Friday, July 27, 2012

24 Hour Call

As a hotel doctor, I’m on duty 24 hours a day. This sounds oppressive until you realize that even a busy week – say twenty visits – requires about thirty hours of actual work. A downside is that calls can arrive at precisely the wrong time.

This one came one hour and twenty minutes before a dinner reservation with friends. I calculated furiously and decided I could make it. As always, time constraints were driving and parking. My destination, the Mondrian, was on the Sunset Strip, six miles away. It was Sunday, so traffic was tolerable, but street parking on the Strip is difficult. The Mondrian is not one of my regulars, so parking attendants would probably not accommodate me. The hotel possesses only a skimpy open space around the entrance, so the valets might drive my car deep into the garage where it might take ten minutes to retrieve. Worse, there was a chance they would charge for parking.

Making a snap decision, I drove past, but no street parking materialized. I turned down a side street but no luck, so I returned to the hotel, handed over my keys, and announced (incorrectly) that I was the hotel’s doctor.

I arrived at the room and introduced myself only to hear the discouraging question: “Spik Spanish?”

I shook my head regretfully and began asking questions in English. This usually works because most Latin American male guests speak enough English to get along (women don’t do so well). Sadly, he proceeded to perform the Zero-English pantomime: pointing to his throat, pointing to his head, making coughing noises.

No problem. American hotels could not survive without Hispanic employees, and I doubt if naturalized citizens make up a majority. Peering outside the door, I appealed to a group of maids on their cleaning rounds, but they were recent arrivals and spoke no English. Luckily, a bellman pushing a food cart was bilingual.

Delivering medical care was, as always, the easiest part. To my delight, the valets had held my car, and I arrived at the restaurant not excessively late.

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