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Posts by Beth Routledge

A Requiem for PACES, and Alleluia

In my third year of medical school, I volunteered to help with the running of the PACES exam at one of the big Glasgow teaching hospitals. It was an opportunity to spend all day dinging a bell, to eat an heroic quantity of Quality Street, and to, between circuits, be shown some clinical findings more complex than those we were usually given in our medical school OSCEs.

In June, I sat PACES.

You may recall that the last time I wrote, I had put myself into some kind of fugue state refreshing the results website.

I passed.

And, you know, saying that, it still doesn’t feel quite real, even two weeks later.

I passed.

And — well, let me explain this, a little bit.

In the UK, one of the criterion for progressing in a medical career is to complete the necessary postgraduate qualifications to become a member of the relevant specialist “College”. There is a Royal College of Surgeons, and a Royal College of Emergency Medicine, and a Royal College of General Practitioners, and so on. The membership qualifications for the Royal College of Physicians come in three parts, of which PACES is the final part. In all, they have taken three years, untold hours, and a significant amount of actual money spent on exam fees, revision materials, and all the caffeine in Glasgow. I also have less hair than when I started.

The first two parts are multiple choice. The first part is six hours long (with a break in the middle), and I have previously described it as being not unlike spending six hours having one’s brains kicked in by a rugby team. I took it four times. The last time was in the Newcastle United football stadium, one of the stranger places I’ve ever been in the name of my medical education. The second part is nine hours long, and I sat that only once but in a room that contained no air during the hottest two days there have ever been in the west of Scotland. After 27 hours worth of multiple choice exam, I had lost the will to live but had grown very comfortable with colouring in boxes in 2B pencil.

The third part is not like that.

I think the thing that will perhaps best describe PACES is for me to say that even while in the middle of actually taking it, I was aware that I was muttering frantic karmic apologies to every single doctor at whom I had dinged that bell back when I was a third year medical student.

“You will be fine,” my consultants had been saying to me in the week leading up to it. “You’re a good doctor.” This was kind of them, but I kept reminding them that being competent at my job and appearing competent in this exam were two very different kinds of competent.

You wake up too early in the morning. You try to eat breakfast. You travel to a hospital that is not your own, and may not be exactly in the back of beyond but certainly feels like it. I went off to the conference suite of a hotel that is attached to the national specialist cardiology centre — a place that I have spent a lot of time on the phone to, but, despite nine years of living in Scotland, had never seen for myself. “This is Dalmuir, where this train will terminate,” said the Scotrail tannoy, which felt ominous. You sit in a room where time stops, making nervous small talk with the other four people who are taking the exam with you, filling in your name and candidate number on sixteen separate pieces of paper and flicking frantically through Cases for PACES as you try to remember the indications for liver transplant.

The next two hours pass at warp speed.

The basic structure is the same for everyone: assessments of communication skills and ethics, examinations in the four major body systems, and a final station two-case grab-bag of can-be-absolutely-anything. The patients are sometimes actors, but are mostly real patients who have been recruited in for the day. In my version of the exam, I was asked to take a history from a woman who I promptly blanked on half of her presenting complaint, I was asked to counsel a young man who was angry with my boss, I struggled to find anything at all wrong with the patient whose abdomen I was examining, and trying to listen for heart sounds I briefly wondered if my stethoscope had turned itself off. In the middle of telling me about his syncope, one patient, who had also mentioned that he was on a blood-thinning medication, said that he had hit his head on the ground when he had fainted. “I haven’t really,” he said when I started trying to look for a head injury. “I’m allowed to tell you that I haven’t really.” The whole time, there were two examiners, watching, scribbling things on those pieces of paper that I had painstakingly filled in back in the room-where-time-stopped.

As each of my examinations was completed, I turned to them, tried for a winning smile, and began, “Mr Jones is a fifty seven year old gentleman. He is comfortable at rest…”

In this exam, stage fright is a real thing.

A week earlier, in Edinburgh, I had sat down after making a speech to the great and the good of the Scottish Episcopal Church and said that if failing my exam was the price I had to pay for being there, it would have been worth it. (I could, after all, have sat it again in the autumn, which would have been a pain but hardly the end of the world.) Now, on the other side of it, it’s not that I’d necessarily recommend spending three days at General Synod as a revision strategy for PACES, but the experience does throw a person’s whole idea of what counts as an intimidating room into rather harsh perspective.

