Foreign Languages Overheard

When I was practicing pediatrics in Florida, I had this experience more than once. Some new patients wouldn’t know that I spoke Spanish, so often couples or a mother and a grandmother would be speaking Spanish between themselves, sometimes making derogatory or critical comments about me. I would just listen and not reveal that I understood everything they were saying until finally I would ask, “¿No sabían qué yo era puertoriqueno? (“Didn’t you know that I’m Puerto Rican?”)

Their mouths would always drop. I wish I could have had a picture of that moment! Then they would ask me where in Puerto Rico I was from. I would always answer “Ponce” even though I was never in that part of PR. We would then have a good laugh and they would be wondering what they had previously said. Most of the time it was just innocent criticism like, “This new doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”


As a pediatrician, I would routinely examine newborn babies in the hospital rooms where their mothers were recuperating from the delivery. I would always knock on a closed door to avoid any embarrassing situations.

One time, a mother answered the knock on the door with “Come in,” only for me to find her standing totally naked in front of the sink within the room (not the bathroom). She was shaving her legs and underarms with a total lack of modesty.

I quickly closed the door and told her that I would come back when she was dressed. “ Oh, that’s all right,” she replied, “You can come in now.”  I did request that she at least put on a hospital gown so that I could examine her baby.

It turned out that she was from Brazil and believed that covering up was unnecessary. I remember warning my male partner about this since he was making rounds the next day.

I was never put off by mothers nursing in front of me, but I felt that it was strange and somewhat inconsiderate for anyone to be totally naked when I would walk into the room.

An Embarrassing Moment

I was examining four young children in a family for possible strep throat. Their mother and father both accompanied them in the small exam room.

As I proceeded with the throat cultures with all four seated on the exam table, the father fell asleep, started to snore loudly and then, suddenly, farted.  And a loud one! And no one reacted at all!

I still chuckle when I think about that poor mother and those kids!