I hesitate, when I’ve just met someone, to tell him or her that I’m a physician. Even when I am asked flat out what I do for a living. Because the response I tend to get usually involves a look of surprise (which, in principle, could be taken as either a compliment or an insult*) and a verbal response somewhere in the ballpark of, “Wow, uhhh…you must be, like, really smart then, huh?”**
No. Actually. Dumb as a box of hair. I’ve just risen to the top by honing my blow job skills and then demonstrating them on all the right people.
I usually almost immediately regret saying this out loud. Not because it doesn’t amuse me. It does. (Every time.) (Have I mentioned that my middle name is Crass?) But only because if I had to say it in the first place…the conversation was in dire straights from the get-go. I mean, honestly, what kind of response does a question like that deserve anyway?
But sometimes, I encounter a person, as I did recently, who is genuinely and wholeheartedly interested in knowing about my job. And by genuinely and wholeheartedly interested I mean unequivocally obsessed with ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, Nip Tuck, and all the clever, and exceptionally good looking forensic pathologists (of which, in real life, there are NONE) on all those CSI shows. And they want details. Details like: What kinds of surgeries do I do? Doesn’t all the blood make me sick? How do I handle all the death? Do all the doctors really make hot monkey love in the dustbin closet or in an empty ICU bed like they do on Grey’s Anatomy? How did I decide to go into surgery anyway?
I always enjoy giving the answer to the last question first. I tell them about the real life story of me, in med school, in the impressionable days of my fourth year. I was doing a surgical pathology rotation*** and the attending I was working alongside was processing an abdominoperineal resection specimen. He removed the fresh slab of tissue from the bucket, still warm from having just been resected from it’s owner, and examined the hard, circumferential mass of rectal cancer within it. While he did the standard pathological assessment, he and I nonchalantly chatted away, much in the same way one does with their hairdresser while getting their hair cut. We touched on topics like why I had chosen to apply for a general surgery residency and why he, years ago, chose a profession in pathology. Now, forget for a moment that my attending was clearly NOT cutting my hair, but instead processing a specimen that was inclusive of a patient’s rectum, their rectal cancer, and their anus complete with a small cuff of skin and one stray, stubborn hemorrhoid. Let’s just focus on the fact that it was at this moment he expressed that his reasons for going into the non-clinical field of pathology (as opposed to the clinical field of surgery) were primarily because he never wanted to have to do another rectal exam**** again ever in his life. I paused for a moment as I watched him stretch the specimen out in front of him, holding it in the way one would a telescope, the hairy anus end within inches of his eyes. Then I said, “Riiiiiiiiight. So how did that work out for ya?”
It was that moment that confirmed why I’d much rather work with patients, real live people, than just their tissue. Mostly so that, years later, some obnoxious medical student couldn’t just waltz into my office and totally debunk my reasons for who I’d become.
If I still have an audience by the end of this story, which this particular time I did, then I give them a real treat. I tell them that, yes… [Cue 70’s porno music here.] In the small, dark, cramped, sweaty corners of the hospital…it’s all doctor on doctor, doctor on nurse, nurse on nurse, medical student on doctor, nurse on medical student. TWENTY. FOUR. SEVEN. It’s a proper brothel for all intensive purposes. Which means that it really is like Grey’s Anatomy. Cuz Lord knows all those emesis basins and colostomies just make us all SO insuppressibly hot.
* For example. A Complimentary look of surprise, if it had a mouth, would say: “My goodness, you look so young to be a doctor!” whereas the Insulting look of surprise would say: “You? You’re a doctor? Yeah…and I’m the fairy godmother.” I’ve been on the receiving end of both.
** I know. Can you believe anyone would really say that? Not to be sexist in any way, but seriously, only men have ever said this to me. Women tend to say something more along the lines of “You GO girl!”
*** In Surgical Pathology, the pathologist examines the gross (visible to the naked eye) and the microscopic appearance of all the specimens that come out of the OR: the lump of breast cancer that came out of a patient, the ruptured appendix that came out of another, etc.
****Meaning a Digital Rectal Exam performed on a live person to check for things like prostate or rectal cancer.