Monday, December 17, 2007

Ned E.

Summer sausage, sandwiched between thick cut scraps of sharp cheddar cheese sat naked on the rusting hood of a powder blue dodge pick-up. The cheese gripped tightly to the ridged hood and kept the sausage, still complete in its faux skin, from sliding down and onto the gravel driveway beneath. The air was thin and crisp, even for a cold April morning and the hood was steely cool. The round edges of the sausage protruded on either side from the yellow-orange cheese and its fatty white flecks were exposed to the cool air. The congealed flesh and gristle, processed, but not devoid of its animal taughtness, glistened in the cool sun. The maroon wrapper, slightly peeled on one side flapped as the wind whipped past it, gave the meat a tough exterior, but the center of the sausage, with its gel-like softness and yet underlying density gave the animal protein and lard a cold, harsh aura.

Ned’s dark, rough hands could not feel the powdery grip of the cheese, but the size of the morsel felt natural as he brought the beef and cheese to his lips. A few swift bites, the substance nearly sectioned itself, and Ned sent the beef to the fierce, fiery furnace below. His stomach was the only entity within himself which could cause him pain. His throat and chest burned ceaselessly with the gastric juices from within. A strange sense of satisfaction ran through Ned when he appeased his stomach momentarily with the processed but seemingly raw animal products. He stoked the internal flames, knowing well, that his steady diet of Banquet ® Chicken Pot Pies, summer sausage, sharp cheddar, and bacon was the cause of his internal broiler.

He leaned against the grill of the car and closed his eyes. Consistent weariness lent Ned to fits of closed-eye thought sessions. Halfway through his work day didn’t seem close enough to being able to retire to the Pink Flamingo trailer park. Slowly, the strange sandwiches disappeared from the hood, and were replaced by a little Debbie and can of coke. Slow sips from the Coca-cola classic reinvigorated his dormant heartburn, and he tried to quell it with bites from a zebra cake. When the cake was gone, he took one last swig from the aluminum can and tossed it into his fire red lunch cooler. The zebra cake wrapper blew away with a gust of wind and Ned’s crunching footsteps followed after it and stomped on it to hold it to the ground. He gingerly bent over at the waist grabbed the wrapper, and joined it with the Coca-cola in his cooler.

Back to work, he picked up his hoe and returned to the freshly exposed soil. The soil was rich and full, the way freshly roasted coffee beans smell. On either side of the patch of naked ground, were large trees, looming as if from another era, fully matted below with grass, still brown from the winter’s bite. Ned traded his hoe for a spade and shored up the kidney-shaped outline which he was cutting from the grass. More fresh soil lay below, seemingly nourished by the healthy grass above it. This too, Ned stroked with the hoe, recreating an untainted earth, preserved from weeds by years of pesticides aimed at keeping the blanket of Kentucky blue grass above in top shape. When the bed was adequately prepped, Ned returned to his truck, pulled a shovel and nursery grown azalea from the bed. In the chilled shade of the mammoth oaks, he planted the azalea, just on the cusp of the bed, in his mind, perfectly contrasting what would be the rest of the bed.

The thin, scrawny, crab apple tree was always hard to remove from the truck. He rolled it down gently from the mulch pile, his hands scrapping on the knotty trunk. He slid two 2x4 pieces of lumber from the truck and placed them in position so he could roll the root ball downwards. The burlap sac surrounding the mass of dirt and tangled roots felt soft and gentle in Ned’s hands and he relished the experience. The small tree, constrained from below by the twine and burlap confines would soon be liberated to the deep coffee-rich soil below. Like a freed bird its roots would extend, farther and farther from home, perching amongst the roots of other plants, flowers, and trees.

After an hour of softly scooping out the cold, hard earth beneath the top soil, Ned laid the crab apple tree on its side and reached into his back packet. Warmed on one side from his back and cool on the other from the air, Ned extended the blade from its steel case and began working through the burlap. Once sliced, the burlap easily rips, frayed edges splitting unevenly to each side, like a curtain being torn from top to bottom exposing the beauty of the roots below. Clumpy dirt surrounds puny scraps of root, with nothing about it to which one would be attracted.

Arranged adequately in the hole Ned began scooping dirt around the edges of the root. His booted foot, pressed down on the deep soil to harden the dirt around the tender root. More dirt, more feet, more shovel, less air. Deeper and deeper he imagined the roots growing, spreading throughout this man-made garden. Retreating to the nearby house, he extended the coils of a dormant hose to the source. Stretching the cobwebs along with the house, he traversed the thick bluegrass towards his crab apple tree. Softly, gently, he slid the mouth of the house in to the densely packed earth.

As he walked back to the house, he checked his watch. Three hours since lunch, not quite time yet. When working on a job alone, he could put in longer hours, not distracted by the nuisances of conversations. He turned on the water, and watched it surge along the hose. Back at the tree, he heard it filling up the earthen jar he had carved below. The ground around the tree slowly pulsed, occasionally a bubbling up would occur. Ned watched momentarily before returning to the truck. He pulled a wheel barrow from the back and began to fill it with mulch from the bed. When he pulled the top off the fresh mulch, steam from the organic decomposition warmed the local air. He blanketed the area around the tree with the shredded remnants of its brothers. The warm, moist nuggets leave a dark brown goodness on his hands. With his hands he crafts a moat of sorts around the crab apple tree, enshrining royalty and supplying the web of spreading roots with a wash of fresh, cold water.

Quickly, smoothly, handily with the ungraceful precision that only years of muscle memory provide, Ned scooped out dirt around the fringes of the bed, providing small holes only as big as his foot. Twelve of them buffered the edges of the kidney shaped cut-out. Over his shoulder he carried a large bag of peat moss, wrapped tightly in thin white and green plastic. He set it down with a thud between to holes and wisps of dusty peat smoked through the air. With his shovel, he split the bag, from top to bottom, exposing the light brown powder to the crisp air. He placed half a scoop in each hole, carefully mixing it by hand with the soil below. Twelve leafy green hostas he molded to the earth, firm as stones in their foundation.

With a quick yank, he pulled the water from the crab tree moat, and let it splash on the now dried open ground. As a healer prays over the crippled, he raised his arm over each hosta, sprinkled a splash of water on the leaves before bathing the soil around the plants with the water. With weary arms, he finished the job by pitchforking the rest of the mulch into wheelbarrows and gently spreading it, sometimes with hands, sometimes with hoe, across the garden before him. Finally, it was his time, he loaded tools in the wheelbarrow, then the truck, and placed the 2x4 lumber in last, crossing them underneath the tools so he could close the back gate in a nice neat, tidy, portable sacred canon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mister Frank

Crackling, crisping, clicking flames leaped over a pile of dirty wood. On a balmy, sixty degree, sun-shining day it seemed unnecessary. Viewed from an insulated window the scene would appear no more extraordinary than a bundled, winter-walker sauntering down a bright sunny road. A large pile of wood for the burning sat next to the flames and was slowly, methodically, cautiously being depleted. A few hundred yards behind him, cargo ships loomed large, flanked on all sides by small fishing boats. The giant vessels lay stagnant supported by deciduous trees. Gleaming steel and the barnacle laden undersides lay exposed for the first time since the ship’s genesis.

Mister Frank, as he was almost universally known, could have only been more suited for this event if he was wearing gloves with the fingers chopped off. As it was, he wore the lower extremity equivalent, almost European looking capris hung loosely from his full belly withholding a hearty laugh. He sat, exposed ankles soaking in the unnecessary heat. He held a hammer in one hand and he jerkily clawed nail after nail from pieces of moldy wood to throw in a bucket. To his right, he collected a small pile of set-apart wood. Shoddily stenciled lambs and hearts graced the crown molding. Two small fragments he set aside, and looked at with a half-smile. On his left, he laid the rest of the wood. Periodically, he rose to grab a scrap of the fragmented timber and send it hissing into the fire.

Over his right shoulder, he glanced back to see his wife, Miss Liz exiting from their brand-new home. In her bathrobe, she descended the steps of their FEMA trailer and grinned at him. She carried cup of piping coffee to set on the chair next to him, furthering the mistaken winter-image. Miss Liz too, glanced over at the pile of sheep wood and let a gentle melancholy smile grace her face. Silently, she put a hand on Mister Frank’s shoulder, and retreated to the confines of the white trailer. Mister Frank stood, stretched, rubbed his hands over the fire only because he believed it was what one should do in this situation.

Standing and turning his head, Mister Frank glanced back at the source of his fuel. A thirty by thirty wood frame stood capped above ten feet by the remnants of aluminum siding and the glistening, sandpaper black shingled roof. He glanced back to his wood pile and a shiver did run through his spine. Enough shivering he thought as he took a pull from his stoneware mug. His eyes followed the dirt track from his pile, to the pile at the shipwreck. Instead of separating iron nails from their pile, Sternitz Brothers Shipbuilding had nothing but iron. Rusted metal scraps loomed large above the barbed wire fence protecting the area.

His eyes traveled the horizon, past the small suspension bridge, along the road of his exodus two weeks prior, through the rich forest and rested on the Caribbean Clipper. He began to imagine the tumult they must have felt as Katrina beat on them with her snarling backhand. The crew of Columbians on the ship were found only days ago, too scared to exit after the storm, and too high above the forested island upon which they landed. They sent one lone messenger down in a lifeboat from Ararat to try and obtain supplies for the rest of the crew.

Mister Frank had left town three weeks earlier on the advice of the town’s leaders. He thought he had been through the worst before, but heeded the warning nonetheless. He only needed to travel a few miles inland to take refuge in Bayou La Batre Christian Church on higher ground. Most of the town’s residents took refuge in the church, forming the city on the hill, lit my candlelight, looking down on the brooding of Katrina.

