It was the 70s.  I was stationed in Germany.  I became friends with a guy named Gene when we acted in community theater together.

Gene was a doctor.  An obstetrician to be exact.  I was enlisted, but Gene was an officer.  He’d been yanked out of medical school during the Vietnam draft and given a commission in the Air Force when they needed doctors.

Once the Vietnam war concluded and the draft had ended, Gene chose to stay with the military rather than return to civilian life.  As he told me, “It’s a pretty good deal.  I get to practice and you never get sued.”

Gene was an excellent physician by many accounts.  His military bearing, however, left much to be desired.

As an enlisted person, it was expected that everything down to my short moustache hairs would be precisely manicured.  Not so much with Gene.  He was flagrant.  Big bushy moustache, unruly untrimmed hair.  When I mentioned the disparity once, Gene joked, “People choose not to argue with you about grooming standards when you have a scalpel in your hand.”

Good point.

I once asked Gene about being a doctor and he told me some funny stories.  I share one with you now.

Gene’s on a trans-Atlantic flight and as he said, “It was literally like something out of a movie.  I’m kicked back in my seat and they come over the loudspeaker.  ‘Is there a doctor on the plane?'”

Gene got up from his seat and made his way to the flight attendant cabin prep area.

“Hi.  I’m a doctor.  I’m an obstetrician, but I am a doctor.”

Members of the flight crew led Gene to a mom with her frantic toddler.  It was the kid’s first flight and the little boy was in full freak-out mode.  Driving everyone up the wall with hysterical tantrums.

Gene turns to one of the flight attendants and instructs her to bring him a glass of orange juice.

“And I’ll need one of those little bottles of vodka you have on your cart.”

The OJ in the glass gets spiked.  They tell the frothing kid to drink it.  The kid goes down faster than Sonny Liston in 1964.

The mom thanks Gene.

Gene smiles “You’re welcome” and returns to his seat.

Surrounding passengers settle back in their seats and enjoy the quiet.

Problem solved.

Old school.

And nobody got sued for using common sense.

As Gene liked to say, “No one argues with you when you have a scalpel in your hand.”

Or some vodka, apparently.