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Archive for December, 2010

I pass by a Chevron station every morning on my way in to the hospital. I buy gas there too sometimes, but mostly I just pass by as I am trying to maintain consciousness and suck down my coffee. I think the electronic sign that displays the gas prices is haunted. Because most mornings, probably four out of five of then, the sign goes all wonky, stops displaying the price, and starts showing random shapes (or as random as is possible given the limited conformations of the digital readout)  for about one full second as I approach before reverting to pretending to be a normal, non-haunted, sign and telling me gas is $3.23 today. This happened the first few times without me thinking much beyond it being strange and perhaps wondering if there was a short. It does not happen in the evening or the afternoon if I pass by, only in the morning though.

After the first few times, catching it out of the corner of my eye and thinking it strange, I began to actually watch it. When it still did the weird creepy-movie-dream-sequence non-numbers flash I began to wonder if I was crazy. Was I seeing things? Imagining them? It’s been happening for several months and the rest of my life has continued without someone offering me the choice between any red and blue pills, so I have begun to accept that there is probably something odd going on. If I was crazy, I would hope that it would show in more ways than this one, very limited, less than spectacular way. If I’m gonna be nutso, I want to be batshit, white coat, rubber room crazy, thank you very much.

I can really only think of two possibilities beyond crazy though. The first, more ‘logical’ explaination is that there is a super-bored attendant sitting and waiting for me to pass by in the mornings so he can press a button and freak me out. This seems even less likely than something bizzarre or supernatural for the following reasons: 1. Seriously, how bored would you have to be? 2. It assumes an astounding level of narcissism- why would he select MY pickup to taunt? 3. He would have to watch like a hawk. I do not go by at a consistent time daily. All in all, I consider the actual likelyhood of this being possible to be less than the likeyhood of the supernatural.

Which leaves weirder options. Does my 1995 pickup truck emit some sort of crazy electromagnetic interference that fucks with the sign? If so, how? Or, as I mentioned, either the sign, my pickup, or both are haunted or inhabited by gremlins that think it is either funny to mess with me, or they like talking to each other as I pass by. I don’t know what it means that I have accepted that this may be the most likely possibility.

 

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Apparently I have  a new career ahead of me in public speaking. I recently completely one of my graduation prerequisites which includes a research paper and a 20 minute presentation on the same subject of my own choosing. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the paper wasn’t much of a stretch for me, especially as my subect related to one of my previous posts. It was something I am interested in, so doing the research and learning about it was fun. The paper writing was not a problem, and while referencing everything was a downright pain in the ass, it wasn’t really a challenge. And, best of all, it is pretty much a humanities subject, which saves me from typing “it was found that” and “it was observed” twenty million times, which always makes things easier to write. Not that I was out there using first person, but the research article mode just kills me.

And then there was the presentation. Now, I have spent a small amount of time on a stage in the past. School stuff mostly, no biggie. But there you have a script. You are someone else, so there’s nothing to be nervous about, since none of what you’re doing really is you. It is a shield in a way. This presentation was not the same, since I had no script, and it really was me and only me in front of seventy of my peers (well, some peers, some senior clinicians which don’t feel quite peer-y). Top it off with a powerpoint. I despise powerpoints and thus far in my career had only been clumsy enough to be subject to their whims once before. Yes, you read that right- before this, I had only made ONE powerpoint presentation, and even that was a group effort. I had been the designated speaker for other powerpoint presentations, but I didn’t actually MAKE those and more or less ignored them as I gave whatever blabber needed giving.

So I made this power point, barely staying this side of ‘too wordy,’ which was an effort. I practiced my presentation twice, realized that the two practice runs were dramatically different in multiple ways, and then surrendered entirely when I realized that I could not make a script for myself at all because I had internalized my information too well and I was just going to say whatever happened to come out. So I went, I talked about my subject  for 20 minutes while occasionally glancing at the slides to make sure I was still talking about whatever the heading on that slide was and got through to the questions portion without running terribly over time-wise. I had made notecards, which merely got bent and sweaty in my palm because I got too caught up in what I was saying to worry about them.  I looked at the audience, they looked at me, I got a few laughs, took a few good questions, and then time was up and I was done.

People said I did well, and I figured that was good. I was fairly certain they wouldn’t fail me even if I simply stuttered and wandered around like a lost duckling while flipping through slides, so I wasn’t overly concerned about how well people thought I did, but I was glad that people seemed to enjoy it. If you can get a laugh, the audience can’t be too miserable, right?

