An excerpt of Type A+:
“You’ll feel just a little pressure, but after that, we’ll get you all fixed up and you can start having sex again!” squeals Elle, a bright-eyed first year who is about to perform her first pelvic exam. I’m at the free clinic, to which I am shackled to enhance my resume, despite having sent in completed medical school applications five months prior. My gracious mentor, who is thrilled about this pelvic exam because it is the most intrusive procedure a first-year may undertake, discreetly studies my face. I can feel her confusion: why am I not thrilled to be getting a hands-on experience with a bacterially infected female sex organ, from which we will obtain a sample to be smeared across a slide and subjected to a WetPrep? Don’t get me wrong, I love diagnosing STDs on morbidly obese, self-described “trysexuals” at the free clinic, but playing fast and loose with this woman’s cervix on a freezing Tuesday night in January just doesn’t sound appealing right now.
I stifle a yawn. The absolutely rancid smell of the undiagnosed ailment that permeates the room makes this a difficult task, as I must balance strict mouth breathing to avoid the odor with politeness as I try not to look bored with this irresponsible woman’s infection. Quite a tapdance.
I glance over the patient’s file, and I’m a little appalled by how she has answered questions like, “Where do you experience pain?” and, “How long have you had this pain?” She has pain in her “lower pussy area” and can’t remember when it started, but it was definitely at least a week ago. Perhaps she does not realize that using Dave Chappelle’s vernacular is not the best way to document a medical record. I blush just reading her extensive sexual history, which lists men, women, men and women, and encounters that she isn’t sure about since partakers “looked like men” but lacked a “ding dong” and instead had a “vajay.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that a seriously overweight, uneducated, unemployed, unsophisticated, disease-riddled she-man who probably thinks Nancy Pelosi is a kind of pizza is having more sex than me.
I try to glamorize my status as a virgin, thinking of Roman myths of purity and resisting the fall from innocence, but I am beginning to get concerned that my V-card is still intact because no one’s into my wares. I reassure myself this is not the case, and think of the praise my mother would heap onto me for being so chaste.
I’m yanked out of my Victorian-twinged reverie when Dr. Eliot, a hottie dermatologist with a bastard son (ugh) and a yacht (hi there!) pokes his gorgeous head into the room. Elle quickly redirects him to the phlebotomy room, where an Asian immigrant needs a lesion removed from the palms of his hands. I overheard in the break room that those of the Mongroid race are susceptible to these pre-cancerous formations, and I make a note to not put baby oil on my hands as I bake like a Russet when the sun is not obscured by overcast clouds six months from now. Dr. Eliot makes the mistake of looking at the patient, who is set up in stirrups on the table. He spies the bacterial vaginosis, smeared like mayonnaise on the patient’s pubis monis in proportions that would make my Southern belle grandmother very happy, and nearly vomits. He quickly departs, and will probably never be the same again.
If I had my way, I’d lecture this crazyass woman about safe sex, maybe even mention “abstinence,” which would probably overwhelm her small, sex-oriented brain, then pop her full of oral contraceptives and load her down with rubbers, tattoo “HEATHEN” or “I HAVE STDs” on her forehead, and send her back to the projects, but apparently this is incongruous with the Hippocratic Oath. Instead I escort her out the door and wash my hands 15 times.
It’s time for wrap-up, my absolute least favorite part of clinic. Doctors apparently don’t get enough attention in their regular hospitals; getting time to speak during wrap-up, when they have the attention of dozens of still-optimistic first and second years, in addition to complete medical neophytes like myself, is like Christmas in July for these physicians. Except instead of gifts under the tree there are free Viagra pens and Lexapro clocks courtesty of skanky pharmaceutical reps who are in town for one night only.
