Hospital Bill

“Well, you’re a farter aren’t you?”

This question came from the other side of the curtain in the cardio prep/recovery room. It, like many of the exclamations from the patient on that side of the curtain, was directed at no one in particular, and was how that patient woke from brief bouts of horrific snoring.

From my prone position on my hospital gurney I stared at the ceiling tiles. With nothing else to do while I waited on my procedure, I listened to the show on the other side of the curtain.

“Sir?” The nurse asked the patient on the other side of the curtain. “Do you have sleep apnea?”


“Do you have sleep apnea?”

“Oh, yeah. I got that.”

“Ok, do you normally use a CPAP machine?


“Oh. Do you have a CPAP machine?”


There was a pause, and she bravely continued, “Would you like to get a CPAP machine?”

The patient, who asked her to use his first name, Bill (not his name), laughed and said, “No.” There was a fair amount of phlegm mixed in with the gravelly laughter. Their conversation was interrupted by his phone, which was set to maximum volume and regularly chirped out bells and notifications.

Bill grabbed his phone. There were more chirps and beeps. Based on the noises it appeared that he had begun playing a game, perhaps Candy Crush.

The beeps eventually slowed, then stopped, and the snoring returned. When he next awoke with a gasp, he cried out, “F*ck me off!” He then picked up his phone, which had blown-up the entire time he slept. There was a series of clicks and beeps, followed by Bill yelling, “Hey, it’s Bill. Remember that thing we did a couple of months ago?” There were pauses, interrupted briefly by Bill replying “yeah” and “uh-huh” to whatever the other party said until he lost interest and said, “Well, I should go. I’m in the hospital. Ok. Bye.”

The Candy Crush noises started again but were soon replaced by loud, uneven snores. This process of snoring, then waking with profanity repeated itself throughout my three-hour wait–as did his odd habit of calling people to ask them a question and then cutting off the conversation.

The nurses seemed to like Bill, which seemed odd to me. I was annoyed at his lack of respect for his surroundings, and suspect that this sentiment was shared by many of the other people coming from or going to their own heart procedure. But, in retrospect, focusing on Bill distracted me from my own case of self-pity—which reached Shakesperian levels.

Eventually, I was wheeled out for my procedure. I made the mistake of looking over at Bill as I passed and saw for the first of three times that he was not wearing anything under his hospital gown.

When I returned forty-five minutes later I exchanged self-pity for relief and prepared myself for four more hours in the same spot for recovery. I had plenty of time to regret the fact that I had left my headphones in my hospital room, so I piddled with my phone (of course on mute as I am a self-appointed champion of civility) and listened to the Bill show, which was still in progress.

Bill was in a consultation with his surgeon. I felt a little guilty about eaves-dropping, but the thin curtain was the opposite of soundproof and, without headphones, the Bill show was my only outlet.

“So, Bill, you appear to be recovering well.”

“Yep. I feel pretty good.”

“That’s great.”

“Doc, I got a question.”

“Sure, Bill.

“How soon can I have a beer?”

There was an elongated pause. I could not see the doctor but assumed he was trying to put a patient, thoughtful look on his face.

“Bill, we just put a pacemaker in you. You’re spending the night here in the hospital. I don’t think you need to worry about beer right now.”

“But tomorrow I’m out, right?”

“Sure, if it all goes well you’ll be discharged in the morning.”

“So lunch then. Let’s say I have a few a lunch.”

Another pause was followed by, “I don’t think that’s a great idea, Bill. You’re recovering from surgery, and alcohol—”

Bill cut him off. “Ok, ok, I get it. I get it. But one beer at lunch is no big deal, right? I mean, it’s just one beer.”

The doctor muttered something. Bill laughed, and their conversation ended.

I knew I had four hours to go before I was sent back to my room. I did my best to entertain myself.

Four more hours to go. Three and a half more hours to go.

The Bill show continued. Many of the nurses had changed, but Bill somehow charmed the new ones just as he had their predecessors. The more entertaining he was, the more my bitterness rose.

I’m being respectful. I’m following the rules. Why isn’t everyone coming to hang out at my bed?

Now attempting to swallow a dueling case of resentment and self-pity with a boredom-chaser, I looked at the clock and felt a little bit better.

An hour to go and I’m out of here.

Almost as if she had heard my thought, the new nurse on duty – one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet—approached my bed and lowered her face to mine. She was smiling, but that smile was strained. I knew right away that whatever she was going to say was not going to be good. A flood of sentences ensued. I caught something about a supervisory decision and how it was all so unfortunate. She ended her announcement, smiled even more and slightly inclined her head as encouragement for me to nod in return.

“I’m sorry. What was that?”

The twinges of a frown appeared. She bit her lip and then pulled off the proverbial band-aid. “They gave away your room. You have to spend the night here.”

There was silence, until Bill blurted out, “Oh you’re a f*ck member!”

The nurse and I both turned towards the curtain. Bill offered nothing further but his phone chirped loudly. We turned back to one another. I inclined my head towards the curtain and whispered, “Ok, I understand, but is there any way I can be in a different bed?”

Her smile regained its normal dimensions. She whispered back, “I’ll try.”

“And my toothbrush, and all of my things are back in the room.”

She again nodded and repeated that she would try.

I settled back into my pillow. I had already logged six hours in this bed. I don’t sleep much anywhere, even my own bed, so another twelve hours in this one would likely not be the end of me. The worst part was the loss of my bathroom. Oh, the bathroom…

This prep/recovery area had only one bathroom for the twenty or so patients it held. Earlier I had the misfortune of being in the bathroom just after Bill. He took the same approach as Thing #2 and left the seat down, relying on his accuracy, and overconfidence. Just like Thing #2, the outcome had a yellowly resemblance to the work of Jackson Pollock.

Bill shifted again and muttered something I didn’t catch. I prayed to any god that would listen for my toothbrush to arrive before Bill went back to the washroom.

I got lucky on a few fronts: my toothbrush arrived, I moved to a different bed a fair distance from Bill, and I made it to the bathroom before he repeated his artwork. The last I heard from him was a request for a second supper (which was granted). And a second dessert (also granted).

When I awoke after a fitful sleep Bill was gone. It was eerily quiet. I almost missed him.

Aside: Thanks to my good buddy Julian for the title

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