While most of the world was focusing on Saints marching in to New Orleans, Mister Frank laid holed up at the church. The waters receded, as did his home. Weeks later, FEMA unhitched his brand new residence and he returned to his plot of land with his wife. The memory of the experience did not carry pain with it. Mister Frank was sure he had known pain, but couldn’t recall what it was. Instead he continued to ply nails from timber and press on, the only thing he had ever learned to do.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Today is gonna be the day . . .

The extent of self-deception never ceases to amaze me. For at least the past 10 years, I have convinced myself every morning that I as soon as I finished my task for the day (school, work, random others) that I would come home, plop straight in bed and sleep until Kingdom come. In those last ten years, I have fulfilled that self-promise at most ten times. Once a year, I make good on my autonomous pledge. About two-to-three hours in my day, it dawns on me that I will not be retiring to bed when I get home like I promised and curse myself for waking up. What amazes me about the situation is not my persistent ability to deceive myself, but that at six am amongst the cacophonous chorus of my Sony Ericsson T470 cell phone/alarm clock, I actually believe in good faith that today will be the day I make good on a promise.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Realizations from a Road Trip

I traveled 11 hours each way on a road trip to Durham, North Carolina this past holiday weekend. Here is what I learned (more tomorrow if these are enjoyable).
  1. Town squares are awesome
  2. Small towns have a preponderance of subways
  3. If I ever own a farmhouse I am definitely going to put fake candles in every window.
  4. Celery is not a good road trip snack, neither are peanuts, shredded whear (Each of which I took on my roadtrip, each of which are also coincidentally very high in fiber).
  5. Durham, NC is like Disney world/Harry Potter Land for rich kids.
  6. Paying with a twenty dollar bill at a toll-booth is not looked upon highly.
  7. Coincidentally, paying with nickels and pennies at a toll booth is not looked upon highly.
  8. The state of Ohio is extremely long.
  9. Tunnels don’t get old. I anticipated that they would stop being cool around age 23, unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I still find them riveting.
  10. On a related note, radios and cell phones do not seem to work inside a tunnel. Good thing driving through them is so darn cool.
  11. As much as I try to disagree, my tastebuds still do not like tomatoe juice.
  12. On a related note, tomatoe juice is not a beverage of choice on a road trip (because it doesn’t go well with peanuts or shredded wheat of course).
  13. Going the speed limit makes spying a police officer hiding in the bushes a lot less frightening.
  14. When you go the speed limit, impatient drivers are a lot more frightening.
  15. By my approximation, I counted around 52 Kiss fm stations in Midwest/Southern America.
  16. I have no idea why someone would want to name and or listen to a station named Kiss fm unless it featured Gene Simmons.
  17. Any blue sign on the road beginning with the words “tourist activities” can be promptly ignored unless you have a deep desire to rid yourself of twenty dollar bills to avoid uncomfortable situations at the toll booth.
  18. Counting singles may, or more likely may not be, a perquisite to aquiring a job at a toll booth.
  19. However, having a southern accent while working at a toll booth, totally makes up for a lack of counting ability.
  20. In sparsely populated parts of America, the only type of music broadcasted on fm is either a) horrendous Christian or b) horrendous country. Which, are apparently the same genre to rural populations.
  21. “Thus sayeth the lord” might be the most commonly heard phrase found while scanning the radio in the middle of nowhere. Talk about a voice in the wilderness.
  22. I am not sure why so many cities need cannons mounted in the town square. But in the event that intruders have a geometric preference for attacking perfect versions of rectangles situated next to courthouses and are susceptible to heavy spherical projectiles, we are in safe hands.
  23. Gas station coffee allows only two unfortunate options: Drink it while its hot enough to burn your taste buds, or drink it when cool enough to lament the fact that you have taste buds.
  24. If you ever see a sign on the highway advertising free coffee at a rest stop, do not stop, because it is a lie. Unless of course, that old guy in the corner with the shabby trailer was actually doling out cups of coffee, then the advertisement may be true, but all the more reason not to stop.
  25. Thanks to advertisements on the back of semi’s, I now know the going rate per mile at each company, and all I can say is: Sucks to be Schneider national drivers, eh?
  26. I need to work on mastering the art of stopping in a gas station, using the restroom, and wlaking right back out without purchasing anything without feeling guilty. My collection of gum, lipton green tea, V8 juice and Gatorade has grown excessive and only perpetuates the cycle.
  27. “Come on Eileen” is still being ubiquitously played on the radio.
  28. When Google Maps supplies a given route with a time of 11 hours and 37 minutes, that time does not hold true when you decide to take side roads running parallel to the interstated.
  29. Coincidentally, you cannot merely knock off two hours from the time, tell yourself you will go 10 over the whole way, and not pee. You will in fact, pee, buy green tea, pee some more, and arrive two hours late.
  30. In the case of Christmas decorations and assorted inflatable lawn creatures, less is still more central Ohio.
  31. The Buick Century was not built upon the premise that fast acceleration was king.
  32. The Buick Century was not built upon the premise that twenty-four year olds driving it should be able to pick up females.
  33. The South is apparently different from the North. Northerners are apparently unaware of this fact, while Southerners are apparently all to keenly aware. Why don’t they just start their own country.
  34. The actual name of an interstate has little to do with where it is going. For example, I recently was traveling on I-40 N and I-81 S at the same time. I have to believe that people on this freeway were, like me, feeling a) counterproductive, b) lied to or c) strangely akin to Stretch Armstrong.
  35. Brown caffeinated beverages are easily spill-able, startlingly stain-forming, and embarrassingly forgettable three days later when you put on the pants without looking at the lower thigh.
  36. There is a distinct limit to how long driving can be how fun.
  37. I went golfing with my friend who is in school to be a minister. As a medical student, I felt as if our outing was training for the beginning of a future joke. (PS I’m Irish)
  38. When determining whether to turn right or left, no tool is more useful than “never, ever, sell watermelon.” Unfortunately one can often missapproximate the direction of never, leading to a turn towards watermelon at the wrong time.
  39. I do not know what at least 50% of the signs I see mean (i.e. “no jake brake,” “soft shoulder,” “speed limit”).
  40. “Next 23 miles under construction” is code for “Sucks to be you, guy behind the semi.”
  41. The wrong way signs on free way on/off ramps are way to close to being on the wrong side. On a related note, way too many people were getting off the freeway on an on-ramp this weekend.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Canadian Adventure (Part One)

One of my favorite things to do in medical school is to dream about all the other places I could currently be. This dreaming led me and another medical student friend (at Indiana University) to plan a trip hiking the Appalachian trail. Recently, however, I was reminded of probably my most “adventurous” experience to date. The following is an account of a trip I took during the summer of 2005:

I left my last class of the summer semester on a bright, sunny day. My bags were loaded into the trunk of my car, along with my sleeping bag and other requisite accessories for a weekend in the Canadian wilderness. I hopped on US-127 and headed north, essentially through the longitudinal midline of the Michigan mitten. I hoped to be in Montreal River Harbor before the sun went down, but I had plenty of time to enjoy the ride.

I drove through the Upper Peninsula for the first time and enjoyed the new sites and openness of the area. Soon, I made it to the US St. Ste. Marie and then through its Canadian sister. I stopped by an outfitter’s store and bought a Canadian fishing license (which given my ability, I should have reconsidered). As I left St. Ste. Marie, I continued on the Trans Canada Highway towards Montreal River Harbor. I knew before I left I was heading into no man’s land, but I was surprised by how desolate it was.

Little did I know, where I was to meet my friend Mark was just the beginning of nowhere. I met him at a small gas-station/liquor depot/café/post-office which serviced an apparently large area with few residents. We gassed up, and I left my Buick there and hopped in the pickup to share the front seat with a golden retriever. We drove another half-hour into the Canadian wilderness before coming to a chain link fence.

Mark opened it via remote, and we then danced across the top of a dam in the pick-up. “This is a utility owned dam, they let us drive across it because it’s the only way into camp,” he explained. A few more logging roads later, we arrived at a boat launch. We then loaded all our belongings into the boat and crossed over the river to finally arrive at the site of the camp. We trudged up a steep hill and arrived at the camp. There were a few buildings, a general dorm, all-purpose building, and central camp.

Mark showed me to a room above the cafeteria which he called home for the past three summers. I was introduced to the staff and then I headed out with Mark to the camp. Mark was using a large backhoe to move felled trees into seats to form a ring around a fire.

To be continued tomorrow. . .

Friday, November 2, 2007

The forbidden fruit (roll-up)

If I could eat any meal I wanted right now, I probably wouldn’t choose, but would highly consider the following: a crystal pepsi, dunkaroos (with vanilla frosting), meijer food club brand fruit snacks, some sort of ridiculous lunchable, cooler ranch Doritos, a chaco taco, and perhaps some tang to wash it all down.

Unfortunately, 1992 came and went and I never had the honor of consuming such a meal. However, I always desperately wanted to pack a lunch with those exact items. I am not sure which of the above are still available in stores, but it is tempting to try them for nostalgia’s sake.

The same nostalgia led someone to bid fifteen bucks on ebay for an unopened can of crystal pepsi. I completely understand. Those nostalgic items bring me back to my youth, not because I ever really enjoyed eating them, but because I perpetually desired them and rarely got them.

Now, I could easily purchase and consume a collection of processed goods with no consequence (the requisite gastrointestinal effects excluded), but it wouldn’t have the same satisfaction. In fact, it may take away from the high place those items have in my mind.

I really don’t think I am hung up on the processed food, but on the “good ‘ole days” when I needed permission to obtain food. Back then, homecooking was out, and anything processed, sugared, and packaged in plastic was in. I, as a brown bagger filled with PB & J, carrots, and an apple, was out. Obviously, I intend to put my kids through the same torture. I perpetually keep myself from enjoying strictly those things (though I am much more lax than the ‘rents were) because of the effect of my upbringing.

