“Someone needs to check my nephew. He’s shaking and really upset. How quick can you be here?”

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The child was in good health before a fire alarm roused everyone from bed at midnight. He seemed frightened, perhaps more than usual. I had no doubt that he would recover, but that was hard to communicate.

I try not to make housecalls for anxiety attacks because many guests begin recovering while I’m on the freeway and cancel. Keeping the guest on the phone works better. After a half-hour of to-and-fro and reassurance most admit they’re not feeling so bad.

This was one time that being reliable got me into trouble. The lady had called the front desk pleading for a doctor. Within seconds she was talking to a doctor. Weird!

She undoubtedly assumed that I was a special service provided by the hotel. Perhaps I was sitting by a phone in the lobby.

In any case, my efforts to keep her talking didn’t work. People are very protective of children. She insisted that a doctor must come. Reluctantly, I agreed. Then I had to mention something I never mention until it’s necessary. When I make a housecall, there’s a fee…..

She was shocked. “I’m not going to pay that!” she said. “We’ll take him to the hospital!” She slammed down the phone.

This has happened before. I had to speak to her again, not only to renegotiate the fee but to assuage my fear that she would denounce me to the hotel. But the fire alarm was still in progress. She was not in her room, and it took fifteen minutes before the hotel could track her down. By that time she admitted that the child was feeling better.

Mike Oppenheim

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