Maybe it is because I do not stay out late anymore unless I am attending a birth. Maybe it is because the floors were freshly cleaned. But when I was working late in my lab last night at the University, when I left my office to walk down the long, clean hallway to the stairs, when I could hear my shoes squeak gently beneath me with each light, quick step, I could swear it smelled like, and felt like, the hospital. I did a double-take.
There are two possibilities. Either it was in my mind, or it was in my hallway. Probably, a combination of the two. But it really threw me for a loop.
The only times recently --- in the past year --- that I had been out past 8pm were to attend births. Both birth centers that I have been to smell like cleaning agents, blue hospital gowns, and hand sanitizer. With just one exception, each birth I attended was at night, with nobody else around: an empty parking lot, no visitors, and reduced hospital staff. Inside the hospital, long, clean hallways with wide linoleum separate the main entrance from the nurse's station and from the patient rooms. In our engineering building, the nurse's station is replaced by a small shared kitchen in which an espresso machine delivers medicine rather than a labor and delivery nurse. So for me, being out at this hour, walking down similar hallways, with nobody else around, down the echoing staircase, into the empty parking lot, I felt like I was returning home from a birth rather than my own research.