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On the road

I spent most of December and January interviewing for residency positions at hospitals all over the eastern half of the country.

There was one 30-day span, from mid-December to mid-January, during which I spent time at 12 different destinations. (For the record: Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Ann Arbor; Oak Island, N.C.; Richmond; New York; Philadelphia; Durham; Raleigh; Boston; St. Louis; Mt. Pocono, Pa.). I learned a lot about hospitals and residency programs, but I learned even more about traveling.

As a service to my readers, I offer up the following bits of wisdom:

1. There is a special circle of Hell reserved for those people who recline their seats on an airplane. Honestly, you’re invading my space. Along with my plane ticket, I purchased the rights to the entirety of the space between my seat and the seat in front of me. When you recline your seat, you’re stealing almost a third of my real estate. In return, you can fork over one-third of the cost of my ticket, or I’ll kick your seat for the rest of the flight.

2. An analogy: BoltBus is to Megabus as Tina Fey is to Sarah Palin: smarter, more attractive, and more qualified to be president.

3. My blister-covered heels and toes want me to tell you to break in your shoes before you start traveling for interviews.

4. Tri-fold garment bags? More expensive than normal garment bags, but totally worth it. Not only will you look like a super-cool business traveler, but your suit will still be presentable when you get where you’re going—and you won’t have to pay $50 to check your bag.

5. Along the same lines: Traveling in a suit? Can’t beat it. Everyone thinks you’re more important when you travel in a suit. Plus, you really show up the travelers wearing too-small sweats.

6. Simple math: JetBlue > Southwest >>>> every other airline. This is perhaps the most important point for the non-business traveler. On every other airline, there’s a caste system. As a younger, poorer person with no SkyMiles or Mileage Plus or AAdvantage points, you’re basically an Untouchable. On JetBlue and Southwest, everyone’s treated equally. It’s like communism, minus bread lines and work camps. (JetBlue gets the nod over Southwest because they have better snacks and you get the whole can of soda instead of just a small cup of soda. Also, the TVs. Duh.)

7. Walking two miles from hospital to hotel through a snow-covered Ann Arbor afternoon—not so bad. Walking a quarter-mile through a Boston blizzard at 6:30 a.m.—bad.

8. Philadelphia International Airport: Despite marketing its Terminal B and C as the Philadelphia Marketplace Food & Shops, it’s not a fantastic place to spend seven hours. Actually, this is probably true of any entity marketing itself as a “marketplace,” airport or otherwise.

9. I have no idea how people traveled before Al Gore invented smartphones. I don’t think I arrived at any of my destination airports with any clue how I was going to get to the hospital or even what time I was supposed to be at the hospital. If it weren’t for my iPhone, I would’ve had to—gasp!—plan ahead.

10. Currito! Burritos without borders, indeed. If I hadn’t just spent $1,500 traveling to residency interviews, I’d open my own franchise.

Alex Fanaroff is a fourth-year medical student. His column runs every Wednesday.

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