SOMETIMES MY work as a doctor feels like a regular three-ring circus. Three rings under the big top, each with something compelling going on.

You dare not take your eyes off ring No. 1 for fear of missing something. But the lion tamer is strolling into ring No. 3, and this is going to be good. Then the clowns in their police car and oversized shoes flop into the center ring. Can't miss that.

But wait! Over in ring No. 1, the jugglers on stilts are beginning their act . . . and so it unfolds on a Friday afternoon.

Doctor, why is my baby crying? She just won't stop. Please, is there something you can do?

Let's have a look. She seems OK to me. Maybe it's just gas.

But, doctor, I know my baby. There's something wrong.

Well, let's have another look. It's not easy, you know. I mean, she hasn't stopped crying the whole time I've looked at her. I think she doesn't like me.

But that's a different kind of cry. That's because she doesn't know you. When she cries at home, it's, well, different. I know there's something wrong.

But you've told me she is eating and has no fever, that her breathing is fine and she sleeps some of the time. Is there something I am missing?

When she crawls, she doesn't use her left arm as much, but I don't know why that would happen. Then, when we put her down, she cries even more.

What else can you tell me? A runny nose or cough? Does she pull at her ears?

She just acts different.

(Doctor, you're getting behind. I've just put Mr. Elkins in Room 6, and Mrs. Holt has been waiting for half an hour in Room 5. She's getting antsy.

Tell them I'm on my way.)

Now, about your baby. Let's have another look. No bruises. Arms move fine. Fusses when I put her down. For that matter, fusses when I pick her up. Maybe she's been having colic.

Do something, doctor.

Let's send her for an ultrasound of her tummy. A twisted gut would account for her fussing; we don't want to miss that.

(Doctor, about Mrs. Holt. She is getting pretty irritated.

I'm on my way. Why don't you pop in and tell Mr. Elkins I'm running behind and I'll go see Mrs. Holt. I hope she doesn't have her usual laundry list of complaints.