They go on to ask questions. I said things like, “I would want to get an abdominal ultrasound,” and, “I would expect the left hemidiaphragm to be raised on chest x-ray,” and, “Oh, hell, I’m sorry, I totally forgot to ask him about that,” and, at one point, “Well, on a SPECT scan you’d normally see, uh — ” and, screwing my nose up as I tried and failed to articulate it, drew a picture of what you’d normally see on a SPECT scan with my fingers in the air.

And then that bloody bell dings and you get the hell out of there while shouting through the door, “I’d do an ESR and a CRP, too!”

Forget having your brains kicked in by a rugby team.

“I think I’ve been smacked in the face with a baseball bat,” I said, collapsing in the car.

It wouldn’t have been the end of the world, of course, to take it again, but am I ever glad that I haven’t got to.

(Im)patiently Waiting

My job is all wait and hurry up.

It’s about waiting for the patients to roll in the door from ED and waiting for the urgent labs to come back and waiting the two minutes for the next rhythm check.

Once, waiting for the gas machine to finish an uninterruptible calibration cycle so that I could process the blood gas that I’d run across from a different building at 2am. The clock said it took about fifteen minutes. I still think it took about three hours.

And then it’s about the hurry up and the spaces between the waiting: the three patients needing sorted out all at once, the electrolytes with numbers that trigger a very particular on switch in the brain, the flurry of activity that happens at metronomic two minute intervals during a cardiac arrest.

The last two weeks, I’ve been suffering through a different kind of waiting.

It is two weeks ago today that I sat PACES, the clinical and final part of the exams for Membership of the Royal College of Physicians.

First, there was the waiting around before the exam. The waking up far too early and pacing the kitchen. The nervous twitching on the train out to the hospital in Dalmuir. They ask you to arrive an hour early, so obviously you arrive two hours early and have nothing to do but sit, looking at the walls, trying and largely failing to recall the causes of cerebellar syndrome and making desultory small talk with four strangers whose faces are all different shades of green.

And, then, finally, the hurry up: the two hours that ended before I’d properly registered that they’d started.

I beg of you, do not ask me how it went.

My colleagues mostly think that it will have been fine.

I mostly agree, but the reason I mostly agree is because I think I’ll be fine either way. I’ve taken this exam comparatively early, and I have plenty of time to take it again.

This incredibly sensible way of looking at things has not stopped my hairline slowly receding every day that passes with no result, or, for the last thirteen days — and, remembering how patient I was with the gas machine and its calibration cycle, you will be unsurprised to learn that this is a time period that I have come to perceive as my entire life — my main extracurricular activity being the act of hitting refresh on the MRCP website.

A person can go a bit mad. “I’m sure I sat it,” I said to a colleague today. “I don’t think it was a delusion.”

I am not good at this part.

After Orlando

It is difficult to know where to begin.

This has been an uncomfortable week to occupy space in the world.

As a person whose identity is bound up in being female, being LGBTQ, believing in liberal democracy.

A little over a week ago, I gave a speech in which I called upon people to play their part in dismantling systems that have kept the oppressed oppressed. I was speaking particularly about the place of people who are gay and lesbian in Scottish Episcopal Church, but I was also speaking about all people of all races and religions and nationalities and sexualities and gender identities and all differences that have led to the Church as seeing them as Other.

I did not know when I said that that less than 48 hours later, there would be a massacre of the LGBTQ community in Florida. In the supposed land of the free and the home of the brave.

And nor did I know when I said that that this week there would be a political assassination on a British street, of a woman of conviction and principle who died because she believed in justice and equality and the possibility of a better world.

Why do I think that marriage equality is important? Why do I still think in the face of death and destruction and chaos that this is something still worth fighting for?

Because every time we declare that marginalised people of any kind are less important, are less than fully human, are not equal but are equal but must be separate, every time, that voice lends legitimacy to racism and misogyny and small-mindedness and homophobia.

And every time we say fuck that, that voice makes the world a little bit better.