Yet, those processed luxuries are almost universal in their appeal to my peers and I. We all remember how “cool” they seemed and how satisfaction was only one gleaming, shinny, sugary package away. I think (maybe) we long for them because we long for the simpler days when that was all we wanted. Literally, I don’t think I could imagine anything making me more happy. Ah for the good days. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to see if I have any bugles in the house.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A whole New World

Like all jobs, colleges, universities, clubs, sects, and other factions, medical school necessitates that its members be in a world of its own. Occasionally, students may forget about this fact, but at some point it becomes evident that they are currently in a world that many will never experience. Earlier this morning, I was reviewing some gross anatomy with a friend and we were quizzing each other. Another resident of my building walked into the room and had to immediately modify how I would phrase the question, “what are the borders of the anal triangle?” It is when two worlds combine that it becomes evident that I’ve been living in a separate one.

I have been on the other side of this scenario as well. For example, whenever I visit my sister, we go out with her work friends and I hear about nothing other than washers, driers, and dishwashers all night. They start dropping acronyms like P and G (Proctor and Gamble) all over the place and I spend the first half of the night trying to figure out what they are talking about. I spend the second half of the night trying to figure out how and why anyone would learn/know that much about laundry and dishes.

However, being a part of a smaller subset can have its perks. For example, I have a friend at Indiana Medical school who I could call today and be like, “Dude, we had to saw off the leg today.” Instead of looking at me in sheer horror, he would say, “Man, I know, we had to do that last week, it was crazy.” The bond formed by this common experience is a bonus of being in the same subset.

I feel like there is a real danger of alienation though which would add to the divide, specifically between the doctor and patient. In a mock interview, I heard a medical student ask could you describe the palliative measures you use with your symptoms. I didn’t even know what palliative meant until this year and am still hesitant to use it in a sentence. I understand within the medical community that might be how one has to talk, but in general life, it seems a bit stifling. That is the greatest danger I see devoting myself fully (somewhat) to this medical education. That said, my cognitive processes have manifested themselves in an unconscious autonomic volition to “hit the books.” (I am a failure at making coherent precocious sentences).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween from your local establishments

I walked into Matthews Medical Bookstore today and I was greeted by a bowl of candy. “Fantastic,” I said to myself as I eyed the treats and continued walking. The friend I was with bought a box of gloves and the cashier then offered us some cider from a nearby jug. We obliged and it wasn’t until that moment it dawned on me that this was a Halloween promotion. They had apples for sale, candy corn in cups, a candy bowl, and a selection of Halloween/autumnal scrubs out front. I even eyed an orange stethoscope which I would not be shocked to find was part of the promotion. I am not sure the exact daily patronage of the Matthews Medical Bookstore, but let me just say that other than at the beginning of the semester, I have never had any company in the store. Needless to say, on this day, I was surprised to find the lengths the staff had gone to prepare for the Halloween festivities.

The Medical Bookstore party got me thinking of all the crazy promotions that places use. I can understand a car dealership, furniture store, or even a large Barnes and Noble type bookstore using such a promotion. But for maybe ten customers a day, it seemed like the Halloween party was a little much. I mean, I appreciated it, and maybe that’s the point, but I also walked away feeling depressed. I just imagined people all over setting up little Halloween promotions for twelve customers. I suppose I should have been more hopeful. Maybe the goal wasn't to make more money, just to show people a little love. I enjoyed the friendliness, but the thought of someone planning such an event and only fifteen people witnessing it seemed a bit crazy. In retrospect, however, I am starting to feel quite fond of the experience (maybe my evening beverage is playing a role, but still). I am glad that someone took the time for their co-workers and a few customers to spice up the day. Happy Halloween to you Matthews Medical Bookstore of Detroit. I hope someone buys your orange scrubs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Regional Bias

I just returned from patrolling the streets of Detroit to ward off any would be arsonists. I was armed only with a dinky flashing yellow light, a goofy hat (which did entitle me to free white castle, see 10/18 for more details on the WC), and the brawn that I and my three other partners carried (which was a lot). Rather than wax philosophical on the urban plight that drives its own residents to burn their own neighborhoods, I am going to wax philosophical (or not, I really don’t know what that means) about the term “Devil’s Night.”

Apparently, due to the prevalence of Arsonists, the night before Halloween in Detroit has been termed “Devil’s Night.” I grew up knowing that Devil’s Night was the night before Halloween and that I was, as a rebellious youth, supposed to cause some sort of ruckus (toilet paper, eggs, etc.). However, it wasn’t until I went to school in Indiana that I realized people had never heard of Devil’s Night. Which blew my mind. Never hearing of Devil’s Night was as preposterous as never hearing of Christmas and New Year’s. It simply was. Maybe you could celebrate it on a different day or in a different form and i.e. Hanukkah or Chinese New Year. No cultural offense intended, I know Hanukah and Christmas are different, both just involve gift giving winter-season events and can (sometimes) both be spelled starting with a C.

Yet I digress. The point is, that not knowing about Devil’s Night was a completely new and unfathomable observation. I may rate it on par with discovering that not all children were boys (I don’t remember that realization, but they seem analogous). I went on to further discover that people don’t even sing the right version of Rudolph the red nose reindeer. Instead they interject incorrect exclamations at the end of lines. For example, the reindeer game Rudolph played in my book was Monopoly. Rudolph went down in history like George Washington. And all the reindeers shouted out with glee, like the toothpaste (that one never made sense, but I just went with it; apparently gleem was a popular toothpaste).

All that to say, some of you may argue with Rudolph’s activities and I find your answers unacceptable. I am amazed by the effect that growing up in one area with one set of norms has on me. I still cannot imagine a place anywhere where the day before Halloween is not occasion to form a city-wide patrol preventing arson. I will never accept an alternate version of Rudolph. And, no matter what anyone from Indiana, Ohio, or any other state says, Euchre was and always will be a Michigan game.

Monday, October 29, 2007

F-O-X. Fox.

One of the most interesting facets of my new place is that I can clearly see the glowing “FOX” sign atop one of Detroit’s finest establishments: The Fox Theatre. Not only do I have a perfect view of the glowing neon (and color changing-sign) from my living room, but from almost every single point in my current residence (which is not a large surface area) I can see the sign. Imagine a flashing red, white, purple, and blue equivalent of Mona Lisa’s eyes. The thing follows me everywhere in my place. I am not disturbed by this fact, rather I love it. When I wake up in the morning, I usually throw on a pot of coffee and spend the next five minutes staring at the three glowing letters. The sign comforts me for some strange reason.

A related facet of my current home is that now when driving towards the city of Detroit, I am actually moving closer to home. That means, no matter what angle I am approaching the city from, I can just follow the skyline and it will take me home. Although the constant traffic noise and lack of greenery can be disconcerting, there is something generally comforting about city-life, even Detroit city-life. I think the Fox sign exemplifies this. Not only does it brighten my apartment, it beckons to me saying “sure you can see me, but do you know how many other people are watching me too.” For some reason, this comforts me, and in a strange way I enjoy the community the sign provides. Goodnight Fox, Goodnight Detroit.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The real meaning of Halloween

Somewhere from eight years old to twenty-two years old Halloween transitioned from being about chocolate candy to being about eye-candy. However, the costumes remain largely unchanged, only slightly suffixed. The following former costumes vampire, cowgirl, ghost, zombie and cheerleader have now been turned into vampire-slut, cowgirl-slut, ghost-slut, zombie-slut and, well cheerleader. I guess some things never change (kidding in case any of my extra-spirited friends are reading). However, the fact that girls use Halloween as an excuse to dress skanky is almost as cliché as using a sheet to make a ghost costume. My class party this year even has an award for “most provocative.” I am guessing they are not taking about a costume that really makes you think.

However, the flip side of the female’s role, is the standard costume’s guys wear. Sometimes we’ll attempt to be comical and fail just slightly short. For example, a couple years back I went as “guy caught in a windstorm” and a friend went as “guy being electrocuted.” Other than him having an extension cord sticking out of his fly, I don’t think we quite pulled it off. However, I think the bulk of Halloween costumes for guys are attempts to be some sort of archetypal Chuck Norris like character. I have seen costumes for Rambo, Neo (of the Matrix), hardcore cops, and a slew of other large gun slinging characters. I am not sure what Halloween costumes say about a person. Maybe that girls want attention and guys want to be Chuck Norris. Then again, tell me something I don’t know.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I admit, I like TV (but not that much)

Maybe its because I just finished a semester-like test, or maybe because I recently moved out of my home, but in the past few days, I have had a sort of reacquainting myself with the world of television. I am not talking about sitting in front of the boob tube all day and vegging-out. I am talking about actively engaging with whatever show is on and investing myself emotionally, physically, mentally, and the like in every episode.

For example, my roommate and I were searching for a thirty minute show our cable box offered “On-Demand” the other day as a study break. The only non-drama we could find was Kid Nation; so we gave it a go. Seven episodes and a few days later, we haven’t looked back. The original appeal may be slightly wearing off, but I have already, picked my favorites, my love-to-hates, and my hate-to-loves of the show. After my roommates favorite kid does something cruel or stupid, I yell at my roommate the absurdity of his choice. He does the same to mine. We discuss the finer character traits of eight year-olds as if we are debating finely aged wines. Their just kids, but put in the world of Kid Nation, you can see the ridiculousness of life and especially the absurdity of the way the kids mimic phrases they have heard adults use. To shake things up, the four-member “council” awards a twenty-thousand dollar gold star each work and the jockeying the kids do for the star is ridiculous. All that to say, I feel as if in some weird way I know the kids on the show.

I have always enjoyed a good comedy, but I can never remember a show were I just wanted to hang out with the characters as much as “The Office.” I feel as if Jim would just be a riot to hang out with, and watching the show, I feel as if I am. The looks at the camera move the show from a mere voyeuristic delight to a strange illusion of actual interaction.

