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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

I Am Simply Too Old to Be Playing Doctor

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For many years my wife and I spent our summer vacations in the small Georgian town of Alakhadze on the Black Sea coast. One summer I was working on a project that required me to correspond with Moscow. So once a week I would go into town to see if there was any mail for me at the tiny local post office that was supervised by two women.

One of them was a charming blond with a permanent smile. The other was a full-figured, dark-haired woman with something of a moustache who disliked me from the start, apparently because I insisted on wearing shorts. Whenever I appeared, she would demonstratively get up and hide in the back room. Only after she had fully tested my patience would she re-emerge, take up her position at the little window and report dryly: "There is no mail for you."

Two days before our departure I suddenly complained about this postal "vixen" to my landlady. "Oh, you must mean Khatuna!" she said, immediately recognizing her from my none-too-flattering description. "I'll take care of her!"

And the next day, everything was different. I'd hardly set foot in the post office when Khatuna exclaimed: "Mr. Schnitzer! There is a letter for you." As I took it, she added, "Too bad that you are leaving so soon!"

That evening the landlady let me in on her secret. "I told her that you are a famous Moscow doctor, a professor even. Don't tell her different." I immediately sensed danger. Bad enough to pose as a professor, but a doctor? I don't know the first thing about medicine.

The next morning I ran straight into Khatuna, limping up to my house. Her leg was wrapped in a huge bandage, her face the picture of suffering. "What happened to you?" I asked without thinking.

"Oh, doctor!" she said. "Please look at my leg." She unwrapped her bandage and presented her naked leg. "What happened?" I repeated.

"I spilled boiling water on it," she cried. I decided to bluff. I advised Khatuna she needed a blood test in order to avoid a "staph infection" and should immediately see the local doctor. "Before she gets back," I thought to myself, "I'll be heading back to Moscow."

"Thank you, doctor," she said and hobbled off.

An hour later a Zhiguli screeched up to our house and a big Georgian hopped out shouting, "Is this where the professor lives?" Having received an affirmative answer, he suddenly produced an enormous watermelon and a bottle of wine, which he handed to the landlady saying: "Please give these to him. We are so grateful."

I've never gone back to Alakhadze and I never will. I've had enough of being a professor.

Vladislav Schnitzer is a pensioner and freelance journalist in Moscow.