Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Our Med-Con Con Adventure, Part 5

One of the things we wanted to eat while we were in D.C. was some sushi. We love the stuff from low end buffet sushi to high end specialty restaurant sushi, and we seek it out whenever we get near a place that has it. The Gaylord National had a sushi restaurant on site, so we planned to go there even though we knew the prices were far higher than we're usually comfortable paying. Before heading there, though, we stopped by the exhibition hall of Med Con for a little meet and greet with hors d'oeuvres and drinks at which we hoped to see some friends from school.

Now, until this point in our Med Con experience, I'd not been down to visit the exhibition hall proper. This is odd, too, because one of my favorite things about being a civilian who frequently sails in the ocean of medical professionals is the prevalence of free swag often found in exhibition halls.

Back when the wife was in medical school and we were fairly dirt poor, I used to love going to Hospital Day gatherings at convention centers and resorts because of all the free stuff. A) There was always food and drink to be had, usually in the form of pastries and coffee (though Christmas parties and graduations tended to see drinks a bit more fermented in nature); and B) Hospital Day gatherings always meant a high presence of drug reps. Drug reps, for those not in the know, are representatives of pharmaceutical manufacturers who are sent out into doctor's offices and conventions around the nation to talk up the benefits of their particular brand of pharmaceuticals versus other brands in order to convince doctors to prescribe their brand to patients more often. In clinical settings, drug reps often help ease their foot in the door by offering to cater in lunch for the entire office, as office staffs like to eat free food and often look with great favor on doctors who allow said free food in the door in exchange for a bit of time to talk up their drugs. In convention and hospital day gathering type settings, drug reps have been known to come armed with swag in the form of really heavy metal pens, clocks, note-cubes, keychains, nifty tins of mints, reflex hammers, highlighters, jump drives, mini-mag-lites, stress balls, and even plush stuffed replicas of a stomach, all usually emblazoned with the logo of their particular pharmaceutical. Needless to say, I love all that stuff and gobble it up by the bagful, particularly the pens. While some drug rep pens are pretty cheap, others are crafted things of beauty and grace the likes of which come close and often surpass the product of companies like Cross. In fact, after losing my favorite Zoloft pen, a few years back, I managed to find a parcel of five identical Zmax pens in an assortment of 20 or so other styles of drug rep pens (including a very phallic Viagra pen) on eBay for $5. Sweet.

The exhibition hall was very disappointing in the free swag department. A few of the hospital recruiters had some swag, but the drug reps were barren of it. The wife explained that this was because as of January of this year drug reps are no longer legally allowed to pass out free swag. I'm not exactly sure of the reasoning behind this, but it's now illegal for them to do so. However, this legislation has apparently freed up funds for their food budgets, because the exhibition hall had been turned into an endless buffet of both food, beer and wine. And someone had clearly said "Screw this heavy hors d'oeuvres, crap," because most of the food there went well beyond your usual shrimp and cheese platter faire and had crossed over into stick-to-your-ribs goodness of cajun rice dishes, plates of pasta, ham stations, mini-burger and hotdog stations and much much more. And throughout the room were beverage stations with beer, wine and softdrinks. Very quickly, I realized that we would not be eating sushi that night because we would not have any room left for it. We had a lot of fun eating and chatting with people we knew until it was nearly time for the room to close. By then, much of the beer was running low and I wound up drinking a St. Pauli Girl near-beer out of obligation because the bartender had already opened it for me by the time I realized it was non alcoholic.

So I didn't get any swag, but the food more than made up for it.

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