Beep, beep, beep, beep … ,” the pager sounded. “What time is it?” asked Gregor S. His alarm clock flashed 7:42 a.m. He stumbled across the small apartment, grabbed a warm diet cola out of the grocery sack he had forgotten to unload in last night’s sleep-deprived state. The chicken was ruined, the bologna dubious. The whole bag ditched, save the six-pack.
Gregor went down the stairs two at a time. Mrs. Q with the arthritic boxer in 3G barely let him by, grumbling to herself about young folks today. No time for false pleasantries. He was late again. This would be the third time this month: his first month on staff as a hospitalist. He barely made the 7:52 bus, and was on ward 7 in a quarter of an hour.
At work—more Dr. S than Gregor—he hunted for an open computer. There were three on the ward. The head nurse hovered over a keyboard. Her shoulders were hunched and her body language said “Do not disturb.” Charting vitals or checking her stocks, it did not much matter. She was an immovable object, and he was no irresistible force.
The second keyboard was occupied by Heinrich W, the pharmacist. Dr. S had had a confrontation with the prickly pharmacist over an abbreviation two weeks ago and since then not a word had been spoken between them. Resigned, he approached the third keyboard.
Computer JFSRVQ289476 was the worst in the entire hospital. The G key stuck and files seem to mysteriously disappear, but Dr. S had no other choice.
He tried to type in his password GREGORS/Hospital but the G button kept on sticking. He shook the keyboard and was ready to punch the monitor. He looked across the ward. The head nurse had left her computer. He got up to move there, but suddenly the G key became unfrozen and Dr. S typed the R and E, but the second G stuck again. He turned to move, but now a surgery resident had logged on to the other computer.
Amazingly, the G key yielded to Dr. S’ heartfelt entreaties, and Gregor signed on. His pager went off at that moment. Text message: Meeting with Committee R at 8:30, Mason Hall room 339. What was this all about? Committee R? What was Committee R? And where was Mason Hall? It was already 8:45 and he had not seen a patient yet. He could not reach the phone from his current position, so he left his seat and crossed the nurses’ station. He called his secretary, but only got her voice mail. He returned to the computer, but it had signed him off. His pager beeped for extension 5-44899. That was too many digits. All the hospital extensions had 5 digits.
He asked the ward clerk where Mason Hall was. She stared at him, chewing her gum and eyeing him like he was a giant cockroach. He turned to the pharmacist who had been watching the exchange, but he quickly turned his head back to the screen and doggedly ignored Dr. S.
Finally the head nurse came by. “Where is Mason Hall?” he pleaded with her. She shook her head at him. What kind of question was this? Why did he want to know where Mason Hall was? He told her about committee R.