Poor, Poor Doctor Chumley

Many, many moons ago, when I was a senior in high school, I had a great deal of fun participating in our Senior Play. We did Mary Chase’s “Harvey,” which was in turn made into the utterly delightful 1950 film with Jimmy Stewart.

Despite my complete lack of any previous acting experience, I tried out for the lead role of Elwood Dowd. I didn’t get the part, but I did get to play Dr. Chumley, the psychiatrist who runs Chumley’s Rest, where Elwood is taken by his sister to be locked up as a nutcase. We all know how that turned out.

My favorite scene was always the one where Chumley and Elwood are discussing Harvey. By this time Chumley has seen Harvey for himself and has started to think perhaps there’s something in it for him if he can play his cards right.

After hearing that Harvey can stop a clock, Chumley asks Elwood if Harvey would do that as a favor for himself. Elwood asks Chumley what he would do with the opportunity. Chumley gets all misty and talks about how he would go to Akron, lie down in the trees with a pretty, strange, quiet woman for two weeks straight, drink beer, tell the woman all of the things locked up inside of him, and have her hold out her hand to him while repeating over and over, “Poor thing. You poor, poor thing.”

Elwood, more wise than the entire rest of the cast combined, says, “Two weeks?! Uh – wouldn’t that get a little monotonous? Just Akron, cold beer, and ‘poor, poor thing’ for two weeks?”

I’ve always seen the wisdom in Elwood’s judgement of Chumley’s fantasy, but some days I begin to finally understand what Chumley was looking for. Two weeks in Akron with “poor, poor thing” is starting to sound better by the day.

Instead, it’s well after 23:00 and I’ve got a Construction Meeting at 09:00 tomorrow morning and still things to get done before I can go to bed tonight, so Akron is just going to have to wait.

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