I had a hard time changing the channel yesterday, because Denzel Washington was starring in Déjà vu. Any time Denzel is on the screen, I can hardly turn away. You just know he is about to do something incredibly B.A. Even though I have already seen the movie, and my friend owns it, when it graces the television screen, I could hardly bring myself to turn it off. I don’t believe this is because I didn’t have to go through the effort of putting a DVD in the player, but actually because deep down I know that somewhere else, someone else is watching this same movie with me.

Which brings me to the crux of my recent TV renaissance. I am not sure the illusion of community that TV brings is bad. I used to. I used to dream of owning a home without a television (and actually still plan on it). When my “introductory offer” runs out on my cable, I will cancel it. However, in small doses, juxtaposed with actual interaction, I think that a good television show can be good medicine. No expectations, no requirements, just actively engaging with the interesting world that lie out there. It’s strange for me to think about how people would eat dinner in front of the TV and treat it like a fifth family member. But in a weird way, I think that in moderation that sort of attitude can be healthy. Obviously, the state of things in our culture is probably out of hand and I cannot bring myself to endorse most of what is on television. But as a relaxed form of passive active engagement, TV has grown dear to me. And if I am hooked on “Kid Nation,” who knows what show I’ll be watching next.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Test Day

Today was test day. Medical school test day is pretty much like college test day, except for the fact that the test day is eight hours and half of that is spent walking around a room full of cadavers. Still you have the same distinct characters taking the test who I will describe below.

The early-finishers: I swear, every test the instructor just finishes passing out the one-hundred question exam and at least one student pops up from their chair and heads to the front of the room. Everyone assumes they have bladder issues but then they place their scantron in the finished pile and bound away after four grueling minutes of test taking. Seriously? Did you even read the questions? How can you be in medical school if either a) you don’t bother to actually take a test with full concentration or b) you have sort of ultra-speed power to read, discern, and select the best answer at a rate of 3 thousand words per minute.

Then, there’s the rest of us. I am sure the early finishers have some of the following quirks, but they leave so early I couldn’t pick up on them.

The caffeinated – Part 1 – The bladder busters: This group is frequently confused with the early-finishers because they had to the front of the room at roughly the same time: moments after the test starts. Likely, they decided to down a thermos of coffee after pulling an allnight studying session or just to kick-start test day. About fourty-five minutes later, they find themselves trapped in a testing room and make it about three minutes before waddling to the bathroom in hopes they don’t spend the rest of test day with a characteristic centrally located wet spot. Luckily, they get their problem taken care of early, and often as they leave at least three times in a two-hour test. To qualify for this group, not only must you have a bladder the size of a peanut and a ridiculous penchant for morning liquids, but you must have some sort of ADD to allow you to pop in and out of your seat once every quarter hour

The caffeinated – Part 2 – The bouncers: Some lucky souls can hold their bladders after having to much caffeine. What they cannot hold with their jittering extremities, are their papers, pencils, water bottle, or their own physical body. Once sitting in the seat, they inevitably bounce paper, pencils, pens, and the like all over in a spastic manner. Sometimes, they may become situated and start getting in a groove for a short while. Soon, however, they start to twitch. Think Will Smith doing the shoulder thing where he pretends to hold one from dancing while the other starts. That is what these kids do all test day. They slowly bounce, their left leg, then their right, and then, inexplicably they start bouncing on their toe faster than a hummingbird flaps his wings. I get tired just looking at the bouncing leg, or arm, or pencil, or whatever organ seems to erupt in to spontaneous vacillations. And I cannot not look. I am always situated with two of these individuals located just on my periphery. I see just enough so the constant movement captivates 90% of my attention. Usually, however, by the last ten questions of the test, the leg has stopped bouncing, the caffeine has worn off, and this unlucky student finds him or herself sleepily drooling on their scantron.

The anti-mimes: The anti-mimes are those people who love to be incredibly expressive in all facets of life. During a test, this includes a response to all questions and choices. These are the kind of people who spend half of the time at movies looking at the screen, and the other half looking around to make sure that others see them laughing. Since no one is paying attention to facial expressions during an exam, they resort to audible responses. An easy question draws out a slight laugh as if to see “please, don’t kid me.” A hard question forces a “hmmmm” from the test takers lip. I have not yet learned how to interpret the cacophony of other sounds that erupt from their lips throughout the test. Sighs, throat clears, yawns, and every other audible expression imaginable manage to force their way out of these test takers.

The snifflers: Self explanatory. The only confusing thing is in a room full of people with reams of paper in the form of tests, how could their not be a single piece of paper towel or anything else to wipe the perpetual drain from their nasal cavity.

The paper shufflers: The souls who are determined rather to take the test in sequential order, do approximately one question from each page as to maximize the time spent riffling through pages. I’m not sure if this strategy is effective for anything else than making the people around you crazy. However, when they are done taking the test, their papers at least look as if they took out some aggression on them, so props for that.

The tortoises: Whether it be a nine question test or a nine-hundred question test squeezed into eight minutes or eight hours, the members of this clan will use every last second of allotted time. I am not sure if they pace themselves, allowing ten full minutes for each multiple choice question, or if they just retrace their decision making process for each question six times over. Whatever the method, they make sure they don’t give up their exams until the last call is given out. Again, I am not sure the advantage of this strategy, but it does ensure that by the end of the exam, they will likely have the room to themselves. Maybe not a bad deal after all given the aforementioned.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Random Post

I have a problem with the current state of vocabulary in our great nation. My age group peers (and those unfortunately following in their footsteps) have inundated our language with the use of a single word so completely, as to devoid a good word of all meaning. Some may site the emergence of a fragmented post-modern worldview and the alienation of the human experience as the source of the predomination of this word, to which, I say “hogwash” (there’s an underused word).

For example, I will use the defiled word below in a variety of contexts that I have heard it used in recently (or at least am sure someone would use them in).

“I had a fun night, but it was so random.”

“Jake is a blast. He’s so random.”

“I randomly ran into him at the store the other day.”

“That couch is so random”

The last example might be the worse. That couch is random? Is it? Does it, as the great Miriam Webster (I know its not a person) once said “lack a definite plan,” or “Have elements with a definite probability of experience.” Or did it, as our good friend, the condensed Oxford English Dictionary states, “happen without conscious decision” or “involve equal chances of each item.” In one case, I do believe the couch did “happen without conscious decision” because it could not choose. It is a couch. However, I think a word like inanimate more adequately meets that criteria.

The use of the word chafes me, not because I really care that there is one less adequate word to choose from, but because the sentiment underlying its usage is that the occasion described by it is so extraordinarily unfathomable, it must have been random. It is not random to see a friend at the store. You both shop, you did not “randomly” run into each other. Simply because you did not plan on running into them, doesn’t make it random. I didn’t plan to write this post today, but I decided to do it. The decision wasn’t random. If you both had a wheel at home with certain destinations such as: store, bar, café, home on it and you both spun your wheel and ended up at the store, it could have been random.

Jake is not random because he does stupid crap. More than likely he plans to do stupid crap because you like it. If he had a bag of possible stupid things to do in his pocket, and randomly selected one, I would agree that Jake is not only random, but also a blast.

Finally, the random night, was probably not random at all. I think anything that takes place after a certain critical point in the evening is considered random because the alcohol in the system did not allow logical decision making. The opposite of logical is not random, it is illogical. There I think is the rub underlying the whole issue.

I really don’t know why this one word chafe me more than others though, it’s so random.

Monday, October 22, 2007

(Why Walk Down Woodward)

My eyes were tired of staring at words of images about the heart, lungs, throat, abdomen, thorax, sacrum, iliac, and the combinations iliolumbar, iliosacral, laryngopharynx, splenorenal, gastroduodenal, pancreatico-do-I-really-have-to-do-this? My mid-day beer was wearing off, along with my morning patience, so my roommate had no trouble convincing me to go for a walk. I realized, I hadn’t left the apartment all day, and a trip to the outside world seemed nice.

In fact, so nice, I nearly forgot that the outside world hardly existed after five p.m. in Detroit. Instead, wide-laned roads were filled with ghost cars. Broad sidewalks masquerading as busy promenades, functioned then only to buffer dirt-burned lots from black-asphalt roads. We walked slowly towards the party store where we hoped to buy enough soda to last us the day or two until the test. The only greeting we received as we passed by was the glinting reflection from the cast iron bars lain across the front door. “The Source” of urban apparel (I assumed) was likewise shuttered. So too, were just about every check-cashing, liquor-lotto, and grubby corner café we passed by.

The first interaction I had with the outside world all day (my roommate and the technological wonder that is facebook excluded) was a startled bum popping up from a doorframe, blocked with wood just enough to nestle him beneath an ominious pair of eyes on a sign reading “this area is being watched.” I wondered if he was doing the watching, or if someone was supposed to be watching him sleep. “What time is it?” he exclaimed as if he was late for an appointment somewhere. I wondered if his reaction would have been different if I had quoted him a time seven hours on either side of the actual six-twenty p.m. A young lady in a wheel-chair solicited us for her bus fare and we gently obliged supplying a nickel more than she asked.

After passing half a dozen condo establishments in the works, we finally stumbled upon a party store still open and stocked with soda. We selected a fine variety of locally produced ginger ale (if you live outside of Michigan, be sure to try it if you see it, a real treat). Walking out of the store a women with a twenty-four ounce beer can in a paper sac asked us for some change. We both again obliged and made some small talk. Her male friend, or at least, street colleague for the moment, asked what we were doing for the night. We shrugged, and he proceeded to detail the race (Detroit Free Press Marathon) we missed the day before. The woman made some slurred small talk as well, and asked if we just got off work. I replied “kind of” thinking a study break classified as “just getting off-of work” in a way. She informed me that she wouldn’t have gone to work either.

