When I was a very junior neurosurgical resident in France, I always thanked my lucky stars I had not overused coffee. Mme. M., who ran the cafe below my apartment throughout the first part of my studies, which were mostly classroom, had an Italian espresso machine and little demitasses (half-cups) of potent brew — so potent that I could not consume more than one in the morning. Arabica, fragrant, and aromatic, it was a true joy.
After I moved closer to the hospital center, I heard for the first time the expression “pump yourself full of coffee.” (se pomper pleine de cafe) It was foul tasting stuff, consumed in an infinity of Styrofoam cups, and strong — really strong. There were rumors that it came from the same “common market supplier” as the wine, which was supposed to also be from a a mixture of common market (it had not yet become the European Union) countries. All the food was free, as we were government employees.
Nobody ever figured out where the coffee had come from.
There was an open bar 24/7, about as well outfitted as Mme. M’s. I was afraid to be in the same room with it. I am delighted to report that I never saw anyone use it on an on-call night.
This is the place I could access a small bed — iron tubes for headboard and rails, mattress probably stiffened with starch. The joke, which may well have been true, was that it was Napoleonic non-issue, meant for a barracks.
After the first night I lay upon it sleepless, answering a beeper that whenever it rang told me to call the operator and they would tell me who to call, my then-young back was killing me and I was fighting tears. Read more on Save Lives — Let Doctors Sleep!…
I remember traveling the U.S. looking for a residency — back then it was in neurological surgery. My mother made me a detailed itinerary in a notebook which I clasped in my purse. Cheap motels awaited me in university cities when I arrived for my interviews. I mean, I never would have gone to all that trouble if I knew I was going to change specialties before long.
I had a horror, as some of this was done in snowy regions at snowy times, of having to sleep in an airport. I am delighted to report that I never had to – unlike our most recent holiday season, when many people had to. Read more on Sleeping In The Airport…