There followed an expectant silence, while Joe waited for the traditional sarcastic response: 'Fighting it all week? Want a medal?' But I've changed.
'You've been fighting it all week, all alone in the dark watches of the night,' I said, my voice heavy with emotion, my lower lip quivering. 'You brave soul, what torment you have endured.'
I took out a lavender-scented kerchief and wiped away a tear. 'My friend, this is not a battle you have to face alone.' I stood up and advanced, as Joe shrank back in his chair. 'What about a hug?' I said.
Horrified as he was, Joe is nothing if not game, and we shared a manly if uncomfortable hug.
Yes, I've changed, but why have I changed? Events, dear boy, events; on the surface I may seem profound and sympathetic, but deep down I'm superficial and manipulative.
Incredibly, compassion is now to be evaluated, and not as you might think, as a QOF point along with lust and bestiality. According to Professor Nigel Sparrow of the CQC, the CQC intends to evaluate the 'less easily measured aspects of general practice' and 'things to do with care, compassion and values'.
Professor Sparrow said: 'When I used to visit practices for training practice accreditation, I used to spend a few minutes sitting in the waiting room and those few minutes were extraordinarily valuable. It gives you a general impression of how caring and compassionate those staff are.'
Well, I have nothing to hide; the professor is welcome to squat in our waiting room anytime.
It's decked out like a whorehouse parlour, with magazines only 10 years old and one-armed bandits to keep our gambling addicts quiet. Visit the toilets as well, I suggest, one place where there are no secrets and men tell each other the truth.
Joe gently disengaged himself from the hug.
'Never knew you were so compassionate, doc,' he said.
'You're still not getting any antibiotics,' I sobbed.
- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell.