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June 23, 2011

Sleeping with Strangers

Elaine Viets                                                

 "So, do you want to sleep with us?" Doris Ann asked.Red bed

"I have to know some things first," I said. "Do you smoke?"

"Not in the room," she said.

"You should know that I snore."

"So do we," Doris said.

That’s how I wound up sharing a room with a passel of librarians at the American Library Association convention this weekend in New Orleans.

I’ve been lucky with my hotel roommates. Most are considerate, don’t hog the closet space or make noise if they come in after late-night celebrations.

Hospital roommates are another story. I get stuck with deeply devout women. And that brings out the devil in me.

A while back, I was in the hospital after a stroke (I’m fully recovered, thank you). My roommate was an 80-year-old woman addicted to televangelists’ sermons at full volume. I’ll call her Edna, because that’s not her name.

I thought the white-haired Bible-pounders were whitened sepulchers, but Edna watched their rants with rapture.

At dinner, she came down off Cloud 9 and asked me, "Which evangelist is your favorite?"Bible

"Uh – the dead one," I said. I figured that was a safe answer. One of them was always being called home. Not soon enough, thought, after watching them for 12 hours.

"Yes," Edna said, sadly. "His death was a great loss."

Dinner was punishment for my sins. But worse was in store – Edna decided to evangelize me.


"Jesus gave you that stroke," she said, "and you won't recover until you accept that."

It wasn’t right. I had a good husband, a good career, a condo on the water and a black Jaguar. Jesus didn’t get any credit for those. He got the rap for the stroke. I kept silent out of respect for Edna’s age.

Edna persisted. "Are you married?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. "Don and I have been married 37 years."

"Do you have children?" she asked.

"No," I said, cheerfully.

"It's not a real marriage unless you have children," Edna said.

"It's a little too late for kids now," I said.

"No, it’s not," Edna said. "God gave Sarah a child at age 80."

Respect for Edna’s age went out the window. "That's proof God is a man," I said. "No woman would give another woman a baby at age 80."

At least Edna was quiet for the rest of my stay.

Another adventure with a hospital roommate started out well. I shared a room with a large woman Walletectomy who was sleeping of the just when I was admitted early in the morning. While the doctors prepared me for a complete walletectomy, I fell asleep, too.

At 1:30 that afternoon, I was awakened by a woman shouting, "Father God, heal our Sister in Jesus’ name. Heal her legs so she may walk again."

"Yes, sweet Jesus!" Sister shouted.

"Heal her heart," screamed the woman preacher. "Heal her stomach! Heal her kidneys!"

At each request for healing, my neighbor cried again in a loud voice, "Yes, sweet Jesus."

This time, I prayed, too.

I prayed that the preacher woman would not go to any organs lower then Sister's kidneys.

My prayers were answered.


 Saturday, June 25, is  Mystery Day at the American Library Association conferenceNola  in New Orleans. At 10 AM I'm on the "Traditional Mysteries: Who Are the New Jane Marples?" panel with Rhys Bowen, TLC's Nancy Martin, Rosemary Harris and Jane Cleland as moderator.

At 3 PM "Laugh or I'll Kill You" is the topic for Rhys, Rosemary, Nancy M., Cathy Pickens with  moderator Amy Alessio.

From 1 PM to 2 PM I'll be signing copies of my books at the Penguin Group Booth 1422. 






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Have fun at ALA! I enjoyed it last year. Say hello to Doris Ann, Mary Boone, Nancy M, and Rhys for me. I hope you have a lot of librarians join you for the Mystery Day panels. And good luck with cooler digs for the display and panel areas than we had last year in DC.

One thing I've noticed recently are collections or what I call 'mutual novels'; a novel where various authors contribute chapters.

Elaine, after reading this, I'm thinking TLC should get together and do MURDER IN MEDICAL LAND!

Granted, it's been a while since I've done any Hospital Time, but I do remember the rather loud minister in the next bed who immediately claimed sole possession of the shared TV, and spent the entire day praying aloud over the Watergate Hearings. Or the young woman next door whose sobbing carried down the hall, occasionally coming close to hysterics, worried about her upcoming nose-job. Or the 60 year old man who would lap me as I was learning to maneuver on crutches and would always cackle, "Get it going, boy! In the Corps, we'd take those sticks away and you'd move it, believe me when I say that!" (Broken leg, cast from toes to hip, yeah, I was a Speed Demon, I'll tell you.)

