A Doctor’s Parting Words

We are settling in back home tonight after a two-week trip to New York City and one of the Mid Atlantic states. We stayed at one hotel for twelve nights and it started to feel like a home away from home. This was the first trip for our puppy, a black German Shepherd, who actually turned one year old while we were away. This dog makes friends everywhere we go.

I am not as gregarious as our puppy, but at this particular hotel I made friends (sometimes because of the dog) with all the desk clerks and the newly hired maintenance man and his helper. I also had a quiet understanding with the woman who ran the complimentary breakfast buffet. I never took the dog there, but he contributed to my multiple trips to the free buffet every morning. This dog doesn’t eat dog food; we feed him human grade food, so I made a few trips every morning to the breakfast buffet to load up on eggs and bacon for the dog and me, as well as pastries and yogurt for my wife.

Every morning the breakfast buffet supervisor seemed to look me over as I heaped a generous amount of eggs and bacon on my plate and disappeared to our room, only to appear minutes later for another big helping. She always smiled at me and said with an East-European accent: “Have a nice breakfast”. Whenever I ran into her somewhere else in the hotel, she smiled as if she knew my little secret and always said something nice.

Early this morning, after three trips downstairs to pack the car, as we passed through the lobby on our way out for the last time, it seemed as if they were all there. The night desk clerk, just coming off duty, the daytime desk clerk, the maintenance man, even the breakfast lady showed up, seemingly to say good-bye to the puppy. The breakfast lady was the last one to do so, and she spoke to Moses in Russian.

I said, in Russian, mustering all I could remember from thirty years ago: “I understand a little Russian“.

She beamed, exclaimed ” Ochen chorosho (very good)!” and went into something long and complicated, of which I understood nothing. I reverted to English and told her why I came to learn some Russian at all when I did my military service back in Sweden.

She smiled and said softly “I am doctor in Russia, here – ” and she shrugged “housekeeping”.

I wanted to say something more profound and supportive, but the puppy was starting to get impatient, we were already an hour behind schedule and we had a very long drive ahead of us. All I could do was mumble something about reading somewhere that there are many foreign-trained doctors who are having trouble getting their license here. Then I drove back home to my life as a doctor in America while she went back to check on the breakfast buffet.

1 Response to “A Doctor’s Parting Words”

  1. 1 Steph August 4, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Lovely story! You paint a real picture with your words.

    I’m intrigued at the very concept of taking a dog to stay in a hotel. How do you cope with exercising and toileting a dog (and especially a large dog) when in somewhere like New York?

    Moses sounds like an adorable dog. I guess he won’t be the only one who’ll miss the morning supply of bacon and eggs 😉

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.



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