09 April 2011

Luxury Goods

When I was in medical school, the first weekend of orientation the Dean would have a cook out at his lovely home on his beautifully manicured lawn. Sitting there in the shade by the crystal pool waters was like a promise. Work hard, the trees whispered, and all this can be yours.

Now I didn't choose medicine with any idea of what sort of paycheck might someday be mine. My parents, both dedicated and underpaid, had struggled but in their sacrifice had still found a way to send me to Space Camp, to send my brother and I off to college, to keep the heat on and the roof (usually) from leaking. Doctors made more, I guessed, but I knew this only abstractly. After all, how much more could anyone need?

At a panel on work life balance in my second year of med school, one of the speakers said, "If you have to drive  to the hospital at 3am, you might as well have heated seats in your car." Granted, I don't really remember the context of the discussion at that point, but presumably what she was trying to say is that in a job where your time is not ever your own, when you might reasonably be expected to leave your family and your bed on a moments' notice, then a little bit of luxury helps things balance out in the end.

My car has heated seats, or it had them, back in the nineties when it came off the assembly line and was bought by a wholesome couple with 2.4 kids and a golden retriever. It also had little wipers for both the front lights, whereas now there is only one. And it had windshield wiper nozzles that would direct the flow of fluid onto the dirty glass. Now that one of these is missing, the wiper fluid on the right side of the car bubbles up ineffectually and runs off down the hood.

When I was young, my mother's car had one such nozzle that had become cockeyed and would spray sideways onto whatever vehicle was beside it. She would wait at a light and if the car that sidled up next to hers was playing their music too loudly or even if it was not, she might wait until the light was about to turn and then press the lever to let the spray go wild. If it was summer and windows were open, this was particularly amusing, but also a challenge since you had to pretend to not be looking, not to realize, and had to wait for the light to be green and the cars to move forward until you could laugh out loud.

So there is some amusement to be gained from things that are falling apart around you. Our downstairs bathroom, for instance, has its sink handles on backwards - lefty tighty, righty Lucy. The same bathroom has a hole through which you can see down to the basement. Our stove has one burner that doesn't work (or so I'm told...I'm also told we have a stove, but I don't know for sure, you'd have to ask my husband). The heat in the unused guest bedroom is always cranked up because the valve on the radiator leaks if you turn it down. The list goes on and on.

We'll have to chip away at it slowly. Though I do make more than my parents did, it's not by much and they were gainfully employed years younger than I managed to be. So, no, I do not need heated seats or anything quite so grand. But I am thinking of upgrading at some point to ones that aren't held together by duct tape. Or maybe I'll wait and try to fix that bathroom hole.

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