In church this morning, all three people on the altar were LGBT. It wasn’t on purpose. It isn’t the first time. It probably wasn’t noticed by three quarters of the people in the congregation. It wasn’t a statement, but it felt like one anyway.

I am aware that I speak from a place of extraordinary privilege — a place of being white, being Western, being middle class. I am aware that when I say it has been an uncomfortable week, I am also saying that I cannot conceive of the ten thousand times anger and pain of my lesbian and gay sisters and brothers who are Muslim and Latinx nor of the real fear of migrants and refugees in the UK that they now have a target painted on their backs.

It’s only politics, they tell me.

Except, we know — we have always known — that “only” politics is “only” a matter of literal life and death.

This week, in all the confusion, in all the not knowing what to say, I’ve been looking for God. For a God who doesn’t exist in the ephemeral or in the thoughts and prayers and best wishes. For a God who exists in the helpers. In the emergency services and the bystanders. In the people and voices that have taken this week onto the street and the airwaves to say that hate will never ever win. In my own queer family. In the voice of Jo Cox, and the creed of decency and humanity that she died for and that I hold to be Gospel truth.

We remember and hold before us the legacy of people who swore to change the world — from Birstall to Orlando, from the Stonewall riots to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the saints and martyrs who have gone before us.

It’s up to us now.

Prayer for Orlando

As I spoke giddily to friends who welcomed home the weary travellers from Edinburgh. As I sat with Kelvin so that we could try to unpack for those who had not been there all the events and accomplishments of the last three days. As my voice caught at the joyful lump in my throat when I sang the Alleluias.

As all these things happened, a different story was unfolding across the Atlantic.

50 people are confirmed dead after a mass shooting in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, with another 53 people injured. It has been the deadliest terrorist attack to take place on American soil since September 11th.

I think you might think that because we’re talking about marriage, everything else is okay now. But the truth is that in 2016 we still live in a world where lesbian, gay, and bisexual people can legally be imprisoned or executed, where people of non-cis and non-binary gender identities are under increasing, not decreasing, attacks, and where LGBT people out for the evening in a place that was meant to be safe for them can be shot dead. For as long as these things continue to be true, the kingdom of God has not yet arrived on Earth. The truth is, on days like this, it feels like marriage is the easy part.


Almighty God,

We pray for Orlando,
and for every place on Earth it that has been tainted by violence.

We pray for all your children, made in your glorious image,
who face discrimination, suffering, criminalisation, and death because of their sexualities and gender identities.

Give rest to the weary,
comfort to the fearful,
strength to those who mourn,
and courage to those in authority.

Loving God, we look to you in our confusion
and we ask you for the endurance to meet hate with love, and violence with peace,
and for the perfect rage and perfect strength to continue our work,
seeking justice and equality for all,
and completing our task to build your kingdom of heaven on Earth.

Into The Light Of Morning

Yesterday, the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to pass the first reading of our amended Canon 31, the canon that governs marriage within our Church and that in its amended form would allow us the possibility of marriage between couples of the same sex.

The result was 71% in favour from the House of Bishops, 69% from the House of Clergy, and 80% with three abstentions from the House of Laity. The goal for this year had been a simple majority in each house.

I think the media would have liked us to schism over it, for a Diocese to renounce our Episcopal oversight or a Bishop to storm out — after all, that makes for a better headline. Instead, the media got a reasonable, respectful, measured conversation among a room full of adults who weren’t interested in creating drama but whose priority was to find common ground. The manner in which we did our business and the way we modelled that to the world was almost more important than what that business was.

As recently as two years ago, we could not have had that debate in the way we have had it.

I told Synod two years ago that it talked about LGBT people as if we weren’t there in the room, and I believe that that was true. It isn’t true anymore. The people who stand up at Synod these days in the belief that they are talking to a room full of straight people are vanishingly few. There has been a seismic shift in the way the Church thinks about these issues and the way in which we talk to each other about them.

In our two most recent General Synods, I have witnessed a ministry of healing and reconciliation that has happened right there on the Synod floor.

I will never forget the man who, in the middle of our debate in 2015, got up to bear witness to the extraordinary transformation that had taken place in him during that very debate. He had come to Synod with the belief that marriage between people of the same sex was wrong, and he had been prepared to vote against a process for canonical change, but, that very day, as he listened to the discussion whirling around about, his heart and mind were changed by the people whose testimonies had been given and whose truths he had heard.

