I recently ran up a five-figure tab for a stay of less than one week — and I never even left New York.
I wasn’t at a luxury hotel — although I had room service three times a day — and while it was no vacation, I spent the day laying around, and had plenty of time to reflect on how being in a hospital in NYC is a lot like being in one of the City’s hottest, new restaurants:
It’s all about turnover.
Think it’s pushy when you get the check at Balthazaar while you’re still eating dessert? How about learning at 8 a.m. that they’re releasing you, walking around the floor for the exercise, and coming back to a bed that’s stripped and waiting for the next occupant?
The celebrity chefs make guest appearances.
My surgeon saw me before the operation, and again in the recovery room; but I didn’t see him again until the follow up three weeks later. Instead, a stream of doctors (never the same one) came by several times a day to look at my stitches, poke, and ask a few questions. At Lutece, though, Andre Soltner would stop by your table, and the pastry chef, the saucier, and the sous chef stayed in the kitchen.
They start things off with a cocktail.
Restaurants send the wine steward or the server, but the cliché “feeling no pain” comes to vibrant life when you have a team of six or seven anesthesiologists show up. I don’t know what they gave me before the epidural, but I had a ‘70s flashback immediately. Instead of counting backwards from 100, I enumerated every nightclub and disco in which I had a similar high. I was still listing them when I was wheeled into the OR, which, by the way, looked more like a restaurant kitchen than what you see on TV.
They don’t spare the silverware.
In restaurants, that’s a good sign, but the same amount of cutlery has a different meaning when it’s going to be used on you. They wheeled me next to a long table with what looked like a tablecloth tossed over it, but I could see enough utensils to handle a state dinner.
Music sets the right mood.
Before I went under completely, I spotted a CD player in the OR and asked if they took requests. Yes. They played my fight song, “Eye of the Tiger,” and I was out before the bridge.
There was one experience unique to the hospital stay. In restaurants, their job is finished once you eat the food. Whatever happens to it after that, is none of anyone’s business. Post-op, one intern explained to me, it’s very important to the doctors that the patient has “a movement.”
I hadn’t heard so much “movement” talk since the ‘60s. It was the first question asked by everyone when they entered my room. Not just the doctors – the nurses, the people who delivered the food trays, even the guys who emptied the trash bins. They all wanted to know. “Did it happen yet?’ It was like they were waiting for the royal baby.
I managed to get myself discharged without much incident (but for that kind of dough, I could have recuperated in the Ritz Carlton…in Paris). Although the first few days were rocky, I seem (knock wood) to be on the mend. It’s taking longer than I thought…but look how long it’s taking to get the Second Avenue Subway.
But don’t get me started about that.