Wednesday, July 08, 2009
the boss was ... well i suppose an interesting man. difficult might be a better description. one of his pet peeves was that his registrars were always to wear a tie and a long white coat. appearance was everything. this demonstrated itself beautifully one day.
i was the most senior registrar. that is why the boss volunteered me to be a sort of backup for the rotating ear, nose and throat registrar who, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances found himself in charge of the friday firm for a weekend. he was clearly out of his depth. i was ordered to do rounds with him and to try to make sure he didn't inadvertently kill someone. so that is what i did.
the saturday rounds went ahead without incident. i was on call on saturday, however, so by sunday morning i was fairly worn out. in all fairness i had had a good uninterrupted two hour's sleep so it could have been worse. i did my post call rounds with my team very early so that i could send them on their way and be ready to help the hapless ent guy. i waited for him in the doctor's tearoom adjacent to the female surgical ward. this is where i kept my white lab coat which i used to ward off the prof's wrath. however on this fateful sunday i took it off just before going on the supervising rounds with our poor rotator. post call i also didn't have a collar and tie, but i had on what i thought was a very smart polo neck jersey. i was on the lookout for the boss because it is better to avoid trouble if you can. then i saw my good friend swimmer's chest. i was relieved to see that he also didn't have a white coat on, although he was particularly smartly dressed.
swimmers chest ambled over slightly slower than usual and greeted me. before i could reply the boss had stormed in with his entire entourage and was breathing down our necks.
"where are your white lab coats?" with him to answer a seemingly direct question tended not to go down well. i tried anyway. it didn't go down well. he let rip and was soon on one of his unstoppable tirades (i have mentioned this before). he told us we looked like hobos and that we set a bad example for the students (quite a few of which were standing behind him to view his example too).
i could feel my anger rising. i wanted to let rip back. i looked over at swimmer's chest. he was looking down and nodding in a submissive sort of way. i remember thinking to myself i must just follow his lead. he would not let the boss get to him and he would not be overcome with anger. i remained as calm as i could.
this went on for some time but each time i though i had had quite enough and just about decided that i was going to tell the prof exactly where he could get off i would glance over at swimmer's chest whose stoic face had not changed a bit. his head remained slightly drooped and he was gently leaning against a bed. only occasionally would he nod in feigned agreement with some of the ridiculous things the boss was saying. i tried to do the same and, at least on outward appearance i think i did pretty well.
finally the prof moved on after a few departing threats. i tentatively breathed again.
i turned to swimmer's chest and smiled. i hoped my smile carried the message that i was thankful that he had helped me remain calm and thereby saved me from doing something that had the potential to be a career limiting move. the poor ent guy looked shell shocked. where he came from this sort of thing just didn't happen.
swimmer's chest looked up as calmly as ever. he smiled broadly as if nothing had happened. after too long a pause he finally spoke.
"the prof had a lot to say about my clothes, but he didn't say anything about the fact that i'm drunk. i've only just got back from a night out."
i fell about laughing. i understood better the events that had just transpired.