I try to maintain a low profile. I don’t spew out Latin-based terminology as easily as everyone else, and I don’t want anyone asking me what I saw because saying “vagina” still makes me squeamish. This doesn’t make much sense, seeing as I grew up with a doctor father. Inability to love aside, he was great at instilling an interest in medicine from a young age. The first time I remember him getting really, really mad at me was when I was three, when I told my friend that our neighbor had a baby growing in her belly. “NO!” shouted my dad angrily. “It’s a UTERUS or a WOMB.” He then instructed my friend and me to say both terms ten times, finishing his tutorial with, “you are old enough to use those terms.” Apparently, 18 years later, I still am not.
It’s finally time to go home after some self-righteous Internist has gone off about vaccines and their link to autism, or maybe that there is no proof of causation, or whatever. I stopped listening when he mentioned Jenny McCarthy and instead reminisced about how my sisters and I watched “Singled Out” when we went on vacation, since my parents were not into cable television and obtaining access to MTV was a little treat. I took a ride home with a third year that went to Yale, where my sister went. I get all excited and play the name game with him, but I am quickly rebuffed. Then I remember that people in New Haven are too busy trying to keep warm to have a social life. I’m still disappointed that no one seems to know my sister from Yale, and get frustrated with her low visibility around campus despite being a journalistic superstar. I make a mental note to tell her that she should promote herself a little better, but immediately forget it.
It’s Tuesday, which ends in “y,” so of course I am going out, despite having to wake up tomorrow at seven and having been on the go since six this morning. I walk into my apartment and am immediately dismayed by what I see: my third wheel roommate Marcy is busying herself with a bottle of wine, which means she will be trying to accompany me out, and that she will inevitably get way too drunk and start yelling at me because people like me more than her. I look for my third roommate, Taylor, a petite blonde Italian who is always entertaining various males that I like to call “tradesmen” because the only thing constant among all these suitors is their lack of a college degree, assortment of tattoos, and ability to excel in one area like music or UFC fighting. Not my type, but whatever paints your wagon red. After a quick survey I realize Taylor has not yet returned from work.
Marcy is living up to her reputation as a raging alcoholic by polishing off a bottle of Cabernet by herself. She is giggling at the television, where she is watching something completely vapid, undoubtedly requiring minimal brain processing. I politely say hello, and am immediately subjected to her ragefest about how her professors don’t do her homework for her and she keeps failing everything. I am tempted to point to her own insipidness, as just last week she asked me how to spell “Wall Street,”, but instead fake sympathy and assure her she will get that Finance degree. I am still annoyed that I attend the same university as her.
She asks me if I am going out, and I almost instinctively say no but realize this will end badly because she knows that I go out all the time and I am about slip out of my scrubs and into something black and tight: a little something for the men. Fortunately I am saved by Taylor, who walks through our door. She is a little flustered because she works in a sports bar run by misogynistic, philandering guidos that don’t pay her. “You guys drank a whole bottle of wine already!” she asks. I shake my head, and Marcy proudly proclaims that she has done that all on her own. She talks in a baby voice, which I guess she thinks makes her endearing, but unfortunately, Taylor and I are wise to her tricks.
All three of us commence pregaming, and we make our way to a honkytonk downtown where we will be meeting up with other sorority friends. It’s quite the gaggle of girls: we’re a group of eight that is well-known in the area for swindling tourists out of free shots and stealing various furnishings off the walls of local area dives. Marcy is beyond drunk at this point; she has begun texting a junior frat boy that once told her she is “disgusting.” Obviously insults are a total aphrodisiac, so I completely back her having unprotected casual sex with this guy. But mostly only because it keeps her occupied and gets her away from me.
Bella, a bottle blonde JAP with a penchant for push up bras and making out with D-list celebrities, pulls me into a loving hug and asks me how everything is going. It’s hard to hear her over “Dixieland Delight” being played by the slated cover band, but I tell her I’m doing well. She reads me like an open biochem textbook and perspicaciously asks, “Did you get stuck bringing Marcy?” I confirm that the social albatross is in tow, but am quickly alleviated via a round of shots from the bartender. I know him well, but at the same time, I can never remember his name and I couldn’t describe what he looks like, but while at the bar I always know that we go way back. Somehow.
