Jensen column: Adventures in Yankee accents

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2011

Editorís note: Dr. Susan Jensen worked at the Hefner V.A Medical Center and during that time collected a few good stories. Hereís one that is too good not to share.
He was one of my first patients, in my first week on the job in Salisbury, NC. We had moved here from NYC and my accent was still pretty strong.
Come again? Was one of the expressions I had become accustomed to hearing often. The patient had his own thick accent and I had to strain to understand him.
This 58 year old veteran had seen many tough times. Clearly, his low back pain was only part of the total pain of his existence . He now lived all by his lonesome in a trailer with no TV or radio or CD player. He needed some inexpensive home entertainment.
Have you thought about visiting a pawn shop? I suggested. The man’s dull demeanor turned sharp and some crimson flushed in his cheeks. ě Well, I’d be too embarrassedî he said, but I could tell he really liked the idea.
Encouragingly, I said ě I’ve been to many pawn shops in my life. I was a bit embarrassed to be seen going into one the first time, but then I got over it. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about.î
A bit of a gleam shot into the melancholic eyes. ěYou are a real respectable looking lady. If you can do it, I guess I should be able to. But I imagine where you went in NYC no one knew you.î
“That’s trueî I replied. ě However, I would have no embarrassment going to a pawn shop here in Salisbury.î
ěOf course,î he said, ěyou don’t know anybody here yet, so there is no one to catch you doing it.î I contemplated that thought. ěI do know some patients now, and I would not mind them seeing me enter a pawn shop.î
ěIt sure would perk me up,î the fellow said, warming to the idea. ě Do you think the VA would pay for it?î I doubted that, and he said he doubted it too, he just had to ask.
Though I could now afford to buy new things, I still liked going to second-hand stores, I told him, and there was no reason to be embarrassed about being careful with your money.
ěOh, Lawî said the patient ě I could not see buying one of them things used!î This response confused me.
ěWhy wouldn’t you want to buy a TV used?î I asked.
ě TV? You mean to play adult videos?î he answered in an uncertain way.
It then dawned on me ń this patient heard my yankee accented ěpawnî as ěporn.î I explained the misunderstanding.
Three seconds later, the front desk person came bursting into the exam room to see what what the loud screaming was about, and was shocked to see us both doubled over in laughter, tears streaming down our faces. Standing up and wiping his eyes, the patient said ěthis is the best damn visit to the VA I ever had.î
Dr. Susan Jensen lives in Salisbury with her family.