Of course, as this IS TLC, there would have to be (insert dramatic music here) a DEAD BODY FOUND. Personally, I'll go with the surgeon who screwed things up, and proclaimed it was God's Will.

Hmmmm... you know.... this might work....:)

I'd love to kill a few doctors, William. I mean, in a book, of course.

HI Elaine- thanks so much for making me chuckle even before having tea. Have a great day.

Ah, Elaine, I love you and your quirky sense of humor!

I've had great luck "sleeping with strangers" in hotels, too. Women on the road--now that's a good time. One of my very favorite people is Roberta, who I met online more than 20 years ago. A few years later we were both speakers at a conference in Denver and decided to room together, although we'd never met before. We had the best time ever, and have been fast friends ever since.

My shared hospital experiences, although not tinged by religious fervor on anyone's part, were distressing in different ways. Since then I insist on a private room, no matter what. It doesn't cost that much more, but it's worth it. You're supposed to be resting in that kind of place, after all.

First let me just say that, from now on, I'm checking with y'all before I let my husband decline to take me to ALA conventions!

I don't do well sleeping with strangers. In fact, even my sister and I agreed to part hotel-room ways after a single night in which her snoring drove me to turn up the ambient music on my iPad, which woke her up . . .

I've only had one hospital roommate experience, a woman who kept me up all night with her snoring, then complained loudly to her family the next day that she hadn't slept a wink.

I do want to offer a word on behalf of hospital clergy, though. The ones who've approached me have been gracious when I've declined their services, and I am more than grateful for the lovely man who, at my sister's request, spoke for my Mom when she passed. Especially considering that he didn't so much as blink when my cell phone went off while he was praying. I'm agnostic at best and nonetheless took great comfort from his kindness and concern.

On the possitive side, when I had my son over 40 years ago, my hospital roommate and I had a great time and have been good friends ever since.

So, funny, Elaine! I hate to do this to you, but if you ever are in a hospital again--Save her, Jesus!--I hope you get another Bible thumper so we can read about it.

Kerry, the official hospital clergy have always been very good to me. I especially liked the renegade Irish priest and the Protestant woman minister.
The woman preacher was a spirtual advisor of my roommate.
I was tempted to tell them that I am an ordained minister (ordained by mail) but had the strength to resist that temptation at least.

Dear God, if I am ever in the hospital, please let my roommates be either
A. librarians; or
B. Elaine

Harley, we'll all come and pray over you. Loudly.

I am fortunate in that I've only been in the hospital overnight once, when I gave birth to my daughter. Since they boot you out 5 minutes after you're done, I don't think I even had time for a roommate. I got to lose sleep when I got home instead.

Funny stuff, Elaine. May you never again have reason to experience a hospital roommate.

I would have liked to be booted out sooner, Laura, but the hospital detected a few extra nickels and extracted them.

Oh, so many ways you could have tormented those roommates, but it probably would only have made things worse. I usually tell the door-to-door evangelists that I am very happy with my own religion (inactive Unitarian, but they don't need to know that), offer them a glass of water, and send them away.
I have found that I don't sleep well when I have a roommate, and am not good company when I don't sleep well, so I usually register for a single room these days. I do remember very good times back when I could sleep better. My questions go beyond just smoking, though, poster child for allergies that I am: Do you use perfumes? Live with pets?
I do wonder why hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living set up share rooms (yes, I know it's cost), but it seems the wrong time to be making people adjust to living with strangers -- though perhaps it provides a distraction from illness?

Most of the hospitals here in St. Charles now have all private rooms or are converting. I have only been in the hospital for longish stay 2 times: once at 17 for three days (two beds no roommate( and at 46 for nine days (hysterectomy that went 'bad', lol) and Dear Hubby was my roommate the entire time. THANK.GOD. Just had a nurse who ignored me and only showed up when the doctor was in the room. That is probably a whole 'nother blog.

Lol - Harley, when I first read your post, I thought the first choice was Libertarians.

