Wake Up, Mrs. Petrowski

Good morning! Did you have a restful sleep? Yes, I know it’s 3 AM, I just thought… well, the whole orderly staff thought a little early morning air would do you some good after all that commotion yesterday. I have to say you’re a pretty feisty old gal for 86!

How’s that?

You’re 78?

Still, you should really take better care of yourself. Just look at those bags under your eyes! You’re no spring chicken and all that protesting just causes stress. Here, why don’t we wheel you over to the balcony so you can get some of that fresh healthful air.

Yes, I know it’s cold. But look at the spectacular 14th story view! A clear night sky full of stars, and if you lean over the railing you can see all the way down to the empty parking lot. Just like the Ferris Wheel at the 1892 World’s Fair, back when you were a little girl.

Now if I can just unlatch this… stupid… mmmp… sliding… mmph… door. Crap.

Oops! Sorry Mrs. Petrowski, pardon my French. It’s just that I was looking forward to the two of us having a nice friendly chat out there. Let me see if I call get somebody in maintenance to open it for us.


Hi, this is Barack, the night orderly on 14. Can I get someone up here to open the balcony door in 1417? Patient Laverne Petrowski. P-E-T-R…

huh? but… okay, well then what time does his shift start?

8 am? Oh come on man, do you know how many people are in the parking lot at that time of the… okay, okay. Whatever.


Sorry Mrs. Petrowski. With all these budget cuts and strikes, it looks like we had to cut the third shift maintenance crew. Say, how about we take you for a ride down to the cafeteria? It’s almost empty this time of day, and I bet they have that green jello you love so much. Mmm… num, num, num!

Please, Mrs. Petrowski, put down the phone. The other patients are all asleep. Besides, after that incident yesterday, you know we had to unplug it. You remember how agitated you made everybody with those crazy stories about “death panels” and what not. Remember when I was giving you the sedatives, and I explained that your mind was playing tricks on you? And how those nice men were only End-of-Life Quality Assurance Counselors?


Okay! Elevator’s here! Next stop, bottom floor, cafeteria… aaaand… therrrre’s…


a goddamn elevator car in the shaft.


Alright, whatever. Let’s get on.


Now that we’re in private, can I trust you with something Mrs. Petrowski? We just got a top secret telegraph from the War Department, and it turns out those “death panel” rumors are the work of Nazi saboteurs. And Tojo. Now, I know a patriotic gal like yourself doesn’t want to be an Axis dupe, do you? Of course not. Remember, loose lips sink ships. Think about our brave GIs fighting the Japs and Huns. If you hear Tokyo Rose or those other radio fifth columnists spreading those kind of rumors, you tell me first, okay? I’ll get the word straight to President Roosevelt and General McArthur, so ixnay on the eath-day anels-pay.



Okay, watch that doorway bump.

Mrs. Petrowski! Back in the chair, please. Am I going to have to strap you in there again? You know your hip is in no condition to be walking around on your own. Yes, I know. But we both know the committee said a hip replacement was a waste of resources for somebody like you, up in her nineties.

Alright, alright, 78. But the point is, it’s important that the hospital uses its resources wisely to contain unnecessary cost. That way we can make sure we have rooms for everybody, and still pay a living wage to our dedicated staff. Like Frank here.

Hi Frank! How do you like that new floor waxer? Umm… by the way, did you get my note about the new late night elevator procedure thing?

That Frank’s sure a great guy, Mrs. Petrowski. Salt of the earth. Just got elected to the SEIU bargaining committee. Anyway, like I was saying, it’s important for the hospital to keep a lid on costs. Instead of complaining, you should really count your blessings. After all, you’ve got that nice private room up on 14, all to yourself, with a balcony. Even if the door isn’t working. I’m guessing we could fit, oh, I don’t know, at least three or four patients in that room. Easy. I mean, after you’re gone, of course.

Hi Kathy! How’s our favorite cafeteria lady? This is Mrs. Petrowski, the patient I told you about.

Mmhm, yes, that was quite a ruckus she caused yesterday! Say, how about fixing up a plate of your special green jello for Mrs. Petrowski? Yes, the kind with the mandarin oranges and the uh, other stuff.

It’ll be just a minute Mrs. Petrowski, Kathy’s gonna make some up special, just for you. Let’s see… that’s $18.95 with tax. I’ll grab a twenty out of your purse and put the change back in. What say we grab that empty table over there.

I have to say, I really enjoy these health care conversations of ours. The best part of being an orderly is talking to old people like you, up in their 90’s and 100’s.

Right, 78. But let’s face it, Mrs. Petrowski, that puts you right up there at the average American life expectancy. So, hey, I guess you could say you’re already living on borrowed time. There’s just something extremely fascinating and wise and selfless about folks like you, so very close to the sweet release of death. Ah! Here comes Kathy with your jello.

Okay, let’s open wide for the nummy jello! Num num num! Here it comes! Here comes the choo choo train! Choo choo! Now Mrs. Petrowski, if you don’t stop fussing like that the jello train will never get to the station. Now let’s open wide, turn your head this way… no, no, this way, and…


Okay, fine, you don’t want your jello. Boy, if I didn’t know better I’d think you were skipping your sedatives.

You’re a Christian, aren’t you, Mrs. Petrowski? Me too. I guess my favorite part of the Bible is where it talks about how we all get our allotted “three score and ten.” Seventy years, right there in the Bible. And you are, now what was it, 83?

Okay, 78. Still, that’s what, eight years over your biblical limit? That’s one amazing overtime run you’re having, I’d say. Almost unnatural. In fact, I was just mentioning you to a bunch of the people on the hospital waiting list the other day, and they were as amazed as me. Still, with all the relentless hip pain and sleepless nights like this, I can only imagine how much you long for the eternal embrace of Jesus. Sure you won’t have a little jello?

Just a bite?


Okay, have it your way. Let’s get you back to your room, maybe they’ll have the balcony door fixed later today.

You know, we on the staff are just worried about your state of mind, what with all your outbursts and disinterest in jello. I imagine it must be very lonely for you, with your husband all your friends up there waiting in heaven. God, too. I’d like you to think of the hospital as God’s partner. And here on God’s team we just want you to know you have options. They’re all here in this brochure.

By the way, I noticed from the accounting report that you and your husband saved up quite a little nest egg there. I’m sure it must be a comfort to you that your children and grandchildren will be well cared for, even after the estate taxes. Whenever that day comes, of course.


Hey, I just remembered! I think the roof is unlocked. How about we go up there for a look?

Mrs. Petrowski!

You shouldn’t run on your bad hip like that!

Mrs. Petrowski!


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