Things get blurry, and I start demanding Patron, despite hating tequila. I generally just want to see who has the money to throw down on some random college girl’s propensity for top-shelf liquor. I meet my match in a very attractive man. I’m intrigued: he looks vaguely familiar, but my Vodka-fueled haze has me a little confused.
“Quin!” this mysterious benefactor shouts at me. “It’s me, Dr. Eliot!” I smile and finally recognize him. Seeing doctors outside of the hospital is hilarious, a bit like watching dogs walk on their hind legs. He has traded customized scrubs for a very smart head-to-toe Brooks Brothers get-up. I like it. We begin talking about various medical things; he jokes that I will never be a doctor because women are always nurses. I would hate such flagrant chauvinism, no matter how sarcastic, out of anyone else, but I’m intrigued and let him buy me a few beers. I begin quickly calculating his minimum age, that is, the very youngest he could be if he went to medical school directly after undergraduate. Medical school is four years, then the dermatology residency is four years, I know he specialized in dermatology surgery, which would be another three, and I think I remember him saying sometime this evening that he has been in practice for nine years, having just opened his own practice in the last two, which makes him…40! I quickly begin telling myself that this is the optimal age for a 21 year old; I’m very serious, driven, and could talk about medicine with him. Oh yeah, and I like money.
Our conversation is going very well. We discuss everything from politics to religion. I am mostly concerned, however, that he won’t understand my love for TI and other convicted rappers that old people can’t comprehend. The fears are quickly abated, though, when he tells me how he loves to blast “Ride Wit Me” on his boat during the summertime. He asks me to dinner that Friday, and I begin formulating what our children would look like.
Ever the drunken vixen, I decide to leave him wanting more by nearly swan diving out of my barstool and reuniting with my friends. A quick restroom break reveals I DEFINITELY need more black eyeliner, despite wearing down several millimeters of my Chanel Stylo Yeux sometime in the last hour. Some bronzer couldn’t hurt, either.
I return to the bar to find Roxie, a lanky brunette from New York with a hipster chic style and the sex drive of a 16 year old boy, draping herself delicately around a 6’7’’ rugby behemoth with a distinctly foreign accent. She has finagled us more shots, but having latched onto the missing link between man and dinosaur, Roxie and her new love interest are only drinking the manliest of libations, like Jaegger and Goldschlager. I spy Dr. Eliot studying my drinking habits, and I can’t tell if he is impressed or disgusted, but then, he has an illegitimate son, so I feel better about his judgmental looks.
The lights turn on, and it’s time to retire. I’ll be waking up in a mere four hours, and factoring in the cab ride home and the routine stop at Jack-in-the-Box for an unnecessary fourth meal, I’ll probably only sleep for about three hours before I rinse and repeat all of this tomorrow. Wednesday is karaoke night, obvi.
What better way to cap off a night than by calling my ex-boyfriend of six years, Calvin, with whom I have no sexual attraction but love dearly as a friend? I call him, and he answers my call in a groggy voice. “Are you drunk?” he asks, only mildly annoyed but probably more amused than anything else. I lie to him and tell him I am not; it’s very eerie how in-control of myself I can be when I drink a lot. I think back to the previous summer when I got pulled over after blowing a stop sign after a night of drinking playing trivia at the closest sports bar. Being 20 at the time, this was a huge disaster, but after I collected my emotions and told the police officer I was designated driving my friend, he let me go because I was “doing a good deed.” I then proceeded to hit up Taco Bell and eat $15 worth of Grade D meat products. I should probably keep better control of those things.