Whatever works.

I was reminded this week of how being in the hospital means surrendering all control and losing the ability to choose things that you normally surround yourself with..Television.
A couple of stays had me partnered in rooms with people who did not want the TV on...can you imagine that? Horrors.
After Cesarean births I had one young beautiful bedmate sans surgery who sat up in bed, applied full make up with eyelashes, a hair extension and lipstick.
I lay there with tears in my eyes not able to move..cue the violins.
Another bedmate told me that I was so luck that I had surgery because I escaped the horrors of natural childbirth. Ya, that was one lucky day for me.
But recently when I visited someone's home I actually longed for no TV because an EXTEME COUPONING marathon was playing and I wanted to stick needles in my eyes so that I could return to a hospital for relief.

Eextreme couponing! That is horrible, Marie.
And what brain block would make a woman tell you that you were lucky to avoid childbirth?

Oh, I am so glad you are well. You made me laugh, but you usually do.

LOL, Elaine! Sometime I'll have to share you my story about the liberally tattooed biker chick who shared my hospital room after I gave birth to my son and she gave birth to triplets, her 3rd and 4th children, by a third father--married to none.

Actually, these days there might be cure for TV addiction.
I now long for the colorful Tammy Faye Baker with her long eyelashes and her doe eyes pleading on behalf of Jesus to fund her foundation so they she could live in her mansion one more month,
Chloe Kardashian plucking lint off of her husband's cashmere sweater isn't doing it for me now.
NAIL FILES does not entice me because I am disappointed that there are no NAIL tips..just a lot of fighting and whining,
And the new family and baby show preview UP ALL NIGHT is discriminatory in my opinion because I want a Senior Version..because after all sometimes I Am up all night.

Wow, Beth. Now that's a story I'd like to read!

Elaine, I hope your roommate experience is much better on this trip. I'm sure it will be more fun. At least you won't be forced to watch extreme couponing or anything else you don't want. Heck you can even sleep...er, read in the lobby if you need to get away.

I was in the hospital at 17 getting my wisdom teeth out and at 37 getting my son out. As my young self, I think I had a private room. As my older self, I was in for five days getting over a C-section, toxemia and preeclampsia. Three roommates came and went during my stay, but I don't remember any of them. All I do remember is having my own TV, and the audio was in the remote control.

However, I do have to put up with anything my husband wants to watch when we travel. From the minute we enter the room until the minute we leave (while we're awake, that is), the TV. IS. NEVER. OFF.!!!! Acckkk! Now I sit at the hotel room desk with my computer and headphones on and do my own thing. But it drives me crazy that the TV has to be on at all. My conference roomie (Logan) and I can go four days or more and never even touch the TV. Now that's a good roomie!

When the great-nieces and nephews were still young enough to spend the night (before they grew up and got so busy), I noticed that only the oldest really cared about television. The others would go never even think to want to turn it on, far too busy with games, books and other interests.
I do remember a nurse prescribing television when the pain meds were not working after knee surgers -- it is "the plug-in drug" after all.
Have a great time at the conference!!

Pam, that's good news on St. Charles area hospitals -- though I'm willing to wait a long while before checking them out . . .

How timely! My MIL is having her second hip replaced this week and is in the hospital right now. Let's just say, she is not a good patient and move on.

My very first hospital room mate and I have reconnected a few times. She was thrilled that I know Elaine Viets. She loves your books and is planning on being there for your next signing. I do mean my FIRST room mate. Back in the dark ages pregnancy meant a week or more in the hospital. Saraann's mother and my mother were room mates in the maternity ward. Our birthday's are about a day apart.

When I joined the "hip crowd" in 1994, I was in traction for ten days. I had three room mates. One was a fellow pizza driver. He was in for his 4th or 5th set of operations. I was hit by a DWI on the passenger side of his S-10 pickup. He was pushed through an intersection and a storefront. The passenger door shattered his hip. We got along great. We had a Superbowl party in the room. Our respective stores sent pizzas. The doctor's said we could have beer or our pain meds, but not both. Party poopers. We both went for the narcotics.

The downside was I was in the hospital during the OJ trial. The TV choices were, OJ, OJ, OJ, Mass, rehab after your heart attack, OJ and the fish channel. I read a lot.

