I have two refrigerators.
The full size, expensive version, sits in the usual location in the kitchen. The small black one rests idly in the basement. Excluding this morning, of course, when I dragged it up the steps and begrudgingly coaxed it back into action. Let me explain.
Six months ago my old refrigerator started acting up. Somewhere around year five, it’s motors groaned, its coolers moaned, and all the sudden the food started to smell. So I called the repairman and hundreds of dollars later, it worked like a dream.
Until it didn’t.
The repairs held for all of a week. I called the repairman back. And we danced this dance a few more times. In the meantime, I ran out to the local appliance store and bought a mini fridge to store my food.
I lived out of that little black fridge for weeks while workmen came and went. Every time one problem was fixed, another popped up. Eventually I bit the bullet, returned to the appliance store and bought a brand new, state of the art, full sized refrigerator to replace the old.
I happily returned the black fridge to the basement and thought little about it again. For six months, my new appliance worked exactly the way it should. The ice bucket was always full. Each zone maintained the correct temperature. I had separate drawers for the fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
I thought I was truly on the pathway to appliance nirvana when the unexpected happened. I awoke one morning to fine a horrible sound coming from my brand new refrigerator. Hours later it was dead. My ice cream melted and my vegetables wilted.
I called a different repairmen who showed up promptly, and fixed the problem in short order. Money well spent, or so I thought, until the exact same scenario played itself out forty-eight hours later.
Another trip to the basement, and the little black refrigerator has once again taken up residence in my kitchen.
This experience is nothing new. I can’t count how many times a television has broken, and an iPad has malfunctioned, or a dishwasher latch has busted. Each time I dutifully call an expert who sometimes gets the job done. But often the repair unravels or the machine is deemed DOA and unable to be fixed.
This often makes me wonder why we expect so much out of our doctors. The human body is far more complex than any electronic. The number of moving parts measures in the millions. And god knows how personal psychology plays into the range of pathology.
And for the most part, doctors get it right. Eighty to ninety percent of the time. Day after day, year after year.
I wish I could get this kind of service with my appliances.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion. Watch his talk at dotMED 2013, Caring 2.0: Social Media and the Rise Of The Empathic Physician. He is the author of I Am Your Doctor: and This Is My Humble Opinion.