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Friday, September 2, 2011

Mid-level chains (Hilton, Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Sheraton) provide most of my business. I love luxury hotels, but these have traditionally been the bread-and-butter of hotel doctoring, so my competitors, all more entrepreneurial than I, love them more. The result is that when one of them notices an iconic Los Angeles hotel (Bel Air, Beverly Hills Hotel, Sofitel, Four Seasons) calling me too often, he steps in and points out the error of their ways.

My colleagues don’t care to travel, so I’m the doctor for the most opulent hotel in the county: the Langham (formerly Ritz-Carlton) in Pasadena 25 miles away. It sits on twenty acres that includes a beautiful Italianate-style main building, luxurious Spanish Revival-style cottages, and a historic garden.

Last week the Langham concierge asked me to speak to a guest. As soon as she came on the line, I knew she felt terrible. She sounded weary and hoarse after vomiting for several hours. She was in good health, so odds favored the usual stomach virus, miserable but rarely life-threatening. Most vomiters want quick relief, but she preferred to wait it out. I gave the usual advice (don’t eat, don’t drink, suck on a piece of ice) and left my number. Fifteen minutes later the concierge connected me to another vomiting guest who also declined a visit.

This would have been a rare treat Рtwo patients at the same hotel. Sadly, both were American. Since Pasadena lacks the tourist cach̩ of Los Angeles, Langham guests include more Americans who are less inclined to pay for a housecall than foreigners who accept their helplessness in the hands of a rapacious medical system.

When I phoned later that day, both had recovered. They were grateful for my concern, but they would have been more grateful if I’d cared for them. Although you might not think so, I consider vomiting a good visit. It usually doesn’t last long, and the doctor gets the credit when it stops.

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