Thanks, Doc: When Laymen Know Better Than Professionals

Thanks, Doc: When Laymen Know Better Than Professionals July 12, 2018

I don’t mind the igloo jokes, jokes about the cold or how we say aboot. You can make a wisecrack about the ease with which we apologize or our abundance of maple syrup. It really doesn’t bother me when it’s a joke. It comes with the territory when you spend a lot of time online as a Canadian. Hell, I crack the jokes myself. Admittedly, they’re often groan-worthy, but I am not against the joke.

When it does bother me, is when people who have clearly never been to Canada feel the need to tell me what Canada is like. They’re absolutely certain it’s frigid cold year-round. Maybe they’re convinced our socialized healthcare doesn’t work. Some people have assured me that Canadians are being sent to prison in droves because we’re misgendering people. I particularly loved it when someone insisted my small town was being overrun by Muslim refugees and that sexual assault stats were skyrocketing as a result.

Nevermind that I am a born-and-raised Canadian, who’s spent all but four years of her life living here. Nevermind that I am currently in Canada, making use of the socialized healthcare, living in an area that hits 40 degrees Celsius in summer some days. Nevermind the fact that there is maybe one or two Syrian refugee families living in my 11,000-person small town who are gracious and thankful and welcome and who, to my knowledge, have not broken any laws or violated anyone’s personal space (although, there are several white, Canadian Christians who have). Nevermind any of that because Jebediah Cletus McGee from Whistlepiss, Alabama, who’s never so much as set foot in the Great White North, clearly knows more about day-to-day Canadian life than I could ever hope to. Amirite, infidels?

My absolute favourite was the fella from Minnesota who said to me:

“I could never live in Canada. It’s too cold for me.”

For reference: the lowest temperature recorded in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where I live, is about 30 degrees Celsius warmer than the lowest in Minnesota. In Vancouver, where I grew up, the average winter temp is above freezing. In fact, as a kid growing up near Vancity, we always thought we were lucky when it snowed once or twice a year.

It just doesn’t stop some people from telling me how it is.

“You have to wait years for critical surgery in Canada.” They assure me.

“It’s against the law in Canada to use the wrong pronouns.” They’ve convinced themselves.

“You’re not allowed to be critical of religion up there.” They’ve warned me.

Of course, none of this is true, but some people just can’t seem to cope with the fact that those who live it may know it better than they do.

I had similar experiences when I worked as an internet marketer.

“You can’t effectively reach a target market on Twitter.”

“Ads on Facebook are ineffective.”

“Nobody in my industry uses the internet.”

When I worked in a retail coffee shop and had been trained in the head office where I watched, with my own eyes, the roastmaster hand roast the beans we sold.

“Starbucks roasts these beans for you guys.”

“This coffee is half chicory.”

“They roast these beans using cheap labour in Indonesia.”

It just doesn’t matter to what extent your authority on any given topic goes, there are some people who will always know better than you.

Situations like these are so incredibly frustrating, but none of them come close to how frustrating I imagine it must be for an evolutionary biologist to be in the presence of an argumentative creationist. Or how utterly grating it must be for a doctor to have to endure the talkative company of anti-vaxxers, cancer cure conspiracy theorists or people who insist they know how to defeat diabetes with a dance, a chant and an essential oil massage.

I get told, on an almost daily basis, that being an atheist means I worship myself, or I worship money or I just want to sin or I’m angry at god. It’s often a waste of time to take up the argument because the other party has no ability to hear you or your experience. But, just imagine if failing to get your message across could be life-threatening. Imagine being a doctor and diagnosing a child with something serious, only to have his mother turn around and say the illness doesn’t exist. Imagine treating a terminal patient whose parents opt for herbal remedies instead of your prescription. Imagine your patient telling you she is not going to vaccinate her baby and then having to treat that baby sometime down the road for a totally preventable disease.

Imagine losing patients to this ignorance. Imagine watching children suffer unnecessarily because of it. Imagine the frustration that must constantly be there with you, as people around you talk like they have some sort of authority on the topics you had to study ten years to understand after they’d just read a three-paragraph fear-mongering essay from Natural News.

I’ve only just had reason to consider how frustrating this may be for professionals in certain fields. It’s frustrating enough when there isn’t a life on the line; when people who couldn’t point out Canada on a map tell Canadians all about what living in Canada is like or when Christians or Muslims tell atheists that we’re angry at god. Just imagine how frustrating it must be when this sort of ignorance not only could lead to the death of a child, but has.

So, with that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to thank the scientists out there who are continually having to defend the existence of dinosaurs or prove that the earth is much older than 6000 years or that women are not made from ribs. I want to thank them for being persistent in their efforts to rid the world of this ignorance. I want to take this chance to thank doctors and other medical professionals for persevering in their care for patients despite the fact that growing numbers of people across the planet are squirting coffee up their rears because Gwyneth Paltrow says all docs are in on some conspiracy to keep us all sick.

