Things are a little hectic in my house at the moment, as I am engaged in one of the less-publicized but still quintessential activities of residency: packing three days in advance. I’m going to work in the morning, where I’ll be on call overnight. After rounding in the morning, and staying till the stroke of noon (having been advised in advance not to dream of skipping out a moment early), I’ll race traffic to the airport, park my car, and take off for a few days. (Most residency programs arrange an exchange: one half of the workforce will pull double duty for Christmas, while the rest have a few days off; then switch for New Year’s.)

This closely-choreographed maneuver entails: emptying everything out of my car that I don’t want to sit at zero degrees for four days while I’m gone, or that might tempt thieves while it sits in an abandoned parking lot; packing the usual supplies for a night on call (food, because the hospital cafeteria is so depressing and unhealthy at night; by the time I have a moment to eat around 9pm, the only food still being sold is deep-fried, no matter what hospital I’m at; toothbrush; if I’m feeling ambitious, some supplies to try to make my hair presentable the morning after; a book, because if there’s ever a lull, I hate sitting around with nothing to do); plus packing for a trip which is still three days away; and of course doing laundry to support the whole enterprise.

Sometime around 2am on call, I’ll realize which essential object I left at home; but there’s no time in the schedule for coming back to pick up loose ends. So I’m left to make obsessive trips around the house today, trying to remember what I’m going to forget. Probably it’s going to be a book. I’ve been stocking up (from the library) for a week in preparation, so obviously I have more books than clothes to pack, and still have to triage out a couple of books to stay home. No doubt at 2am I’ll remember that I picked the wrong book to leave behind. Or maybe a coat; the coat looks like it’s planning to stay on the hook in the morning. . .

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