And this week I have watched in awe as person after person from the evangelical tradition has come to the podium to tell us that while they believe as a point of principle that marriage is between a man and a woman, they do not disagree entirely with the proposed changes to canon law. The Scottish Episcopal Church are a diverse people, and my evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ say that the amended Canon 31 contains a way of expressing our difference of opinion that they might be able to live with. Even for those who did not feel able to vote for it, they recognised that this had been done in a way that allowed them not to walk away from the Church.

It is not always easy to discern the hand of God in the business of General Synod, but in these conversations the work of the Holy Spirit has been a real presence.

This has always been about how we meet in the middle to create a church where we live out the Gospel truth that we are all all blessed. I have the sense now that that is a place we are moving towards.

As we prayed together as a whole people after the results of the vote were announced, I wept. I wept tears of joy, and of relief, and of pride in my belonging to a place that can do its business with such compassion.

God most holy, we give you thanks for bringing us out of the shadow of night into the light of morning…

Of course, there is work still to be done. There are voices on both sides of the issues who have not yet been heard. There is hurt in people on both sides of the conversation that has not yet been healed. There is a second vote next year that will require a two thirds majority in each House before the amended canon is ultimately accepted into canon law. Yesterday, pacing around my hotel room at five in the morning and even during morning coffee as we waited for votes to be counted, I did not know if we were going to succeed in what we were trying to do. There is work to be done before Synod comes back together in a year’s time to vote on this again.

I stood yesterday outside the General Synod with a friend, both of us trying to absorb all that we had seen and heard — not only in the past few days, but in all the work that had brought us to this place and this day and this defining moment.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked.

I’m thinking about what’s next.

Reforming Canon 31 – What Kind of Church Do We Want To Be?

This is what my speech to General Synod said this morning. It was curtailed slightly in its delivery due to reduction of the time limit for speakers.

Chair, Members of Synod.

The world’s media thinks that we are voting today on whether a gay couple in Glasgow, or Aberdeen, or Dumfries, or Edinburgh, or Stornoway should be able to walk down the aisle in their Episcopal church. That this is a vote on whether, when I meet the perfect woman, the one who will share all my laughter, wipe away every tear, empty the litter tray, and not mind too much sharing me with a cathedral, that I will be able to marry her in the sight of the God who I truly love.

And it is a little bit about that.

But it is also about things that are bigger than that.

This is about the kind of church that we want to be. It is about whether we are a Church where there is room for everyone, a Church where the words “all are welcome in this place” are true. It is about whether we believe that we really are all God’s children. It is about our attitude towards minorities in the Church, to people who are a little different from ourselves — our attitude towards gay and bisexual people, yes, but also our attitude towards ethnic minorities, to refugees, to the poor, to single parents, to single people, and to people of diverse gender identity. It is about how we behave when faced with issues of social justice, and whether we are willing to play our part in dismantling systems that have traditionally kept the oppressed oppressed.

He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.

We have before us a motion that represents a great deal of work by the Committee on Canons, and that I think really does represent who we are as a Church. I don’t actually believe that it says anything radical. I think it says that we are a church where there is space, and respect, and love, and love, and love, and that because we have that we have the ability to accept more than one idea. And here’s the thing: that is all already true.

We are not a homogenous people. We do not speak with one voice. How dull would that be? And the Scottish Episcopal Church is lots of things, but you couldn’t call it dull.

We are not doing anything radical.

But it feels like we are doing a big scary thing.

Because change always feels like the big scary thing. Synod, I beg you: do you not fall into the trap of believing that the path of least change is the one that will do the least harm. Do not let yourself think that sticking with the status quo means sticking with comfort and familiarity. The status quo will not mean that there is no pain. There is already pain. Do not underestimate the pain and hurt and confusion that will be felt. If this motion is rejected, we will be saying that perhaps there isn’t room for everyone after all — perhaps there isn’t room for people like me.