I can see why you'd want to turn that off. I listened to the verdict of the OJ trial with my Shakespeare students, who then proceeded to find parallels with _Othello_, comparing his letter to Othello's final speech "loved not wisely but too well." Smart kids!

I have to admit that I have to appear to have a semblance of even a small brain when DH enters the room. When I hear his footsteps I immediately turn to the news or even Martha Stewart. If he notices that I have DVR"d BITCHIN KITCHEN or QVC specials I am relegated to the brain swill category.
To keep our forty-seven year marriage alive in the living room we watch rivetng Crime Shows such as NCIS and Jeopardy and at least one a week we tune into the Military Channel for updates on the World War II outcome, and we are comforted because we new that it has a satisfying ending.

I have only been in the hospital once overnight for my wisdom teeth, that was 30 years ago and I can't remember if there were roommates or not!

My friend Ann was in the hospital for 8 months before she died and had many many rooms and roommates. I think she liked it when she was quarantined the best - no roommates at all. The best one was this great 104 year old woman, she was always happy, loved it when I showed up because I would open her apple sauce and ice cream for her. The worst one was the drug seeking addict, he was in the hospital for gangrene in the injection site in his foot and it wasn't his fault he got an infection . . . His friends would sneak drugs into the room for him. An all round charmer of a human.

I have a sister who is not the best hospital room-mate (an understatement, that!)Around ten or eleven years ago she was in rehab after a bad fall, and the staff all deserved Hazard Pay! (Her first room-mate was semi-comatose, so there were no complaints from the room-mate! The next one was pretty healthy, other than recovering from surgery. The problems! Aack!) Since then, whenever she's been hospitalized or in a convalescent home she has been quite a challenge for anyone who comes near her. She's now permanently in a nursing home. Initially, she was in a semi-private room. The head social worker very tactfully told her that her personality type does better in a private room, and they'd move her to one as soon as possible. I think it happened in less than a month. Whenever I visit, I bend over backwards to be pleasant to everyone, because I don't want them to think that "that whole family is crazy!"

At the age of 8 yo, I stayed in the hospital for two weeks. I had two roomates and you cannot imagine how much we laughed. I had a wonderful time in this hospital even though I was quite seriously ill and our parents were not allowed in because the desease was very contagious.

When I was twenty I was travelling through the US. At the end of my journey I met up with a friend of mine in California. I was broke after my long trip, she was broke too and we finished up in a dubious hostel in LA. When we were checking in, the receptionist told us that we were going to have a surprise in our room. Going upstairs we tried to figure out what kind of surprise it might be. The room was quite small, but ok and we couldn't find any surprise. When we started unpacking, the door of the closet opened and a Japanease guy showed up yawning and yelling "Why did you wake me up?". That was a surpsie!
We finished up by getting along with him. He didn't have enough money to pay the room and paid only the closet. He told us that he'd committed some sort of offence in Japan and couldn't get back there for ten years. We stayed with him for about 5 days and from time to time his girlfriend stopped by to see him in his closet. Our living together was interrupted by my boy-friend coming to California to see me. He saw the guy and made us move to Las Vegas. On the highway we picked up a Canadian girl wearing pyjama and checked in a normal hotel with two king size beds in the room .

We had another strange roommate in a youth hostel in Santa-Barbara where we stayed just before going to LA during the same trip with the same friend of mine. A middle-aged woman, who was looking at me or my frined at night with a flashlight in her hands. She was saying that her dream was to learn a second language.

This trip was absolutely fun. I think I've never laughed in my life as much as I laughed then.

Your experiences, good and bad, made me laugh! Thanks for the entertainment, TLC back bloggers.

Dear God, if I am ever in the hospital, please let my roommates be either
A. librarians; or
B. Elaine

Sounds like good company, just hope it is NOT in the hospital.

Reminded me of a hospital roomate in a Catholic hospital who needed open heart surgery to live but they found she was pregnant. They shipped her to the pagan hospital early one morning to take care of the little problem in the way of her big surgery-----she was 40 and had 8 kids at home........talk about converson of an RC!

So interesting it is, I like it !

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