Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Day Trip with the Upper Echelons


半斤八兩 (1976) by 许冠杰

Today, I left my cookie-cutter daily drudgery in the Male Surgical Ward and went on a day trip with a trio of my bosses. We went halfway through our morning clinical rounds when one of my Medical Officers (or MO's as, we usually call them) tapped me out of the loop and asked me to follow him to a district outfit in Serian. I was to be part of a flash team comprising of one Surgeon, one Registrar, one MO and one House Officer out to deal with a sudden backlog of clinic patients and minor surgeries there when a consultant neglected to make his visit yesterday. I couldn't decide if being volunteered for the job meant that I'm one of the more reliable workers or that my superiors think I needed to be placed under extra invigilation. At any rate, I jumped at the chance. I'm not one of those talented toadies who can comfortably hobnob with the bosses, but it was a syzygy of the most benevolent ones in the department. That promised a relatively stress-free and educational day.

Coincidentally, the MO who asked me to tag along is the husband of my previous boss back in Obstetrics and Gynaecology - yes, the very one who supervised my maiden Caesarean section. I don't know about you but it always warms the cockles of my heart when I see outstandingly nice people end up together.

The road trip to Serian was about an hour long with scattered conversations about nothings. I brought up a hugely fascinating article I read earlier that morning before I head off to work titled: Why do woman menstruate? It was an excellent summary of a recently published paper on the evolution of the monthly feminine bleed. Did you know that humans, a bunch of primates, some species of bats, and the elephant shrew are the only mammals to regularly shed the lining of their wombs?

"So, you are a follower of Darwin?" my Muslim Registrar asked.

"Isn't evolution just a theory?" my Christian MO asked.

Wow. My mind instantaneously hammered out the appropriate answers. No, I'm not a follower of Darwin - I'm a follower of science. And the word "theory" in the scientific lexicon has a different meaning from its colloquial connotations. A scientific theory is a principle or a set of principles which coherently explains a body of data or observations, and can be used to make accurate predictions. Remember the germ theory of disease? The theory of evolution is just as established and proven as that. But I didn't turn those brainwaves into soundwaves. I seriously didn't want to start another endless creationism versus evolution debate so early in the day. Especially not with my bosses, both of which I'm rather fond of.

In Serian Hospital, we split the team. My MO and I went with the Surgeon to the clinic to deal with the 40 to 50 patients waiting there while the Registrar headed off to the operating theatre and got started on what we in the surgical biz term as "lumps and bumps". By 2:00 PM, we cleared the half-hundred and scooted over to the operation theatre to cut a giant tumour measuring 15 centimetres out of an 18-year-old's right breast, which was the last case of the day.

Today, I worked harder than I usually had to in the wards but it didn't seem that way to me. I think it's because feeling like you're part of a team with friendly senior colleagues who treat you with respect allows you far greater job satisfaction than being a human bedpan, waiting for shit to rain down at any moment - which is what working for some of the more malevolent, saurian and condescending specialists feels like.

Oh, Phoebe's coming on Saturday morning! On the ride back from Serian, my Registrar and MO helpfully suggested several places I can take her. It's good to have a week I can honestly look forward to.

An unlikely teamster,
k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, December 17, 2011

An Anticipation of Boxing Day

"If a plane crashed into my room
I wouldn't even flinch
I couldn't try to move
My mind is on you
My mind is on you"

Little Dreams (2010) by Ellie Goulding

On the morning of what I imagined to be a bright and cheery Christmas Eve, I expect to leave my house, drive to the airport and wait for the Long-Suffering Girlfriend™ to be a tangible part of my life again. The day after this Christmas would be the second time we are physically together on the 26th of December. The last time that happened was four years ago when we crossed a line we didn't know were there and kept on walking ever since. I can scarcely believe that it's been four whole years since I christened a girl Phoebe and weaved her so seamlessly into the fabric of my life that I've forgotten how to survive nights without that constant comforting thought that out there in the world somewhere, someone loves me.

There are two contradictory English proverbs pertaining to lovers far apart and they are "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and "out of sight, out of mind". One of the worst thing that can happen in a relationship is having your heart grow fonder for a mind you are slowly slipping out of. I have that insecurity, and I surprised myself when I discovered it in the undercurrent of my daily medley of emotions. I have always suspected that the Long-Suffering Girlfriend™ is too good for me and I hope the day doesn't come when she arrives at that same realisation herself.

Phoebe is Drunk and Slurry
The Long-Suffering Girlfriend™ after a light, Midori-laced cocktail back in May.

The future of our relationship looms ever nearer but no less uncertain, and it's unrealistic for me to hope that this blissful limbo we are in can be protracted indefinitely. I guess it's part of my blundersome coming of age that the bond between a boyfriend and his girlfriend appears more and more flimsy to me over time, like a game children play, a chaos of three-legged racers who breaks off from their partners at random and reattach themselves to new people all the time. Is that bottomless void of insecurity the reason why men and women get themselves sucked into the spiral of ritualised promises - the illusion of engagement followed by the charade of marriage - all in fact equally flimsy?

Next week, for a few days at least, I want to dwell on none of these bothersome things. Instead, I just want to lose myself in the nearness of the one girl I love most out of the seven billion other human beings on this planet. Oh, if only the rest of our lives should be so simple: she and I, and that elusive Here and Now.

Long-distance three-legged racer,
k0k s3n w4i

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Bats and Taxes

"Bats have no bankers and they do not drink and cannot be arrested and pay no tax and, in general, bats have it made."

