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Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's Still a Good Job

“How quickly can you get here?”

That may be the most common phrase I hear after a concierge identifies herself.

“Pretty quick, but I like to talk to the guest first. Would you connect me?”

I didn’t assume this was an emergency; guests who make urgent request are more often impatient than sick.

“When can you get here?” asked the guest impatiently.

“Pretty quick. What’s going on?”

“It’s my assistant. He’s got the flu.”

“Could you tell me what’s bothering him?”

“I’m not a doctor. That’s why I called you.”

I suppressed a surge of annoyance. “People mean different things when they say ‘the flu.’ Is he vomiting?”

“No.”

“Is he feverish?”

“Yes. Listen! I have a dinner reservation at 6:15. Can you make it?”

It was 5:30. Unless guests feel truly miserable (vomiting, pain) they are usually willing to wait a few hours, so I often delay dinnertime calls until rush hour traffic dwindles. But hotel doctoring is a service as well as a dog-eat-dog business, and if I disappointed this demanding caller, he might ask the concierge to suggest someone else.

Creeping 1½ miles to the freeway onramp took fifteen minutes, but then traffic moved slowly but steadily, and I arrived on time. As is often true in my business, delivering medical care is the easiest part. The patient suffered a bad cold and didn’t consider it a serious problem. In person, his boss seemed congenial.

On my drive back, the freeway stopped cold. I took an exit three miles from home. Despite this, traffic crawled so slowly I was expecting a blocked lane ahead, but it was just the rush hour. It took an hour. On the bright side, I had finished half my dinner when the call arrived,, so I wasn’t hungry. And in hotel doctoring, when you finish seeing one patient, you go home.

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