ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: The Happiest Place On Earth

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Happiest Place On Earth

When you start spending the vast majority of your time in a place full of sick, miserable people who's sole purpose in life is to make your life as heart-wrenchingly painful as possible (and don't even get me started on the patients), you have to find some place where you can decompress, unwind, and clear your mind. A place where life is more simple, where you can daydream about beautiful women, your fantasy life as a rockstar, your dreams, your wishes, your hopes (Natalie Portman). The list goes on and on. This is a place where you cannot be interrupted, where you cannot be judged by your superiors for slacking off, where you are more than likely to produce your greatest achievment of any given day.

Over the course of the past few months, having had the privilege of working at least a week in six different large hospitals spread around the city in which I currently attend medical school, I have found this one constant reassuring place in each hospital where I can achieve these goals and unburden my mind from the cacophany of confused thoughts that are normally racing through it, thoughts such as "Why did the residents tell me to do something they know I, being the lowly medical student, have no power to do?" (that's everything, in case you're keeping score), "How can that girl possibly resist my charm, good looks, and at least marginal social graces?", and the always scintillating "But seriously, what the fuck am I doing here in the first place?"

The residents lounge? The hospital cafeteria? The closet where they keep all the drugs?

You may have already guessed that I am actually referring to...the bathroom.

In what has become a daily rite of passage, I play a game to see how many times I can excuse myself to go to the bathroom while asking as many different people as possible, only to escape to the comfortable confines of the toilet, paper, and sink that is my oasis, if only for a few beautiful minutes. You see, ladies and gentlemen, the bathroom is the only, and I mean only, place in the entire hospital where I am free. Free from patients and their constant smattering of questions I quite obviously don't know the answer to (that's $60,000 of medical school education, and counting). Free from residents and their judging eyes. And, most importantly, free from my medical school collegues, who make up for their lack of common sense and social skills with a persistent desire to ask as many pointless and shallow questions as possible in a pitiful effort to grab attention and feign interest (Bitter? Hardly!). When I'm on my ivory throne (that's the crapper, for those of you not into imagery), I am king of the hospital, master of all who come before me and my imaginary court of wives, jesters, and the occasional palace whore, and...umm...well, maybe I'm taking this a little too far.

Anyways, perhaps the most beautiful thing about this sparkling majesty of white tile and ceramic fixtures is how perfect the bathroom is for explaining away absences. Lets take the all too common event when I have finished all the work for my patients, can in no way help out my residents, but must still sit there and essentially watch them plug away at mounds of useless paperwork. My options are to:

a) Continue sitting there, only to draw their ire and resentment when they look at me and my vacant eyes while they have a million things to do.
b) Get up and wander around, risking the tragic situation of being called by someone else to see something "really interesting!" (which invariably means something coming out of a hole it's not supposed to come out of).
c) Just say I have to go to the bathroom and play the now classic "Hide From My Residents" game.

There's only one clear choice here. What are they going to say? "No! I demand that you crap here and watch me work!"? Not likely. "No! Even though you have nothing to do, hold it until I say you can go!"? Well, I guess I wouldn't be that surprised, but still not likely. "No! Piss on me instead!"? I haven't heard of any R. Kelly sightings at the hospital I'm at now (although I wouldn't be that surprised given it's clientele)...but, again, no. The point I'm trying to make is, when the shit is hitting the fan, the only place I feel safe, comfortable, and at peace is where the shit, having hit the fan, proceeds directly down the pipes. And that's good enough for me.

So this post is for you, my beloved bathroom, for giving me a place to be me.

The End.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ode to a toilet... whats not to love... i dare anyone to say that they too do not enjoy a relaxing "sit" now and again..

7:02 PM  
Blogger Keagirl said...

Again, another (Freudian) post to make Urology your number one choice....

8:20 PM  
Blogger Margie the Pickle Princess said...

Being a medical student must be a lot like being a mother. I do the same thing!

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was thinking the same as margie - you're all set for parenthood now. except i hide in the shower until all the hot water is gone. :)
- lucidkim

9:10 PM  
Blogger Sofi said...

That was beautiful. Inspires me to write an ode to that place of serenity, where one can quietly come to terms with one's inner self in lotus position, that provides one with that ever-respected, ever-convenient excuse.

