July 20, 2010
It seems like everyone wants their kid to be a doctor when he grows up. (Or she, but from here on I’m sticking with “he.” I’m not sexist, just lazy. I want to avoid some typing.) Not me. That is a whole lot of responsibility.
Think about it. You are an ER doctor and an ambulance rolls in. The paramedics jump out and start shouting “car vs. clown car, BP 130 over 85, pulse neg, blood ox 32, high contusion on the thoraxial shmasical clavicle,” and other things they yell on TV. After the shouting dies down you realize that they left the patient in the ambulance and they go back for him.
Anyway, his life is in YOUR hands. That is a lot of pressure. His life is in YOUR hands. Yes, I am repeating myself and using Motivational Caps©- it is THAT much pressure. What if you do something wrong? What if he becomes brain dead? What if he dies?????
Frankly that’s not important. Death is a part of life. You know what worries me? What if he LIVES?
So I saved this kid and now I have to spend every single day of my life wondering if I did the right thing. What if the kid grows up to be a serial killer? What if the kid grows up to be the next Ugandan dictator? What if I just saved the life of the next Hitler? That’s all on me. I can’t take that kind of strain and stress.
Better I stay out of it entirely.
However, what I would like to be is a fake doctor. like Bernard Meltzer.
If you lived in New York and you are older than 35 the odds are you heard “Uncle Bernie” Bernard Meltzer on the radio. Broadcasting from roughly the Stone Age until 1995, Meltzer hosted the popular “What’s your Problem?” advice show. (This was the show’s second name, replacing the unpopular “Who are you looking at?”)
Bernard was popularly known as “Doctor Acula,” um, excuse me, it’s late, I mean “Doctor Meltzer.” Callers greeted him with “Hello Doctor Meltzer.” Guests said “Thanks for having me on, Doctor Meltzer.” He himself said to callers “You’re on with Doctor Meltzer.” Despite this, he was not a doctor. Of any type. No degree.
His show began with a disclaimer that clearly said “Bernard Meltzer is not a doctor.” Coming out of commercials, bumpers reminded listeners that “Bernard Meltzer is not a doctor.” Bernard Meltzer told his listeners “Bernard Meltzer is not a doctor.” And the first call? “Hello Doctor Meltzer.”
Anyway, this was an advice show, and what did he give advice on? What didn’t he?
A typical show began with a question about a failing romance, followed by a question about fixing a house’s foundation, followed by someone asking about where to put their 401(K) and then a caller asking about his heart arrhythmia.
And you know what? He had an answer for all of those questions. No, not a BS answer like I like to give, but actual, real, good answers. He may not have been a doctor, but he seemed to know everything. And he had a folksy way of saying it. Here are a few of his well-known quotes.
- A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.
- Success is getting and achieving what you want. Happiness is wanting and being content with what you get.
- We may give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.
- You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
I am not sure, but he may have simply watched one too many old Charlie Chan films. He also often asked “What shall we do with grandma, now that she’s old and gray?” and annoyingly never gave an answer.
Honestly, he was amazing. People called about electrical repair, which car to buy, liver ailments, pre-nuptial agreements, horse anatomy, you name it, and he had an answer. Strangely, WOR-AM’s “history” page simply describes him as “financial advisor,” which is a very poor job by WOR.
His show aired on WOR AM 710, once the home of the Mutual Network and the broadcast studio of The Shadow. Lately, it has become the home of The Pet Show, a call-in show about sneezing dogs.
Later in life, perhaps worried about the FCC, or simply afraid of being sued, he actually earned a degree, but it was through a correspondence course from an unaccredited university, the Triple-A High School Diploma Company of Delevan, Indiana. Radar on M*A*S*H got the same degree in the season one episode “Dear Dad- Again.” (This may not be true.)
If there was a caller he particularly liked, he would send them a t-shirt. It was a plain white tee with something to the effect of “Bernard Meltzer answered my question on WOR” written across it. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to who got the shirt, but usually anyone who asked for it got one. And take it from me, everyone asked for one. His callers were a bunch of schnoorers. He would also send listeners helpful pamphlets (for free) full of his advice on model rocketry, quantum physics, auto-erotic asphyxiation, or whatever obscure topic the caller asked about.
One of the sad facets of his show was that, as he got older and sicker (he continued to broadcast well into his late seventies) he would never take a day off. His voice got weaker and weaker to the point that he would often pause long enough in mid-sentence for callers to ask “are you still there?” His producer would often introduce the calls in order to lighten the vocal burden. It was often a wonder that he made it through the show, as sometimes you were positive he was not making it back from the commercial break.
There has not been a show like his before or since. And that is the type of doctor I wish to be- beloved by all, yet with no malpractice insurance.
Rest In Peace, Mr. Know-It-All. I would have published this on the anniversary of your death, March 25th, but on that day I was busy blogging about pro-wrestler Akeem and his manager, Slick.