October 24th, 2018

The Middle Ages

Doc, is goofiness a disease or just a personal choice?

Chris Erskine

By Chris Erskine Los Angeles Times/(TNS)

Published Nov. 13, 2017

 Doc, is goofiness a disease or just a personal choice?

Doc, is goofiness a disease or a personal choice? Because I'm seeing a lot of it lately.

So, we're at the pediatrician the other day for the little guy's annual physical.

While we wait, pumpkin-colored fish swim in a giant tank, the sort of thing you see in two places: waiting rooms and dim sum joints. I wonder if the doctor's office fish feel more fortunate in knowing they'll never be carved up in a pinch, should the sea bass go bad overnight.

For koi, is a doctor's office assignment like being stationed in Hawaii when you're in the service? Or do they think: "Wow, I've been waiting to see a doctor for seven years. I mean, you think I should say something?"

After "Finding Nemo," I've never thought of fish the same way. I assume they have a rich inner life.

"Room 4," the nurse announces.

And then it's on: She weighs my son, measures his height, notes that he's grown 3 inches since the last visit.

"He's a little goofy," I warn the nurse, as if that's something she should jot down in his records. "Is that normal?"

The nurse says that goofy is good. In fact, they prefer goofy over serious for patients at the tender age of 14.

I shrug. I look over at him on the exam table. He looks like a "Zits" cartoon. He has the posture of a bad beach chair.

"You don't understand," I explain calmly. "He's reeeeeeeally goofy."

She smiles.

Eventually, as happens in medical offices, the doctor breezes in like a rock star at the Hollywood Bowl, a little late and with the air of Robert Plant stumbling on stage after too much gin.

I like this doctor well enough. He attended Harvard, then USC medical school, yet that seems to be something he has managed to overcome. We're all able to transcend our circumstances, if we really put our minds to it.

The kid swaggers into a room like a Teamster with a bad toe, limping. He once ate 12 cupcakes in 12 minutes.

Generally, I don't care for Harvard types. As with Yale or Stanford grads, they can't wait till you find out where they went to school, as if it will overcome all their other personal deficiencies.

About the only Harvard grad I ever took to was my buddy Peterman, who has excelled in the lucrative field of television comedy. Most Harvard types don't even watch TV comedies, so I guess it was the fish-out-of-water aspect that appealed to Peterman. He didn't just want to be another koi in some corporate aquarium.

I also like my buddy McConnell, I guess, for he also makes me laugh. But that's it for the Harvard types. Oh, and a young woman named Jessica, whom I once coached in softball. That girl could throw a lamb chop past a wolf.

Anyway, the doc asks the little guy how much he sleeps, and whether he is ever anxious, and how baseball is going, that sort of stuff. The little guy grunts some answers, in that way teenagers have, somewhere between human language and a bodily function. After one particular answer, I look around to see if a truck has exploded.

"All seems fine," the doctor announces.

"He's pretty goofy," I tell the doctor. "The other night at dinner..." "Hey, goofy's OK," the doctor insists. "He's in the normal range."

Technically, the 67th percentile, which is low for males in our family.

Still, he seems goofier than that. He kisses dogs on the lips and his mother on her nose, sometimes in sequence. He smells like an eel, wagers on college football, shoots free throws in the kitchen sink, once wore the same shirt for an entire semester, and thinks dill pickles go just fine with chocolate cake.

When his sisters send him nice emails, he replies: PLEASE UNSUBSCRIBE.

On any given day, there is a giant glob of stuff that he needs to get done and another giant glob of stuff he should get a head start on. He does none of it till his mother screams so much that she passes out. I catch her as she falls. Paramedics come. Dogs bark.

Then he finally does his homework.

He is 47% Irish, 51% schnauzer and 2% space alien.

He swaggers into a room like a Teamster with a bad toe, limping. He once ate 12 cupcakes in 12 minutes, still an American record. He can clean an ear of corn, or a turkey leg, like a human lathe.

We seriously doubt he will ever marry, or even date, though he was planning to go to homecoming this weekend, where we hope he meets Mrs. Right and becomes engaged the same night.

Mazel tov! All our thoughts and prayers to the lucky young woman.

Because he is really goofy, this kid. Not off-the-charts. Just a "good goofy," as the nurse says.

Just our lovable, loopy boy.

Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times

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