I often ask myself in complicated clinical situations, what would Groucho do?
'Hooray for Captain Spaulding,' I carolled as the door opened, which I thought was quite droll, because his name, can you believe it, was Joe Spaulding.
But even the infectious bonhomie of Groucho paled against the horror to come; Joe was turning his back and pulling down his trousers before the door was even shut.
'Hold it right there, pal,' I said, but it was too late, and the cattle prod was on the blink.
'What do you think?' he said.
An ambiguous question, so I deliberated for a moment. I considered and rejected: 'You have beautiful soft skin,' before I settled on, 'I wish I was lying on a beach with a young lady massaging aromatic oils into my rippling muscles.' I am not totally opposed to complementary medicine.
But this was the incorrect response; Joe started to reverse, inch by dreadful inch. Denial is a powerful mechanism, but I could deny it no longer; Joe wanted me to peer closely and intimately between his buttocks.
I have always had a sensitive disposition, I do not like actual physical contact - except certain types of complementary medicine - anyway the physical examination stuff is overrated. It's for theatrical purposes only (to show How Much We Care); I'm a great believer in the primacy of history.
'I've this awful rash ...' the bare cheeks mimed, edging ever closer.
I retreated, but the quivering mass kept coming, past desk edges, over a landmine (can you believe, I won it in a raffle).
'Alright, alright,' I sobbed, 'I see it, I see it, it's a rash, a rash.'
'What kind of rash?'
'An awful rash, oh God it's awful, I'll give you some cream.'
'And?' The buttocks now right in my face.
'Antibiotics, you need antibiotics,' I screamed, frantically scribbling a scrip with averted eyes. And as a drowsy numbness pained my senses, with a final defiant gesture, I signed it 'Hugo Z Hackenbush'.
Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com