We continued back towards our domicile, passing-by closed down businesses, abandoned lots, forlorn apartments, until reaching an open bistro with beautiful floral arrangements meeting all of its seven guests, and also, twenty or so empty tables. An escalade parked next to us, complete with yorkie terrier poking out the window. A woman in front of us overheard our commentary and exclaimed, “She brings it with her everywhere. Bet she’ll bring it right in here” as she pointed to a check cashing establishment.

Right then, a man shouted his evening plans to an uninterested passerby and a ball-capped fellow shouted “that’s the original . . .” assumedly in unison with the rapper in his headphones. We watched, like spectators in a movie, out of place in this entire experience, and further estranged from a world by both the absence of ourselves from it for the entire 9-5 day and the absence of life outside after that day is over in the city. The people we ran into were unfamiliar, but pleasant, and their lives, to me, an entire mystery. So too then was the walk in a city abandoned years ago, but with the air as if someone might just try hard enough one day to restore it. So, until then, I think I’ll try and walk the desolate streets when I can, and hope they become less desolate.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The long way home

I am now convinced that the string of towns I have always seen on maps connecting cities like Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids do exist. Before, I may have believed that they were trivial villages set just-a-bit back from the interstates to give important people going important places something to keep them awake on cross state journeys. Recently, however, I seemed to have developed a penchant to eschew the interstate thoroughfares I formerly swore by, and search out the black-and-white signs denoting state or national roadways. I don’t think I will ever look back.

The difference between the fast-lane on the interstate and the winding lane through various small towns and villages is incredible. On the internet, all I do is tick down the miles until I reach my exit. On the back roads, I find myself spending a ton of time looking behind me. What did that sign say? What kind of tree is that? Was I supposed to turn there? Instead of being consumed with the destination I become lost in the journey. The journey includes making a turn on a road because it is heading towards the evening sun and you want to go west. The journey includes pulling off to see the world’s third largest beef-jerky store (for the record, if that claim were true, the fourth largest store would have to only be selling one strip of jerky). The journey includes heading a little out of my way because my map has a blue water way by US – 49, and US – 45 hasn’t done anything for me in miles. The journey is fantastic.

When I end up at the destination I find myself refreshed, encouraged and ready to start the next leg of my journey, this one without standing still. I am more connected to the world, because I know for sure that there exists a universe between my destinations not just the wormhole of the interstate. Sure I may have lost an hour or two by sitting at stop lights or wandering winding roads, but I would gladly take three hours of living over two hours of hastening to a place so I can start to live.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Night Live

It is currently 10:20 pm and I am about to retire on a Friday night. This has occurred before, but never with the amount of studying put in before hand as I did this Friday night. The sad part is not that I studied on a Friday night, but that I studied without thinking twice about what I was doing. I had no alternative until I was about to go to bed and I realized I did a lot of studying during a time when I usually attempt to do anything but. However, in a few days, I’ll have completed 75% of my first set of courses and be on East zee street. Also known as E Z street (when you study too long, your jokes suffer. Well, if you had a sense of humor in the first place they would have).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Temporarily Decision Making Impairment

I firmly believe that I have a genetic deficit which temporarily renders me unable to process all important data and make an informed decision. The following story exemplifies this deficit taken from a journal of the bachelor party (a week long festival) that I composed to relish the good times. The story begins after I leave work to get together with my friends to tailgate for a Tigers game:

On my journey from suburbia to the urban center, I was informed by my good friends that they were currently lacking in nutritional sustenance and requested that I commandeer some food items (read: pizza) that would nicely accompany their fine beverages .I obliged, however, instead of opting for the fine, crusty, Italian delicacy, I chose rather to substitute it for something more appropriate for our geographic location. Truthfully, because the exit where I know a pizza joint existed was backed-up to Illinois, I exited near the ballpark and decided to find what I could.

Like a shining beacon from heaven, I saw the White Castle sign gleaming high above the urban decay. In response to the prophetic indication, I pulled into the drive through and surveyed my options. Clearly, one choice stood out above the others. The “Crave Case” featured thirty (yes, thirty) delicious bite-sized morsels of hamburger heaven all cleanly packaged in a brief-case, which is fitting, because I was all business at that moment. Partially because I was famished from my first full day of manual labor (if you can call moving flowers that) and partially because I have a penchant for consuming ungodly amounts of food, I swiftly made my order and then without a moments hesitation doubled it.

Now, I am sure many of you have experienced the momentary sensation that I experienced. After ordering two crave cases at $12.99 adding cheese at another 20 cents a burger and throwing in a jug of iced tea because I was thirsty, I looked at the $40 total and winced. What did I just do? I couldn’t cancel the order, so I swallowed my pride, drove up to the window and waited eternally for the find staff to prepare sixty burgers. I thought about instantly handing one back and telling the cashier to split it up between the dozen cars which had to wait for the preparation of my blunder.

Instead, I made my way to the tailgate and sheepishly exited my Buick. “Pizza!?” the guys shouted in excitement. I feigned excitement, “something better: White Castle.” The boys shrunk back in unison. I pulled them out explaining how they couldn’t be that bad but the guys insisted they were putrid. Of course, I knew as they did, that none of us white suburbanites (or rural folk) had even let the greasy goodness of a White Castle slider touch or lips. However, as soon as we did, we knew that we had just ruined a lifetime of good decision making. Nonetheless, we collectively (save one wise sole) muscled down thirty of them.

As our stomachs curdled, we collectively realized that we had in fact an entire crave case to give away. Partially intelligently, partially emboldened by said previous consumption, we decided to dole out the bite-sized burgers to whoever we could, especially the homeless. As we passed a few final cans through the chain link fence encasing the parking lot, I offered the men some White Castles. They obliged, thanked me profusely and informed me that these burgers were in fact the very things that they intended to purchase with the money collected from our empty beer cans.

As we proceeded down the main drag, I toting my business like brief case of burgers in hand, I began to realize that people weren’t going to just come up to me and ask for the burgers. So I called out that they were available. A father with two kids told his kids to go and get one from me. The older hesitantly obliged and walked off with his first (and likely last) white castle. After passing a couple more out to the dad and doling out some to another homeless man, we got creative. Kevin purchased a delicious bag of classic salted baseball food; I went general-store-style and tried to barter with the peanut vender. I walked off with four less burgers and two bags of peanuts. The vendor lost a couple bags of peanuts but gained not two tasty sandwiches, but also the promise of the requisite accompanying gastrointestinal problems.

Finally, the briefcase was emptied to the satisfaction of many a hungry looking homeless man. Guys begging for spare change were happy to have a few dimes worth of food as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day Nineteen: Life during med school

I think when you sign-up to attend medical school, you don’t sign a pact saying you will work hard, but you do sign an understood pact saying you will tell everyone else in the world how hard school is. People in my class joke all the time that they will do something, “oh when I get my life back in eight years.” I have a hard time believing that in eight-years when I (God-willing) have a wife, kids, beeper, and a practice I will have more free time than I currently do. I am not absolutely abounding in free-time and I do spend most of it in a slightly vegetative state to repair my brain, but I really don’t think I am busting my tail any harder than entry-level professionals working crazy hours. That said, you may want to get someone’s perspective who passed their last anatomy exam.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Day Eighteen: The AIC Factor

One of my greatest fears about being a medical student is that I will slowly morph into something that I do not want to be. Not that I will wake-up one day and be a money-grubbing plastic surgeon or something of the like, but that being a student for so long will force me into a class of people that with whom I do not want to associate. The anal-ness of my peers is not something I like, but I can deal with it. What I could not deal with, would be if I were to become an AIC.

The AIC is an interesting breed of person who is habitually located near the front row of classrooms across the universities of this country and likely abroad as well. Regardless of the lecturers state of speech (mid-sentence, pause, mid-word, prayerful meditation) they take no exception to peppering them with irrelevant and unnecessary questions. An introductory psychology professor may be glossing over the various school’s of psychological thought and the AIC will ask a question along the lines of, “Do you feel that Maslow’s hierarchy sufficiently accounts for the depravity of man expressed in modern Hegelian philosophy?” The professor is puzzled, not only by the complexity of a question, nor the timing when it is asked, but by the absolutely uninformed content of the question. The AIC isn’t fazed by being asked to “talk to me after class.” In fact, they prize the designation and view the distinction as an opportunity to further there quixotic intellectual questioning.

I am fearful, not of the AIC any longer, but of becoming the AIC. The Adult in Class, or AIC, as the name implies, is an adult student. I am on the cusp of becoming twenty-four (ridiculous I know) and wonder if I am slowly changing into an AIC without knowing it. I fear I will wake-up one day and not be able to keep my hand-down at inappropriate times in lecture and I will construct ill-phrased questions in hopes that the professors will think I am intelligent and not precocious. I can already see some of my peers succumbing to the urge, and I feel that medical students, by their inherent arrogance, are far more susceptible than other groups to fall prey to the AIC mentality. In sum, I am doing everything I can to fight off becoming an AIC. I sit far away from the front row, I avoid professors in between class times, keep my hands at my sides in all times in lecture, and most importantly vehemently attempt to keep from taking myself too seriously. This blog excluded of course.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Day Seventeen: The Fountain of Life

I often wonder why bathrooms and drinking fountains are always found in such close proximity. I understand that it probably has something to do with plumbing, but I find that explanation entirely unsatisfactory. The true answer has something to do with the fact that drinking fountains are vengeful. Every time I leave a bathroom feeling relieved, I feel compelled to stop at the nearby drinking fountain. However, when I am done quenching my thirst, I feel the drinking fountain/bathroom area saying to me, “haha, sucker, I’ll be seeing you in about an hour.” Yet, I fall for it each time. I think the drinking fountain is the bathroom’s means of self-preservation.

