Monday, April 25, 2011


At the end of two years of medical school, there exists a rite of passage. It’s called the United States Medical Licensing Exam, Step 1. Or “the boards” for short. Like all standardized tests, you get a numerical score that in part determines what you get to do next. Because of this, people like to use some combination of the words “awful” and “stressful” to describe the process of preparing for this exam. So far, I’ve managed to stay fairly glued together. The first few weeks, I was pretty pumped to review for this test, but now the newness has mostly worn off. Kind of like a fast-flaming relationship, huh? But I’m similar to many medical students in that I have this strange and sick part of me that actually enjoys the intensity of it all. And I guess I have to, because after 18 years of schooling, I still keep coming back for more. So I’ve learned to get hyped about pulling all-nighters and working long hours—if only to delude myself into thinking there’s nowhere I’d rather be than right here in the library.  In anyone else, we might diagnose this as masochism, but in ourselves, we diagnose it as being “hardcore.” Maybe it’s no wonder it can sometimes be a fast-burning candle?
I think this strange hardcore-ness is what allows med students to take a sort of collective pride in our workload. It’s why we overhear classmates boasting to friends about breaking the 100-hour barrier in their studies last week, or eating only 3 actual meals over the course of 6 days. It’s fascinatingly ridiculous. Yet I can’t deny the small pinch of admiration I feel, even as my eyes begin to roll straight to the back of my head—which lends me to what I actually wanted to write about. I saw the most hardcore thing of my life the other day.
It happened while I was taking a bathroom break at school. Sometimes, I hold my pee while I’m studying just so I can reward myself after reading number of pages. Yes, it’s extremely stupid, but I already told you that being hardcore is a psychological illness of sorts. Anyway, whatever self-deluded pride I had ballooning in my chest upon entering the men’s room quickly disappeared as I prepared to wash my hands and return to my books. As I turned toward the sink, a guy walked past me holding a stack of notes. Okay, I thought, I’ve seen this before. It’s not unusual for students to bring some notes with them while they take care of business in the stall, whether they admit to it later or not. But no—not this time. I watched first in curiosity and soon in awe as this student headed not for the stall, but for the urinal! I feebly tried to look away, but of course ended up ogling the kid as he held his notes in front of him while he unzipped and peed standing up.
Now, I absolutely understand that writing about bodily functions is never reputable. Especially if your stories involve staring at others as they relieve themselves.  But I felt this encounter called for the grandest of exceptions. I came out of the bathroom that day a bit giddy because I felt like I had witnessed some type of barrier being broken. It was an academic feat I had never even considered, much less attempted. Sure, I’ve been known to bring my books to the dinner table or listen to lectures in the car when I want to take advantage of those precious 15 or 20 minutes. Yet here was someone legitimately studying while micturating because he refused to afford even 30 seconds to idleness. This had to be the hardest of all cores. I considered snapping a picture with my phone but thought this would go against all sorts of student conduct policies and/or federal laws. I still can’t help but think it would have turned into a phenomenal motivational poster.
I recount my public bathroom run-in not only to highlight the lunacy that is my mind, but also to remember a moment of pure hilarity. Yes, the laser-like focus I’ve directed toward my board exam has at times left me whining in despair and punching things in frustration. But sometimes, it also leaves me to laugh at how absurd the whole situation is. Who in their right mind actually appreciates the sight of a grown man cramming at a public urinal? So I figured in my efforts to embody all that is hardcore, I had to pay homage to this inspired stranger who I now consider like a brother to me even though I only really remember the back of his head. Truly, he has given us all something to aim for.


  1. Thanks for the laugh Jay. Lunacy describes it pretty well. Good luck with the studying!

  2. Hey, can any of my law school friends who happen to read this provide me a consultation regarding bathroom photography and it's legal ramifications?

  3. i can't believe you wanted to snap a picture in the bathroom. reminds me of when my cousin said her friend had some creeper try to snap a picture of her going to the bathroom. don't be a creeper jay. anyway hope you do well on the boards. :)

  4. Update courtesy of Tina:
    hahaha dont trust me I'm not a lawya! If you're doing it on behalf of the government or a public school (since they receive federal funding and are viewed as a government entity), you will probably be violating the individual's privacy (which is interpreted to be included in the Constitution, although the text of the Constitution doesn't say this explicitly). As a private individual engaging in bathroom photog, you will not be violating the Constitution, since you have to be doing it on behalf of the government or a government entity in order to infringe upon an individual's privacy rights. But I'm quite sure that there is some federal/state law crim/civil law that bars bathroom photog wo permission...

  5. i think i tried that once before but ended up just getting my notes dirty


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