We have heard from the Primus and the Acting Convenor of the Faith and Order Board about the steps that have been taken during the last year to try to hold us all together as a church, to soothe and heal the pain and hurt and confusion that has been felt in the last twelve months by people who hold a different view to my own. Those are efforts that I applaud, and I hope that the measures taken will bring comfort and acceptance to people in this room and people out there in the world. I want this Church to be a place that can hold everyone together.

And it feels like we are doing a big scary thing because the eyes of the world are upon us. In light of revelations made yesterday, perhaps more specifically the eyes of the Communion are upon us.

What do we want to say to them?

Go, make disciples of all nations, Jesus said. We heard that in our opening Eucharist yesterday morning.

If we leave here today as people of diversity, as people of respectful difference of opinion, as a body of Christ for whom more than one idea can be accepted and honoured, I believe we will indeed have said something to the world. I believe we will be saying that we can be leaders, that we can be brave, that we can be models for Anglican fellowship and love to the Anglican Communion throughout the world, and if we say that then that is something of which I will be very proud.

Speaking Truth To Power – Sanctions Threatened Against Scottish Episcopal Church

It has been learned today that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has privately threatened to sack the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Chillingworth, from ecumenical dialogue if members of the church’s General Synod do not do as they are told with respect to same-sex marriage.

This will be an extension of the sanctions applied to the Episcopal Church of the United States of America by the Primates’ Meeting in January of this year, after ECUSA agreed to acceptance of marriage equality within their own province.

It is fair to say that this communication to our Primus came as a surprise to members of our own General Synod. There was a press conference immediately after that Primates’ Meeting in which Justin Welby was asked directly whether other provinces taking similar decisions would face the same sanctions as ECUSA, and at that time he said very clearly and very publicly that the answer to that question could not be known. A number of questions must therefore be asked. What has happened since January to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to unequivocally answer a question about a change to canon law that has not yet happened and cannot happen for at least another twelve months ? If something has happened, why have the public and the Communion not been told about it before now? And by whose authority does he make that threat? These are questions that I think deserve answers.

Bishop David has said before and he said again today at Synod that he believes that the Primates acted beyond their powers. He has said that there are times in the last six months and in the last two weeks when he has been upset and angry about what has happened. And, today, quoting Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, he has said that although this hurts, it will ultimately not change what we do.

In the Scottish Episcopal Church, our Primus is the first among equals in a province which through its long and proud history has been a leader in positive progress throughout the Anglican Communion. This has happened. I was tempted to be outraged, to greet this announcement with wailing and gnashing of teeth — but outrage is not a mission strategy.

The mission of the Scottish Episcopal Church must now be to speak truth to power.

“It will not change what we do, and maybe it is a price worth paying,” said Bishop David.

I was very proud of him when he said that, and I believe that he is right. If this is the price we pay for being on the side of the greater good, then bring it on.

Love, Marriage, Synod

I am travelling to Edinburgh tomorrow for the opening of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church. For three days, the laity and clergy and bishops of our Church will all gather together to do our year’s business.

In the last few weeks, headlines from a number of media outlets have suggested that what we are going to be doing in Edinburgh is legalising marriage equality within the Church. This is (a) not our only item of business, and (b) not true (yet).

When it met in 2015, a significant majority of General Synod asked our legislative committee to prepare material that would make room in our laws to recognise the already reality that in this Church we have different understandings of marriage. The material that has been produced would remove a doctrinal statement of marriage from Canon 31, the law that governs marriage within the Church, and replace it with the following:

“In light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience. Any marriage which is to be conducted by a cleric shall be solemnised strictly in accordance with the civil law of Scotland for the time being in force and provided said cleric is satisfied, after appropriate enquiries, that the parties have complied with the necessary preliminaries as set forth in civil law. No cleric shall perform the Marriage Service, nor permit it to be performed in Church, for parties who are within the forbidden degrees as specified in Appendix 26. No cleric shall solemnise a marriage between persons of the same sex unless said cleric shall have been nominated on behalf of the Church to the Registrar General for Scotland.” 

General Synod will be asked to vote on this on Friday morning. If a majority of Synod agrees, the material will be presented to Diocesan Synods early next year for debate and discussion at a regional level and will then come to the General Synod of 2017 for a final vote.

