Tigers! Grrrr! Ha, scared you, did I? Good, good, well this is all very natural and normal, and nothing at all to be worried about. Most people behave this way when faced with the prospect of having their spleen ripped out by a vicious stripy carnivore, so there's absolutely no reason for concern if you shat yourself when I brought it up just now, you big wuss.
Hello, my name is Dr Adolphous Bongo, I've been practising medicine for at least thirty years now and, in spite of what you may have read in the Sunday papers, I have many, many, many satisfied patients. Of course, even someone as skilled as myself can make mistakes, and it's all very easy to go pointing the finger of blame when something goes tits up. When I say 'tits up', I don't mean that literally, of course - although a plastic surgeon friend of mine has some interesting case studies he could share with you on that particular subject. No, I'm talking about those little goofs and gaffs we doctors sometimes make when we've had a busy morning on the golf course, or a heavy lunch has necessitated the consumption of a few too many glasses of Chateau Plonko.
Unfortunately, people are a good deal more litigious these days than when I first started in the old doctoring game. I don't hold with lawyers: they fill people's heads with complicated technical terms that they're in no position to understand. Stuff like 'incompetence', 'malpractice' and 'gross negligence'. That sort of talk gives people the wrong idea, and this is why I have been forced to employ a special team of councillors whose job it is to visit dissatisfied patients in the comfort of their own homes and persuade them, via the medium of a baseball bat and a couple of housebricks, that a protracted stay in hospital is the best course of treatment they can adopt. Now, I don't like to name names, but the unfortunate fact is that if Mrs Karen Front of Gloucester Crescent had come to me with her complaint in the first instance, instead of shooting her mouth off to the News of the World and threatening to write to the General Medical Council, then a regrettable and rather messy misunderstanding might have been avoided. To wit, she would not have had to endure the inconvenience of having her legs encased in plaster for six weeks, and her gobby boyfriend wouldn't have had his face smashed off.
Anyway, back to the tigers, grrrr! Do you realise that it takes just four seconds for a fully grown Bengal tiger to devour a medium built man, spit out the teeth and then make off with his car? One casual swipe from a tiger's deadly, razor sharp claws could slice you like a cucumber, and seriously ventilate anybody who happened to be standing near you at the time. And tigers have a vicious right hook - one punch could lay you out for a fortnight. Worried? You should be.
"But hang on a minute, Dr Bongo," you're probably saying to yourselves. "Why should I be worried about tigers? I know they're nasty and dangerous and all that, but I live in Dudley. We don't get much tiger trouble around here."
Well, I've got news for you. You may think that the most fearsome creature you're likely to encounter in your neck of the woods is a wild badger, or a cat with an attitude problem, but the fact is that tigers are on the increase throughout much of the world. Tiger related illnesses now account for most of the incidents dealt with by emergency services, and they've already been recognised as a bigger killer than malaria, coronary thrombosis and chronic leopard syndrome put together. And it's busy, overworked doctors like myself who have to deal with the consequences of your carelessness.
Back at my surgery in Hereford - or is it Hampshire? Derbyshire? I forget - anyway, back there I regularly receive visits from patients who are suffering from an acute attack of the tigers. Of course, they don't often know that tigers are the root of their problems and will frequently blame their symptoms on more prosaic causes, like measles, distemper or lice. This will not do. My patients are untrained in the practice of medicine and for this reason I discourage them from having any opinions when it comes to matters of their own health. In fact, come to think of it, I do my best to dissuade them from having any opinions at all. In my experience they are generally ill-educated, inbred and ignorant, and it's far better for everyone concerned if they keep their moronic ideas to themselves and concentrate instead on activities better suited to their station in life, such as game shows, Nintendo and chips.
Anyhow, to illustrate a particular case in point, I recall that only last week a woman came to see me who complained of a bad case of coughing. Indeed, she was exhibiting violent hacking fits whilst she was sitting in the waiting room. Not only was she causing alarm to the other patients, but she was disturbing the receptionist and liberally coating the walls with spittle. This woman was clearly quite sick and it was quite irresponsible for her to be in my surgery, when she should have been tucked up in bed at home - out of harm's way, and, more importantly, out of ours. Normally I frown on such anti-social behaviour and ask the offender to go and sit out in the car park, but I had just had my car waxed and judging from the way she was pebbledashing the waiting room walls with her breakfast, I didn't think that my paintwork would stand up to the pummelling. And so, when, after a couple of hours, she hadn't gone away, I figured the best thing to do would be to see her.
Well, she gave me some sob story about headaches, and nausea, and loss of appetite, and claimed that she'd 'gone down with a bug' and could I possibly give her a tonic. I laughed in her face. Ha! If only medicine were that simple, I told her. I hadn't spent seven long years in medical school - just studying the pancreas alone - for some sphincter faced old trollop to drag her mangy, decrepit carcass into my surgery, spread phlegm up my walls and demand 'a tonic'. The cheek of it! This sour faced old tart was doing her best to undermine my whole profession. In less enlightened times I would have had her shot, but since the local health authority has developed a more 'customer friendly', less terminal approach to its problem patients, I decided instead to have a go at being nice to her. I asked her to step into the fume cupboard where, with the aid of thick vulcanised rubber gloves, I was able to examine her with the minimum of discomfort to myself. Well, it wasn't hard to spot the telltale signs: the coarse, wiry animal hairs, the livid scratch marks on her skin, the ugly gaping gash across her abdomen. This woman was suffering from tigers, and I told her so, straight up.
"All right, Doctor Bongo!" I can hear you cry. "We believe you. These tigers have got us wound up into a rare old state, we don't mind telling you. What can we do about it? Help us! Help us, please!"
Well, it must be your lucky day. It just so happens that a pioneering new company had just developed a safe, reliable vaccine against many of the world's most dangerous big cats, including hyenas, jaguars and, of course, tigers. The vaccine is still very expensive, but the company, Bongo Pharmaceuticals Ltd., claims that it is one hundred percent effective. As a doctor of not inconsiderable experience, I heartily advise everyone to seek immediate inoculation.
I must point out that my opinion is entirely impartial. I am not connected with Bongo Pharmaceuticals in any way, I am not the holder of the tiger vaccine patent and in no way do I stand to earn a fat pile of cash if I manage to pull off this tiger scam. The fact that my name appears on the firm's letterhead is entirely coincidental, the appearance of my photograph in the company's brochure is down to a printing error, and if I have been seen, from time to time, going in and out of Bongo Pharmaceuticals' company headquarters, then it's merely because I got myself lost and went in to ask for directions. Honestly.
Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2004
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