Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A LIFE IN MEDICINE -6- the apartment

To understand the apartment it is necessary to know that it existed to serve one simple purpose. It was a place where Gene and I could study, sleep (when possible), and occasionally eat. That’s it! In our entire year there we had one “social occasion”, and that consisted of a few classmates and student nurses, and as I recall, it was very subdued gathering. The most exciting moment was when my girlfriend called me to say hello and one of the student nurses answered the phone.

What little cooking we did consisted of whatever frozen delights my mother provided, plus generous amounts of Dinty Moore stew, a very faithful staple.

We were not especially neat, and house cleaning was not a very high priority for either of us. As a result considerable dust collected throughout the place in the course of the year. But we did wash dishes and managed to keep critters out of the apartment (at least that we saw). Neither of us had a desk. Studying consisted of reading text books, notes, more books, and more notes, and then repeating the process indefinitely. To accomplish this, we each had a large, well used and previously owned easy chair with accompanying side table to hold books, notes, ashtrays (we both smoked so there was an added environmental element in addition to the dust. Did I mention the dust?) and coffee cups. The chairs faced each other from opposite corners of the living room.

I don’t recall having sheets for the beds. My sleep wear for the entire year consisted of scrubs and a single sweatshirt. The daily dress code consisted of slacks, oxford shirts, tie, (in those days, narrow), and a sport coat. We scoffed at overcoats, so the walk to the college was much brisker during the winter months.

Burned into my memory are the all nighters we pulled for our final exams in the first and second semesters of that year. The year was 1962, before the 60’s that everyone remembers, and the drug culture it brought. So it was easy for me to obtain Dexedrine from a pharmacist friend (it was not controlled then like it is now). We would start studying in the early evening, take our pill around 11 PM, and work through the night fortified by coffee and cigarettes. After taking the morning exams we would crash all day and start all over in the evening. We did this for 3-4 nights at the end of each semester. After the last all nighter that spring I promised myself I would never do that again..and I haven’t.

If I close my eyes, I can see Gene sitting in his red chair, almost obscured by clouds of dust and smoke, broken intermittently by his arm reaching out for the cup of thick, muddy coffee that was always there.

1 comment:

Villager said...

This reminds me of all nighters in Engineering school in Portugal in the seventies...if I tried to do that today I might need a few bottles (of oxygen) to revive me!