I talk to Calvin for an hour. I have no recollection of this, but discover this in my call logs the next day. Through sleuth work and correspondence with him later on, I determine that we talked about my future plans. Calvin tells me via G-chat that I told him I don’t want to go into medicine, despite having the necessary credentials, high MCAT scores, excellent clinical experience, blah blah blah. I am a little surprised to hear that I said this. My parents raised me in their physician-forming medical army for all my years through high school, and to go into any other occupation would be blasphemous, grounds for dismissal. On the other hand, I had not met a single person that had ever said, “oh yes, medicine, that is definitely for you.” Instead, I had prided myself on my ability to party harder than anyone, make good grades, and still maintain a very rigorous academic and philanthropic schedule. People told me I should go into professional partying or promoting, but always added that I was too smart for that but should never give up my rock star lifestyle. I particularly enjoyed lording this over a good frenemy of mine, Amy, who shared my half-Asian, hard-working pre-med undergraduate status. Her voice was always elevated at least 12 to 14 tones over her natural one, and for some reason, this seemed to drive men crazy and they all wanted her. It was only fair that I get to be better at something than this paler, less curvaceous, more obnoxious version of me. I determined that the second we became good friends freshman year.
The morning after a night out, I always wake up with a very ominous feeling. My routine is simple. I check to make sure I have all my possessions: my BlackBerry is absolutely essential, loss of such a piece of technological wizardry is grounds for suicide, while other replaceable items, such as my credit cards, camera, lipgloss, and dignity are basically NBD. On this Wednesday morning, I find all these items in my off-brand beaded clutch that I always take out on weeknights. I am mostly naked, as I find clothing highly restrictive when I am drunk. Inexplicably, my throat hurts, though I have no other cold symptoms. I blame cigarette smoke and jamming out too hard to “Fishin’ in the Dark.” Taylor walks in, and we have a naked chat for a bit, which is fine, since she is blind as a bat and has not yet put her contacts in. Eventually, she shoves the lenses into her eyes, looks at me, and immediately blushes; she is too modest for my natural state. I decide to be considerate of her postlapsarian preferences and wrap myself in a makeshift toga of bedsheets.
Taylor and I rehash last night, and out of Marcy’s room, I hear a male voice. Before I can even say, “Marcy is a drunken mess,” a small but mighty black man walks into my room. He is also naked, and I am happy that he is joining the naked convention. Of course, I then realize that this is completely inappropriate, and get Marcy to take care of her guest. This man is a good friend of mine, with an egregious gap between his two front teeth that reminds me of the sex-hungry Wife of Bath. I then think of my professor’s hypothesis that her character was a dramatic monologue of the author, and envision Geoffrey Chaucer as a stout woman. I giggle.
Derek, the male guest, crawls into my twin-sized bed with me. This is very awkward, as no one is actually clothed in our little nest, and I can sense Marcy’s jealousy rising. I ask him how he materialized at our apartment, and it comes out that Marcy drove and picked him up last night, which she proudly proclaims not remembering because she was so drunk out of her mind. Awesome.
The nakedness is getting a little out of hand, so I shoo everyone out of my room so I can get dressed for work at the genetics lab, where I perform work that could easily be performed by a monkey or robot. As I’m getting dressed, I notice there is writing all over my torso, which says something illegible but looks suspiciously like “Y R FAT.” Then I remember making myself vomit after bingeing on tater tots the night before, and suddenly my mysterious sore throat conundrum is solved. I also determine I probably went on a downward shame spiral after overeating. I’m a little concerned with my self-hating, but chalk it up to drunkenness and make a mental note to wash it off later, when I am not hungover and don’t feel like I have an elephant clogging on my brain.
The research lab is humming with the sound of centrifuges, sequencing machines, DNA polyermizers, and an assortment of other apparati that are supposed to be furthering the human race and its well-being. The obscenely large research assistant, who is jealous of anyone younger, prettier, thinner, or smarter than her (basically anyone in the world), is going on and on about how she went to the gym this morning. My fellow student worker Morgan and I exchange quizzical looks: did she go to the gym and workout, or just stuff her face full of power bars after a two minute walk on the treadmill? This woman could probably go two months without eating and still be hypertensive. After bragging about signing up for Krav Maga classes for extra exercise, she tells me I look hungover, and I thank her and tell her that I went out really hard last night and met someone. The assortment of Chinese and Korean research assistants in the lab look at me with an expression of shock. One well-meaning employee, who has not quiet mastered the past tense in English, asks if I am safe when I go out because we live in a big city and I could get robbed. Obscenely Large the research assistant cuts in before I can even respond and tells FOB research assistant that she has never been robbed, despite living in Miami, THE MOST DANGEROUS CITY IN THE WORLD. She likes to make everything really extreme, especially when she talks about all the crime-fighting her e-Harmony boyfriend cop combats in the suburbs of Nashville, which mainly amounts to traffic tickets and public intoxication citations, that BAMF.
