Most of my family and friends are baffled when they receive a call from me and the caller ID reads “Dr. Andy”. When they answer the phone, they sound almost indignant as they say “Dr.?” and give me the third degree about when I become a doctor, or what kind of doctor I am, and so on. It gets rather tedious at times, but I politely answer all of their questions because, well… usually I’m calling when I need something and they are more apt to say yes if I pretend to be nice. (Little something I learned from Dale Carnegie.)

The indignation felt by most of my friends comes from the mistaken notion that it’s hard to become a doctor. And as they know I am averse to anything that falls into the “hard” category, they can’t comprehend how I could have achieved such an arduous feat. Well, let me say that it’s really not all that hard to become a doctor, as long as you have cable TV – allow me to explain.

A few years ago, I was moving and I had to cancel and restart my cable service. Somewhere in that myriad of phone calls, some customer service person at the cable company clicked on “Dr.” rather than “Mr.” from the prefix dropdown menu. Obviously, this person was highly perceptive and assumed from my witty banter and demeanor that I must have been highly educated, or they just screwed up – some mysteries can never be solved. Anyway, from that moment on, I became “Dr. Andy.” Soon, I began receiving exciting mail such as special “Dr. Only” credit card offers (doctors get really great interest rates), invitations to conferences regarding a whole variety of illnesses (thromboangiitis obliterans seems pretty nasty) and many, many office furniture catalogs (always wondered where that ugly stuff came from). I even began to get the occasional call from someone wanting to schedule an appointment. The interesting thing about this is that nowhere does it say what type of doctor I am. Were these people just blindly calling anyone with a “Dr.” in front of their name for an appointment? Anyway, despite having the thought cross my mind, I never actually scheduled anyone for an appointment. I quickly figured out that just telling them my practice was full and I was no longer accepting any new patients was enough to make them go away.

This brings me to one of the hardest decisions that a faux doctor has to make: choosing exactly what kind of faux doctor to be. I wasn’t provided any career counseling from my cable company, although it seems clear that their marketing department assumed I was a medical doctor. But to me, that seemed kind of boring – the world is full of medical doctors.  So I decided to be a Doctor of Exobiology. Now, to those of you without a faux advanced degree, an exobiologist is someone who studies life beyond the earth’s atmosphere – as on other planets. I chose exobiology because no matter what I say, I’m right. I mean, as far as we know, nobody has ever seen an extraterrestrial or alien life form. So if nobody’s ever seen it, then how can anyone ever say that I’m wrong about it? For example, check out this simulated exchange:

Person sans Faux Doctorate: So, tell me Dr. Andy, is there life on Mars?

Dr. Andy: Sure, without a doubt. Place is covered with it.

Person sans Faux Doctorate: Then explain to me why we can’t see it?

Dr. Andy: Because it’s invisible.

Wow – Now I ask you, who could argue with that? Well, I guess an actual Exobiologist could, but really, what are the chances of me running into an actual Exobiologist? I guess in this economy it’s possible there are a few working part time at the local McDonalds. Still, I think the odds are in my favor.

Now please, don’t get the idea that I am the type of person who would insist upon other people calling me “Doctor.” Far be it for me to be one to put on airs (heck, sometimes I struggle just to put on pants). You will never hear me saying anything like “I didn’t spend 20 minutes on the phone with my cable company to be called Mister, thank you very much.”

So, if you too would like to be a faux Doctor, then call the local utility of your choice and use a few well rehearsed big words or do an impression of Thurston Howell III.  If they don’t get the hint, then just tell them to change your prefix to “Dr.” Then, a whole new world with lots of junk mail will open up for you too.

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