Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Very Small Stretch.

                         The duties of the post medical officer in the RCMP extended to interviewing and examining prospective candidates.  Many of the young men frankly admitted that their greatest ambition was to become an officer in the Royal Canadian mounted police.  In those days, the majority of Canadians were proud to have a police force of international stature, incorruptible as we believed then, and famous for always “getting their man”. Small wonder then that many a fine young Canadian aspired to a career in the force.  By the time I was working at the Post the requirement was that applicants must be at least 5’8” tall.  Prior to that there had been a requirement of being 5 foot 10.  I don’t know if there is a new height requirement or even the elimination of any height requirement although I find it hard to imagine a fifty-eight inch officer.  In any event, there were a number of candidates who were just under the five foot eight limit who desperately wanted to enlist.  John Campbell was one such potential recruit.  In those days it was possible to apply for admission to the force up to three times.   Johnny had already applied twice and was turned down because he measured 5 foot 7 ¾”. Each time we had measured him he assured us that he was 5 foot eight and had always measured that in the past.  Anxious to help him to get in both Mike and I measured him independently.  We both got the same results, 5 foot 7 3/4 inches.

            “What are you going to do if you don’t get in, John?”  I asked him.

            “I don’t know doc.  All I ever wanted to be since I was a little kid was to be an RCMP officer.”  When he said this his eyes teared up.

            Mike took over.  “Listen John, I might just be able to help you.  Now I can’t promise anything but over the years I’ve had a couple of other applicants of your height and managed to get them into the force by giving them some advice.  This is what I want you to do.  We’ll plan your next examination in a couple of weeks and you know that that’s your last chance.  It will be a third application.  The night before you come in, I want to spend about half an hour hanging out of the doorjamb and we hope that that’s going to stretch you out for long enough to measure that other quarter inch.  Make sure to get up early the next morning and before going out hang out of the doorjamb for another half hour or so.  That should allow the discs between the vertebra to expand and although it doesn’t take them long to compress again we might just get you measured before that happens.  In fact before I measure you I’ll let you hang out of the door here for ten minutes or so and we’ll measure you right away..”

            When he came in for his last try, Mike spirited him away, presumably to hang out of one of the doors for a while.  I had just finished seeing my second or third patient when Mike came in and announced triumphantly, “5’8” exactly, Doc,”

            “Good Mike, but I think I better see for myself.”  After all, it was my signature that was going on the bottom of the application form, and Mike with all due respects was really a soft hearted guy and could possibly have exaggerated just a trifle.

            “Okay John, get over here I’ll measure you.”

            “But doc, Mike just measured me, he said I’m five eight, you heard him.” 

            “Yes, but I have to measure you myself, come over here.”

            John apprehensively edged over to the scales beside my desk.  “Step up onto the scales.”

            John reluctantly stepped onto the scales while I slid the bar for measuring height.  It read exactly 5’8”.  John stood there speechless for a moment before he gasped, “Oh thank God.  I spent most of the night hanging out of the doorjamb hoping to stretch myself out to five of eight and I prayed a lot as well.  I guess it worked.”

The whole scene sticks in my mind to this day.  It was surely the happiest day of John's life!

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