sometimes eccentricity is excused by brilliance. the old prof of thorax in my humble opinion fell into this category. i quite enjoyed his lackadaisical approach to training, especially because i was not required to know thoracic surgery to the depth that a thorax surgeon was required to know it. i could sit back and observe.
during my rotation in thoracic surgery i enjoyed the morning meetings. the prof was very knowledgeable in all things. truth be told i never heard him teach any thoracics. he taught pretty much everything else. he would walk into the thorax lounge, sit back, light a cigarette and drink coffee. as long as you kept his cup of coffee full he would just keep on talking about all sorts of topics (except thorax surgery. he reasoned the registrars were supposed to be reading current articles and therefore were supposed to be more up to date than he was. if that were the case then how could he be so audacious to assume he had something to teach them?).
he also had what i considered a sort of inappropriate giggle. after almost every sentence he spoke he would slightly lift his shoulders and let out an almost inaudible giggle. no one else dared laugh unless it was clearly a joke. he was, after all the prof.
finally one day i witnessed him giving a thoracic surgery opinion on a thoracic surgery patient. as usual he was sipping and puffing away waxing lyrical about some or other topic which he seemed to be an expert on (i think he was explaining how he had written the program that his department used for patient records or how the cities electric supply was wired). one of the thorax registrars stood up with a ct scan. he placed it on the x-ray board and waited for a gap to ask the prof's opinion. sure enough, after the next giggle, the prof turned to see what he was doing.
"excuse me prof but could i ask you for an opinion on this patient please?" the prof put down his cigarette and coffee mug (which i duly quickly refilled). he then reached into his top pocket where he kept his fold up reading glasses. all eyes were on him as he clumsily unfolded them and placed them precariously on the tip of his nose. he then threw his head back in order to be able to look through the said glasses. everything went silent. then spake he.
"hierdie pasient is gefok!*" followed by a gentle lifting of the shoulders and the usual giggle. he whipped the glasses off his face, folded them up and returned them to his pocket in one smooth movement. i laughed. it seemed i still couldn't tell the difference between the prof trying to be funny and being deadly serious because everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and stared at me as if i had disrespected the great man. i swallowed hard and shut up. after all the prof was exactly right.
*this patient is f#@ked