John Berryman

I had an afternoon off last Friday and I spent it driving around town distributing a significant portion of my fledgling savings to various creditors. I had credit card bills and the car loan to pay off. I had to make rent and break even with the utility companies. That afternoon, I had one of those moments when I suddenly realised that I'm a giddy thousand feet up in the air, strung up only by the contracts of daily adult living. It can all be over if I look down.

What a life. The few measly hours in which I am not working to generate my salary was spent delivering it to other people. Ever had that nagging feeling deep down inside that we are living wrong? I do all the time.

The Ministry of Health made it clear that any and all leaves we take from work is a privilege, not a right. That's something that my bosses and even my colleagues kept parroting; the former as a psychological slogan to keep stiffs like me in line and the latter as an expression of undiagnosed Stockholm Syndrome. It stinks of manure and I couldn't be the only person smelling it. No, the allotted number of days I am allowed to forget about work, work, work is rightfully mine. I am not a slave. To try and brainwash me into thinking otherwise is cruel and inhumane.

And now for an unrelated aside: here's a bat I rescued earlier this year right before my med school finals,

Bat Rescue
I shall call it Percival and rub its round velvet belly.

I'm fascinated by bats. They are the only mammals to ever evolve powered flight and but yet are practically helpless once they are floored. They are like living metaphors for overachievers who just can't deal with setbacks or failures.

It's almost cute.

I'm also fascinated by humans. If we find a crash-landed bat scrabbling about on the ground, our first instinct (except for children and psychos) is to try and help it take flight again. Contrast that with the first instinct of a cat, which is probably to eat it.

That reminds me: I need to get a cat.

A friend of bats,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Hate and Bile in a Queue at the Movies

"The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn't angry enough."

Bede Jarrett

The world around me and the people in it make very little sense to me. For example, how can anyone possibly believe that there is a God without the benefit of any real evidence? That does not compute for me. Why is having a kid out of wedlock such a bad thing? What is it with women and their fetishistic passion for exorbitantly priced handbags?

However, if I have to make a pronouncement on the one thing I understand least about people, it's how they sometimes behave at the ticket line at the movies. I don't know about you, but before going to catch a film at a local theatre, I almost always look up the day's schedule on the web first before I even step out of my bedroom. I'd arrive at the cineplex with one or three movies that I plan to watch with their showtimes already memorised. Also, I would also have a good idea of where I want to sit in any theatre (about 4 or 5 rows from the screen, right in the centre) and a sundry of other seats which I wouldn't mind terribly. One of the reasons why I don't normally ask anyone out to watch movies with me is because most people prefers to sit nearer to the back, and I hate, hate, hate making compromises on my preferences. I hate that only slightly less than having anyone - even my closest friends - contest my choice of films.

It usually takes me only about 15 seconds at the box office to get in, get tickets, and get out. So, it baffles and infuriates me when moviegoers takes a full minute or more to make their purchase. You know the type - they would approach the counter, take an eternity to decide on which film they want to watch because they did not so much as glance at the roster on the letterboard before jumping into the queue. Hell, they don't even need to do that anymore because most box offices these days have display screens overhead flashing the available showtimes. It meant that while they were waiting in line, they were too simply lazy or retarded to look the fuck up. Then, they'd hold up the line further by deliberating on the films' timings, trying to figure out which are the least offensive ones to their day's activities.

Of course, what really screws the pooch for me was when they are presented with a graphical display of the available seats, they would stare at it like it's the most mind-bending conundrum in the known universe. Civilisations rise and fall while they decide. The Egyptians probably took less time to build the pyramids than it take them to pick where they want to park their asses for a couple of hours. Usually, it's because the row at the back is all filled up and they are leery of getting too close to the film they wanted to see. I don't fucking understand it: why do people keep fighting over what are clearly inferior seats? Don't you think that you would get the most bang for the buck when you are in the middle of the blast zone of the surround sound system with the screen filling up your field of vision? Morons.

The worst scums of the earth are jerks that get to the box office and find out that their preferred seats or movies aren't available - so they proceed to hold a conference call with their buddies in situ while a hundred other patrons wait for them to make their life-changing decision. And no, they usually don't even have the decency to step aside and let others go first, fearing that even the crappy seats would be snapped up while they stall. This happened to me last weekend as three ugly, fat teenage hippopotami girls called the other members of their of Edward Cullen's Cock-Sucking Brigade because they might have to sit apart for Breaking Dawn: Part 1. Yes, the people behind you in a queue are judging all your physical flaws while you ruin their day. C'est la vie. In fact, if I'm in the line, I'm probably silently willing your father and mother to die in a gruesome gardening accident, or your children to be tortured, raped and infected with AIDS. I'm not even kidding. That's what I did to keep myself from boiling over, leaping at them, and crushing their larynges with my bare fingers. If you believe in the evil eye, this should cause you some concern.

One heroic mother of three standing directly behind the Twilight Cum-Sluts told them firmly that if they are having trouble deciding, they should let other people buy their tickets first - and they ignored her, indignant that anyone would dare speak to their self-entitled lard-asses that way. Eventually, they left empty-handed which meant that they wasted everybody's time for absolutely nothing. I was surprised that I had the presence of mind to stop myself from stomping them brutally in the ovaries.

One of these days, I'm going to stroke. Look, people of Kuching, I can forgive your lousy car-parking skills and your rubbish local food but please, stop being assholes at the box office. Hugs and kisses.

Has anger management issues,
k0k s3n w4i