In Pirates of the Caribbean, the rum was always gone; in med school, the alarm is always on — and if there was ever any rum it was consumed months ago.
Every morning, poor (literally and figuratively) and tired (just literally) med students around the country are unceremoniously startled out of their blissful, all-too-rare slumber by the chirping, buzzing, coaxing and/or screeching of an alarm clock that just never seems to shut up. Whether it’s the third-year on her second day of surgery rotation whose body just hasn’t come to terms with 4 a.m. yet, or the first-year who has six hours of lecture, two hours in the anatomy lab, one hour of small group discussion and 45 minutes of taking a standardized patient’s history to look forward to; when that alarm goes off, even the best of us let out a groan or two.
Of course, that’s on our good days. Bad days usually involve a deep-seated desire to throw the alarm clock in a wall-ward trajectory — an urge we only resist because we have no money (again, poor) to buy a new one and no time (again, tired) to put the broken one back together.
Side Note: Bouncy, wall-throwable alarm clocks that snooze only when they hit the wall with sufficient force would be a big seller with med students — ad execs take note.
Now this isn’t to say that nobody else deals with alarm clock hatred, or what that one annoying kid with all the buttons in Office Space calls “The Mondays.” But where the undergraduate might be dreading a boring lit class and the law student a two hour lecture on tort reform (something I know we need but have no idea why), our Monday mornings usually include 100 slides of derm lesions that would freak Freddy and Jason out, followed by four hours of soul sucking genetics. In a way the alarm clock represents everything that is wrong with medical education: namely, that it starts no later than 8 a.m. — often much, much earlier — and somehow manages to put you to sleep better than Tylenol P.M.
At this point, common courtesy dictates that I should offer up a solution, but something tells me med school administration wouldn’t take kindly to the suggestion that classes start no earlier than the crack of noon, and the alarm clock industry wouldn’t take kindly to my suggesting we ban the unholy machines. No, we’re just going to have to get used to startling ourselves awake every morning. But lest you think I’m going to leave you with no silver lining, look at it this way.
Our mornings may start with an alarm clock and move in a downward fashion from there on out; but a caveman’s morning may have started with a saber tooth tiger’s warm breath on his cheek, followed by what I can only assume would be 30 seconds of abject terror, one minute of excruciating pain and an eternity in caveman heaven. Given the caveman alarm tiger alternative, my clock app and a derm lesion lecture don’t seem so bad. Come third year, however, I may have to look for an even more extreme example to make myself feel better; rumor has it there are a few surgical attendings out there that would give the saber tooth tiger a run for his money.