this is what is known as a multi-pronged approach to preparation
One other consistent piece of advice that I received about taking my oral boards (yes, I'm talking about the fucking boards again, but just bear with me, they're on Wednesday, and then hopefully never again) is that I should be sure to take some beta blockers before showing up. This under no less authority than my partner at work, the oral boards examiner himself. As he explained it (and not like I don't know this to be true, but he's actually seen it happen year after year) is that when you show up to take the boards, you are very NERVOUS and you get a HUGE CATECHOLAMINE SURGE and meanwhile you're WAITING AND WAITING for your exam to begin and your SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM is all revving OUT OF CONTROL, so by the time you actually get into your first test room you're all WRUNG OUT and EXHAUSTED and SHAKING, which just makes you feel like hell before they even ask you your first question. Also: flop sweat. So, I agreed that if he thought it was best, then beta blockade I would.
(Now before the non-medicals accuse me of taking the PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS, let me assure you that this is not the same as blood doping or taking, I don't know, Ritalin or whatever. Beta blockers are a non-narcotic medication usually prescribed for hypertension and/or ischemic heart disease that work on bringing down your blood pressure and heart rate, thereby reducing the stress on your heart. They have no psychotropic effects, and lots of people--actors and public speakers in particular--will take them for stage fright and whatnot to block the physical effects of anxiety. So don't worry, I'm not juicing like Drago in "Rocky IV.")
Anyway, beta blockade seemed like a good enough idea, and conveniently enough, I actually have some metoprolol at home, which Joe has been taking for a few months after his run-in with myocarditis. (He mainly takes his to suppress ectopy--that is to say, he gets palpitations and the metoprolol smooths them out.) However, given that I don't usually take any medications to reduce my blood pressure, and it's not like my baseline blood pressure is super high to begin with, I wanted to do a trial run with the metoprolol. You know, so I wouldn't take it for the first time and keel over in front of my first two examiners in some ungainly display of orthostatic hypotension. You know, like a demo.
After taking half a tab of metoprolol this weekend (which had basically zero effect) I took a full tab today. And I felt...the same. I thought my heart rate was maybe a little bit slower, (it was maybe high 70s when I took the med, and when I checked it again it was low 70s) but how could I say for sure, I was sitting down, I'd had something to drink, I was chilling out in a Starbucks for chrissake--not exactly the greatest stress test in the world. Of course, you could argue that the fact that my heart rate was not higher after drinking coffee was diagnostic, but I had a chai, so who knows how much caffeine is in that? Anyway, I had dodged the worst case scenario (read: I WAS NOT DEAD) but as for the intended effect of the beta blocker, I still wasn't sure.
The one other thing that I wanted to do today was take a test drive to the hotel where the exam is being held. The oral exams are being administered there all week, and candidates are told a specific day and time to show up so that they're sort of staggered throughout the day, Monday through Friday. I know where the hotel is (thank you, Google Maps) and I know that it's only 9 minutes from my house, but given that it's a busy part of town during a busy time of day, and given that I am the novice driver you all know me to be, I thought it best to practice the drive.
Well, I drove to the hotel. But see, where this hotel is located is right next to the on ramp for the highway, and though I could see where the hotel was--if I stopped my car and got out, I could have actually walked right up to in in about 30 seconds--it was one of those things where I couldn't see any way to turn into the driveway, and once I passed the hotel it was all MUST TURN THIS WAY and LOOP BACK THAT WAY and DO NOT ENTER and THIS WAY TO THE INTERSTATE. I had been warned about this last week, but seriously, that area is a major clusterfuck. And so I was slingshotted in the traffic like a helpless projectile, trying to figure out how not to end up on the interstate and how to loop back to the main street, all while trying to avoid all these Atlanta drivers who were all honking and merging with their penis-substitute convertible sports cars and all giving each other the finger (honestly, I grew up in New York City, and I've never seen as many drivers give each other the finger as I have in my two years here). It was terrifying. But even though in my mind I thought, "This is terrifying," my body did not feel terrified. My body felt calm. In fact, when I finally got out of that traffic vortex and stopped at an intersection, I checked my pulse. Still in the 70s. So I guess beta blockade works.
I had to loop back around to the hotel a total of four times before I finally found the entrance driveway, by the way. And then I saw all these people walking around with suits and notecards looking like they were going to puke. So that made me nervous again. But only in my mind, not my body. My body was sipping boiling water and spitting out icicles. Yay for beta blockers!
Medicolegal addendum: Please know of course that beta blockers are not for everyone and that there are certain conditions that should preclude you from taking them, consult your primary care doctor before starting any prescription medications, etc. etc. ad infinitum