In my first year of medical school, we had a fantastic course on neuroscience. The teacher was totally engaging and the material was beyond enthralling. Cranial nerve disorders, gait abnormalities, apraxias—oh brother, don’t get me started! Interesting stuff, amiright?! Oh… well…you’re going to have to take my word for it. It was completely cool. I was hooked.
Even though I was just at the very beginning of my medical career (if you could call it that–I had never even seen a patient at that point), I found the class so fascinating that I was entirely sure I would become a neurologist [I made Lisa use the term "brain surgeon" in the title because I thought it was funnier. Let's face it, there is nothing funny about neurologists. -Ashley]. I was so certain, in fact, that I chose to do an elective month in the Neurology Clinic during my second year of med school the minute I had the chance.
It would be my very first real interaction with actual patients! Well, if you didn’t count the class we took where we learned to do physical exams. Who would count that? Those “patients” totally knew we were learning and practicing. Some of them were even paid to let us palpate and prod them. My time in the Neurology Clinic would be different. I would be paired with a neurologist and follow him around as he saw patients all day. I would be a part of a team–a real medical team!! I was thrilled to be placed with a neurologist named Dr. Kirshner. He was brilliant, soft spoken, and a great teacher. He was also wonderful with patients. I couldn’t have been more excited.
Indeed, when it was time to move on to my general surgery month I was really sad–and not just because you have to wake up really, really early in general surgery. I had truly loved the month I spent in neurology!
A few weeks later I got a call from Dr. Kirshner asking if I could dog sit for him and his wife at their house while they were away for a few days. ARE YOU KIDDING?! Of course I could! Now, you might think a person would be picked to dog sit merely because they seemed somewhat capable of remembering to feed and water a dog. Ha! I knew it wasn’t just that! This was a sure sign that Dr. Kirshner knew I would make a rocking neurologist. My career was already taking off!
There was just one hitch. At the time, I happened to be dating a guy who lived about 2 hours away. He was a senior at my former college, and he’d drive down to Nashville as often as he could for visits. He was scheduled to visit me the weekend of the proposed dog sitting. Now I was absolutely crazy about him, but this was dog sitting for an actual neurologist’s dog!! It was so upsetting.
Was I going to have to pick between love and career so soon?
No, I was not! The Kirshners didn’t mind if my long distance stud stayed with me that weekend! Whoo hoo! (For those readers with delicate sensibilities, don’t panic. I was 24 and he was 22. We were both adults.)
I got to their house on a Wednesday. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be able to spend time in a beautiful home instead of my teeny tiny cramped 1st floor apartment in a shady neighborhood. It was heaven!
Now, you may remember I am not a very good housekeeper or actually tidy in any way. My plan was to make all the mess my normal living required (which, frankly, could be extensive), but clean everything up on Sunday afternoon before the Kirshner’s arrived home late that evening. Dishes piled up, crumbs accumulated on counters, and my stuff was generally thrown willy nilly about their lovely home. I wasn’t worried because I was definitely going to have their home in perfect condition long before they returned.
In the mean time I went to school and in the evenings did what any self respecting medical student does while on a surgery rotation: I practiced tying knots and suturing stuff together. I had to improvise a bit since I wasn’t at my own apartment. I decided to take every one of the Kirshner’s dish towels from their kitchen drawers, and proceeded to suture them together into a veritable quilt that took up most of their kitchen table. Every so often I’d also tie a chain of knots for good measure. It was awesome. I was really getting good!
By the time my boyfriend arrived on Friday evening, the place was a total mess. Luckily, he didn’t seem to view housekeeping as an essential quality in a long distance romance. YAY! We had a blast on Friday and Saturday playing house. There was even an adorable dog to complete the fantasy! I thought it would go down in my memory as one of my top 10 weekends of all time. It was just that perfect.
Saturday night I set my alarm for 9 AM. That would be plenty of time to sweep, vacuum, do dishes, throw the sheets and kitchen towels in the laundry, and have everything looking great by 2 PM–long before the Kirshners were due to arrive home that evening.
On Sunday morning about 11 AM, my slightly hungover self awoke to the dog barking and what sounded like voices several rooms away. Naturally, I got out of bed to investigate. Future neurologists may sleep through their alarm clocks, but they do notice when the dog they are charged with caring for is upset!
When I reached the kitchen I froze. There before me stood a shocked looking Dr. and Mrs. Kirshner. They were dressed in their nice traveling clothes. I was wearing only a lavender ADIDAS t-shirt that barely reached the top of my bikini underwear. They quickly explained that they’d decided to come home on an earlier flight. They’d left me a message on their answering machine. (Of course I had not been listening to their messages. They were not supposed to be for me!) I tried pulling my t-shirt down to cover my legs but that just caused more scandalous things to happen at the top of my shirt. I just sort of stood there, dazed.
That’s when it hit me. I had left my 6’3″ half-naked boyfriend sleeping in their master bedroom. (I typed “half-naked” for those of you with delicate sensibilities. He was totally naked.) This thought propelled me into action.
I excused myself from the kitchen and sprinted into the bedroom yelling a frantic WAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUP!!!!!!!!!
My boyfriend gazed back at me disoriented as I literally pushed him out of bed and onto the floor. I quickly got myself dressed, stripped the bed, and began hurling clothes and toiletries toward the general direction of my duffle bag. I was running on adrenaline at that point and resembled a Tasmanian Devil.
I then promptly instructed my boyfriend to sneak out of the backdoor. He tried to argue that it was better for him to go out and meet the Kirshners like an adult and then walk out of the house like a normal person, but I was having none of that. Yes, they knew he was there. Yes, they even parked next to his car in the driveway. But somehow after standing there in my undies in front of them, having my boyfriend do the walk of shame out the front door was not an option. Out the backdoor he scampered.
When I got back to the kitchen, my humiliation was complete. After traveling all morning, Mrs. Kirshner was standing at her own sink with her sleeves rolled up doing my dishes from the preceding 5 days. I have never wanted to die on the spot as much as in that one moment. I turned my head to the right and saw Dr. Kirshner, scissors in hand, dutifully cutting apart all of their dishtowels I had sutured together. Okay, turns out THAT was the one moment I most wanted to die on the spot. I begged for them to sit down and rest and let me clean up, but they declined.
Driving back to my apartment, I realized that my career in neurology was definitely over. There was no way I could ever face Dr. Kirshner again. Working with him was obviously out of the question. In fact, I spent the next 2 years of medical school (and the 4 years of residency after that) completely avoiding him. If I saw him walking down the hall, I’d veer off in another direction. Once I had a near miss by the elevator, but thankfully I was able to duck into a patient’s room at the last minute. Thanks to a dislike of long nightgowns coupled with slipshod housekeeping, not only would I never become a neurologist, I would hardly have contact with one for years!
One final note for those with delicate sensibilities. Don’t worry that my husband will be scandalized while reading this despite the fact that it includes a naked former boyfriend. We’ve been married for 18 years, and he knows this story well–because he was actually there. And now he *always* sleeps in boxers.