Korean Hospitals, Part II: Rules that Should Be Rules

In contrast to the rules listed in the last post, which are in effect, my stay in the hospital resulted in a new list of guidelines that I firmly believe should be instituted, particularly on Hall 8B, as soon as humanly possible. We’ll call these the DB rules, well, because they’re brilliant and I don’t mind lending my initials to brilliance. (This also helps anyone just joining us from confusing the actual rules with the rules that should be actual rules but aren’t.)

DB Rule #1: You must sleep in your bed the right way round. This means your head should line up with the heads of the people beside you and your feet should all face toward the center of the room. The Stinker next to me slept the wrong way around all day every day and often positioned herself on her left side, with her back facing me. This strategically aimed her butt in the direction of my face. This woman was Champion when it came to meeting the Passing Gas Standards. And so, every so often, my air supply would become polluted with The Stinker’s generous wind. I had no recourse. Why? Why aim your guns at me? What did I ever do to you? And she wasn’t even that sick. She could walk, and burp, and fart, and eat really loudly, and even got her drip removed the second day I was there! What? You’re not on a drip? Surely you’re well enough to go home. So, stop pointing that thing at me, turn around the right way, and be more environmentally conscious to your fellow patients.

DB Rule #2: Put All Almost-Deaf People in Their Own Room. Outside of the orchestra of snoring and farting that played all night, there was the Screaming Ajumma. She was General Disturber of the Peace. She was one of the caretakers common to Korea that are hired by the family to live in the hospital with their loved one while they are sick. These women are strong and coarse, and should be so in order to do their job. They sleep on cots next to the hospital beds, change diapers, hoist ancient, limp bodies into wheelchairs, and force a lot of food into ailing senior citizens. But the yelling? Oh, God. I have uber-sensitive hearing that makes sleep hard for me on a regular basis. My fridge makes noise, something shifted in the trash, a door 20 rooms down opened and closed. That kind of thing. This woman was like 10 feet from me and if I had been blind, would have sworn she spoke through a bullhorn. And the Screaming had no time limits. 2 a.m. and you just drifted off? Too bad. Screaming Ajumma needs to fluff a pillow or make Deaf Old Lady swallow a pill or turn over. Put ‘em all in the same room and let ‘em scream themselves hoarse. Sleep is essential to recovery and healing. Sleep is impossible with Screaming Ajumma. You do the math. And write your Congressman.

DB Rule #3: Sort patients according to the severity of their condition. Put happy, healing patients altogether. Put grumpy, pain-ridden patients together. The way it is now, the Happy are way too Happy because they compare their slight issue to those of the really ill and think how great it is to be them and this makes them even happier and more annoying. And those of us seriously experiencing pain are not allowed to wallow and writhe in peace, but must feel doubly sorry for ourselves because across the room is a woman who could, for all practical purposes, go shoe shopping and eat donuts. The jealousy factor prolongs pain, in my expert medical opinion, and also induces Rage, which increases pain and decreases already negative pain thresholds. True misery. Put the Happies on a ward so they can laugh and tell jokes together. Put the Weenies Who Can’t Handle It together so they can stop burning with jealousy and focus on getting well.

DB Rule #4: NO PLASTIC BAGS. AT ALL. EVER. Every person who came to visit, every Screaming Ajumma, and even Kenny’s mom carried everything in a freaking plastic bag. The sound of rustling plastic bags is already annoying on a normal not-a-patient-in-a-hospital day. But being confined to a bed, already feeling like you’re going to puke, and listening to the crackle and crinkling of plastic for 5 MINUTES STRAIGHT (oh, it feels much longer than that) is unbearable and makes me crazy. And why is it that you can’t ever just stick your hand in and pull out what you want? You must rearrange everything inside the bag, take it all out, do elaborate origami figures with the bag, try to iron the wrinkles out of the bag, rub the bag between your hands as if you were going to start a fire with it, put all your items back in the bag, shake the bag, tie the bag, forget you need something else and repeat the entire process. Plastic bags in every day life are not so noticeable. Plastic bags at 4:30 a.m., although muffled somewhat by the “orchestra,” are like bombs detonating in your pocket. Please, on behalf of all hospital patients around the world, leave the plastic bag at home. Or, put all the plastic bag carriers in a different room. I’ll take the Green Room, which shuns all plastic bags and only uses handmade hemp carriers to transport our goods.

Can you tell that I’m all about sorting things according to like properties? I believe that in some cases, this is called prejudice. But in this instance, I firmly believe that it is common sense and for the good of the masses that must reside in Korean hospitals for any amount of time.


  1. I don't mean to laugh at your misery. Really, I don't. But I can't help myself.

  2. It's a good thing your hospital stay included so many amusing incidents, if only in retrospect. Very sporting of you to write them up for our benefit. Hope the recovery is nearly over now.


  3. You should publish this one day, either online or on paper from recycled plastic bags. But seriously!


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