Nov 032007

I was on blogging leave last week. Not my usual no-writing-today-so-fuck-right-off-and-read-someone-who-cares leave — actual medical leave. I was confined to the hospital for more than a week with acute appendicitis. (Fine thanks, but a word of advice: if you must have your appendix out, do so before it ruptures.) Hospitals are interesting places; hang around one for a few days and you start to believe that Foucault had a point after all. I shall have more to say about them presently, but for the moment I will confine myself to a few preliminary observations.

1. If you want to know when you can expect to be released, consult the Wiki, not your doctor. The average stay for acute appendicitis is about a week. Your doctor will never tell you this, lest he sound too much like an algorithm in an expert system, which can probably outdiagnose him anyway. Best to keep your mouth shut, particularly if you are inclined to ask questions like, “Can you give me a range of dates within which you expect, with 0.9 probability, to release me?” Complaining to my doctor about her vagueness provoked a stern and rather terrifying lecture about how medicine is both an art and a science and each individual case is different. As it turned out, because of her art and my individuality, I spent thirteen more hours in the hospital than the average.

2. Pet therapy appears to be medically certified. One morning I was awoken from a fitful sleep by a mangy griffon called Kindu — I read the name from his official hospital ID, and yes, his department is “Pet Therapy” — who is apparently hauled from bed to bed, to be petted serially. The hygienic implications of this program may not bear scrutiny.

3. Catholic hospitals take their religion more seriously than you might imagine. St. Vincent’s has a rather large chapel, although I never saw it occupied. It also employs priests who roam the halls, ostensibly to offer succor. This merely annoys the non-believer; and if I did believe, and were sick in a hospital bed, I wouldn’t be in any special hurry to see one either. One of my roommates’ guests also thoughtfully took time from his busy schedule to try to bring me to Christ. This, however, was not authorized by the hospital.

4. In Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen asks the prostitute he has hired how she likes her job and receives the usual reply. “It’s funny,” he says, “every hooker I meet says it beats the hell out of waitressing. Waitressing must be the worst job in the world.”

It’s not. Nursing is.

5. Old people spend a really remarkable amount of time discussing “Dancing with the Stars.”