Sunday, July 17, 2011


Of Baltimore's many monikers (including Charm City, The Greatest City in America (seriously--it says so on the public benches), The City That Reads, The City That Bleeds, and Mob Town), my personal favorite and most used is Smalltimore. One, because it just sounds silly, and two, because it's true. Don't let the big city trappings fool you--if you spend even just 24 hours here you WILL run into someone you know. Case in point: My friend who came to visit this weekend got hit on by a dude in a bar. We went to brunch the next morning on the opposite side of town. Dude was our waiter.

After spending such a long time in New York City, I find this aspect rather comforting. It makes me feel like I'm a part of something, and it's forcing me to deal with my social anxiety--the "look at your cell phone and pretend not to notice" trick doesn't work as well when you're the only two people on the sidewalk. And you're more accountable to how you treat people. Not that I was ever a total jerkface or anything, but it's making me think hard about my moments of inconsideration. No longer can I just ignore the texts of someone I've been on a few dates with and say to myself, "Oh well, it's not like I'll ever run into him again." (Which doesn't mean I won't still ignore the texts, just that I can't say that...IT IS A WORK IN PROGRESS HERE, PEOPLE.)

A new element of the smallness I hadn't considered until recently is the likelihood of running into patients. Unfortunately, ICU patients are less likely to be seen out and about than those from other areas of the healthcare continuum, but their family members aren't. Two weeks ago I saw the daughter of patient I took care of for three days crossing my street. This morning I noticed the son of another one at the farmers market. And then I noticed the wife. And then I noticed...the patient! I was more than a little bit surprised. Three weeks ago, I suctioned bloody sputum out of his lungs and stood by as a newly minted MD performed her first paracentesis (i.e., draining the "beer" out of a beer belly). And here he was, all cleaned up and inspecting peaches with his family on a sunny summer morning. There was a tear or two beneath my sunglasses. And then I felt kind of creepy.

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