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).