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Thump test
Tuesday November 13, 2012


By the time you read this, we will have concluded one of the most heated presidential elections of our time. We have been inundated by campaign advertising on TV and in print. These campaigns try to point out the worst in opposing candidates. Flawed past decisions were highlighted — even when clearly taken out of context. Debates allowed the candidates to showcase their oratorical skills, not to mention their ability to think on their feet.

The radio and Internet fueled the fire. Facebook and Twitter were staple venues to express political opinions. Political party supporters continued the debates. Rationalizations were offered as to why a candidate may have behaved in a certain way, including analyses of every glance, finger point and wry smile.

On more than one occasion, I was asked to predict the outcome of the elections. I also was asked which of the two presidential candidates would best serve the interests of our profession. Here are my responses, all in a form of questions:

1. Are my patients receiving physical therapy services in a better manner now than they were four years ago? Moving forward, will services improve? How and in what way?

2. Am I better off as a practicing therapist now than four years ago? Moving forward, will my practice be better? How and in what way?

3. Is our profession in a better state today than four years ago? Four years from now, will it be in a better state?

4. Who among the candidates makes the most noise?

That last question generated perplexed looks from my colleagues. They responded by analyzing performance in the debates or quoting the candidates’ positions on various ethical issues. But I countered that they must learn to filter these "noises," as they tend to cloud judgment. As the saying goes, "Empty vessels make the most noise."

In my observation, people compensate for lack of knowledge with words. Those with little knowledge often talk the most and make the greatest fuss. The term "smoke and mirrors" comes to mind.

I learned another application for the same concept at a farmer’s market this summer. I was having difficulty determining which cantaloupes were ripe. They all looked the same to me — ready to eat! So farmer Billy Bob taught me the thump test: knock on the melon two or three times. "If it sounds hollow it could mean that the melon is unripe, as opposed to being dense and full," he said.

I asked him, "Can we do the same to the heads of our presidential candidates?" Billy Bob and I had a good laugh. •

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Tuesday November 13, 2012
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