Friday, March 30, 2007

The North American Lookey-Loo

The North American Lookey-Loo is a very common creature in Emergency Departments. They are somewhat shy but can be easily lured out of their holes by any sort of perceived delay in the care of their significant-other. Their method of conflict resolution is passive-aggressivity. When approached they will usually retreat in their holes with their distinctive alarm cry which sounds something like "how much longer?" Commonly, they hover at the door of their significant other's room or near the edge of the curtain and direct their pitiful stares towards the doctor's or nurse's station. They pose a dilemma for proponents of evolutionary theory because their behavior is, in fact, deleterious, in that it inevitably delays disposition of the patient. In fact, their behavior brings out the florid passive-aggressive nature of the powerful nurse-doctor beast. We expect, therefore, that they will select themselves out of the population. Curiously though, they do not seem to be decreasing in number as they may also be seen (in huge numbers) craning their necks out of car windows near motor vehicle accidents or crime scenes. It is therefore possible that their behavior may have an as yet undiscovered reproductive advantage.


  1. Ah yes, those lookey-loo's. I think they go to mime-school to study how to put on that certain facial expression which says: "I'm trying not to be rude (YET) but WHEN is someone going to come back in here and DO SOMETHING?" And you're right about them bringing out passive-aggressive behavior in the nurses. Whenever one of them flagged me down, it always made me want to ask them their name, look at my clipboard and say: "Oh dear. I don't have you on the list. It must be a computer malfunction again. I'm afraid you'll have to go back to triage and start over..."

  2. HaHaHa--I never knew what these creatures were called. I have seen and photographed them prior to ducking into their holes. After much research, i have discovered the scientific name---homo enormicus painicus assicus (family-genus-species-subspecies). If you see one-be careful. They have a poisonous barb that sticks out from a slender tail, one prick of which is fatal.

  3. They may look benign, but if they see you sitting at the desk charting or talking on the phone, they will gain the courage to come out of their holes and spew their venom at you.

    I love the picture!

  4. The lookey-loo always accompanies an actually sick person into our department and manages to make my 63-year-old sweet-as-pie secretary pray to god for them both to be thrown under a combine harvester. Almost makes me want to see them more often (? survival advantage - you decide).

  5. Sent your post out to my residency. Got a funny reply back from someone who thought the Looky-loo was my invention. (You have been properly credited.) Here is his response....

    Dear Dr.(name withheld)
    We at the Institute for Human Behavior Confounding Darwinian
    Principles (IHBCDP) wish to complement you an your accurate
    definition of the 'Lookey-Loo'. Once thought to be extinct, the
    ancestors of today's Lookey-loo were thought to have avoided certain
    disester as various sub-populations seem to have been conveniently
    distracted away from the larger group at the times danger presented
    itself. It is now commonly believed this 'distraction' was a shiny
    object of some kind.

    While fetching high prices on the European trade market for
    their fur, we at The Institute strongly believe in the humane
    treatment and preservation of the Lookey-loo and wish to end this
    cruel enterprize. We therefore emplore you to reconsider the way in
    which you treat these poor creatures. True, many physically
    resemble Homo sapiens, but I believe you know very well that they
    have a cognitive capacity far below our own. As such, we do not
    believe the Lookey-loo is truley aware of it's actions or
    surroundings but acts in a purely instinctual way. We, again,
    emplore you to consider this when dealing with the Lookey-loo.
    Might we introduce a proposal? Instead of trapping and sending them
    downriver for processing, please consider using their instinctual
    behavior to your advantage when dealing with them. Purely diurnal
    in nature, they may be rendered inert by merely throwing a blanket
    over their heads. Like many domestic avian species, ths has a
    curiously calming effect on the Lookey-Loo as the percieve the
    darkness as nighttime, resulting in a sudden spike in melatonin
    levels which, in effect, induces a 'hibernation' of the metabolism
    of these creatures.

    It is with earnest thanks that you have read our proposal. We
    hope you find it in your heart to be another link in the chain of
    freedom for this beautiful animal.


    Chris K., Director IHBCDP

  6. Does it ever help to more assertively tell a lookey-loo something that gives them a time clue before they begin to pout? Something like "Sorry we're running at about a 2-3 hour delay for patients not having a true emergency - we'll get to you as soon as possible but is going to be a wait."?

    Or does giving an estimated timeline in the ER just make them worse?

    Seems like a lot of people calm down if they know what they are in for. On the unfortunate days that I get 40-60 minutes behind in clinic, our receptionist tells people as they sign in and gives them an opportunity to reschedule if necessary.

    They may not leave and reschedule, but they seem to lose their cool less if they know a guestimate up front. Regards - Echo Doc

  7. We called them lesser-spotted cubicle watchers in my old A&E Dept.