The Charity Case
The summer sun was setting on a well-worn workday. Gazing upon the horizon from the balcony of my LoDo office loft, I recounted the day’s appointments while taking inventory of the decisions I had made, the wrongs I had righted, the lives I had saved–and, of course the handsome fees I would collect as my quid pro quo. But there was something unsettling about the very first appointment, and it pestered me like a piece of carpaccio grizzle stuck in my distalmost dentition.
Though I frequently lower my fees substantially out of “compassion” to the lower classes, my base rate is $450 per 15 minute increment. There is also a considerable materials fee, as I will only write progress notes with the finest feathered styluses. Furthermore, if I have to subcontract services–to summon my personal private detective McGillicutty, for example–I have to pass those costs onto the patient as well. All said, it’s not unusual for a monthly bill to exceed $10,000 for services rendered. This may seem rather exorbitant, but can I help it if my unparallelled proclivity for healing minds breaks a few banks? Besides, everyone has to make a living, and my research budget is tight. Also, among other personal items, I fancy a new dirigible.
Which is why that very first appointment of the day vexed me so.
Morris was a successful corporate pilot and businessman, a millionaire several times over. With much shrewd planning and a little luck, his company rose to prominence as the singlemost expedient transporter of bodily fluids in the Rocky Mountain Region. He had been a patient of mine since humble beginnings of my practice, and over the years, as financial windfall fanned the flames of his entrepreneurial spirit, he was fond of boasting of his achievements. He once exclaimed: ”No one can get a urine sample to Bozeman faster… No one!”
But as his enterprise ascended, his mood fell. Early on, I started him on a trial of Zoloft because I had some samples handy, and because the drug rep looked and flirted not unlike a young Suzanne Somers. However, years passed, and Morris did not seem to benefit from the drug, even after I had titrated it well north of standard dosing. He continued to complain that he was becoming more listless and could no longer find joy in his substantial wealth. Something was afoot, and it would be solved by saturating synapses with serotonin. Finally, today Morris rested himself on the Corbusier and laid it on the line as never before.
“I don’t think this med is doin’ me one lick of good, doc. I think my problem might be that I’m too caught up in the pursuit of wealth, and that I’ve mistaken it for the pursuit of happiness. If I stopped thinking about myself for a change and started focusing on people that really need help, I think my life would be more fulfilling, and I might actually feel better. I mean, have you seen the news lately?! More than 100,000 people might have been killed in China and Burma recently, and many of the survivors are without shelter, food, or water … and that’s on top of all the help already needed worldwide just so people can achieve a standard of living that’s dwarfed by what I take for granted every day! Maybe I should try to help … What do you think?”
As I am typically a master of my emotions, I thought I might be able to prevent the peals of laughter from issuing forth. No such luck.
“Listen,” I remarked, once the chuckling was contained, ”that was great. I haven’t heard anything that amusing in quite awhile. But seriously, I guess Zoloft just isn’t working for you, and Paxil is worth a shot, so …”
“No, you listen,” Morris tone darkened as he sat up in the Corbusier and spoke with unprecedented insolence, “I’m serious. I’ve come to you for help and I’ve paid you good money to help me through a difficult time. And finally I have some insight–and you laugh in my face?!”
“Very well, Morris. If you really think you’ve had some kind of epiphany, why don’t you all donate your hard-earned money to charity and see how it makes you feel?” Morris’s eyes widened in spite of my sarcasm. “And why don’t you get your staff and your fleet of planes and fill them up with supplies and drop some off in China? And while you’re at it, why not defy the Burmese government by drop-shipping the rest of your cargo there!
“But your journey begins with a single step,” I muttered sardonically, making my disdain crystalline, “And step one is to get the fuck off my Corbusier.”
Morris stood up as if galvanized. He looked at me curiously for a moment, studying my face, apparently contemplating my genius. Then he did an about-face and marched out of my office, placing a call on his Blackberry while walking out the door.
So as I scanned the horizon at the end of the day, I observed a plane flying in the distance. Judging by the trajectory, it had flown out of Centennial, a hub for corporate air traffic. One of Morris’? Perhaps I will have McGillicutty investigate …
I may never know whether Morris will find serenity and happiness by helping the less fortunate. I may never know how he fares in the long run, as I may never see him again. And I certainly don’t know how many, if any, Chinamen or Burmese fellows will appreciate his noble sacrifice.
But I do know that if I want a certain inflated aircraft sooner than later, I had better get an inflated bill in the mail before a certain fool and his money are soon parted.