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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Old time doctors endured blizzards on horseback or midnight summons to distant farms, but some modern healers share their suffering.

The phone woke me at 11: 30. International Assistance, a travel insurer, asked me to visit a downtown hotel where an Argentinean lady was suffering an allergic reaction. This was not bad news; downtown is not too far, I charge extra for calls that get me out of bed, freeway traffic is light, and I can sleep late. I wrote down the information and dressed.

Some travel insurers pay reliably, but International Assistance is not among them, so I had long since demanded their credit card number. Before leaving, I phoned the credit card computer, entered data to collect my fee, and heard the computer voice deny approval. After laboriously re-entering the data and receiving the same response, I phoned International Assistance and waited patiently while the dispatcher scrambled to turn up another credit card.

Traffic was minimal, but as I approached the freeway interchange leading to downtown, a long line of traffic cones forced me to the outside lane. The ramp heading north was closed. The highway department schedules inconvenient maintenance for the wee hours, and I occasionally encounter delays. No problem, I thought. I continued on to the next exit and re-entered the freeway to retrace my route. Cones quickly appeared, so the other north ramp was also blocked. By the time I learned this, I was forced onto the freeway heading south. Again I left at the first exit only to discover no on-ramp in the opposite direction. Fortunately, there was Figueroa, the main street through downtown, so I decided to follow it. That turned out to be everyone’s idea, so I joined a gridlock that crept north.

I apologized profusely after arriving an hour late, and the patient was too polite to express skepticism that heavy traffic at one a.m. was responsible.

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