Client translation an acquired skill

Client translation an acquired skill

Jan 01, 2001

I waited politely while the two young men seated next to me finished their conversation.

I wanted to join in, but I couldn't. That is because they were speaking in Lithuanian. Or at least that's what I thought at first. Within a few minutes, though, I decided that it must be Japanese. Then, a strange thing happened. I thought I heard a word of English. It was the word, "up." I decided to listen more carefully. Within a few minutes, I distinctly heard the word, "down." Perhaps they were speaking English. That would make sense since the two men were two of my own children and I was pretty sure that neither one of them could speak a foreign language.

You see, my two sons are pilots. Whenever they get together they speak in some sort of aeronautic techno-language that no one else understands. So the rest of the family went ahead and enjoyed New Year's Day while the pilots babbled on.

I was a little disappointed with myself, though. I should have understood more of their conversation. After all, I spend most of my day translating pet owner language into plain English. This requires decoding innuendoes, deciphering euphemisms and reading between the lines. So, for the benefit of those of you who just graduated from veterinary school (or are just about to), let me give some examples.

Clara Fye called me last week to share some important facts concerning her dog's history.

"Doctor, my husband was in to see you yesterday with our dog. Do you remember?"

Of course I remembered. It took me 15 minutes to explain why the pooch needed ear surgery. It should have taken two minutes, but Mr. Fye is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. (If this guy was any more stupid, he would have to be watered twice a week.)

She continued, "Well, doctor, I don't know if my husband mentioned it to you, but he's not really our dog. He's a stray."

Translation: "We have no intention of spending any money on this dog."

Let's look at another example. This time, the phone call was from Hugh Mustadunit, another of my clients who's IQ never quite measures up to room temperature.

(Somewhere there is a village that this guy is depriving of an idiot.)

"I think my cat must have picked up a sickness when he was at your office. He has been vomiting for three days."

I glanced at the medical record. He brought the cat in for a toenail clip three months ago. At the time, he couldn't understand why he was charged for something that he could have done at home. (It probably takes this guy an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes).

"Since he got sick at your hospital, don't you think that you should take care of his problem for me?"

Translation: "I have no intention of spending any money on this cat."

Just in case you haven't picked up on the trend yet, let's move on to a third example. Several times a year, I get a call from Althea Never. It usually goes something like this: "My dog is limping, has a cough and that rash is no better. Could you tell me how to treat him at home? I have a lot of experience with animals and I could administer any type of treatment that you would prescribe. (She has delusions of adequacy.) I would bring him in, but he gets too upset when he comes to your office."

Translation: "I have no intention of spending any money on this dog."

Hopefully, your translation skills are improving as we go along here. However, for those of you who need a few more examples, let's look at two more.

Client: "We would hate to put him through X-rays and tests when you can't tell us the diagnosis first. Isn't it true that sometimes tests come out normal? Besides, we don't want him to suffer."

Translation: "We have no intention of spending any money on this dog."

Client: "I am so glad that I found you. Our last vet didn't really care about animals. All he cared about was getting paid. He always wanted to know when he was going to get his money. We are bringing all of our animals here from now on."

Translation: "We are deadbeats." (I threw in a different one at the end just to confuse you.)

Hopefully, these few examples have helped improve your translation skills. Don't be discouraged if it seems confusing. It just takes practice. Most strange languages can be mastered with time and patience. In fact, some day, I may even be able to communicate with my sons in their own language.

Unfortunately, my daughter is a different story. I will never understand what she is talking about. She is in the computer business.

Dr. Obenski owns the Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.