I know, believe me, I know, that this seems like a slow process. There have been days and weeks and years when it has felt like pushing a lorry uphill in the snow barefoot — and every once in a while the lorry rolls backwards and squishes your toes.

But I also know that it is less than ten years since I thought that civil marriage equality was a nice daydream, maybe.

The world has come a long long way.

I will be very proud to vote for this amendment.

It says that this is a Church where we have a long and deep and faithful tradition of not always agreeing with each other. It says that the ability of this body of Christ to accept more than one idea is something that we are righteously proud of. It says that having different opinions is okay, and more than that: it is the thing that makes us fabulous.

If we remove our doctrinal understanding of marriage from canon law (and it is a legislative peculiarity that it has ever been there, to be honest), then it reverts to what we can find in the marriage liturgy. The marriage liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church is a beautiful thing, and there are many different understandings of marriage to be found within it; things that I agree with and identify with and want for myself, and things that I recoil from. I am sure that the same thing is true of those of my sisters and brothers who disagree with me. There is room here for all of us.

The Anglican Church in Scotland, and Justin Welby

Tomorrow, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland are going to discuss and vote on the Columba Declaration. This is a partnership between the Churches of England and Scotland that was much lauded by the hierarchy of the Church of England at its General Synod earlier this year. This week, the Church of Scotland has its turn and Justin Welby will appear at the General Assembly to speak to the declaration.

I belong to neither of these churches, and there are people in both churches who would tell me that I ought therefore to butt out. As a member of a funny little denomination called the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Columba Declaration would seem to have really nothing to do with me. Except that as a member of the Anglican Church in Scotland, it has everything to do with me. I’ve previously written that I believe it represents a border incursion by the Church of England into a realm where it has no jurisdiction.

If the aim of Justin Welby was to unite all Scottish Anglicans against him, then he has met it overwhelmingly. Scottish Anglicans are not a force known for agreeing on much of anything, but on this he has succeeded where marriage equality, an independence referendum, and the filioque have all failed.

We have been told over and over and over that a border incursion is not what that is, that the Columba Declaration allows for the Church of Scotland and the Church of England to share their experiences of being a national church.

The trouble is, it doesn’t read like that. The trouble is, it reads like St Justin of Canterbury riding into Edinburgh to rid it of its snakes.

I have no patience for that. I have no patience for this method of “doing mission”, a method that reeks of colonialism and of well-meaning but ill-informed people who went off around the Empire on a mission to civilise that was such an unmitigated disaster we’ve barely even scraped the surface of the damage that was done. You can forgive the Christian missionaries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but it’s a lot more difficult to forgive the Church of England who, having apparently failed to learn from that mistake, can most generously be characterised as people who are well-meaning, ill-informed, and wilfully deaf.

I have no patience for any of it, and I’m beginning to be a little surprised that the Church of Scotland does. The two churches may share a status and an experience of being national churches, but commentary from English Anglicans on the first few days of business done at the General Assembly makes it plain that most people in England have no idea of and no real interest in the many many ways that the relationship of religious institutions and national and civic life is different in Scotland.

During the General Synod debate in the Church of England, a room of old white men brushed aside the legitimacy of the Scottish Episcopal Church as the face and voice of the Anglican Communion in Scotland. Afterwards, my Primus wrote that he felt as if we were the ghost at the party. I felt as people down through history have done when they have watched rooms of old white men brush aside the legitimacy of women, and the poor, and LGBT people, and ethnic and religious minorities. Those who do not learn from history are indeed condemned to repeat it.

If I were Justin Welby, I would be coming to Edinburgh tomorrow with my proverbial mitre in hand and I would be apologising sincerely to the sister province into whose territory I had so egregiously and rudely barged.

Is That Even A Word?

You know, there are the days when I ask for specialist advice, and I nod and I ask at least vaguely intelligent follow ups and I write down all the investigations that they want me to arrange and I say thank you and I hang up the phone.

There are days when that comes with a side of nerding that’s based in never having seen That Really Cool Thing before in real life.

And then there are days when I ask for specialist advice and they know things that are so weird that I nod and I ask follow ups about spelling and I write down all the investigations that they want me to arrange and I say thank you and then the conversation is over.

And then I say, “Soooooo, just for my own education. WTF?”