Anyway, Obscenely Large says she is so safe because she looks really aware of herself and no one would mess with her. I refrain from commenting that a whole gang of the most hardened criminals could probably not take her down, as she clearly outweighs a baby whale. Instead I take comfort in knowing that I have a mean groin kick if anyone tries anything funny on me. For the moment, I am content.
Even though I am exhausted, I decide to go out again that night. It’s the usual routine with all the same people, though Marcy has taken a sabbatical from drinking and instead attempting to get higher than a 5% on her next finance test, so she is instead moping about the apartment and talking about how I am obsessed with Taylor for going out with her all the time. My small, hypermanic Cuban friend texts me to see what I am doing for the night, but only after telling me that Marcy is telling people Taylor and I are lesbians. This is funny to me, since we have both clearly established our love for men, but this will at least cause our plan to make out on the sofa naked just as Marcy is walking in from work on April Fool’s Day that much more awesome.
Since I scheduled a date for Friday, I immediately cut out all carbs in my diet. And, in general, all food. I like to go on a three day cleanse that basically consists of vodka and multivitamins. The results are quite rapid, and you can get that much drunker since you don’t have any food in your stomach. I’ve heard people call this “drunkorexia,” but I’m not sure if that counts when you stuff your face full of takeout after last call. Perhaps they should call it “crash drunking.”
Since I have decided to load my second semester of my senior year with excessive hospital volunteering and clinic shadowing, pretty much every day has at least some sort of medical aspect. With Thursdays making me as restless as a small child in church, I volunteered at the Baptist Hospital Emergency Room. Being a completely philanthropic hospital, Baptist accepts any person regardless of health insurance, as do most of the clinics for which I volunteer. Baptist is especially attractive to the crazies of Nashville, though, because of its close proximity to downtown. This particular Thursday, I am standing at the radiologist’s booth, watching the physician read through X-rays and pinpoint even the smallest flaws in otherwise mostly perfect bones. I immediately realize I could never be a radiologist. I generally try to find the good in people and ignore blemishes, while radiologists savor each discovered fracture as a sign of success, kind of like Where’s Waldo?, except for people who decided to spend their youth in medical schools, getting into hundreds of thousands in debt, and then spending the majority of their working world in dark rooms with almost no social contact. Perhaps this is why my dad is a) generally disgruntled and b) proud to point out any imperfection on me, be it physical, mental, emotional, or—
“INTERN!” shrieks the head triage nurse. She has not bothered to learn my name, despite it being embroidered onto my sapphire blue “Angels” volunteer uniform, and even though I have been volunteering during her shift for four months. She is the classic Southern nurse, with her completely over processed hair, smoker’s voice, blue eyeshadow, and inability to pronounce the combination of the vowels “oi” as in oil and join. She is what I like to call “WT with a degree,” with the abbreviation standing for “white trash.”
“Where is the crash cart!? This man is dying!” continues this nurse, who is probably named Sally Rae or something you would find on “Reba.” I expect people to start frantically running around trying to find the defibrillating paddles, but instead the repertoire of medical staff are blasé and perhaps completely unaware that a man is dying. I, on the other hand, being a medical newbie that cannot yet stomach the idea of death, start a panicked search for the crash cart, running through various wings and walking in on various patients with symptoms that range from chest pain to hallucinations. I am sideswiped by a huge—huge—patient in a motorized chair. Only instead of a seat, he is in a sling, basically a moving hammock, enjoying the propelling of four strapping young male nurses who are red in the face from this man’s weight. They exasperatedly ask me which room is open; I consult the board and direct the nurses, while the heifer patient, goes on and on about how his stomach hurts. I can hear the nurses asking what he did today and cannot help but be flabbergasted, and almost horrified, by the sheer idiocy of this patient, for whom I am paying tax dollars to support:
“Well, the first thing I did was get up and take a shower. Then I ate breakfast.”
