So Goes the Supreme Court and Other Stuff

Bush Nominates Roberts for Supreme Court. Let’s see what the commentators will say; will be interesting. Not entirely a surprise – a man who’s an Ivy Leaguer. But, surprise – maybe he’s not Right Wing, so much as well, merely conservative (little “c”)? Who’s to say for certain?

Pari Chang observes the difficulties of being a short woman who wears a size 5 shoe (something I sympathize all very much):

In New York, the city of everything, even a consumer’s most obscure desires can be satisfied. A litchi-nut martini from a former speakeasy. Gucci loafers for a newborn. A shearling bomber jacket for a potbellied dog. But Heaven help a girl like me who wears a size 5 shoe.

Each time I canvass Manhattan, every store seems to be out of my size. The designers send only one pair, the clerks always tell me, and someone has beaten me to it. [….]

To compensate for such episodes, I’ve often resorted to homemade fixes. Before 9/11, I practiced as a litigation attorney in a large Manhattan firm. One afternoon when I was sitting cross-legged in a boardroom with a group of partners, I swiveled to reach for a document. As the plush chair whipped around, my navy pump flew off, and the tissues I’d used to stuff the toe were strewn about the floor of the conference room. I felt as though I’d been caught with socks in my bra.

The partners lost interest in the deposition testimony they’d been all fired up about and pummeled me with questions: What’s your shoe size? What size are the shoes you’re wearing? How long have you been relying on this tissue trick? I took the fifth.

So, when a flier in my mailbox recently announced the midsummer sale at the hipster shoe destination Otto Tootsie Plohound, I was determined to get there before my small-footed nemesis snagged all the good shoes. Opening-day purchases are 20 percent off with the flier, so the minute the doors opened at the 57th Street store, I blazed down the aisles clutching the discount coupon and checking the underside of every shoe.

A salesman asked if he could help.

“Show me whatever you have in a 35,” I said, which is the rough European equivalent for a women’s 5. He told me that the smallest sizes were on display, which, of course, I already knew.

Then he disappeared into the bowels of Tootsie Plohound and returned with a wobbly stack of boxes. “These run narrow,” he said, fingering a kitten heel.

“What size are they?” I asked skeptically.

“36,” he replied.

“Forget it.”

Next up, a cowboy boot, size 35½. “Let’s try a padded insert, see if that helps,” he said.

“Whoa, Otto,” I said, because I didn’t know his name. “I’m not about to pony up 400 bucks for boots that don’t fit.” [….]

As I entered Giordano’s, the clerk greeted me with a bear hug. I bought Anne Klein wedges and Stuart Weitzman slingbacks. They’re both O.K., nothing exciting, but I don’t have the luxury of being picky. If the shoe fits, I just wear it.

The clerk sensed that I was less than thrilled. While ringing me up, she said: “Have a baby. Your feet will grow half a size.”

As I walked back to my apartment carrying my Giordano’s bag, I reminisced about a business trip I took years ago to Vancouver. The shoe stores there catered to Hong Kong-bound tourists, and I netted six pairs of sexy summer sandals.

Of the six, I liked the silver ones best. The metallic straps looked fierce against a hot-pink pedicure. And the summer I wore those silver sandals, I fell in love with the man I would marry. At a small, round table at a sidewalk cafe on Cornelia Street, my future husband waxed romantic.

“You have pretty eyes,” he said, “and beautiful feet.”

He’s Chinese. Yes, his ancestors put so high a premium on small, feminine feet that they went so far as to bind them. But by marrying him, I gained a spring in my step, and my little Jewish feet found redemption.

A lovely story indeed. But, at least Pari Chang didn’t have to deal with being a Chinese female with the little Chinese feet (but marrying a Chinese guy and taking his name got her a lot closer to it). Darn hard to find size 5 shoes (well, I prefer 5 1/2, which ain’t easy to find either).

Dr. Sandeep Jauhar explains why he enjoys watching “House, M.D.” (while acknowledging that it’s hardly the most realistic show):

My wife, a general internist, finds the show absurdly “unrealistic.” “Doctors don’t do that,” she cries whenever a House physician blithely ignores the boundaries of medical subspecialties. (The same doctors, for example, might perform cardiac catheterization, gastrointestinal endoscopy, bone-marrow biopsy and liver ultrasound.) I agree the show is unrealistic, but for a different reason. It portrays a world where doctors have time to solve problems.

I have worked in teaching hospitals in New York for seven years, first as a resident and now as an attending physician, mentoring residents and fellows. Over this period, I have discerned a gradual decline in the intellectual climate of these institutions. It has been dispiriting to watch. Of all the places one might expect doctors to be curious about medicine, teaching hospitals should be first.

Young doctors I work with today seem disengaged and mentally fatigued. With patient rosters of 15 or more, they are preoccupied with getting their work done. Interesting cases tend to generate anxiety, not excitement. Mysteries are, by and large, abhorred. [….]

In his 1999 book “Time to Heal: American Medical Education From the Turn of the Century to the Era of Managed Care,” Dr. Kenneth Ludmerer, a Washington University physician and historian, bemoaned the deteriorating intellectual environment in teaching hospitals.

He wrote: “Most pernicious of all from the standpoint of education, house officers to a considerable extent were reduced to work-up machines and disposition-arrangers: admitting patients and planning their discharge, one after another, with much less time than before to examine them, confer with attending physicians, teach medical students, attend conferences, read the literature and reflect and wonder.”

Today, everyone in medicine wants a number, a lab test, a simple objective measurement to make a diagnosis. Unlike Dr. House, few have the time or patience to cope with uncertainty. We want to make medicine easier than it deserves to be, easier than it actually is.

Which is why I like to watch “House.” The show reminds me of the wonders of medicine. It allows me an hour each week to relish the magic and mysteries of my profession, even if it’s only on TV.

That’s either very poignant, or a point – doesn’t it feel like our learned professions fall into the trap of cynicism (“do the job”; “be productive”; yadayadayada); do we run the risk of losing why we were fascinated with our learned professions in the first place? (I’m not just talking about the medical folks either; we lawyers aren’t that much better). I think that’s why we’re such suckers for watching the doctor shows and the lawyer shows – those guys on tv look like they love their jobs and the craziness of those jobs – that’s really what those shows are – shows about The Job.

Ah well. Got to enjoy watching Dr. House – he doesn’t give a crap about much except the buzz he gets from his Vicodin and his work.

Oh, and the Harry Potter bandwagon. Well, I’ve just started Book 5, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” so I’ll withhold comments. My summer reading so far consists of “Dante in Love,” by Harriet Rubin (a tome on the writing of The Divine Comedy) and Peter David’s “After the Fall” (wherein Star Trek Capt. Picard’s protoge, Captain Mackenzie Calhoun – the superhero-ish man from Planet Xenex – finds out that his adult son isn’t dead after all and that said son has been causing interplanetary problems. Gee, Mac, sounds like your son got his troublemaking genes from you).

Stay in air conditioning; hope that won’t cause more global warming (umm, wishful thinking there on my part, obviously).

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