OMG! It's the veterinary @client of the future #lookout

My new clients won't look up from their phones. My older clients won't shut up. I'm not sure which is worse.
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Oct 01, 2013

One day as I was walking down the hall, I heard strange noises coming from the examination room. They were a mixture of electronic beeping sounds and clicks—almost as if someone were playing video games on the computer. I knew that this theory was unlikely, given that our exam room doesn't have a computer. (That's right! Our record-keeping system consists of a Bic pen and myself.)


ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN OSTRANDER
I entered the room to find Mrs. Qwerty typing away madly on her tablet thing while her cat, Cyber, quietly slept on the floor.

"Just a minute, Doctor," she said. "I'm almost done."

Then she offered an explanation for her rude behavior.

"I'm typing up a complete medical history for you to read on your e-mail. That way, it'll all be written down for you, and if I get a text or tweet or phone call while I'm here, you won't need to interrupt me with questions."

I informed her that she'd better begin sharing information verbally—immediately, if not sooner. She put the tablet down but took out her smartphone. The next thing I knew, she was thumb-typing like crazy.

"I'm tweeting my friends to tell them I'm at the vet and not to interrupt me until we're done. I thought that would be the considerate thing to do," she said between keystrokes.

After informing her that the office call would begin now or never, I finally was able to proceed with the exam. Luckily, the diagnosis was easy and the prognosis good. When I sent her out front to settle the bill with the receptionist, her thumbs went wild again.

"I'm texting my sister to let her know that Cyber is going to be OK," she told me. "She loves him as much as I do. In fact, she was so worried about him that she wouldn't come into the exam room with me. She's out in your waiting room."

After she left, my receptionist showed me a copy of the medical history Mrs. Qwerty had e-mailed us. I didn't understand it at all. There wasn't any punctuation or capitalization. Funny abbreviations were everywhere—things like OMG, IMHO and LOL. I'm definitely not up to date on all of that stuff. The only one I'm familiar with is E-I-E-I-O. That means you're getting a message from Old MacDonald.

The next thing on my schedule that day took me from the current era of cutting-edge communication to the land of corded telephones and snail mail letters—it was a visit from Mr. Fossil and his dog, Relic. The man is one of my favorite clients; however, I hate to see him walk in the door. He always feels obligated to educate me on how things used to be done "back in his day."

He says things like, "You know, Doc, when I was a boy, a visit to the veterinarian was only about $4—and that included the medicine."

And of course he always knows of a better medical treatment option than the ones we use now. His advice always consists of such comments as, "That expensive worm medicine isn't that great. Can't you just give him a dose of gun powder?" and "Those fancy flea treatments don't work any better than a little kerosene in the bath water."

Mr. Fossil is destined to stay in his century forever, just as much as Mrs. Qwerty is compelled to move with the times. At least that's what I thought until something happened that rattled my faith in the natural order of things—Mr. Fossil reached into his pocket and pulled out a smartphone. My universe turned upside down.

"Hey, Doc," he said. "I found this in your parking lot. What the heck is it?"

And just like that, all was right with the world once again.

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