felt terrible, and needed someone to listen and understand. He needed some empathy. In the end, the person who finally had some was the mechanic we towed the car to in order to have it repaired.

Remember this when a patient comes to you with nothing much wrong with them. You don’t have to manufacture an illness and a treatment, you need to listen and care. Remember this when a patient has a disease that you can’t treat. Tell them you’re sorry, and that you recognize their suffering. Do your job or find another one, because it is unacceptable to be a doctor, or a policeman, and not care.

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