Stupid Tuesday Questions, white coat edition

When I was in medical school, a friend of mine gave me the use of a pager.  He had some kind of business arrangement that provided him with pager service, and he was somehow able to hook me up with one.

I was, of course, delighted to have one.  Along with wearing scrubs and/or a white coat, it completed the look I was aspiring to at the time.  The incontestable fact that nobody on the face of the earth actually needed to contact me with pager-level urgency was wholly irrelevant.  Frankly, the thing could have been non-functional and it wouldn’t have made much difference.  It was there for appearances, the very definition of frippery.  Eventually something went south with the business arrangement and the pager service was cut off, but somehow my medical education survived this setback and no patients were harmed because the hospital could not contact me immediately.

And then, residency.  I was the proud new carrier of an entirely non-optional pager.  (By that time the appeal of wearing a white coat had already faded, and I spent enough time in scrubs over those three years to rip the bloom right off that rose, too.)  When I was on call in the hospital, it went off all the time.  When I was the back-up call resident, I had to wear it at home, too.  I developed a Pavlovian aversion to all high-pitched beeps and chirps.  I had vivid fantasies of balancing it on a tee and smashing it to smithereens at a driving range, or of dropping it down an elevator shaft.

When I’m on call for our practice now, I actually wear two pagers.  This only happens every 5 weeks, so it’s not so bad, and call isn’t nearly so onerous as it has been for me in other jobs.  I’ve stopped fantasizing about physically destroying the stupid things.  That said, it’s still a nice little ritual when I can take them off my belt for another several weeks.

So, here’s this week’s question — what did you enjoy in your youthful or immature years that you have since come to loathe?  Bonus points for answers that pertain to status symbols or professional accoutrements that have become obligatory and burdensome.  Super bonus points if it’s something you’re sheepish to admit you once desired or prized, so I’m not the only one voluntarily embarrassing himself up in here.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Pagers still exist??? They are just soooo 20th century.

    Cell phones were cool at one point. If i turned mine on more then once every two months it would likely bug me. So i guess I’ll have to say the love and respect of my co-workers.

    • My wife’s current job is the first one where she didn’t have a pager. To the extent that pager companies are in business, I think they largely have the medical community to thank for it.

  2. As a systems administrator, I can say I am glad that I no longer carry a pager. Yay SMS messaging.

    I enjoyed Oreos as a kid, I find them pretty disgusting now. Does that count? 🙂

    • Doesn’t like Oreo’s and likes Rush. Pat there is help for you out there, if not for yourself, then think of your family.

      • In college, I saw a very high dude eat a 1 lb bag of Oreos in one sitting.

        That will turn you off of Oreos.

        I will buy them occasionally (road trips, for one) for the kiddos. I just won’t eat ’em.

  3. I love that doctors still use pagers and fax machines. And carrier pigeons.

    Lord help me, I was so excited to grade papers the first semester I taught. I couldn’t wait to see how my students did. And I was excited to be the one grading. That excitement has, um, rather worn off.

    This next semester is the first semester I’m assigning my own work. I *thought* it would be really exciting, but it just sort of makes me feel like a pompous ass.

  4. Briefcases. I thought it would be so cool to go to court with a fashionable briefcase filled with Important Paperwork as a signal to the world of My Great Importance.

    As real life turned out, the only reason to carry around a briefcase is because you have so damn many files it feels like the thing is full of bricks, or because you need to haul around a computer in it that also feels like it’s made of brick. Carrying the briefcase home with Important Paperwork inside is a mark of shame, a signal that I didn’t complete my work that day at the office.

    The real status symbol is not visibly carrying around anything at all.

    • The real status symbol is not visibly carrying around anything at all.

      Nay, according to the estimable Thorstein Veblen.

      “The walking stick serves the purpose of an advertisement that the bearer’s hands are employed otherwise than in useful effort, and it therefore has utility as an evidence of leisure.

      • The real reason to carry a walking stick is to have something handy to club people over the head.

        I have this on the authority of a man with no legs who needed the stick to actually walk. It was regarded as a secondary benefit.

  5. I’ll cop to white-coatism as well. I’m not a physician, but in my prior career I was a professor and research scientist and spent a lot of time in the laboratory where, not infrequently, the lab coat was actually necessary. Unlike many academic scientists, who look like they fell into a pond and then let their clothes dry on them, I actually dressed fairly well, and the collection of multiple chemical burns and stains, as well as those from other less savory substances, on the “work” lab coat attested to its utility. But I’ll confess that when younger, I also kept a “nice” one in my office for show.

    Later, I grew up. But there’s my shame out in public now.

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