Walking out the doors of the Anatomy Lab a man is standing in front of me. His hands are busy around his waste, shuffling his penis back into his pants, smoothing the creases of his underwear and now pulling his pants up from his thighs. He’s looking at me like we’re both crazy.
“Yes?” was all I could offer, waiting for the punch-line.
“This wear de keep de bodies?” he asked.
“Say that again?”
“The dead bodies in there?” I’m racing through the reasons that he would ask this and why I would answer him. That’s when I see the name tag. This man is one of our volunteer patients at the Clinical Skills Lab. Since we don’t do genital exams this term I still can’t explain why he was undressed and half-across campus, but this is Grenada and I’ll have to let all of that slide. He’s probably harmless.
“Yes, this is where we keep the cadavers. Can I help you?” Turns out that he came over to find out how he could donate his body to the school once he died. His pants fall down again as I usher him into the Secretary’s office. I watch her eye’s bug and offer no explanation; I wouldn’t want to ruin it for her.
* * *
Going to school in the Caribbean is fantastic if you’ve got the right head on your shoulders. If you go to a restaurant and read the menu, you can’t kid yourself and think that what is on the menu is available. The menu is instead a list of things that were once available and may be available in the future. This is due either to a lack of ingredients, the staff is too busy to make your order, or the staff does not care to make your order. If you need a blown tire fixed, you can open up the Grenadian yellow pages (which might as well say, “no we don’t do that, call this guy” on every page) or you can go to the roundabout by Lance Aux Epines and look for a guy with a grey beard and a sock on his head named “Vincent.” Vincent, you are told, is a good guy.
Not everyone that comes to Saint George’s University can take all of this. Sure it seems like a series of little things, but that’s what death by a thousand cuts is all about. I can’t imagine what it would be like working in any medical setting (or other high pressure situation) with the girl that stomps her feet when her luggage doesn’t arrive on time or the guy that loses his mind whenever we have a Grenadian Traffic Jam.* It’s nice knowing that in my future professional life, seeing “SGU” on a resume will mean that they couldn’t have made it through while holding on to those attitudes.
The person that does come here, takes everything in stride, and thrives is just the type of person I want by my side if things fall apart.
*Grenadian Traffic Jam: In Grenada, people often stop their cars in the middle of a two lane road to open the trunk and begin selling lemonade. Drivers then weave by to stop, chat and buy a drink. You’re going to be late, wherever you were going. Honking doesn’t help.