And if you're a long time getting back, there is a plethora of ever-respected excuses you can make that will readily vindicate you. I usually have trouble finding a tampon.

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are one f-ed mo fo. But I like ya.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

You poor, pitiful thing! Is it really that bad!? :( I used to do that in high school and, from time to time, do it now to hide from my kids (must be common to motherhood, margie)...wait, actually, come to think of it, I even have done it a couple times this semester during microbiology lectures! Maybe you should take a good book to read ;) ....Thanks for the post! I needed a break from studying for finals :)

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am proud to admit I work with this bastard on daily basis on the pediatric rotation. I just wanted to confirm his frequent private time in the bathroom. Many times I have knocked on the stall door in the men's bathroom and heard him respond, "Come in." We all enjoy his teaching rounds in the men's bathroom. Truly a genius among idiots ... with rugged good looks that would drive any Jewish woman wild with passion and delight.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Shutterbug said...

The throne seems to be the universal hiding place for doctors, mothers and professionals of all types as I can personally attest. However, at my job they've put a short timer on the lights to prevent us from reading novels in there. Although the dark can have a calming effect as well I suppose

11:00 PM  
Blogger Motherkitty said...

Just don't piss your life away. And, Motherkitty says, "Don't forget to wash your hands."

11:04 PM  
Blogger Watergirl said...

Pity the countries with squat toilets. That sense of wiling the time away sitting on the porcelain pedestal is completely lost on them

12:18 AM  
Blogger Erin Grey said...

when i get bored at work.. i go to the bathroom and just stand in one of the cubicles and do some stretching to keep myself awake. or just lean on the wall and relax. the silence is good in there...

1:52 AM  
Blogger Twanna A. Hines | FUNKYBROWNCHICK.com said...

A long time ago, at one of my old jobs, I got carried away with the bathroom visits ...

I'd drop my pants and my panties (you have to "look the part" you know), prop my elbow on my thigh and my fist under my chin (a makeshift "head stand"), and I'd nap for 20 minutes. Other times, I'd double over and make the entire hip-to-knee area of my leg my pillow and I slept.

Sometimes I'd lose track of time, only to discover I'd been out for 30 - 45 minutes. I would return, rub my red eyes, stretch and yawn, "oh ... um ... I had to go to the bathroom." I'm sure they all thought, "Yeah. riiiight." I guess the trick is that short, frequent trips would have probably been more believeable.

2:48 AM  
Blogger constance said...

Wow! i had no idea that sitting on the crapper thinking about nothing, doing nothing, wasting time, was common to my fellow man! It's one of those things that you think only you yourself does... like when you are too hot in bed, you stick one leg out of the blankets...ahhh...

3:40 AM  
Blogger Mean Red said...

Well as long as no-one accuses you of doing anything other than answering the call of nature you're grand. Maybe they're secretly diagnosing you with a bladder infection or something everytime you disappear?

4:14 AM  
Blogger effective nancy said...

Okay, I get it, since we all want to hide once in a while...but don't you have textbooks or journals to read while the paperwork's being done? Seems like you could hide behind a JAMA as easily as a bathroom door. You might be missing a lot of "teachable moments" this way, or at least be risking an unnecessary run-in with nitrofurantoin or a PSA test.

4:32 AM  
Blogger lee said...

Fake doctor-you are nothing but a bludger!You gotta can the can :).

4:40 AM  
Blogger Not this time said...

My mom said sitting on the crapper too long can cause hemoroids.

6:01 AM  
Blogger hemlock said...

When ever my fiance and I are in a heated discussion, I often retreat to the bathroom.

Come on...it's the only place one can ever truly be alone. Right?

9:25 AM  
Blogger Dustin said...

I, too, am surprised that I am not the only one to do this. Although I have a good excuse. My present job is so mind-numbingly boring that it is actually more mentally stimulating to sit on the toilet and stare blankly at the stall door in front of me. I can't wait to get out. 8 days and counting.

Bathrooms.....is there anything they can't do?!

10:21 AM  
Blogger B.Amelia said...

i too retreat to the bathroom to escape from whatever awkward social situation i can. Something about the quiet, or maybe it's the tiles, that keep me ducking into those things.

10:48 AM  
Blogger GB, RN said...

