I was chatting with a patient yesterday about the need for him to quit smoking. He understood the reasoning. He had the desire. He even had a financial incentive in a lower insurance premium. “Doc,” he asked. “Have you ever ACTUALLY smoked a cigarette?” The unspoken implication was that if I had, I might understand how difficult it is to quit.
The expected answer was “No. I am a doctor, why would I ever put that poison in my body?”
The truth? Yes, in fact I have smoked a cigarette…or actually a pack of cigarettes. All at once.
I do not recommend that.
You will not be shocked to hear that the following debacle was 100% Chris’ fault. And, it was his fault on SO many levels.
We met on August 9, 1993: the first day of med school (post on his Paul Simon t-shirt and flannel shorts later.)
Pretty much from day one, we were study partners. Even though it would be a full year before we dated, we were instant friends. Since med students are a poor, lonely lot with lots of studying to do, that’s what we did together. We studied. A lot.
I had a great memory which obviously has since left me. For example, a few months ago Maisy was in one of her rare moods when I was an acceptable person to speak to. We were chatting about music, her love of cello and how she would like to write songs someday. I was relishing the “supportive mom” role. Without thinking, I blurt out: “Hey Maisy! Know what would be GREAT for you?–PIANO LESSONS! How about when Tracy comes to teach Sam and Haddie, you can have a lesson too?” She stared dumbfounded at me. “Mom?” Now she appears frightened. “Um, I’ve been taking piano lessons for three years–it’s ME and Sam that take piano Mom…me and Sam…not Hadley.”
Well, I can’t possibly be expected to remember everything. It’s enough that I knew two of my kids took piano. I’m expected to know which two?? But, back in 1993 I was unstoppable. I could fire off drugs, equations, and anatomy parts in seconds.
Chris only had a so-so memory. He needed to “understand” everything–not just memorize it.
Me: Penicillin is effective against gram positive bacteria
Me: They attack B-lactam
Me: To destroy the cell wall
Me: I DON’T KNOW. JUST F’N MEMORIZE IT!
Repeat times 1000 for all the drugs we needed to memorize one spring night.
Since we were “highly educated” scientific types–in med school a grand total of 9 months–we decided to use our vast pharma knowledge.
Somewhere in his quest for answers to his “Whys” Chris had read that nicotine improves short-term memory.
We walked the block to Wawa and purchased two packs of Marlboro Lights. Unfortunately, our decision-making only got worse as the night wore on.
Nutrition was needed along with the nicotine. After 10 pm, Wawa sells their hotdogs 4 for a dollar….apparently 14 hour old processed meat in a steam bath is not considered a luxury food item.
How could we not? Make that four old hot dogs with ketchup and relish, two Welch’s Grape Sodas and two packs of smokes please.
Bring it Pharmacology. We got this.
Well, we sort of did.
Chris dumped over 1000 neatly written index cards into a jumbled pile on the floor. One of us would grab a card and put the other to the test. We fired away. He asked his f*&^&* “whys.” We ate hotdogs. We drank grape soda. We smoked cigarette after cigarette after cigarette. The night wore on. The pile thinned. Our memories strained. Then just as the sun was coming up, a realization.
Our pharmacology final exam was in two hours..not enough time to sleep. But, know what it is enough time for?
PUKING YOUR GUTS UP.
FYI, old hot dogs, warm soda, and chain-smoking DO NOT make you smarter.