Tuesday, June 26, 2007

So, for a week now I have been among the gainfully employed. At the moment I'm still going through the usual training hoopla, and I still don't feel like I really understand everything that's going on, but I'm assured (by people varying from my PI--principal investigator--to my mother to Dilbert comic strips) that this is a normal part of this very special time in a young woman's life. Whatever.

I am in--wait for it--a cubicle. I'm thinking about what I could do to jazz it up; an entertainment center would be nice, or maybe a fish (several of the other people in the office have bettas--beautiful little guys with gorgeous fins that look like Japanese screens come to life). Something, anything besides the standard taupe laminate and let's-not-offend-anyone's-sensibilities gray sackcloth walls. I find that the environments most calculated not to offend anyone are often the ones that offend me most. One of the apartment ads I looked at boasted "Neutral color schemes," which made me want to hurl. Neutral color schemes are not a selling point; they're depressing. I'm not saying I want traffic-patrolman-vest orange on my walls, but a nice wine color would be OK. Even a Spanish red, or a sky blue, or the color of moss. Just not eggshell, or taupe, or 'colonial white,' or 'harvest wheat,' or any of the other colors that are really white with about an atom of color per gallon. I'm talking to you, Scherwin-Williams. I'm wise to your tricks.

I'm not meant to be an 0ffice-ite. Of course, once my work really gets swingin', I'll be spending a lot less time sitting, grublike, in the cubicle and a lot more time hatched-out, flitting through the halls of the hospital (speaking of dull, offensive color schemes). I'm working for good pay in the research department of the best hospital in the city; I have absolument rien to complain about. The people are friendly, there are frequently bagels in the breakroom, and periodically drug reps bring in lunch (something I'm wary about, but still). And I'm learning a lot about medicine and clinical research too. Bonus. In fact, I may start an occasional feature called "Learn to Speak Doctor," in which I explain convoluted medical terms in, how you say, plain English. In fact, let's start right now!

MI. This means 'myocardial infarction,' and is another way of saying 'heart attack.' Myo=muscle, cardial refers to heart, and infarction means there's a lack of blood (and thus of oxygen) reaching the area in question. So, an MI means the heart muscle isn't getting enough oxygen, a condition that--if it persists long enough--leads to another nasty condition called ischemia (iss-KEE-me-uh). If an area of the heart-- or of any organ for that matter--remains ischemic (oxygen/blood deprived) long enough, it dies. Bad news.

CAD. This is coronary artery disease. Coronary, again, means heart. Your coronary arteries are the vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle itself (your heart pumps all the blood in your body, but the blood in the atria and ventricles doesn't actually nourish the myocardium). There are three coronary arteries--the left, the right, and the circumflex (which sort of wraps around the back). When one of these arteries becomes blocked--with accumulations of cholesterol, usually, though other things can do it too--CAD results. And CAD can lead to an MI.

That's enough for today. Updates as events warrant!

Monday, June 11, 2007

A jaunty look for a day of soul-crushing corporate boredom

Well, I got me a job. And it's not a crappy cubicle-dwelling mouse-jockey job like Miss Career Separates up there undoubtedbly has. Yee-haw! (I've only been back in KC for a week and already I've noticed the clear Yankee diction I acquired during four years at Cornell going out the proverbial window. 'We're going to the store' becomes 'We're goin-ta the store;' 'Are you going to come?' slides into 'Y'gonna come?' Oh well. I'll just have to practice my various speech patterns to keep in locutionary shape for medical school interviews). But back to the job: A clinical research assistant at a big hospital in Kansas City, that does does research affiliated with Wash-U and Harvard! Again I say, yee-haw! So, as a slightly blasphemous thank-you to all the saints I prayed to, here are some saints I wish existed:

Saint Josephine of Lesbos: born on the storied isle of Lesbos, from an early age the Saint insisted on being called Jo. Her first miracle occured during a particularly unseasonable Mediterranean winter, when she and her sisters were about to freeze to death in their light togas. They huddled together for warmth (among other things) and when they awoke, they discovered that their clothing had been transformed from a light linen to a thick cloth in a distinct pattern of interlaced crosses (later to be called plaid). Jo said that during the night she had a dream in which the Holy Mother told her that the cloth was to be called 'flannel,' and that henceforth they should all wear it. Saint Josephine is the patron of female folk singers, auto mechanics (she could fix anyone's oxcart or ship) and the LPGA.

Saint Ristretto: born in 16th century Rome, Saint Ristretto was the child of a pagan mercenary and a devout seamstress. His father abandoned the family when Ristretto was very young, leaving his mother to care for their eight children on her own. She was often overwhelmed, and her labors made her very tired, but whenever Ristretto came and talked with her she found that she had more than enough energy to stay up all night hemming dresses for the Medicis. He had an exhilarating effect on all he met, though his prolonged presence made some jittery and gave others heartburn. He managed to enroll in the school of law in Rome, where he spent up to three days at a time studying Latin texts without sleeping. His presence enabled other students to stay up as well. His first miracle occurred the night before the final exam in "How to Rob the Hell Out of Poor People and Get Away With it 101, or: Trickle Down Economics." (You didn't think Reagan came up with that, did you?) His cellmate, who had never even cracked open the textbook, was able through the Saint's presence to cram an entire semester's study into one night. He passed with a B. Saint Ristretto is the patron of shift workers, students (especially during finals week) and 'bottomless' cups of coffee at cheap diners.

Don't go away...more fun to come.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Paging Professor Love

This year I fell--hard--for one of my professors. She was beautiful, with penetrating eyes and the most expressive, elegant hands that she moved when she talked, twisting her wrists just so and sometimes smacking the table for emphasis. I loved her neck, especially on the occasions when she wore scarves which accented it just right. She was poised but not stiff, comfortable in herself, fiercely brilliant but not an intellectual bully (I shouldn't say was--she still is, of course, for someone--just not for me. Of course, she's attached. Of course.). Trilingual at least, perhaps more than that. And mon cheres, there is nothing, absolument rien, as lovely as a woman who speaks French. Which she does. C'est vrai.

And, unlike many academic Sapphos, she's not the kind you would look at and say, "Oh. Yes. One of those." Which, the erotics of pedagogy aside, is one of the reasons I think I fell for her so hard. Beyond seedy, stupid MTV hot-for-teacher and into the land of Theodore Roethke's elegies, the stuff of Heloise and Abelard (minus the nunneries and mob castrations). We went out for drinks the week before graduation, just she and I, I with my high hopes tucked in my purse in the form of a tube of lipstick and enough money to get the number of drinks I'd need to say what I really thought. We drank to our respective successes and had really great conversations (plural--the topics were all over the board, from her college days to my future plans to academic politicking to Goddess-knows-what). I wore a low cut top, brought a long a jean jacket (a little butchy, but not too much) and smoked my ass off--nerves--walking to the bar. She gave me a book by one of my favorite poets, with good wishes inscribed on the title page. Somewhere between mentor-y (for which I was and am deeply appreciative) and lover-ly (to quote the song, which was in fact what I'd been hoping for).

Finally things drew to a close, and she offered to drive me home (an offer I eagerly accepted). In the parking lot of my house I finally told her how I felt, and she told me in the gentlest way possible that she felt honored, but that she couldn't. There was mutual well-wishing, expressions of a desire to stay in touch. I'm bad at it, but I swear that this time I'll do it. I felt wistful as I watched her car drive off. Out of respect for the moment, and for her exquisite being, I couldn't have tried to push it any farther--it wouldn't have been right. But if we meet someday later, and if she says yes...the hallelujah chorus will go off in my head, and I'll mouth the words back to her: Yes. Again, yes.