If there were a way that I could put my memories of my dad’s allergy office in a chip and insert them into your brain, I would do that. But I can’t. (Nor would I want to perform such an invasive procedure on you!…) So I am left to write about it; to paint a picture with my words.
I don’t have many photos, other than in my brain, and even if I did, that wouldn’t capture the smells—and the scents were a major part of it!…I don’t know if “scents” is the right word to use. It’s not that it smelled bad, but it didn’t smell good. In fact, my father prohibited people from wearing perfume due to his being an allergist working with people with environmental allergies/sensitivities. There was a handwritten sign next to the receptionist window reading something to the effect of, “No perfume allowed! We rather smell your body odor—at least that won’t cause respiratory discomfort, even if it is a wee bit unpleasant!” (Ok, so everything after the first three words, if you couldn’t tell, I made up! Do you think my dad was a comedian?… Wait, are you saying my dad wasn’t funny? Dude, he was funny. He specialized in corny dad jokes and puns (his own father was a master of puns as well). Sorry I seem to have put you in between a rock and hard place—he was funny, but he was also professional (note his side-parted, freshly-showered and combed hair, button-down shirt and suit pants—which I used to love watching him put his belt through when I was a kid; like clock work, it was rhythmic. He seemed to have an efficient system for everything.
Where was I? So, anyway, my father’s allergy office: He opened shop in December 1973, a week or so after his mother died of a heart attack. I digress again. But all these details are important, so take note!
When you opened the door to my father’s office you were greeted by a waiting room furnished with two couches and a coffee table consisting of a variety of magazines to read while you waited. (And you were likely waiting. My dad was thorough with his patients as well as caring and really wanted to get to know them and help them.) At the end of the waiting room, to the far left, was a short hallway you’d walk through to enter the treatment room, and to the right of that door was the window to the receptionists’ area. If you came for an appointment between 1995 and 2006, you would have seen my mother through that window, since she became my father’s receptionist when his former one moved to Arizona. There was also a very knowledgeable and capable business manager who had worked for my father ever since he began his private practice, but she was more to the side and wasn’t visible from the waiting room window.
When it was time for your appointment, you would enter the aforementioned door and walk straight back to a room where they would check your height and weight on an old-school non-electronic black-and-white scale. Prior to that, I forgot to mention, you would blow into a peak flow meter at the receptionist’s window (my dad actually wrote several articles in medical journals about the importance of regular peak flow measurements as an indicator of asthma management).
Once your height and weight were taken you would go to the room to the left. That is where my father would give you your allergy shots. This is where the smell of the office was from: the smell of bottles of allergy serum stored in the fridge and most of all—rubbing alcohol, which my dad used to sanitize supplies as well as his very own hands.
Now would be an appropriate time to mention that my father was the one who administered the allergy shots. He did not have any nurses of other clinicians working under him. He was a small-town doctor providing all the care. That’s why I have a special place in my heart for small-town, down-to-earth doctors. I feel blessed every time I find one for my own medical care—they are one in a million!
In this room, on the wall next to the refrigerator, were several drawings, including one of Charlie Brown professing his admiration for Dr. Daman (that was my dad’s name). I wasn’t the only one making handmade cards for my dad (on Father’s Day and on his birthday)—his pediatric patients expressed their gratitude by drawing him pictures. And do you recall that door that you opened to enter the short hallway before the treatment room? Well, that was plastered with Christmas and other holiday cards sent by the parents of the children whom my dad treated.
My dad saw adults as well. Since kids with allergies grew up to be adults with allergies and so he worked with many people for upwards of 20 years, even writing some of them college recommendation letters. (Like I said, my dad built a relationship with his patients, he would do math problems with them, etc, have down to earth conversations with them.)
If at any point in your visit you needed to use the restroom, fear not!—there was a bathroom right across from the room in which you got your shots. It was fully supplied with toilet paper and soap (liquid dial, I believe). Just don’t open the shower curtain!—that was where my dad stored the toilet paper.
When you exited the bathroom you might notice another room across the way—not the one you got your shots in. Like the shower curtain, this door should remain closed. That’s the room where my dad did all his paperwork. Needless to say, there were a lot of papers there. Organized chaos: piles of papers with a smattering of textbooks on a very large desk. My dad knew where everything was—and that is all that counts!
Paperwork: that famous paperwork that I mentioned in my “Family Chronicles” booklet for a second grade project. Something to the effect of, “I love my dad…My dad comes home at 2 am because he has a lot of paperwork!”
There were more papers too. The root of all papers—the large filing cabinet unit behind where my mother sat from 1995-2006. This held all of the current patients’ files. In middle school and high school, I used to love coming and helping out in the office, sorting through these alphabetized files.
Above the file cabinets, there were some other noteworthy items: bottles of seltzer and bags of pecans with which my father would nourish himself throughout the day—and night! As I previously referenced, my dad had funky hours: most days working from 3 pm to 12 midnight or even later. He did this so patients could come to him after their school/work day was over. This schedule also enabled him to go for his mid-morning run! (My father was a doctor by day and a shirtless jogger by earlier in the day!)
At some point in time there were also Pepsi cans above the filing cabinets. I remember my dad giving me one once when I felt a bit nauseous. We weren’t soda drinkers and I think this batch must have been pretty old because it tasted off—not sweet—and after that I had a bit of a taste aversion to Pepsi. I had always preferred Coca Cola anyway. In any case, I guess it was meant to be because as an adult I would later move to Atlanta—the home of the Coca Cola factory!