Industry Update
Opinion Article17 May 2019

Lost in Translation - The Life of a Hotel Doctor

By Mike Oppenheim, MD

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Oppenheim

5:30 a.m. Saturday is an ideal time for a call. I had finished writing and was sitting down to breakfast. I told the dispatcher that I would be at the hotel in an hour.

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The freeway was clear. Parking, even downtown, would be easy. My phone rang as I drove. It was the guest's travel insurer warning that there was no answer when he phoned to tell her when I'd arrive. When guests request my services directly and then vanish, I don't get paid, but this is not the case with travel insurers, so I drove on. It was unlikely she had left the hotel.

At this hour, I check at the desk to make sure I don't knock at the wrong door. The clerk confirmed the room, called, and reported that someone had answered and then hung up.

It was good news that she was present, not so good that she had immediately hung up. That's a sign that a guest doesn't speak English.

A young Japanese woman greeted me at the door, ushered me inside, consulted her Ipad, then announced in triumph: "......stomach!!...."

One advantage of travel insurance is that dispatchers will interpret. Despite my admonition, they prefer to edit, abridge, and summarize rather than simply translate; their English is often rudimentary, and passing the phone back and forth makes for a long, tedious visit.

On the plus side, these guests usually have uncomplicated problems. It worked out.

Mike Oppenheim

In his regular column "The Life of a Hotel Doctor", Mike Oppenheim shares remarkable stories around visiting hotel guests as a doctor. When he began as a hotel doctor during the 1980s, only luxury hotels had a “house doctor,” usually a local practitioner who did it as a sideline. Nowadays, in a large city even the lowliest motel receives blandishments from a dozen individuals plus several agencies that send moonlighting doctors if they can find one.

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