There’s only thing that makes my heart gladder than a Duke win, and that would be a Kentucky loss. In this case, the major whuppin’ at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores last night.
Whence comes my ire? Oh, the general cockiness–and the 1978 NCAA final didn’t help. But the biggest reason is related to eyes.
In the summer of 1990, I was a resident in ocular disease at a large clinic in Nashville. I wasn’t sure where I would go after that, so I was in the process of obtaining several state licenses to broaden my options. I thought at the time that Kentucky sounded kinda nice and wasn’t far and that I might be able to find a post-residency position somewhere in The Bluegrass State. So off I went to Lexington to take the test.
For those of you (that would be most) unfamiliar with optometry licensing laws, at that time the large majority of states still required candidates to take their own “special” board exam rather than recognizing the National Board. This allowed the state boards, which are typically dominated by “good ol’ boys” with large, successful private practices, to “screen” prospective doctors for those who might be deemed a threat to their special interests. In other words, no use allowing some young turk in who might set up shop nearby and start siphoning off your patients.
In the case of Kentucky, this consisted of a pretest “interview” with me in a very small chair, looking and feeling very young, puny and powerless. Towering above me on an elevated platform sat 8 “good ol’ boys” with frosty hair sprouting from numerous orifices who interrogated me as to my origins, current whereabouts and future plans. I got the distinct impression that my answers weren’t satisfactory to them, and I recall telling Eyegal that night that I was afraid “the fix was on.”
The following day, I made my way through the written portion of the exam (no problems) and most of the patient care section (again, no problems) and finally came to the last station of the exam–refraction. I walked into the room, and in my chair sat an 80-year-old grandmother with itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny pupils and dense cataracts.
For those of you (that would be most) who have never done a refraction before, let me just tell you–that spells major bad news. To make matters worse, she barely talked (she had either been coached to be non-responsive or else had Alzheimers). I fumbled around and did my best, but as time expired, she was still only seeing 20/200. I found out later from questioning the other candidates that no one else had been required to refract Granny and that she had apparently been aimed just at me.
Welcome to Kentucky–boy.
I failed the refraction section, lowering my overall grade exactly one point below the passing mark. I thought about fighting it, but what could I do? I was young, poor and powerless. I swore that I would never have anything to do with that state again.
A year later, I traveled to Raleigh, NC and took what was arguably the toughest optometry state board exam in the country (6 hours of patient care and oral exams). I dazzled my interlocutors–it was a Jesus-in-the-temple moment. I received an overall mark of 99.
Almost 2 years later, Duke stunned Kentucky on Christian Laettner’s buzzer beater en route to their second National Championship in a row. To this day, I feel that they won that for me.
And that, dear readers, is why I hate Kentucky. Caveat: If you’re from there, it’s nothing personal.