Today, I encountered a surgeon at Starbucks. His scrubs and lab coat weren’t surprising and neither was his flashy that’s-right-I’m-a-funky-surgeon bandana. In this neighbourhood (I work and live by Vancouver General Hospital), I guess we all become somewhat inured to this practice. What did make this particular instance surprising was the fact that yon scrubber was also wearing blue surgical booties over top of his shoes. Small twigs and grit sullied their bottoms. The heels were looking frayed. It had rained yesterday, so they were even a bit soggy.
Was the surgeon simply trying to coordinate his footwear with the rest of his outfit? Was he protecting his Ferragamo loafers from undue wear and tear?
The first thing I realized as I was staring at his feet was that there was no way he had donned new booties as he made his way out of the hospital to grab coffee. Then I realized that this meant Doc Scrubs went from a situation where he needed to have this protective gear on his feet (e.g. surgery) to standing in line for coffee ahead of me. And then I realized that if his protective foot gear hadn’t been changed since leaving that setting, the same thing was probably true about the rest of his pale blue get up.
Here are some visuals:
– A queue of SWAT team members – replete in Kevlar, helmets, and jackboot finery – are waiting to buy a hot dog from a street-side vender. Perhaps they have come directly from “neutralizing” a threat in a hostage situation. There are celebratory high fives.
– A gaggle of HAZMAT workers are jostling for condiments at Taco Del Mar, the rustling of their jumpsuits drowning out the crappy radio station. This could be a post clean-up celebration feast. Additional high fives are thrown.
– A crew of farmers in stained gumboots crowds around a table enjoying dim sum. Maybe they have just completed delivery on some discount manure they were really hoping to unload. High fives all around.
I’ll allow that the vast majority of scrubbers and lab coaters are wearing unspoiled gear. Maybe they weren’t even at work that day – perhaps a costume party or Career Day presentation is in the offing. But the bottom line is that some of these people are coming directly from the bedside or bench. This goes beyond nasty and moves into potentially unhealthy. And I don’t know where to draw the line on acceptable incidence when it comes to reckless behaviour. One in ten? One in fifty? I don’t have an answer.
My suggestion: buy a tracksuit to change into when it’s time to grab a snack. If your time is unbelievably precious, be sure to select one with tear-away pants.
Oh, and realize that a paternalistic “don’t worry – it’s clean” is not a comfort.