Stream of Consciousness: Bowtie Friday

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

20 Minutes, One Theme, No Edits, Backspace is OK

Today’s theme:  Bowtie Friday

He was 96 when he passed away, and until his death in early 2011, every single periodontist who ever trained at Harvard School of Dental Medicine had been a student of his. There was a service held for him at the school, where several senior faculty members recalled being students of his. They told stories of his dedication as an educator, his warmth with patients, and his love for fine cigars and an old coupé.

There was a box of bowties at the entrance. He had hundreds of them, and no one had ever seen him without one since World War II. Service-goers took one each by which to remember him. Mine was a beige wool tie with clay-colored tear drops, slightly worn in the spot where the material would overlap if tied around Dr. Epstein’s collar.

I showed up on the first Friday of my Internal Medicine rotation this week with five bowties in my backpack and one around my neck. That day’s choice was brown, thin-profile, paisley. “Bowtie Friday,” I called to my team. “I have enough for anyone who wants in.”

One of the two interns was wearing scrubs, the stubble on his face now three days thick. Exhausted but still spirited, he joked about the Chippendales aura he would give off if he put one on. “Maybe next week,” he chortled.

The chief resident, no shorter than 6-foot 3, with a booming voice and a playful cowlick, jumped at the opportunity. He chose the purple one to complement the faint grid on his otherwise white shirt. The attending and the other intern declined, defending the standard necktie.

The pharmacy student was on the fence, but morning rounds started before he could decide, thus defaulting back to his half-Windsor.

As we walked the halls of the wards on morning rounds, a murmur buzzed from people’s lit faces. “Is it bowtie day?” The chief walked with a swagger enhanced by the wings of the purple silk dancing with his movements. By noon, the pharmacy student was in.

He chose yellow with blue diagonal stripes, spot on with his shirt. He borrowed it for the week to practice tying the knot. Adjusting the initial length is step one. Steps two through five are easy. The hard part is finding the slot through which to push the near side of the dangling end. Pull tight, adjust the wings. Strut.

The chief paused before discussing the next patient. “It’s not just the tie, it’s what the tie says about the man. Specifically, that he’s supremely confident—and already married.”