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Day Sixteen: Monday October Fifteen
The Bad Salads

Certain words have too many uses associated with them. I have no problem with “can” meaning able, a container for delicious goods, or somewhere grandpa deposits the back end of some formerly delicious goods. However, when someone uses the word “salad” to describe something yellowish-white in color and containing no lettuce, I have a problem. Salads, by rule, should not contain any of the following: noodles, potatoes, beans (unless as a topping to lettuce), and most importantly, mayonnaise. Something more disgusting should be used to describe the goopy mess that noodle, bean, potato and other salads truly are.

Day Fifteen: Sunday October Fourteen
"Our house . . . in the middle of out street"

My first post-college residence has been an interesting experience for me. Besides having neighbors who all have serious jobs, I have also realized some irreversible changes have taken place in my living arrangements. For one, I am actually concerned about the appearance of my furniture. Before, I was glad to have anything to sit on, and my last apartment did not have anything larger than a single lay-z-boy to rest upon. However, no longer being able to use a poker table and camping chairs as a dinette set has its drawbacks. I went looking for furniture throughout the summer at retailers, discount stores, and consignment stores. At each place my reaction was the same, “you want that much for this?”

Luckily, my parents live in a decent neighborhood, and so people’s standards for furniture are far above mine. That is to say, whenever anyone got a new couch, they just put their old one out to pasture by the curb until trash day. Luckily for me, the garbage truck came early in the form of the trunk of my family sedan. So, eight one-block trips later I had a sectional couch in storage at my parents house until I could find a truck.

Besides the furniture transition, certain social norms have changed. As recent as five months ago, it was perfectly acceptable to share an 8 x 10 room with a roommate. Now, I told people I may share my one-bedroom place to save some rent money and people look at me astounded. One individual went as far as to double check my orientation, “Wait, don’t both of you (my future roommate and I) have girlfriends?” For the record, yes.

Day Fourteen: Satuday October Thirteen
Freeze Frames

I just moved into a new place, and amongst the useless things which I felt compelled to move were empty picture frames. Most were benign frames that I simply hadn’t used because I had no relevant 2” x 14” pictures to fill them. Others however, I felt the need to leave empty because they used to be a gift containing pictures of someone else, usually the gifter. In this case, I wonder the proper protocol. Can I re-gift a frame to myself? That is, say I received a picture frame from a neighbor I knew in grade school, what is the proper amount of time I have to wait before I can take their picture out, replace it with a current friend, and not feel guilty? Is there a statute of limitations on what picture belongs in which frame? Every time I see that frame, regardless of what picture is in it, I feel like I’ll remember who I originally received it from. That said, I haven’t thrown out (or re-used) any frame from prior significant others. That seems a little wrong.

Yet I still find myself holding on to five dollar frames I can never use because they used to contain someone else’s pictures. Who am I kidding? The real reason I have all these frames lying around is because pictures really aren’t my thing in the first place. Unless you happen to be one of the gifters, in that case, thank you. I hope we remain friends for a long time so I don’t have to add your frame to my stack.

Day Thirteen: Friday October Twelve
The MD/ID Crisis

I think all medical students have a persistent identity crisis. Besides the fact that scoring well on a test is significantly harder (and thus less common) a universal belief is that most students are continuously being “screwed over” by the “gunners.” Gunner is a fancy name for nerd, or over-studier. However, I am yet to meet someone who actually believes that they or any of their friends are gunners. The term nerd had to be modified because most people at medical school are by default, nerds. So in order to maintain some level of sanity, “the gunners” takes the place of “the nerds” as the root of all evil and reason why I scored in the twelfth percentile on the last exam. However, when I score in the eightieth, it is because I am extraordinarily bright, not because I am a gunner.

The other half of the identity crisis is the amount of time a given medical student considers other careers. As I am sitting here writing this, I am wondering about the possibility of getting paid to be sitting here writing this. Or even, the possibility of being paid to do anything, instead of paying lots of money to be “screwed by the gunners.” Furthermore, because it is mid-day in the middle of the week, and I am at home at my computer, I feel necessarily worthless. That is, while “contributors to society” are out working real jobs, I am sitting at a desk staring at a stack of papers learning about bile. I am years away from service. Every time I run into someone mid-day I feel like I have to say: “I know what it looks like and no I don’t have a job, but I swear I study really hard.” Just not hard enough to consider myself a gunner.

Day Twelve: Thursday October Eleven
Marriage . . . is what brings us (2) together today

I was in a wedding this weekend. I am still uncomfortable with that phrase because to me it sounds like the correct response would be, “Who did you marry?” instead of “who got married?” Technically it seems that only two people are really in the wedding. The rest, including the best man and maid of honor, just get to walk in late and have a really good view of it. So from now on, I might say, “I assisted in the wedding” or “I was the best man at (not in) a wedding” or something of the like. Only two people can be in a wedding. Unless you’re from Utah where there might be bigger matrimonial problems than phraseology.

Day Eleven: Wednesday October 10

A bookshelf could be quite possibly one of the most irrelevant pieces of furniture on the planet. It can only house two types of items. The first type of item is some book you bought ten years ago and will probably never read again. The second type is some book you bought ten years ago and will probably never read. Unless you don’t use your bookshelf for books. Now that would be novel.

On the other hand, you can never question the utility of a chair. I have not once looked at a seat and been like man, I haven't sat there for years and I bet I never will. However, I don't think the size of my chair and number of leather bound books contained on it will ever impress anyone. I suppose functionality is relative.

PS - My goal is to post more frequently (daily) and more briefly.

Day Ten: Sunday August Twenty-six
Can I See Some ID, Please?

The coolest thing about a new job, new home, or any other general novelty in life is usually not the end in and of itself. Instead, I find myself most consumed with the peripheral items involved in the transitions. I like to find something solid and distinct that I can point to as a sign of my transformation from one life stage to the next.

The process begins early in all of this. The first time I took my 1994 beige and wonderfully senior citizen Ford Taurus for a spin parentless, the liberation felt unbelievable. Still, I could show others that I was liberated because I had two tons of pure American produced gas-guzzling machinery beneath me to prove my point. I had absolutely nowhere to go, but I definitely went there and made everyone aware that I did so with the help of no one, except for the late Henry Ford.

When the 21st birthday hits, the most excessive partiers have usually happened upon a fermented beverage before, but the party is a celebration of the fact that they can show the world, “Hey, I can get drunk in public.” They can also usually show the world what they consumed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at some point during the night as well.

A proud first time homeowner has a bit more trouble toting the reason they will be in debt for the next thirty years around with them. Unless of course, that proud homeowner is not so proud as their home is toted around with the words “oversize load” emblazoned on the back of a truck. Yet, the homeowner still manages to send pictures to every last relative just in case Cousin Larry was dying to know what color linoleum the laundry room displayed. The obligatory house party follows.

As I started medical school, I realized that people weren’t going to be too impressed when I told them stories about spending hours in the den of my parents’ house memorizing Latin words for the armpit. Sure, I could tell stories about how I got to dissect a cadaver, but I have yet to figure out a way to do so without seeming far too comfortable with spending time with a dead body. Since a first year nursing student can still do just about anything medically related better than me, I did not have a whole lote to offer. Yet, by the second day of school, I could tell what physical object I could show to pump my ego.

Even if I have had an ID card since late middle school, an ID card with the words “school of medicine” seemed cooler even than the same words I had placed neatly below my undergraduate alma matter’s sticker in the back window of the supra-senior Buick Century. However, my ID card did not say anything about medicine and was the identical card an undergraduate carries. Yet, I had one exception.

Every day when I enter the one building which the medical school holds every class (amazingly the building has no windows wider than my elbow above the first floor, giving it a remarkable prison feel) the security officer demands to see my ID badge. I am not talking about a sign yelling “STOP! PLEASE SHOW YOUR ID CARD TO THE OVER-DITZY WORK STUDY GIRL TALKING ON HER CELL-PHONE WHILE PLAYING FREE CELL AND TAKING YOUR TUITION MONEY.” I am talking about a hard-core, burgundy jacket-wearing, harsh sounding (if gentle looking) security enforcer demanding why six-hundred students are entering the building at precisely ten minutes before class begins.

I was initially put-off by the fact that I had to pull out my wallet, extract my crummy collegiate ID, and show it to a woman who obviously took her job waaaay to seriously. Soon, however, it began to dawn on me that I had someone to show something. I immediately obtained the free plastic ID holder which clips conveniently to the side of my right thigh and placed my ID inside. Even if I only had to show my ID for one second of my eight-hour day, you better believe I have been sporting that ID badge basically non-stop since the day I got it. I have a the perfect excuse that I have to show it to a security guard or I can’t get in the building. Because the point of showing off, is of course to make it look as if you are not showing off. Thanks to Molly McSerious, the enforcer of the Hall of Basic Medical Sciences, I can show her my ID every day and receive the sort of recognition that says “Yes, you do have an undergraduate ID card and because of this, you can enter this dingy, prison-looking structure in which you will slave for the next for years. And if you happen to ‘accidentally’ wear the ID badge on your thigh out later tonight, you can complain about how ‘annoying’ it is to have to wear the ID and you always ‘embarrassingly forget’ to remove it so others can roll their eyes at you.” Thanks Molly.

