My brother, in preparation for fall break (can you believe the luxury of these college students? fall break, indeed) has most of the Psmith books (by Wodehouse). I just finished Psmith in the City, and was struck with admiration of Psmith’s approach to a potentially-dangerou boss. (A word of explanation, as Psmith himself gives in another book: his family used to be known as Smith, but he scorned such commonness, and added the P, which is silent, as in pshrimp.)

Psmith has just taken his friend, Mike Jackson, for a two-hour lunch break on their first day at work at the bank, without permission from Mr. Rossiter, their supervisor (who has not yet met Psmith).

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‘Mr. Jackson,” exclaimed Mr. Rossiter, ‘I really must ask you to be good enough to come in from your lunch at the proper time. It was fully seven minutes to two when you returned, and -‘
‘That little more,’ sighed Psmith, ‘and how much is it!’
‘Who are you?’ snapped Mr. Rossiter, turning on him.
‘I shall be delighted,  Comrade -‘
‘Rossiter,’ said Mike, aside.
‘Comrade Rossiter. I shall be delighted to furnish you with particulars of my family history. As follows. Soon after the Norman Conquest, a certain Sieur de Psmith grew tired of work – a family failing, alas! – and settled down in this country to live peacefully for the remainder of his life on what he could extract from the local peasantry. He may be described as the founder of the family which ultimately culminated in Me. Passing on -‘
Mr. Rossiter refused to pass on. ‘What are you doing here? What have you come for?’
‘Work,’ said Psmith, with simple dignity. ‘I am now a member of the staff of this bank. Its interests are my interests. Psmith, the individual ceases to exist, and there springs into being Psmith, the cog in the wheel of the New Asiatic Bank; Psmith, the link in the bank’s chain; Psmith, the Worker. I shall not spare myself,’ he proceeded earnestly. ‘I shall toil with all the accumulated energy of one who, up till now, has only known what work is like from hearsay. Whose is that form sitting on the steps of the bank in the morning, waiting eagerly for the place to open? It is the form of Psmith, the Worker.’
‘I-‘ began Mr. Rossiter.
‘I tell you,’ continued Psmith, waving aside the interruption and tapping the head of the department rhythmically in the region of the second waistcoat-button with a long finger, ‘I tell you, Comrade Rossiter, that you have got hold of a good man. You and I together, not forgetting Comrade Jackson, the pet of the Smart Set, will toil early and late till we boost up this postage department into a shining model of what a postage department should be. What that is, at present, I do not exactly know. However. Excursion trains will be run from distant shires to see this postage department. American visitors to London will do it before going on to the Tower. And now,’ he broke off, with a crispt, businesslike intonation, ‘I must ask you to excuse me. Much as I have enjoyed this little chat, I fear it must now cease. The time has come to work. Our trade rivals are getting ahead of us. The whisper goes round, “Rossiter and Psmith are talking, not working,” and other firms prepare to pinch our business. Let me Work.’
Two minutes later, Mr. Rossiter was sitting at his desk with a dazed expression, while Psmith, perched gracefully on a stool, entered figures in a ledger.
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I will restrain myself from quoting, at length, Psmith’s approach to Rossiter when, later in the afternoon, he takes Mike for a long coffee break, contrary to rules. Psmith’s method of conflict resolution has a few things to recommend it, namely: very funny, and amusing to all spectators; quite reliable, as, at least in the book, it always reduces his opponent to bewildered silence or acquiescence; and not at all wearing on one’s nerves, as Psmith is never ruffled – indeed, he never seems to notice that there’s a problem at all. On the downside, however: I’m not sure that in real life one’s superiors would keep quiet as long as Psmith’s interlocuters do; I can’t imagine the chairman keeping quiet while I run on in that vein for five minutes. More finally, however, I can’t picture myself spouting gibberish as smoothly as Psmith does – and if it’s not smooth, I don’t think it will work.

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Something tells me it’s a bad sign if making hotel reservations for interviews is making me more nervous than I was all day yesterday, taking boards. Even knowing the wildly nice things my dean’s letter says, I can’t believe I’m going to have the effrontery to walk up to these programs, and act like a grown-up person interviewing for a job – and not just any job – to be a surgeon. I can’t believe this is real.

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Second conflict management method: Found in Matthew 5. I’ve been reading these verses slowly and thinking about what they could mean for a surgery intern:

“But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let thy communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”
And if Jesus objects to simply referring to heaven, earth, and one’s head, I don’t even want to imagine his opinion of the other objects that surgeons – and other people – “swear by.” Yes is yes, no is no, no other confirmatory or explicatory words needed. And given that in the Psalms and other places David praises people who swear to their own hurt and carry through on it, or those who swear by the true God, and that God swore by himself to David and his descendants, I don’t think Jesus is condemning swearing as in, taking a vow, or taking an oath in court. He means all those unnecessary, irreverent words which are so common in conversations, which at the root are a violation of the Third Commandment.

Well, that’s only going to make me watch my words, and maybe keep me out of trouble with the nurses. For bigger conflicts:

“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil. But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Do you suppose that means that when someone dumps one patient on you at midnight, you ask if there’s anything else you can help them with? . . .
“If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.”
Somehow I can’t picture the hospital’s or insurance company’s lawyers approving of that line at all.
“Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.”
Which, at the very least means, if someone wants to trade call dates, do it; and probably a good deal more than that.

“It hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy.
“But I say unto, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
“For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?
“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

I tried that on the chairman, but I didn’t really think it was good to pray for his practice to be successful, since I think the patients would be better off far away from him. And I don’t think it will do the hospital any good for his grand schemes to succeed. I suppose I could pray for his kids and his wife and all. We’ll have to work on that. I s’pose I could pray for him to be a better surgeon?

I know all the interns and residents would say, if you actually tried to do this, all it would get you would be walked on by all your colleagues and all the other services, taking advantage of you. But perhaps the question is, why is that a bad thing? (Because you want to go home before 6 or 7pm? Funny idea.)

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