Here is to you, you overworked, underappreciated pillars of civilization. Without you, without science and medicine, we’d still be having ten babies each in the hopes that just one would survive; we’d be gravely afraid of the common cold and we would have a lower life expectancy than a rock band’s frontman.

This was inspired by a friend of mine but extended to each and every one of you working to make us healthier, happier, more efficient and more knowledgeable.

With the deepest sincerity, thank you. And sorry, eh.

If you like what I do here and want to support my work, you can donate here or become a patron here.

Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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  • Otto

    I live in South Dakota and would love to live in Vancouver, and yes I did know the climate there is much better there than here.

    …one thing about Vancouver, it’s on the West Coast, if you can remember that you won’t end up wandering up and down the eastern seaboard all day looking for Vancouver.
    (Silly Canadian humor reference)

    I think the blockhead ‘authority’ that always gets me is when I tell a Catholic that I used to be a Catholic, and then they respond by saying lots of Catholics say they are Catholic and really aren’t because they don’t know/understand what the Church teaches. Of course they don’t check first to see if I know what I am talking about, or know if I had 12+ years of Catholic education (which really makes if funny because if I don’t know or understand Catholicism who’s fault is that?)

  • Michael Neville

    As an ex-Catholic atheist I’ve had to explain to a couple of Catholics what Papal infallibility actually is. No, it doesn’t mean the Pope is automatically right about everything he says, even when discussing faith and morals. The Pope must be speaking ex cathedra to be infallible. This doctrine was defined in the first Vatican Council of 1870 (the doctrine also says that Councils are infallible when defining dogma, so the Council was infallible when it said it was infallible). Since 1870 Papal infallibility has been declared once in 1950 when Pope Pius XII declared the assumption of Mary to be dogma.

  • Otto

    They were right about it being an assumption.

    You are more versed than I am in Catholicism, I did know that the Pope is only ‘infallible’ when speaking ex cathedra though.

  • One of my friends is a pediatrician and bemoans the fact he has to spend so much time educating anti-vaxxers…..ugh.

  • Morgan Lefaye

    I apologize on behalf of the entire United States for our aggressive, rude, and entitled behavior, especially from our white people. I am a white American myself. I also apologize for Trumpkin and Donald Trump himself.

  • (((GC)))
  • Morgan Lefaye

    Congratulations! You just ran into the No True Scotsman fallacy!

  • Morgan Lefaye

    Thanks for clearing that up! It put a Facebook comment from a traditionalist Catholic about Pope Francis not having humility or being properly Catholic in its proper context! (I no longer think the person was committing blasphemy against the Pope. Not that I care…)

  • Erik1986

    My late mother was asthmatic. She was born in Nottingham, England, immigrated as a baby (obviously with my grandmother) lived in Vancouver until she was about 6 or 7 years old, then they moved to San Francisco, CA. I do still have relatives in B.C. On a visit to Vancouver in the early ’70s, she had a bad asthma attack. She was hospitalized for 3 days. Got excellent care. Bill for 3 days – for non-Canadian citizen – was about $25. They also refilled her prescription at the hospital for $3.50 – for a med that cost her $45 in the U.S. As Trumplethinskin rampages on, I seriously consider the possibilities of becoming a Canadian citizen……….

  • Otto

    So many times now I should get my own kilt.

  • Tuna

    I do get tired of the ‘It’s too cold there!” argument. I try to explain that Canada is a large country, with more landmass than the US, and we have many different climates. But some people just want to believe that we wear parkas and toques all year and get around on dogsleds.

  • Chakat Firepaw

    If you think that’s tiring, consider the students at the University of Windsor. They have to deal with Americans who have just come _south_ across the Detroit River and are wondering where the snow is.

    They also regularly get to explain just how big Ontario is, (if you were planning on having lunch in Ottawa, you should have left yesterday).

  • John-Hugh Boyd

    It’s the ones that cross into Canada at the Peace Bridge (Buffalo NY to Fort Erie Ontario) with snow skiis strapped to the roof of their vehicle in the middle of the summer, when it is 30º+C (86º+F)….somehow expecting to drive into Canada 10 miles to confront 10 foot drifts of snow…… either that or the twit who wanted to know the best route to drive to Vancouver BC from Toronto ….so they can be back for their dinner reservations that same night – just 2700 MILES away (39 continuous driving one way at 70mph……)

  • Jim Baerg

    There is a story that allegedly happened early in WWII.
    A couple in Britain decided it would be safer to send their children to stay with relatives in Victoria B.C. So telegrams were sent back & forth to arrange this. Late in this exchange one telegram was “The children will arrive in Halifax on the 10th, Please meet them at the docks.” The reply was “You meet them at the docks, you will be closer.”

  • Jim Jones

    In all of Canada, except BC, apparently kids think it’s a ‘thing’ to go to school in midwinter in thin shoes and light weight summer jackets.

    In BC, allegedly, one frost or snowflake and the kids are bundled up in coats so thick they can barely move.

