Many years ago I had a CT scan with an unwelcome result. The test indicated a probable malignancy, which prompted a series of calls. It was a Thursday morning, and my doctor offered to meet me later that day. He assured me that the result was wrong, a matter of one radiologist covering his tracks, though additional tests were now needed.

Ultimately my doctor was right and the radiologist wrong – a source of worry created, then dismantled, over the next week.

The takeaway was not simply relief, but that my doc had shown himself yet again to be a mensch. He had offered to see me at his office, nearly impromptu, on a day he was not scheduled to be there, simply to allay my concern. By any standard, this was beyond the call of duty.

Since that time, my doctor has retired and moved, settled into a new life. One of his kids hit pay dirt on a reality TV show, which was at first a source of embarrassment, then shoulder-shrugging and finally pride. The show became a hit, which led to other good things including, apparently, a book contract.

Then came a recent email addressed to family, friends and colleagues. It opened comically with a quote from “The Godfather” about the need to ask for a favor.

The favor was this: His celebrity son had a new book hitting the stands, and would we please buy copies, “in the hope of getting it on the best-seller list(s).” The letter then detailed precisely how to achieve that goal. It urged that we buy the books for friends or book groups, even “dinner/party favors!”


While there were obvious attempts at humor, the audacity of listing seven bullet points on how, where and when to buy the volume – online vs. in-store, pre-ordering vs. buying on four specified dates – effectively eclipsed any lighthearted appeal.

“Sorry to make it so complicated,” the note read. “Of course, any way you buy one/them will help and be greatly appreciated.”

I read the note and thought that surely I had missed something. Perhaps part of the proceeds would go to charity?

But there was no charity – no reason beyond trying to game the system for personal prestige and gain.

“Of course,” the email said in closing, “we will be there for your family in the future if a similar need arises!”

It’s heartening to watch young people rise in their chosen professions. But it’s unsettling to witness a trusted doctor, in a bizarre flight of parenting, seeking people’s support for such a brash scheme. In the end, I wonder how many recipients complied with the letter’s request, and how many others were put off by its cheerful greed.

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