Hey...when I need to get away from the hassles of nursing: patients, other staff, residents, med students, noice...I head for the bathroom.

Unfortunately, I've had a resident track me down in there. He was an ass anyway. Damn Family Practice anyway!!

But otherwise, a paradise within the hospital.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

There is no time in my day when I can hide, except during carefully orchestrated "breaks" of specified time length... and even then, if I hear loud voices, I have to stop doing what I'm doing and turn into a teacher again.

Teaching sometimes sucks. Today it sucked.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of your funniest posts so far. The contrast between you sitting on your "ivory throne" and the reality (a pitiful med student constantly abused by patients and superiors alike) is simply too hilarious. Another favorite post of yours is the wako instructor of yours who tried to steal a cadever's post morten virginity. There are funny people out there, and I appreciate that.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Nuclear Mom said...

You have to actually ASK to use the restroom? Hello first grade! (And it didn't make sense then either.)

1:29 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Frightening as it is, the toilet is my place of refuge, as well. I work for a bank, on the technical side...

1:34 PM  
Blogger dr-exmedic said...

Toilet-as-refuge is quite common, the bathroom was the only place my (now-ex) wife wouldn't bother me, and my current girlfriend hid from her (now-ex) husband...so keep this trick handy when you finally find a girlfriend.

Btw, Keagirl's right: you're going to end up in urology.

2:16 PM  
Blogger greeneggsandtam said...

the happiest place on earth...you make me laugh. rather i guess what you write makes me laugh. it reminds me of the sign over our local dodgy pub where there's a real element of street people and the odd stabbing. it reads that it too is the happiest place on earth.

2:18 PM  
Blogger missbhavens said...

I loves me some bathroom time. Sometimes I don't even sit down..I just stand with my back to the wall and close my eyes and take a minute to be alllllll by myself!

2:53 PM  
Blogger Carina said...

Dude, you need to learn to knit. ;-)

You can sit there and knit (other med students have done it), chill out, and still seem busy with something. And then there are the yarn shops . . .

Anyway, a knitting man is always a chick magnet. Seriously. Ask at Knitty.com's message boards, and all the women (and the guys who hang out there, too) will confirm it.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I've just added your blog to my blog list. Let me know if you'd rather not be there.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

maybe we should form the first "toilet hiders anonymous" grp...maybe i should start a blog ;-) ...we could have a weekly reading list and share tips! - hee hee, jk

8:37 PM  
Blogger redhead83402 said...

HAH ~ Michelle, great idea!

I too hide out in the throne room ~ sleep there from time to time, read, and even invite the hubby in for fun and games from time to time ~

Emily, at least you get paid to do all that ~ I am the PTO pres, and sometimes that really really sucks too ~ ;-D

2:53 AM  
Blogger The Missus Complains said...

Yes, I almost went to medical school but an elcer saved me from what I think now would have been just too damn hard for me to deal with. Not a very cozy place to unwind but when your in a pinch I guess beggers can't be choosey.

5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was once in a nursing continuing ed class and the presenter asked what we do to relieve stress. Many people gave answers like exercise, meditation, listen to music. My answer was that I have four children and my stress reliever is a lock on the bathroom door!

7:28 AM  
Blogger A. said...

I second, third, and fourth the pps who mentioned that you are now prepared for (ta-da!) -- motherhood! or at least for parenthood. However, even then you sometimes cannot escape The Children. It is indeed a luxury to pee alone.

So, I'm guessing these hospitals don't have a chapel? I always find that to be a quiet comforting place where one can "hide" in a hospital.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too use the washroom as my place of quiet and solitude where no one can bother me. This can be a problem at work sometimes as there is only one staff washroom with one toilet. It's a great cosy spot too, nice and warm in the winter due to the one heating control for the whole store, perfect place to nap. Love reading your blog!! Keep up the good work!!!

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding a comment someone left: "I feel so sorry for you going to med school. You must have very demanding parents that don't let you make any choices for yourself, like picking a profession that you actually enjoy. I'm so glad I hate going to the doctor after reading this, why would I want some lame ass with no convictions telling me that they think I should just take some pill from this enormous pharmaceutical that takes dumb-ass doctors that can't form an intelligent thought because their heads are full of extraneous information, and tells them this pill is good so they push it on their patients like... DRUG DEALERS. If you're so frustrated quit. Or get over yourself, you're a doctor you don’t come first your patients do."

