Mild-mannered doctors and nurses became bilge rats and barnacle heads Sept. 19 with white coats and scrubs accessorized with swords, skull-and-crossbones tattoos, and eye patches.
Hospital hallways came alive with the sounds of “Ahoy matey,” “Arrrrgh,” and threats to “Walk the plank.”
Why Sept. 19? Well, it be “Talk Like a Pirate Day” for you uninformed scallywags.
This high-seas tale begins with Dr. Tom Enlow (a.k.a. Cap’n Maddog) who has long been a huge fan of all things piratey. About four years ago, he began a low key celebration of TLAPD in Akron Children’s NeuroDevelopmental Science Center. That year, just Dr. Enlow, a pediatric neurologist, and his soon-to-be first mate, Anna Dusseau, dressed up.
A few more members of the NDSC staff joined in the next two years. With each passing year, there came to be more and more gold jewelry, puffy white shirts, and three-cornered hats. Out came the dreadlocks and doubloons, the telescopes alongside stethoscopes.
But this year was different. Perhaps it was the change in the weather or lure of the main hospital’s large treasure of unsuspecting kids, but Cap’n Maddog’s mirth and merriment could no longer be contained to his own quarters.
So after seeing patients in the morning in the NDSC and then treating the whole NDSC staff to a big BBQ feast, the captain visited patients in their hospital rooms.
He and his crew pulled a book cart decorated like a ship, complete with Jolly Roger, and hulled a treasure chest filled with goody bags. They delivered corny pirate jokes, taught the pirate lingo, bestowed pirate names, and passed out pirate-themed books because even pirates should appreciate the gift of a good read.
“Why does the pirate go to the Apple store?” Cap’n Maddog asked one of his first mates.
“To get his iPatch, of course,” said the captain. “Arrrrrgh!”
“What’s a pirate’s favorite letter of the alphabet?”
“The ‘C’,” retorted the captain. “Arrrrgh!”
It’s not every day a hospitalized child can have a high seas adventure without leaving his bed.
Long John Silver may have literary fame and Cap’n Jack Sparrow may have the box office clout but, in the world of pediatric medicine, Cap’n Maddog stands alone.
And now the story behind TLAPD
The mutinous group of Akron Children’s doctors and nurses under the command of Cap’n Maddog weren’t the only scurvy dogs to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day 2013.
Krispy Kreme offered free doughnuts to pirate-speaking customers. Facebook allowed users, with the click of a button, to converse in pirate speak for the day. And costumed kids and adults invaded schools and work places from coast to coast nearly a month ahead of Halloween. Shiver me timbers, it seems the TLAPD movement is getting bigger each year.
So how did it all begin?
Many trace the roots to a Sept. 8, 2002 Miami Herald column by Dave Berry.
John Baur and Mark Summers had requested Berry’s help in spreading the word of their idea. Here’s an excerpt from that column:
“A few years earlier, the two men were playing racquetball, and, as so often happens, they began talking like pirates. And then it struck them: Why not have a day when everybody talks like pirate? They decided that the local day would be Sept. 19, because that – as you are no doubt aware – is Summers’ ex-wife’s birthday.”
It’s hard to know how many people celebrate TLAPD more than a decade after that racquetball game. But, if pirate enthusiasts like Dr. Enlow have their way, whenever Sept. 19 rolls around, the talk is going to get colorful. Don’t expect a boring “hello” when a robust “ahoy, me hearty” is the accepted – even preferred – alternative of the day.