Then I got my reviews. People really did enjoy it apparently. I was rated highly on information, clarity, and most of all, poise and audience connection. Which is excellent and makes me happy. But two reviewers commented, independently, that I was a natural public speaker. Which just floors me. I am glad that I am comfortable talking to people about subjects I know well, but Public Speaking? That sounds big and scary and like it is something for people with Causes. I don’t have a Cause. I may have a few causes, but no unifying, evangelical Cause for which I could become a public speaker. I’m flattered, don’t get me wrong, I just think that any public speaking I do is likely going to be limited to a very select, small audience by virtue of the topics I am qualified to speak on.

 

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Being a professional is an odd headspace for those of us new to it. I have been a student all my life. Yeah, I graduated to secondary school, then to college and learned what life as a college student was all about. It was and wasn’t different than that of a high schooler in different ways. My college promoted responsible drinking, which is to say, they didn’t punish you for being smart and going to the health center (or your roomie for hauling your drunk ass there) if you drank to much rather than secretly hiding in your room and dying of alcohol poisoning. That was different from high school. And the easy access to pot.

Then again, that was probably just because I was too determined to get into college and follow my medical dreams to take advantage of the fact that one of the high school teachers dealt pot to students for nearly twenty years before he was caught/retired my senior year. Many of my friends smoked pot though. I still hold that if I was ruler of the world, pot would be legal and cigarettes wouldn’t be. Not that even in college I smoked much weed. I am a terrible smoker- I cough and hack and it’s just not fun for anyone. The high is fine, but getting there may or may not be worth it depending on my mood. Pot brownies on the other hand, those are good clean fun for everyone. I have fond memories of driving a (very) stoned friend to the store for brownie mix. Because that was how we rolled- no one was allowed to pressure anyone else to drink or smoke, and you sure as hell better not let anyone of your friends find out you had even thought of driving under the influence when there are plenty of folks about who would happily give you a ride for a tasty treat after the fact, or just the moral superiority and hilarity of watching your buddies behave like buffoons.

Undergrad was a good time. I enjoyed it. Not as much as some others maybe, but enough to have accumulated fond memories. I think being a humanities person had something to do with it though. Late night discussions about the history of the ramen noodle and the embargo on cuban cigars were always par for the course. Then I go and get myself into a professional medical school. Where people have NO humanities skills, FEW social skills, and can’t read literature or write a simple opinion paper. It’s all sorts of fucked up. You tell me you need a 20 page paper? I may bitch and moan, but there is no question I can get it to you by Friday if need be. Some of my soon to be collegues might have a heart attack.

How did you people get to (almost) be doctors when you cannot write? I have read some papers by these people, on topics of their own choosing, that made me want to scoop my eyes out with a rusty spork. Yes, they can do multivariate calculus (so can I btw, it’s actually pretty fun) but they cannot communicate in writing, and some can’t even do it verbally. The social and coping skills are to match. So I look at this group of professionals I will be sharing breathing room with for the rest of my career and I wonder.

I can do all the things they can do. To some extent, anyway, we all have our strengths and weaknesses of course. But I can do these things, AND I can also do other things. I WANT this to be my career, but I could make a living a dozen other ways too if I had to. So while I feel I am a complete and almost certified member of this professional circle, I also feel like I am still part of another circle. Another circle who knows that there is Art to Medicine, not just science. I hope that more of the folks in the one circle learn to come share my second circle with me too, or it is going to get lonely in here.

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Marketing can be downright creepy at times. I’m not talking about internet marketing and click-tracking either, I am talking about coupons and such that they hand me with my receipt at Safeway. I go there, I buy some things over and over again an other things only once. If they track that, well, fine. I do have a club card, so I’ll not be all the shocked, let alone flustered.

Still, when they hand me a coupon for a product I DO actually buy there, it makes me blink a couple of times. Yeah, saving fifty cents on that the next time I come in might be useful, but it’s a little weird to me. Directed marketing helps them, I suppose, or else they wouldn’t do it, so I just shrug and stick the coupon to the fridge with a magnet in the odd hope that Maybe I will remember it use it before it expires.

What really will weird me out though, is when, along with that coupon, the hand me one for another, completely unrelated product that I have NEVER bought in their store. Not even in their chain of stores, anywhere, ever. I have bought that product, and it’s not something like toilet paper or something that it is reasonable to assume most people use, but never anywhere that I would expect it to get back to my grocery store. That weirds me out, and no, I will not be using that coupon, thankyouverymuch.

Seriously.  I can see where for many people this may be ‘convenient’ or ‘useful’ so that they can save money on products they actually want. And that is all well and good, but it creeps me the fuck out. Am I the sort who could see myself living in a cave off of my own organic garden (because buying pesticide and fertilizer would require going into town) and eating only what I kill? Sometimes, sometimes I think I can in fact see myself there.

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