Day Nine: Monday August Twenty
The Top Ten Reasons You Know You are in Medical School
(all have actually happened)

10. You receive e-mails from peers with the tagline “John Doe, M.D. Candidate”

9. You are in a perpetual state of disbelief that you are paying money for this experience

8. You sit next to people that actually end their e-mails, “John Doe, M.D. Candidate”

7. You constantly smell of formaldehyde and remain in disbelief that you are paying for that smell

6. The realization slowly sets in that you are now a member of the most anal peer group you have ever been a part of

5. You still cannot believe that you received a mass e-mail from a classmate with the tagline “John Doe, M.D. candidate”

4. You actually use the words “Gray’s Anatomy” to refer to something besides random people sleeping with each other in conspicuous places

3. You begin to hate body parts for having such complex names

2. You momentarily actually regret not taking Latin at some juncture in life

1. You begin making top ten lists to distract yourself from studying

Day Eight: Sunday August Five
Life of a Med Student: Day One – Acceptance Letter

A few months ago, I called the Medical School Admissions Office of a University with which I had recently interviewed. The voice on the phone asked me my application number and name and proceeded to tell me “Congratulations, you have been accepted for the entering class of 2007.” So began my medical school journey

Earlier this week, I found myself strolling into the courtyard separating this medical school’s main building and its medical library to meet my new classmates at an ice cream social. Strangely enough, the experience did not feel novel at all. Instead, it was all too old. I filled out the trite nametag, began the ritual conversations and mingled with quite possibly the smartest group of peers I had ever been around.

The first gentleman I introduced myself to recently graduated from Yale. Two of the next three were other Ivy League institutions. I sort of covered my mouth as I mentioned I graduated from a small school in the cornfields in the Midwest and studied literature. I assured them that I did watch Gray’s Anatomy religiously, so not to be worried. They then assured me that I would get a prime view of their frigid scapula (or cold shoulder for you lay-people).

Overall the experience was mildly pleasurable. I did not feel like I was embarking on anything new, only a continued experience. The orientation week that followed featured much of the same. We had diversity training, disease safety training, personal safety training, financial aid training, professional training, library training, and internet applications training. By the end of the week I knew nothing about being a doctor and everything about how to kill time by counting ceiling tiles in an auditorium.

However, I did meet and enjoy the time spent with most of my class. The rigorous training schedule was lightened by the fact that medical school organizations sponsored nightly parties at local bars. Which is to say that most of the class went out from eleven to two and showed up for more training at eight in the morning. Of course, I soon went from killing time by counting ceiling tiles to killing time by wiping coagulated droplets of saliva from my chin and bobbing my head enough to make people think I was listening to the Night at the Roxbury soundtrack.

Amazingly, I made it through the week and reached the day of the white coat ceremony. The real training starts Monday in the classroom and I am excited about it and dreading it at the same time. However, this past week I have gotten to know enough great people to realize that it will be a very fun week. Even the anal-pre-medders did not seem to bad just yet, and I have to face the reality that by starting this training I am amongst them.

I hope to provide some frequent insight into the life of a medical student as an outlet for me and a source of entertainment for the reader. Enjoy. Here goes nothing.

Day Seven: Thursday June 21
Is it Rejection Year Again?

I have before me a packet of letters I received from various colleges and universities across the nation spanning a period one day short of four months. Ironically, about seven months prior, I sent an electronic packet of information to these same institutions known as an AMCAS application. This cornucopia of facts and figures summed up, in fairly extensive detail, the last four (or in some cases five-six) years of my academic and extracurricular career. Essentially, everything source of external validation I have ever received was included in this document. I even printed off formal copies of this document and mailed them to the pertinent institutions.

As you may surmise, I waited with intense anticipation for the responses to this query. However, the waiting ends as soon as an envelope arrives in the mail. After the initial we have received your application notices, each letter is extremely predictable. Namely, if an 9 x 12 envelope arrives densely stuffed with materials, you have been accepted. If a measly, paper-thin, one-third of a page sized envelope arrives you have been rejected.

First thing I would do if I were hired as an associate dean for admissions (the title that signs almost every letter I received) is buy random sizes. I couldn’t wait for the day when an anxious pre-medder walks out to the mailbox only to discover a puzzling medium sized triangle. Imagine his neighbors surprise when he pulls out an octagon. Sometimes, I’d send an acceptance letter in a standard envelope with nothing else just to mess with kids. Oh, what a life it must be for Laura R. Ment, Associate Dean for Admissions for Yale University School of Medicine.

Speaking of Ms. Ment, she won my selection for most pretentious associate dean. Nothing she stated in her letter was overly obnoxious (nothing, when not read by an angry reject). She even wished me a “happy and successful career” but left out the “just as long as you stay the heck away from us.” Yet, she signed the letter merely “Ment.” I missed the portion where we moved passed the acquaintance stage to be on a last name basis. Somewhere between when I sent Yale University my life and she politely informed me that I am a grossly inadequate human being, she decided (unilaterally, I may add) that I did not deserve the courtesy of an entire signature. I’d be shocked if the signature was something less than an image pasted at the bottom of an electronic word document.

However, Ms. Ment’s omission of the rest of her name did lead to some pleasure while I made self-gratifying puns with her name. For example: What she “ment” to do was sign the rest of her name.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dr. (and I do mean doctor) Robert J. Mayer, made sure to add the title MD to the end of his signature. This provided a lovely exclamation point such as to say, I am sorry you cannot find a school to study medicine, but I am a doctor. Funny how that works.

Dr. Mayer unfortunately missed the rejection letter training seminar as his letter was a gross deviation from the norm. To start with, his body was an entire four paragraphs compared to the much more common three. He was not alone in informing me that x number of students applied for y number of spots.

He did however order the just off-white paper that all of the deans, except for the erratic Diann (sic) Rothwell Lapin, tended to use. I am not sure why they feel the need to send a personally addressed memo on colored paper, I’d prefer a simple Xeroxed sheet saying “Please try again” or something else along the lines of the a losing gamepiece in the Pepsi challenge.

However, I think that the most interesting common element is the sorrow full tone. Some associate deans (such as the aforementioned Dr. Robert J., ment an), begin by expressing their regret. Others (such as the spelling-challenged Diann) deliver the blow first, and apologize later. However, Chris G. Welch merely informed me that he would be sharing what he believed “will be disappointing news.” James L. Weiss, on the other hand said I may be disappointed on this action, but luckily, he trusted I wouldn’t be discouraged. Thanks Jim, I am reaffirmed by your simultaneous rejection of my potential ability and affirmation of my ability to be blindly hopeful in the face of rejection.

Besides Jim telling me that I am not discouraged, I appreciated that he sent his letter in the large format. I thought size 14 font was a gross breech in protocol, but Jimbo disagreed. He stated, “I will send you a rejection letter with text so big that you dead great grandmother can read it from her grave . . . in Ireland.” Always thinking of others is that good Jimmy.

Ironically, I came across all of these rejection letters while cleaning my room. What I did not come across is my acceptance letter. I do not understand why people, foremost myself, do not remember the affirming acceptances, but only the pricking rejections. Whenever I hear the name of two universities, I remember that they rejected me for their undergraduate programs (one of those universities has the distinction of rejecting me for both undergraduate and graduate school . . . I’m impressed).

Anyhow, I just enjoy the standard courtesies offered in letters and well as the absurdity of associate deans trying to comfort you. They’re just mad they couldn’t be more than “associate” dean.

Day Six: Friday June 16
running log part deux

Note: see below post for the morning

12:40 P.M. – At my second store, I am baffled by the customers that come in. Business men in suits and their yuppie wives in dresses and pearls roll into the garden section. I am looking around for the shrimp cocktail and waitresses, but alas all I see are bags of humus and manure and geraniums

12:50 p.m. – I am still perplexed by the clientele. Now I am over the fact that they are, I am now confused as to why anyone would want to construct their hair like that. The males look as if they have gallon of gel making their horseshoe glisten. The females rather keep with the latest fashion trends and do what I like to call “the unicorn.” This is where they put their hair up in a perfectly normal fashion, but then it is as if they decided to “perch” the very front part of it. I am baffled. I do not find pointy heads attractive and wonder how these trends get started

1:50 p.m. – I am still pondering the unicorn. I find myself staring at the bump on all of the young females that come into the store. It is as if they interpreted black eye peas “My Humps” in an unorthodox manner. I will never understand females. Ever.

2:45 p.m. – I still do not understand females. My work at home depot store two is done and I am on to the third

5:17 p.m. – I am done with my workday. Luckily, it perfectly coincides with the end of every one else’s workday. We all have an exciting meeting on the freeway where we pretend we are at a block party and park our cars. Eventually, some upstarts start driving and the party ends, only to start again twenty feet down the interstate. I will never live in L.A.

5:42 p.m. – I arrive at the bank where I intend to do my transactions. I never cease to be amazed by the vestibule between the two sets of doors that allow entrance into the bank. It looks normal, but they have a way of making it smell consistently and horrendously of body odor that is unfathomable. One would think that with all the traffic through those doors, the smell would eventually dissipate. However, they in fact, do not. Instead they seem only to get more pungent with each time I enter in there. I think scientists should look into this feat and mimic it.

6:17 p.m. – I arrive home, help with some last minute preparations and consume a lovely meal.

7:47 p.m. – I settle in for an evening baseball game.

8:19 p.m. I finish the daily log and determine that my next post will be more entertaining. I promise.

Day Five: Tuesday June 12
A Running log of my day

Note: I realize that “The Daily Doyle” has not been quite so “daily” as of late. To anyone who checks the site regularly (ha!) I apologize sincerely. I plan to update more regularly from now on.

Since I haven’t written anything for a prolonged time period, I decided to write a sort of “retro-active” running log of a typical day. The following is mostly true, even if it may be a composite of multiple days.

Midnight-6:54 a.m. – sweet, sweet, slumber. Dreams usually include some permutation of the following: dogs, hotels, tomatoes, beaches, and skyscrapers. May or may not include any of the following: thieves, baseball, and/or decorative ferns.

6:54 a.m. – The most annoying sound in the world sounds. My cell-phone/alarm clack rattles against my wooden headboard.

6:55 a.m. – I turn of the alarm and wonder why in the world anyone would set their alarm before 7 a.m. In turn I wonder why anyone would set their alarm for a random time such as 6:54 a.m. I conclude that I am an idiot and hit the snooze.