    Or that’s the joke.

  • Jim Jones

    Not long ago, some Brit booked a holiday in Sydney. He was surprised when he would up in Sydney, BC, which is not noted for kangaroos.

  • Jim Jones

    I went to outpatient’s in Northern Ireland. I got a prescription for Montezuma’s curse. I begged them to let me pay since I had firm-supplied medical insurance but they said it wasn’t worth the paperwork.

  • Jim Jones

    He invented Papal infallibility to support his claim of the assumption of Mary.

    I still think that’s funny.

  • Yeah, you see a lot of tween and older kids in Saskatoon wearing non-winter clothing at minus 20 C and lower.

  • Kay Pea

    I’m a proud Canadian, cared for all my life by our universal health care. I did have to nip down to Montana last December for a contraceptive implant that isn’t offered here, paid a painful bill, and happily drove back home to Alberta. The misinformation about Canada and Canadians is funny but gets old fast.
    The wonderful thing about the internet is anyone can get information at will. The horrible thing about the internet is anyone can share misinformation at will. Critical thinking is a dying art, and people are swayed so easily by the next big idea, whether or not it is accurate.

  • Clancy

    I know that, and real Catholics don’t!?

  • Clancy

    When I went to college in Upstate NY, I was much more tolerant of cold than I am now. Now I’ve recently retired to the Adirondacks, further north than much of the Ottawa Peninsula, so I will have to re-acclimate.

  • Brian Curtis

    The assumption that you know more about someone else’s life than they do seems to be one of humanity’s favorite fallacies. Atheists, how many times have you been confidently told not only 1) what you believe, but also 2) what you REALLY believe and/or worship, 3) what you’re secretly afraid of, and 4) how you spend all your free time? (Hint: sinning.)

  • Rachel

    Reminded me of this commercial (paraphrasing here): “You booked a flight to Athens, but instead of a Mediterranean vacation, you ended up in Athens, GEORGIA.”

  • Sophotroph

    Jeez, Montezuma got around!


    In fairness, when Minnesotans think of Canada, they’re probably thinking Winnipeg, and they do have a bit of a point. /s

  • Dave Again

    As an Australian we share similar experiences. People assume Australia is always hot. Our climate can vary by as much as 40 Celcius or more between areas on a given day. It might by 35 in Darwin or minus 5 in the snowfields.

  • Richard B

    Moving to Canada is beginning to look very attractive to me what with that Trump person lording all over everything and everybody.

  • wolfypuppy

    Too many times. I had to unfriend people because of it. I had a college friend, married a very Christian woman, started telling me what I believed. Can you imagine growing up that way? People telling you what you believe/feel? Actually, I do. I had a similar experience, so I’m very attuned to it. Honestly, how dare this friend tell me what atheism is or what we “believe”? I think one of religious people’s biggest problems is with personal boundaries. That’s a psychological issue and it’s not at all surprising. All believers could use therapy. But this idea that they have the right to push their beliefs on others is so … wrong! Pathological. Drives me crazy. I feel like taking a piece of chalk, drawing a line, and labeling one side “you” and the other side “me”–and pushing their noses in it. 😉

  • wolfypuppy

    My ancestors spent a few centuries wandering around over what was technically the US-Canada border. At some point, my grandfather was told he had to choose a side. He happened to be south of the border at the time and chose American. Damn. So now I’m wondering if there’s some way I could finagle a way to move to Canada out of that. My grandpa was born in Toronto; my dad in Colorado; me in Philadelphia…. I guess that doesn’t give me any advantages towards Canadian residency? I’m so sick of living here.

  • MystiqueLady

    I’m from Detroit and living in San Antonio — I get the “how did you stand the cold” line all the time. 😉

  • dala

    Sometimes, the patient really does know better than the doctor. I have been misdiagnosed on multiple occasions (doctor decided my acid reflux was anxiety, while I flat out told him he was wrong and left without proper treatment). I spent 25 years suffering from extreme migraines due to a food intolerance that I eventually self-diagnosed. It would have been caught if they’d put me on an elimination diet at age 8. I’ve been prescribed medicines that I had told the doctor I was allergic to not five minutes earlier. So, while I appreciate the work that doctors do, I am still going to use my own judgement to decide if they’re right.

  • The first place I ever heard “aboot” was on “The Waltons” TV show, as it was pronounced by Earl Hamner as he narrated. I figured it was a West Virginia thing! I was probably in my 40s before I realized that Canadians pronounced it that way. I wonder whether that pronunciation follows a path to West Virginia or if it’s isolated in their case.

    Excellent post. I’ve just read this one and several of your newer ones. I tend to hang out on “Roll to Disbelieve,” but I plan to come here often now.

  • tatortotcassie

    It even happens between Christian sects, esp with Catholics and Protestants. Yes, by all means, explain to me the “real” beliefs of the religion I was brought up in; you obviously know them so much better than I. /s