Cultural Assimilation – Chapter 3

healthquest medical centreBreaking the Ice

“Maria, there’s a Cecil Brown on the phone, he says you’re expecting his call, shall I put him through?”

Dr Haq was momentarily taken off guard. After all these years she still had trouble remembering she was the Maria people were speaking to. That was not her real name but she’d changed her first name while in University to make it more understandable to those she’d be treating as patients in future. She’d shortened her surname at that time too.

Beth the receptionist interpreted her silence as busyness. “I’ll tell him you’re busy and can’t take his call!”

“No, it’s OK, I’ll take the call.”

Dr Maria Haq had forgotten all about the patient presenting to Dr Smith several weeks back and her mind raced to pick up the pieces.

Cecil’s voice on the other end of the line sounded uncertain. It had taken a lot to talk himself into making this call. Apart from professional contacts who he handled confidently, person to person contacts outside work hours were another story. He was a loner! Childhood rejections were a powerful force that drove his life internally. The calm and collected Cecil was a mask that he needed time by himself to reinforce for each new day. Asking a woman out on a date was far out of character, he’d only felt safe with one woman and that was his elementary school teacher Miss Vadstone, but she was no longer there for him.

After exchanging pleasantries Cecil finally drew on his bravado mask and continued, “About my thank-you dinner?”

Dr Haq professionally examined his voice inflection and detected nervousness. She smiled the smile of one who was in control of the situation. She’d little interest in this man apart from the professional curiosity of a doctor examining the results of their skill, and of course the added advantage of a night out with a protector in places she’d never have gone to by herself. Those taboos were still alive and well in Maria Haq. Why not!

“That’s very good of you Cecil, where would you like to go for this thank-you dinner?” She laughted pleasantly.

Beth the receptionist listening in to the conversation couldn’t believe her ears. Dr Maria Haq going out on a date? This would be juicy gossip to share around the table that evening. Beth chuckled to herself silently replacing the phone.

Cecil had suggested an expensive restaurant down town and couldn’t believe he was spending money on someone other than himself. What was happening to him? Maria wanted to visit a Lebanese restaurant in the suburbs. It was the food of her childhood and she craved it but her family connections were widespread in this community and she felt she needed a protector. The thought of going Lebanese made her mouth water.

It all sounded exotic to Cecil whose tastes in food were traditional, but he longed for some reason to break out of his self-centred life and be like other people. He took note of Dr Haq’s address, date and time of their appointment and the address of the restaurant, then mustered his man of the world voice and said goodbye. He’d not been invited to address her as Maria and put the phone down wondering how he’d address her when they met.

Beth the receptionist put the phone down carefully. She’d picked it up again out of curiosity, but Dr Maria Haq heard the click and felt the blood rise in her face. She pressed the internal line and Beth picked up the phone expecting a call for the next patient. Instead she was summonsed into the interview room.

“Do you have something to apologize for Beth?” there was ice in the voice of Dr Maria Haq.

Beth shook as she realized her cover was blown and pleaded to be excused. Her husband was a medical student doctor training in his second year and Beth’s job was vital for their survival.

Dr Maria Haq noted Beth’s distress and her anger began to subside. She relaxed.

“So what do you suggest I wear to this date Beth, this will be the first time for me to go out with a man not my relative and I’m not sure what to wear? Of course this is only a business meeting. The man is a CPA and I want some advice on my investments so I need to look presentable.”

Beth was relieved to get off so easily after being caught out snooping into the doctor’s private life that she gushed suggestions.

Maria was shocked. It sounded more like a makeover than an appropriate dress to wear. All of a sudden she felt apprehensive. This was taking her too far out of her comfort zone and she began to regret agreeing to a date with this accountant.

Beth continued to gush about hairdressers and dresses until Maria Haq shut her down. “Later Beth, we have patients waiting!”

That evening Maria allowed Beth to take control as they finished appointments for the day. They visited Beth’s hairdresser who sculptured Maria’s hair to perfection and then an excited Beth rushed her to a series of shops where Maria emerged with the latest in fashion clothing Beth could only dream of buying with their limited family budget.

Maria’s head was spinning with excitement. It was the best evening she could ever remember and Beth was animated too.

“Your husband will not be happy if you don’t get home soon. It’s getting late.” Maria didn’t want the excitement to end but wondered how Beth could spend time with her this late in the evening.

“Oh he’s on duty this week so I won’t see him as he’ll be following a doctor around observing and hopefully will find time to study in between calls as he has heavy lectures during the day. Sometimes we barely have time for each other.”

Maria nodded in sympathy. She remembered the daily grind during her lecture and observation years.

“I know what you mean,” she said softly. “But it would be hard on a marriage and I admire you for hanging in there.

To be continued.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2016 All rights reserved


14 thoughts on “Cultural Assimilation – Chapter 3

  1. It looks like I missed two chapters, Ian, so I have some catching up to do, but am truly intrigued after reading Ch. 3! I say again that you have a knack for telling stories, portraying scenes, including dialogue, etc.That’s something I wish I could do, but I get stuck. Anyway, I may be slow, but I’ll catch up on your writing…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just finished the last 2 chapters of your story — ebjoyed them.

    On Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 3:36 PM, ianscyberspace wrote:

    > ianscyberspace posted: “Breaking the Ice “Maria, there’s a Cecil Brown on > the phone, he says you’re expecting his call, shall I put him through?” Dr > Haq was momentarily taken off guard. After all these years she still had > trouble remembering she was the Maria people were speak” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ian I love you started to form a bond between the two women, despite the shaky beginning. Maria will need a guide and Beth will need a mentor. It is always interesting how bonds between women are formed and you have touched on this one with great delicacy.

    The POV shift between the two primaries is wonderful as well. Each have their own vulnerabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Men will never understand the complexity of interrelationship between women Val. 🙂 There is a natural bonding between all women on most issues and from my view over the years there is potential for anger when one crosses another which can never be forgiven too. Yes that does happen with men also, but not with the same intensity. Probably because women use both hemispheres simultaneously processing everything that has ever happened, what might happen and what is happening. Men are part of a herd using one hemisphere at a time in the main focused on pleasure and a goal. rotfl. I’d be interested in your comment on that.


  4. Your POV is everywhere in this story. Nothing worse than a cocktail party. I’ve always enjoyed working at the party (been in the food industry for a lot of my life) and I’d rather clean it up than stand there making small talk. Ho-hum.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very well done, Ian, and so true too – some of us can hold our own in the professional world but turn to jelly in our private lives.
    I detest idle parlor chatter, but for decades I suffered the superficial cocktail circuits. Business associates thought, and many said so, that I was a “natural”. If they only knew.
    Well, now that Maria Haq is all togged up – looking forward to the encounter.


    1. Oh my, there is so much similarity between the both of us. I’ve been in administrative roles since my late teens and that of course required attendance at all those mindless professional meetings where we size each other up. Theoretically its supposed to foster relationships in the trade. Later I got to mix with the rich, the art community and politicians at a high level. I could put on the mask as well as anyone and even get some respect in the process but like you it was not my scene. I can remember refusing jobs because of the need to fake it and would rather mix with the herd who, by and large didn’t have such high egos. But surprisingly was elected to top positions in spite of some refusals and have never had an interview for a job in my life. Perhaps they should have! lol. But I suppose I did enjoy the creativity of building organizations. I was the finance point man when they rebuilt 800 Thomson Road for example.


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