Friday, November 18, 2011


As I opened the chart on the computer screen, my eyes glazed over. It was the third case of shortness of breath in a row. I combed through the records of yet another octogenarian: stress test (check), xray (check), echo (check), pulmonary function tests(check).

It wasn't even lunch time yet. I sat down quietly at my desk. The screen blinked reminding me that a patient was ready for assessment. The overhead pager system was calling my name. My cell phone started to ring.

I laid my head down on a stack of papers.

When did life become so complex?


I push the mop and bucket out behind the counter and move slowly as not to spill. Inching toward the smaller of the two dining areas, I stop at the entrance and remove the garbage can. As I dip the mop into the bucket of soapy water, I listen to a group of girls giggling at a table a few feet away. They look my age, maybe fifteen.

I glide from one end of the room to the next. Pausing to place the mop back in the bucket, I push a row of tables onto the newly mopped floor, before starting the process over again. My arms relax and contract and my hands grip tightly around the handle.

I enjoy this work. My thoughts are free to wander. I calculate how to complete my task more efficiently as I bounce to the music overhead. I think about my life, school, and work. My mind hums like a machine. It jumps from thought to thought without pause or interruption. The sweat roles down my back and the white ice cream parlor uniform clings to my sides.

My muscles ache from physical labor intermixed with occasional jaunts to the equipment room where the teenage employees do pull ups on an old rusted pipe. I am youthful and proud.

I finish the small dining room, and move a garbage can to block the entrance to the large one. I will sweep and mop. Then the bathroom, break room, and equipment room await me.


I leave the exam room with more questions then answers. Maybe it's just a bad case of sleep apnea, anxiety, or deconditioning.

I think back fondly to those days in the ice cream parlor. When, at the end of day, I could look out and see all that I had accomplished. I could peruse, contemplate, and record my inconsistencies.

But as time went on, life changed. With education comes complexity.

And as a physician, I spend most of my day flopping in a sea of the abstruse. There is so rarely a finite beginning and end. My work product is subjective and ephemeral.

But sometimes I dream of dropping it all, leaving my profession, and donning the apron once again.

I'm sure I would enjoy myself immensely,

for about a few hours!

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