Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Ugly

On the cab ride to our hotel the night before the NY Med interview, the driver explained, “the hospital is the primary employer here, second only to the prison.” Sure enough, this small, picturesque town is dominated by a beautiful medical facility and razor-wire-surrounded prison. He couldn’t remember if it was “where they temporarily hold rapists and murderers before they’re sentenced” or for white-collar criminals. Ok. Well, that’s good to know.

It's located in Westchester County, the ninth richest in the country. The place feels a little snobbish, but I'm keeping an open mind.

The campus is gorgeous – red brick buildings connected by sidewalks crossing green lawns. It’s October and the fall colors are at their peak. Walking in the door to the Admission office I feel way out over my skis. The room looks like an old rich person’s parlor. Dark wood, rich burgundy carpet, antiques, gilded picture frames, the whole bit. The people inside seem to fit the part much better than I. All ten interviewees are sitting around a coffee table not conversing and looking pretentious.

I decide to put myself out there, “Hi, my name’s Trina, what’s yours?” After a day at Einstein where we were all camp buddies by the end of the day I was not prepared for the perhaps more typical interviewee culture of competition. “I’m Rebecca” she says without bothering to look up.

Ok, this is going well. I try a guy, “Hi, I’m Trina. Where are you from? Did you just fly in?” He looks up from his leather padfolio just long enough to watch my expression while he says, “I didn’t need to fly. My parents have a house here in Westchester.” Granted, everyone in the room is nervous, but come on folks…we’re here to interview after all. A little warm up conversation could help us all!

My name is called and I enter the room. I see a man I can only imagine is named Mr. Tuttle sinking into the chair. He’s at least 350 pounds with golf ball sized bags under his eyes and a lot of skin under his neck that wiggles like a turkey gibbler when he turns to face me. He has glasses magnifying the black circles and it seems to be more effort than he can muster to move his large grimacing lips. I smile, look him in the eye, firmly shake his hand and say, “Hello, Dr. X, I am Trina Davis, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” (Kind of a lie). He mutters, flips through the file on his desk and says, “Why did you wait so long to apply to medical school?” Apparently life experience is not a plus here. I explain my story, and he seems barely able to hold himself awake. “What did you hate about your job so much that it drove you to medicine?” Not exactly an optimist. I describe that I actually loved my job and would be suspect of my motives if I was running from something; I was simply that much more compelled by medicine. He proceeds down the list of scripted questions.

I’m increasingly certain I could do a jig on the table and this man won’t crack a smile. I try serious, studious responses, lighthearted ones, sullen, negative ones and vulnerable, honest ones.

I didn’t know it was physically possible to conduct an entire conversation while firmly frowning. He looks ridiculous as he says “I’m your advocate to the Admission Committee” with pursed eyebrows, blank eyes and expressionless lips.

It was like trying to launch a hot air balloon filled with lead. Crashing and burning is too generous as it indicates there was some initial speed.

The rest of the afternoon touring the campus and lunching with students proves what I suspected from portly interview man – this is a well-resourced place that values homogeneity. I appreciated the connection I saw among the students, the magnificent facilities and determined this was definitely not my kind of place.

Although I was told I wouldn’t hear any decisions for at least ten weeks, I was not surprised to receive my first rejection a mere six weeks later. Apparently the school was really eager to vomit the interloper out of their gilded system.

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