Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Exact fare

I take the night buses a lot to get to shifts. The other night I saw a gentleman get on and wave a $10 bill at the driver as if it were a bus pass. He then nonchalantly walked to his seat and the driver never said a word. Wonder if that will work for me...?


Sunday, March 29, 2009


I am fascinated by California. It's a compelling mix of great cities and wonderful natural environments; it's also been on the cutting edge of new movements in American society and culture for a long time. I was coming of age as the pre-Reagan era tax revolt started rolling east from CA, and the state's been in the forefront of movements on both ends of the ideological spectrum before and since. Many of my epic road trips and formative life events have happened here over the years. And, of course, the state is full of true American icons and moments in history: Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Gold Rush, the Summer of Love. The state is a symbol of westward expansion, and of individual desire to start a new life.

But what, you might ask, has seized Ben-Bob with such a paroxysm of Californian sentiment? Well, today I opened an envelope containing my new California driver license and was truly caught off guard by how thoughtful this little wallet-sized card made me -- I'm now officially a California resident! Of course, I've actually been living here for almost a year. But this has been during residency, a period of time during which the work hours can be brutally long, and if I do get a day off in a week I'm likely to have to spend it attending five hours of didactics and then taking a standardized test. Although I'm usually an inveterate explorer of my surroundings, I have to admit that I've spent very little time getting to know California. Or the Bay Area. Or the neighborhood five minutes from my apartment. So in some ways I haven't really felt like I've been living in California or anyplace else, except the hospital.

But it's a hopeful moment. There's so much here to explore, and I know that I'll get to it someday. Residency training will probably continue to be pretty rough for a while, but in the summer of 2010 it should start to settle down and allow me some time to explore. Equally important, eventually I'll have some mental space again outside of the training to consider non-medical issues. So this card -- for today anyway -- became a symbol of what I'm doing and where I've gotten so far and where I'm hoping to go. Not a bad return on the investment of a couple of hours at the DMV.


Friday, March 27, 2009


When I showed up for my shift this morning, my attending examined me, called in some prescriptions to a nearby pharmacy, and then sent me home. It was the first medical care I've gotten since being an intern, and it really meant a lot to me. And I'm feeling much better. Now let's see if I can get through tonight without spiking another fever.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Like a sailor

Like any urban county emergency department, we have our fair share of folks -- drunk, high, or just plain crazy -- who will rant and rave all night long using a variety of colorful obscenities. We try to keep them quiet so they don't disturb the other patients, but the ED staff has pretty much heard it all. However, the other night a woman on a gurney in the hall started up with a riff so obscene, so foul-mouthed, that those of us working at the main desk actually stopped what we were doing and looked up, thinking "did she really say that?" Let me tell you, it took some pretty extreme language to get that reaction from us. And no, I'm not going to share what she said.

from Berryman

"...I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't

you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write."

--W.S. Merwin


Monday, March 9, 2009

21 Days Later

(With apologies to Danny Boyle.)

Just finished a bit of a marathon in terms of continuous days on duty. But now I have a day off! Of course, I was in the hospital so late tonight that I actually worked over an hour into my day off. But if you're going to be that fastidious about your "days off" you'll never make it as an intern. I'll take what I can get.

Anyway, I thought I'd open a bottle and have a glass of wine to celebrate, but surveying the kitchen drawers it turns out that Lady M got custody of both of the corkscrews. May have to improvise here....


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Last rites

There are many different consulting services to call when you're on duty in the hospital, but when you call the chaplain consult pager it's not usually going to mean a good outcome for your patient.