I’m used to all sorts of evening and weekend telephonics. And guess what? I don’t like ‘em. Truth is, I seriously dislike being called on my personal phone—at all—unless it’s an emergency and I’ve expressly given YOU permission to call me in such an event.

Yet even in the case of an emergency my friends and family think I’m crazy to allow such an intrusion on my non-working hours: “I mean, they’re not paying you for it, right?”

And other veterinarians increasingly agree. Being on call is one thing—because we’re specifically compensated for it. Taking odd phone calls at obscene hours (even from your best clients) is quite another. My friends argue it’s like saying, “Go ahead and abuse me. I like it. No, really, I don’t have a life. What there is of it is yours. Take it. Please!”

Of course, there was a time when it made sense for veterinarians to take their own calls: We all owned our own businesses back then and emergency hospitals were few and far between. So when the neighbor’s cat gave up the ghost on a Saturday night we were there…because we lived to serve our fellow creatures and, truth be known, because we knew the payment in green bean casserole and apple pie would come in handy mid-week.

It was a whole lot simpler living in awe of your neighbor’s way with pie dough than having to explain to every tenth client why it is that you don’t take Discover. But those times are dead and buried. Instead, the evolution is towards increasingly complex expectations of our communicability.

The dicier it gets the more we vets need to tune out the workday and cling with seemingly heartless zeal to our nights and off days. In fact, this view is so increasingly prevalent that new grads now prefer free time to money. It’s true: zero on call time can make up for a whole lot of deficiencies in a workplace.

So what’s up with me? Why is it that I haven’t yet learned how to cut out of work, turn the phone to vibrate and leave it in the glove compartment overnight? 

I’m not sure, but yesterday’s phone call might well have served as tipping point on this issue:

An elderly woman calls mid-morning after receiving my telephone number from some unrevealed source. This was Sunday, by the way, and I was working on the household’s breakfast. I must have been in a decent mood or else I would have asked her to call the animal ER upon learning of her non-client status (I guess I’m a sucker for clueless elderly women). Instead, I found myself strangely captivated by a crazy story about a dead cat under the hood of a car.

Said dead cat had presumably been dead for a long time (she spoke of its unspeakable odor) so it should have been obvious that the vet was not the right number to dial, right? Nonetheless, she pressed on with her tale, regaling me with a list of municipal departments unwilling to help her in her plight to free the car of its feline assailant.

She’d called 911, 311 (a County help-line), Animal Services, Triple-A, friends, family, her mechanic and now…little ole me. Gee. Thanks.

I promised her that someone in Miami-Dade County would surely accept money to remove a dead cat from a car’s nether regions. Tow the sucker and let me get back to my pancakes, dammit!

You know, much as I found the call amusing it was especially disturbing precisely for the reasons my friends and family list when they decry “the soul-sucking stress-fest that is your life.”

OK so that’s it. Not one more client gets my phone number. I’m getting my home phone listed as “private.” I’ll never answer the phone again without checking the number first. And I’m this close to chucking the damn iPhone in the canal next time I go kayaking.

Still, I can’t help thinking of the poor dead kitty trapped under the metal of a Mercedes. At least his death will be honored by my telephonic abstinence. Something good comes of everything, does it not?