Actually, the doctor comes first, not the patient. If the doc can't perform well because of whatever physical or emotional problems he has, the patient suffers. Hence, the doc needs to take care of himself above all else (believe me, we had a lot of speakers in our school trying to convince us of this). Furthermore, people who don't know anything about the medical profession should not make such rash judgements. The long and painful training transforms everyone into bitter people, until they get to finally practice on their own and the motivation to be in medicine comes back. To the anonymous commenter above, sit down and shut up because you don't know shit about what we go through.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do the same thing! Its nice to take the quiet time to reflect. I've even got some favourite bathrooms picked out where I find reasons to go and relax. Take a book in there and I'm set for the next 45 minutes!

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wait until a) your pager goes off or b) a code is called to break the perfection of the bathroom escape.

8:28 PM  
Blogger An Enlightened Fellow said...

I think people who are judgemental of individuals in the medical field should abstain from any sort of medical assistance. You had a heart attack? Stay at home and see how long you last. You had a stroke? Get over your hemiplegia and receptive or expressive aphasia by yourself. I'm sure being a knowledgeable individual, you can figure out what to do on your own. You have diabetes, keep eating your ice cream until the wounds you develop secondary to peripheral neuropathy cause your feet to fall off. That sounds like a plan to me. But then, don't go crying for help when it all hurts too much for you to handle it.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Liv said...

Now I wish I'd actually practiced medicine. I could've told you "No!"

8:54 PM  
Blogger beajerry said...

In a big hospital there are always a few private bathrooms off the beaten path that no one ever uses.
Pure tranquility.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Anhoni Patel said...


There's a bathroom that's featured in my novel. I understand.

1:03 PM  
Blogger beepy said...

Natalie Portman is tall and handsome and good. You've got your head in the game and in the right place. Good on ya.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to work night shift at a bank (processing side), which was a mind-numbing job. When I got so bored and tired that I couldn't take it anymore, I always retreated to the bathroom to catch a few minutes sleep. Actually, lots of folks did that. Good thing the bathrooms were big so that those who actually needed the facilities could use them.

5:59 PM  
Blogger mandy said...

You're a mess fake doc..an adorable mess but a mess nonetheless. Your humor is honesty is truly a gem on the ivory throne or not! :)

7:51 PM  
Blogger Cie Cheesemeister said...

Now that I work mostly alone at night, I don't need to do it as often. But I too always found "gotta go" to be a good excuse to get away from annoying situations for a time.
You might like this toilet-humor site:
Whenever I'm having a crappy day, this is the only place to go to make it a happy, crappy day!
No, I'm not affiliated with the site. I just get a real kick out of it.

12:07 AM  
Blogger coolbuddha said...

Blimey doc, all these nice ladies reading your blog! I think you just have to ask...

6:29 AM  
Blogger "Jet" said...

I am sooooo not a doctor, but I too see solice in the bathroom! If only it were nice with a sofa or something. But it's the most unsanitary place, with a door and no phones or intercoms to be paged over!

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - who knew it was univeral? I haven't the time to read through all of these comments, but it seams clear that the "reading room" (as I like to call it) is the preferred sanctuary for folks from all walks...

5:27 AM  
Blogger Zosja said...

this thread is hilarious.

I was going to post something original, something along the lines of "I too spend some of my breaks in the seclusion of the the bathroom" only to see that 70000 other people have said it already

good stuff

8:33 PM  
Blogger Dr Black said...

You're kidding! You mean your pager doesn't go off in the bathroom?! Wait until you're a resident and they can even GET you while you're in the bathroom!

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try this: When you're on your throne, leave the light turned off. It doesn't get more peaceful than that. It's an advice I got from one of my bosses (!!) when I worked in the UK...

12:21 AM  
Blogger Misplaced Texan said...

I am a nurse and we carry phones during our shift. You guessed it, I get calls all the time when I am in the bathroom. If we call another nurse and hear an echo, we know we called them at a bad time.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your toilet refuge strikes me close to heart. i'm finished 1/2 a novel on my toilet before. funny blog :)

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Buy Tamiflu said...

I don't want to upset you, but it is so for every institution))

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