I’m wiped and not optimistic of my chances of finding time to hunt down a medical or science article this week, so instead you get a story. (I would like to dedicate this story to my Chemistry professor, who is fond of telling such anecdotes in the middle of lecture when our eyes start to glaze over.)

I have my first bona-fide doctorly white coat. It’s a short coat; I’m not sure what the official rules are about wearing the long white coats, but I’m pretty sure it would be bad form for me to even attempt to purchase one.

If you were wondering, though, there is someone enforcing white coat etiquette. As my friend and I approached the area of the bookstore that sold such coats, we ran across an older man sitting at a desk who leaped to his feet as we approached.

“Looking for a coat?” he said. He waved a finger at me and declared, “You look like a small, and you,” pointing at my friend, “a large!”

He grabbed the small first and commanded me to put my backpack on the ground so I could try it on. It was roomy, but not overlarge. I would have bought it without a thought.

“No you’re going to need an extra small,” he said, and was already off looking for it before I could say anything in response.

Meanwhile, the friend who had come with me was trying on his coat. It mostly fit fine, but was maybe just slightly too small. He started to discuss his options with the coat-salesman.

“Oh don’t worry about! You won’t be the ugliest guy there!”

I started to crack up. Really? That was how he was going to convince a customer to make a purchase? My friend looked nervous, “Yeah, but…does it look okay? Should I get a larger one?”

“Oh they’re upstairs! And are only a tiny bit longer and twice as much money. What are you worried about. There’ll be lots of guys uglier than you!”

Neither of us knew what to say. I was still laughing as we started to walk away.

“You,” he said, pointing at me. “I could have sworn you’d have worn a larger size.”

So now we are now the proud owners of official doctor-to-be white coat, and of the firm conviction that we’re probably not the ugliest people wearing it.

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