A guest was eating lunch in the hotel restaurant when the chair collapsed. Unfortunately, her hand was resting underneath. The desk clerk asked if I could come immediately.
During my early years, I would hurry over, take care of the problem, and present my bill only to have the guest insist that the hotel was responsible. Management sometimes disagreed, so I learned to settle matters over the phone.
“I need to know who’s paying,” I said.
The clerk she put me on hold, returning to announce that the hotel would take care of it. This would be my 146th medicolegal visit, my name for a housecall when the hotel offers to pay. Most involve minor injuries that occur on the premises. There were also thirteen upset stomachs, purportedly from hotel food, and nine insect bites, always bedbugs according to the guest.
I arrived to greet a young Englishwoman, her hand in a bowl of ice. Two fingers were exquisitely painful. She needed an x-ray. I found a local orthopedic group on the internet and phoned.
“An initial visit is $500,” said the receptionist. “She needs to pay when she comes in.”
“Wow!” said the guest when I passed this on. This was probably not a comment on the size of the fee (which the hotel would cover) but the traditional European amazement-cum-horror at American doctors’ preoccupation with money.
Both fingers were fractured. Fortunately, her visit was ending, and she flew home the next day.