Only in medical school … (#2)

by Lorien E. Menhennett

The other morning, I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror, getting ready to head to the hospital. I had planned to leave at 6:50 a.m. It was already 6:45.  I felt rushed, running late. I still needed to put my make-up on. But in this moment, I was struggling with my hair. My springy red curls just weren’t sitting quite right around my face. So I grabbed a comb out of a bin on my bathroom’s narrow windowsill and with it parted my hair just left of center. I examined the new distribution of my curly locks.

“There,” I thought. “That looks better.”

But as I stared at myself in the mirror, I noticed that the hair on either side of the part wasn’t laying down flat. It bowed upward, each side threatening to defect to the other. I reached into that same bin and pulled out a bottle of hairspray. I spritzed the part and gently smoothed down both sides to prevent mutiny.

“That will keep my part patent,” I said aloud, to no one but myself.

I laughed. “Patent”? Who uses that word to describe hair? That’s a word we use in medicine to describe tubular structures in the body that are open and unobstructed, like healthy veins and arteries, or a stent that has been placed to keep a diseased artery open. Only someone in medicine would describe a part in their hair as “patent.”

Later in the day, I thought again about what I’d said, and how I should write this blog post. Again, I laughed, but for a different reason. I’d inadvertently applied one of my favorite literary elements, alliteration, to my inadvertent use of medical terminology in a nonmedical context. Alliteration is repetition of the same consonant letter (or sound) in adjacent or nearby words. In my statement: “patent part.” Only a writer would be likely to notice that.

In the busyness of clerkships, I find humor where I can. Sometimes, that means laughing at myself, and the funny fusion of my many facets.

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