confident with the knife

I was awoken this morning by a phone call from a Surgeon. Most surgeons are not very strong on people skills. People say: “Your not hiring them for their personality, your hiring them for their hands.” I entirely appreciate this. Some – most? – of the the very best software engineers I know have a similar profile. The person who dives into your innards with a knife and rearranges things, well, you want him to be really confident, really sure, of what he’s doing. People that sure of how to draw the knife thru the inside of a complex system ought to be experts in those kinds of systems, and that might not leave time for becoming skilled at people skills.

The surgeon was calling to get my permission to operate on a relative. I figure the medical industry makes them do this just out of spite. The poor guys are paid to be absolutely sure that they are doing the absolutely right thing; and then they make them call up complete strangers and nicely ask permission to do it using the people skills that are almost fundamentally contrary to craft skill. I suspect the nursing staff enjoys observing these little morality plays.

He poured a torrent of words over the phone to describe the procedure. After a few minutes he paused to take a breath. I informed him that he really needed to speak with my sibling who has taken this responsiblity. He then launched into another torrent of words. Toward the end of that round paused and he said “Did you say I should call your sibling?”

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