I remember watching Doctor Dolittle as a kid in the same vague, conceptual way that you know you were once a two-year-old tearing around the house and driving your parents bananas. When I talk about remembering Doctor Dolittle I am, of course, referring to the original film starring Rex Harrison as the titular physician. My sibs and I must have watched that movie a dozen times, but I can recall only a few vague things. It seems like I thought Doctor Dolittle dressed funny. There was a scene at some point in the movie where Dolittle is making funny noises through a megaphone that he’s floated on the surface of the ocean, and for some reason I remember him talking to a giant snail.

It doesn’t surprise me all that much that I don’t remember much of the film. I was very young and my attention span was about what you would expect for that age group. What surprises me is that my brother and sister and I were able to sit through the movie even once, much less repeat viewings. Just to refresh my memory before posting this I pulled it up in Netflix and happened to glance at the running time. The original Rex Harrison film is two-and-a-half hours of an Englishman in goofy turn of the century clothes running around making burping sounds at trained animals. That’s in the same general ballpark as the running time of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Admittedly there’s more activity in Doctor Dolittle and the musical numbers are better. I still wonder how my parents managed to get me to sit through 146 minutes of movie. They must have drugged my juice.

We’re going to be leaving Ted and Francis for a while after this. I have a few one-off strips I want to do, then it’s back to some of our recurring characters.

Knock, Knock; Whovian’s There?

When my son was born he was a few weeks early so he was required to spend some time in the neo-natal intensive care unit, NICU (“nick-you”) for short. That it would cost us more as a result was something my wife and I knew without being told. What we didn’t realize was five days in the NICU would effectively double the cost of our son’s birth. The delivery itself was paid for by the time we left the hospital. The NICU stay, however, is another thing.

Around the same time I changed jobs, and there was a period of being between jobs where I didn’t have any income. Money was tight. Between the holidays and no income we barely squeaked through the month of December and made rent for January. The hospital bill slipped as a result, and we received a letter from collections.

I’m not proud of it, but it happened, and it was something that needed to be addressed before our account went to an agency and caused our credit to be righteously screwed. To ensure that didn’t happen I called the hospital’s billing department and was put through to a lady to discuss our account.

The funny thing about being a fan of science fiction, and naming a child after a character in the long running British series Doctor Who is that you have a built in ice-breaker with other fans of the series. It’s been long enough now since that phone call that I couldn’t tell you how the subject came up, but while we were discussion my past-due account we also started talking about my son’s name and where it had come from.

I asked the nice lady on the other end of the phone if she was familiar with Doctor Who.

“Oh, my yes,” she said, and though I couldn’t see her face I could almost hear her beaming, “I love that show. I’ve watched ever since it was in black and white.”

I explained that my son is named for one of the characters and the actor who played him.

“Oh that’s lovely,” she said in a tone of matronly indulgence, “that show has been on for a long time hasn’t it?”

Of course I agreed and said it had been on for fifty years. She joked, as people from her generation will, about how that dates her, and I laughed with her.

Eventually we conducted the business that had been the reason for my call. We managed to pull my account back from the brink of falling into collections, made arrangements to pay on a monthly cycle, and we parted on friendly acquaintance through a shared appreciation of a (if I’m honest) somewhat goofy British Sci-Fi drama.

When I spoke with Mildly Sensational afterward there was silence on the other end of the phone.

“How,” she said and I could all but hear her hands being thrown in the air out of exasperation, “HOW do you do it?”

I really don’t know. If it means getting exactly what I need at a critical moment, I’m not going to question it.