7:35 a.m. – See 6:54 a.m. entry as my snooze sounds for the third time. I again wonder why anyone would set their alarm before 8 a.m.

7:45 a.m. – I finish drying off from the shower and ruffle through my four workshirts to see which is the least smelly. I end up deciding that it is indeterminable and spray one down with body spray left-over from my middle school years (apologies to anyone over 17 who uses TAG, AXE, or any other three lettered product marketed to pubescent males).

8:15 a.m. – I finish my third bowl of Kellog’s Raisin bran.

8:16 a.m. – I wonder why in the world anyone would ever want to eat three bowls of Kellog’s raisin bran.

8:17 a.m. – See 8:16 a.m.

8:18 a.m. – I pack my lunch. At this time I realize that it is almost an hour and a half since I set my alarm and I am running late. I grab whatever is one the counter and head out the door (usually an assortment of fruits and pastries, one can never imagine being hungry after consuming the amount of fiber in three bowls of raisin bran).

8:20 a.m. – I enter my car and wonder why I did not think to remove the banana I consumed on my way to work yesterday.

8:21 a.m. – I decide that the smell is not that bad and wonder if I have just discovered an all natural air freshner.

8:22 a.m. – I determine in fact that any sort of air freshner would be better than this.

8:45 a.m. – I arrive to work and cannot believe it took me two hours from when I set my alarm to arrive. Way to start the day pissed, Doyle.

8:57 a.m. – The first customer I see asks me if I work for Home Depot (I in fact, do not, but I do complete my daily labor inside the confines of said store’s garden section).

9:17 a.m. – I discover a large quantity of the flowers I am responsible for organizing next to the plungers. I try to imagine the person shopping for Daisies who all of a sudden realizes they have a clogged toilet at home. Then, in an impulse decision they decide to upgrade to the designer plunger (with ridged plastic suction end) and deposit the perennials they intended to buy next to the PVC piping.

9:24 a.m. – I am interrupted from my plumbing section reverie by a customer asking “Do you work here?” (I in fact, tend to do a lot of work near plumbing fixtures, but am not compensated monetarily for such endeavors).

9:33 a.m. – I am stupefied to discover that despite the amount of fiber I consumed earlier this morning, I am hungry. I begin the countdown until the hot dog vendor opens the stand (approximately one hour and fifty-seven minutes).

10:14 a.m. – I begin to answer the question “Do you work here?” with another question.

10:23 a.m. – I ask “Am I wearing an orange apron?” for the fifth time since 10:14 a.m.

11:14 a.m. – I realize that if I do not slow down my work, I will have another five-hour day.

11:23 a.m. – I rearrange the day lilies by color for the third time.

11:28 a.m. – I begin watering. I decide that I do not in fact want pig’s intestines for lunch now that my countdown is at two minutes.

12:13 p.m. – I stagger out to my car, weak with hunger and feverishly consume a chocolate muffin and a pear.

12:14 p.m. – I am dumbfounded to discover that all that is left in my lunch bag are two apples, a banana, the remnant of last nights dinner roll, and a washcloth I accidentally grabbed. Dangit.

12:16 p.m. – I consume the remnant of my lunch (save the washcloth).

12:17 p.m. – I depart for my second store and begin playing “Aristotle in 90 minutes” through my mp3 player.

12:26 p.m. – I pull up to a spotlight next to someone bumping T.I. I glance over just in time to see a large male staring at me through sunglasses and revving his engine.

12:27 p.m. – I instinctively turn down fascinating facts about Aristotle (including that he believed the heart is the source of intelligence) and pretend to be moving to the beat of music. Luckily since I am white, it matters not that there is no beat to Aristotle’s fun facts because I look like a canine trying to bounce away from hot coals with or without smooth, Hip-Hop stylings.

12:28 p.m. – I shift my Buick into neutral and rev my engine.

12:29 p.m. – I rapidly turn off the air conditioning so my car does not overheat.

To be continued . . .

Day Four: Thursday May 24
The Working Man’s Haven

Throughout my tenure working in Home Depot stores, I have explored the various nooks and crannies accessible only to someone who is a non-customer, but also to someone who other employees know little about. When I stumble into the receiving dock, no one there has any concept what I am doing, so they allow me to explore the various parts of the dock as long as I continue to wear a furrowed brow and look as if I am fervently searching for something.

However, most of my explorations come as a result of searching for the Home Depot restrooms. Through roaming about half a dozen Home Depots, I have discovered that the bathrooms are uncannily placed in different locations in the store, but without question always incredibly obscure. In my main store last summer it was located next to the clearanced pieces of wood. In another it is hidden, behind the chandelier department, and in many of the others it is located in some dark alley behind a dumpster somewhere (kidding, sorta).

So whenever I do find the sacred facility in order to extrude the mornings coffee or afternoons hydrating beverage, it is with great relief. Interestingly, I am not alone in this respect. The Home Depot restroom may be the modern day men’s saloon. If their weren’t the constant carol of the bowls, I would half expect to see a bartender and poker games. As it is, there is always a frenzy of activity but an incredible turnover.

The reasons for this “flow” of bathroom traffic are many. First, consider the general Home Depot shopper. In most cases, an individual exploring the store midday is a contractor getting some necessary part for the job. Where he works, there is likely a shortage of porcelain fixtures. So, on arriving at Home Depot, this man will seek out the obscure corner to take a brief respite on the kingly throne. Often, whole work teams may stop in between jobs to get the next set of parts. My suspicion is that they draw straws, hand the short draw the shopping list and collectively engage in a communal conversation through awkwardly placed barriers.

Generalizing about the nature of these workers, one could say that they carry a bit more heft than the standard white collar worker. As such, they deliver a proportional amount of heft. Point being, the bathroom isn’t always a quiet place. Discounting the watery sound effects, the room could easily be audibly mistaken for a weight room.

A sort of camaraderie exists in this strange context though. Few words are exchanged between strangers in this awkward context, but many a knowing glance and head-nods are extended towards the common fellow. Essentially, one man is saying to another “glad you could enjoy this fine establishment also” or more likely “no good crapper at your place either, huh.” Here, Home Depot staff, customers, vendors, and mere opportunistic restroomers mingle with no prior expectations.

If utopias actually existed, they may be located inside Home Depot restrooms. Now, If we could only get the hot dog vendor to move in . . . .

Day Two: Monday May 21, 2007
"Do You Work Here?

As I gingerly stock the shelves in the Home Depot garden section with black-eyed susans, Day Lilies, and other perennial floral favorites, I usually block out a host of audible noises. All day long I hear the horrible, repeating Home Depot musical selections, customers’ arguments about whether it is perennials or annuals which come back every year (it’s perennials), and the Home Depot employees whining to and at one another. However, the most frequent sound I hear is an inquisitive customer with the query:

“Do you work here?”

Since I am clearly engaged in physical activity, and the likelihood I am hosting floral arrangements for exercise, the answer seems obvious. However, responding to the question is a very difficult task, since I do not actually work for Home Depot. In fact, it is very hard to find anyone inside Home Depot stores who does in fact work for Home Depot. The people you see stocking the shelves and talking to customers not wearing those brightly orange are usually vendors. We are employed by the product manufacturer to ensure the shelves are stocked, organizing, and aesthetically pleasing.

So my response is essentially an eloquent “yeah, but . . . .” I respond accordingly depending on the difficulty of the day, my level of tiredness, and the customers “niceness factor.” Because I do not have time to delineate the nuances of vendor-retailer relationship, I attempt to give the briefest answer which will sufficiently relieve me of any further responsibility.

I explain that I work for a nursery which grows the flowers to be sold here. Without fail, the customer will respond in one of three ways. He or she will (a) ignore whatever I say and proceed as if I instead had said “yes I am an expert please ask me about the nuances of Home Depots mulch selection;” (b) attempt to make me feel guilty for not wanting to help them (which only works if they are above seventy and lacking one or more limbs); (c) immediately apologize for insulting me with such a questing and scurry away to the kitchen shelving department.

All three of the responses function to leave me dumbfounded and unaware of what to do next. Without fail, I tell at least one frail, pleasant old lady that I do not work for Home Depot every day. Then I pretend to be intensely focusing on separating the various varieties of lavender and not to notice the osteoperitic woman attempting to hoist a fifty pound bag of garden soil into her shopping cart.

The situation poses an interesting ethical dilemma for me. For some reason, I feel as if I am “cheating” if I falter and help the elderly woman. The capitalist in me is saying, “your boss isn’t paying you to help old ladies with their frivolties, unless their frivolties are your daisies,” but the general human in me says “if she hurts herself, you are paying for the hip replacement.”

A few times, I have lost my wherewithal to restrain and, after ensuring the coast is clear, quickly chuck a couple bags of Scott’s onto their cart. Inevitably though, at least fifteen customers appear instantaneously when I finish loading the last bag and ask me “do you work here?” At this point I just put my clipboard down and walk away.

The response that is clearly the most pleasurable is when some yuppie thirty something either doesn’t care who I work for or cannot comprehend that I would be working inside a store which doesn’t employ me. In this case, either a woman with at least one set of ornery quintuplets or a man wearing a business suit approaches me and asks me to hoist their garden product for them. The yuppie will inevitable stare at me for a few seconds in disbelief and I can feel their glare through the gallon hostas I am pruning after each thwump of the bag onto the cart.

The third response, apologizing incessantly for disrupting my floral care routine, is the most puzzling. I do not feel as if I come across angry when asked, yet these people feel the need to apologize for taking up my precious time. However, if any Home Depot associate is within hearing distance, I immediately feel sorry for him or her. It as if the customer felt they were insulting me by asking if I worked for the store.

The most refreshing encounter was with a young boy sent to find me by his mother. After I explained the finer points of my working relationship he merely shrugged and said: “You look like you work here” as he walked away.