Process of Elimination

September 30, 2016

How to spot a radiologist a mile away.

The veteran salesmen at the auto dealership all recognized the approaching doctor; he was a repeat customer. As had become traditional, they quickly got ahold of the newbie. “This guy’s all yours,” they told him. “When he comes here, he’s always ready to buy something.” Then, the vets retreated to a safe distance to watch the fun.

They could see the newbie greeting the physician, but not hear what was being said. No matter; they pretty much knew how the conversation would go, and this made the gag work much better.

Like clockwork, the newb quickly lost his confident, almost-swaggering welcoming demeanor after the first few exchanges. Puzzlement took its place, and it wasn’t long before he was offering apologies (“Excuse me for a moment”) for his hasty retreat to find someone else, anyone, on the sales staff. The vets quickly separated themselves and set about looking busy, rather than the collaborating pranksters they were.

One took the lead, looking up with a counterfeit, friendly expectant smile at the rookie. “Done already? What’s he buying?”

“I’m not sure he’s buying anything. Um-are you sure about this guy? He seems, well, a little off.”

Nonsense, they told him. True, the doc was a little eccentric, but that was just because he worked hard, lots of hours, and didn’t seem to get out much.

“It’s just that I’m having trouble getting him to actually answer any questions,” the newbie tried explaining, but they were already bundling him out the door with vague encouragements, lest the customer feel abandoned and leave. Or someone else snap up the easy sale he represented.

Once he was safely out of earshot, they had themselves a good laugh, and returned to watching the newb attempt to rally himself, rearmed with his best “game face.” Which didn’t last long after reengaging the customer. The vets exchanged recollections of their own run-ins with the doc, until they saw the rookie was once again headed their way, now not only puzzled but visibly frustrated.

“I have no idea what this guy wants!” he exclaimed as he stormed into the room.

The others playacted their best puzzlement/surprise/empathy.

“No matter what I say, all he does is tell me what he’s not interested in. Stuff like ‘no SUVs,’ and ‘cannot exclude hybrids.’ It’s like a laundry list of things he doesn’t want…”

His voice trailed off as a look of stunned comprehension overtook his face. Couldn’t have been more obvious if a cartoonish lightbulb had materialized over his head.

“Hang on a sec,” he muttered, grabbing a binder of the dealership’s inventory and a marker, then left the room.

“What did I tell you guys,” one of the older salesmen chuckled. “He’s a quick study. Tom, I think he figured it out even faster than you did.”[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"52417","attributes":{"alt":"Explaining in radiology","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_9922607540413","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6505","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 110px; width: 170px; float: right;","title":"©igor kisselev/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

They watched as the newbie rejoined the physician, sitting down and resuming their chat. But now, with each statement the doc made, a swipe of the marker eliminated one or more items from the binder. Soon enough, process of elimination had determined which vehicle was to be purchased, and the rookie had escorted the doc off to where paperwork would be done.

Later, after the more experienced salesmen congratulated him by way of letting him in on the not quite prank, the newbie was of course full of questions. “But I don’t get it,” he said. “Why doesn’t the doctor just say what he wants instead of ‘no this’ and ‘cannot exclude that’? All it does is take more time, clutter up the conversation, and confuse people instead of getting his point across.”

He got shrugs in response. “Dunno,” one of the vets told him. “He’s a radiologist; evidently that’s how they’re trained to express themselves.”