“What did you eat, sir?” asked one of the nurses.
“My usual stack of pancakes, four eggs, and six slices of bacon,” answered the patient, who was ruddy in the face from all the physical exertion he was being forced to do in speaking to the medical team. I could have sworn his mouth foamed at the word “bacon.”
“And then?” heaved another nurse, who had resorted to pushing the motorized sling with his back and legs, as his arms had given up long ago.
“Well I watched TV, had my morning snack of three biscuits and low-fat yogurt—“ he paused, waiting for someone to compliment him on his responsibility in going for the reduced calorie dessert, that health nut—“and then I ate a pizza.”
“And what pain ails you?” said the first nurse, clearly confused about the patient’s childlike grin and insouciant way of mentioning that he had eaten enough food to feed a family of four as a morning snack.
“Well my stomach hurts. Feels like I ate too much, but I’m a big boy, and I need a lot of food to fill me up, so that can’t be it,” blathered the blubberball. Somewhere in Washington, Obama was probably using him as shining example of how the American Dream should obviously include health care at the expense of privileged, physically fit citizens. Just watching this guy made me want to swear off sausages forever, not because of his size, but because his actual fingers rivaled any chorizo I’d seen in my day.
The patient was wheeled into some room, and meanwhile someone had located the crash cart. A few electrical shocks later, Nashville’s own Lazarus was blathering on about how he had just fought someone in the streets, or some other made up story. I decide to break for lunch, which will consist of multiple cups of Coke Zero and, if I’m feeling really famished, perhaps some lettuce. Mostly I just try to get away from the crazy people in the ER, who will accuse me of giving them less orange juice because they’re black, or confuse me for one of the North Koreans they used to fight several decades ago. I can also shamelessly watch “Sister, Sister” or “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” both of which always seem to be playing in the lobby.
I also get to check my BlackBerry, which is apparently not allowed in the actual ER because of some craziness involving pacemakers or something, but I often see Head Nurse Peroxide Perm checking her hot pink RAZR, which she has personalized with glittery red stickers. She always looks so upset when her husband calls, but is delighted when the bald guy in administration sends her texts, undoubtedly filled with those emoticons and de-voweled words that the over 40-year-old crowd loves to use when experimenting with technology. They hear all the young people are doing it.
I have received about ten emails, three of which are some schlock from Vanderbilt about how the programming board is bringing in some distinguished speakers like Al Gore (hey, he was a Vanderbilt student! Except, of course, he flunked out of Vandy Divinity and dropped out of Vandy Law before getting any actual degrees from the school). There are a few substantive ones, like my mom telling me she paid my credit card bill, and it was $6000 and she doesn’t know how I spend that much money, or my ex-boyf asking me what I want for our anniversary, which actually won’t be our anniversary since we aren’t together, but obviously I’ll be wanting the standard strand of pearls in some sort of fancy arrangement that I don’t yet have. There’s another email from the president of the alum club of my sorority warning against the dangers of posting pictures of yourself with an alcoholic beverage on Facebook. Then there is a rather cute text from Dr. Eliot: “Can’t wait to see you tomorrow! Have a good day in the ER ;).” I ignore the temporary sensation of my skin crawling upon seeing the creepy emoticon, and instead return to my pod in the ER with a little more skip in my step. I’m not even annoyed when a scary crack addict who reeks of alcohol vomits some of his generic dollar store brand mouthwash on me. If the peppermint foot cream works on Regina George in “Mean Girls,” this could be my secret weapon tonight.