I was nearing the end of a long overnight shift working as an emergency department scribe just outside of Ann Arbor. It was a slow night, having only seen around ten patients by halftime at 4 a.m., so I indulged myself by studying for my upcoming organic chemistry exam. My eyes and I began the end-of-shift descent into lethargy; I began to move more slowly, my computer screen seemed fuzzier than before and I started to inadvertently tune out my periphery. I had a few hours yet in my shift to get through, but I had certainly hit the wall. I meandered over to the coffee machine tucked in the corner of the department and grabbed a Styrofoam cup. The coffee machine looked like it was out of the ’90s, with all of its once-white now yellowed, and a red Folgers label that had faded to burnt pink.
But one should never judge a book by its cover, and in that vein, one should not predict the quality of coffee based on the appearance of its maker. I crunched the “regular” button on the side of the machine and watched the dark liquid quickly fill the cup. After staying my hand for a few seconds to allow it to cool, I took a sip of the hospital coffee.
This hospital coffee was rich. It was rich like a Van Boven regular who purchases items that aren’t on clearance. It was rich like someone who can buy a venti and only drink a tall’s worth of coffee. It was rich like a new textbook, even though the used copy was drastically less expensive.
I am not certain if it was, but this hospital coffee sure tasted fresh. It was fresh like syllabus week or an untouched copy of The Daily. It was fresh like seeing tour groups at the University of Michigan for the Class of 2023. It was fresh like a new lab coat, instead of one that had just been poorly washed from last semester. These are all things I’ve seen and/or done before, like the coffee I’ve consumed before, but there is undoubtedly something about the re-experiences thereof that act as catalysts for dusty, motivational bursts waiting in my pituitary.
This hospital coffee was rejuvenating. It was as if I had spent a summer abroad, in Paris or Rome or Madrid, to find myself and finish my language requirement. All of my curiosities about the world refreshed, with an entirely new set of experiences under my belt. And though I enjoyed said time abroad, I told everyone that asked that I was happy to return home and get back into the regular swing of things. But even after returning home, I kept wondering if maybe I didn’t utilize the study abroad opportunity as well as I should have. I mean, study abroad is a great opportunity that looks great on a resume, but maybe I should have chosen somewhere different? Somewhere more applicable for my major? Maybe it didn’t matter anyway. I’ve only got a couple of years left before graduate school. I only had a few hours before that shift was up. This hospital coffee had the same effect as a study abroad program, only without the debt.
This hospital coffee was reassuring. It told me to close my organic textbook and reassured me that my exam would turn out alright. It reminded me that I could sleep the following day. It reminded me that no matter when the next patient comes in and no matter what they present with, during that shift or in the distant future, the hospital coffee would be there. I can’t be certain as to whether it will mimic this particular episode, but I do know that that was one phenomenal cup of coffee.