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The Things That Make Us Laugh in the Reading Room

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Whether it is humorous associations with common terminology, oddities on X-rays or decidedly uncomfortable imaging findings, this author shares a few chuckles from his experience.

It has been a while since I had to share a workspace with anybody other than my house pets. Even when I last worked in an imaging center over a decade ago, I had my own reading room and some semblance of privacy when techs weren’t paying me visits for matters great and small.

Put someone in isolation long enough and his or her behavior changes. This even affects one’s thought patterns. We rationally know that mind-reading isn’t a thing but when you’re being observed, your mind can’t help but be on higher alert in the “I’m not alone” environment. In solitude, one adopts a more relaxed posture.

One way this manifests for me is how likely I am to find something entertaining, if not funny, and how visibly or vocally I will express my appreciation for it. I am a far more receptive audience for movies and TV if I am in my living room by myself than if I have even one other person watching with me.

Here is a case in point. I watched a David Spade stand-up comedy hour on Netflix this past week in two sessions. My lady was present for the first bit. She can be a tough audience but neither of us got a single chuckle so we bailed after about 10 minutes. Remembering how hilarious I had found Spade to be in the past, I subsequently resumed the show when I was alone in the house, and found myself laughing out loud a couple of times during the remainder of the program.

Perhaps he had better material later in the show. However, on some level, I think my mind doesn’t want me to look like an easily amused simpleton by expressing enjoyment at something when others present might not. Get rid of my observers, and I reflexively shed some of my comedic inhibitions.

Working via home-office teleradiology, I have found myself smiling, sometimes even audibly laughing at stuff that I never would have when sharing a workspace with other people. When I recently shared one item in a Facebook group and got a surprising number of other rads agreeing about the comedic value, I realized a bunch of us might be laughing in isolation at the same stuff.

For example, with the required inclusion of contrast dosage in our reports (Why do we have to do that again? Is there a reason for this other than jumping through whatever hoops insurers feel like setting up to withhold payment?), at some point or another, it became borderline impossible for me to dictate or even think about speaking “MultiHance” without pronouncing it the way Leeloo repeatedly says “Multipass” in The Fifth Element. For whatever reason, this has yet to cease entertaining me. As it happens, a bunch of other rads have either shared the same quiet amusement or, as one replied to my post, “Well, now I will.”

So, in the name of sharing some other cheap laughs I have enjoyed, here are a few more examples.

MR anything. At some point during my residency, I adopted the practice of dropping the “I” from MR, because some attendings I respected did too. I am sure they had more well-considered reasons for doing it. I just thought it sounded more sophisticated. I have been happy to see RIS and PACS do the same. Now and then, however, my mind is in just the right place that I will glance at a study type and think, “Mister Abdomen.” This sometimes puts me in the mind of Data from Star Trek: Generations playing around with “Mister Tricorder.” In case it needs repeating, these are cheap, stupid grins I am enjoying.

Rectal self-insertions. This one isn’t really an “Am I the only one who finds this funny” affair. Heck, the Seinfeld series poked at the phenomenon of people sticking things in their rears on prime-time TV. Still, we’re supposed to be serious, professional types in our work. Perhaps it takes a home office for us to allow ourselves a natural reaction when we see just what has found its way into that orifice. The wackiest I have ever seen was the entire handle of an umbrella.

Losing fights with inanimate objects. I’ve written before about how difficult I find it to understand what would possess somebody to punch a wall, especially hard enough to sustain a “Boxer” fracture, and even more so if it is someone who has done it more than once in his or her life. Still, as unfortunate as such a patient’s emotional status might be, there is borderline slapstick comedy in someone choosing to get in a fight with a wall, furniture, etc. Sometimes, the referring clinician adds a punchline with the clinical history: “Hand versus table.”

Imaginary sound effects. One of the neuro attendings in my residency was good with these although he uttered them out loud. Strolling by the ultrasound area, he would tease the body rads by making a whooshing noise that excellently mimicked Doppler studies. Sitting in the neuro reading room and going through CT images, the neuro attending would see a slice or three where the patient moved, creating a horrible blur, which prompted him to make a car swerving sound.

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