It’s weird—many of us, when asked, will say that we don’t fully trust the medical community. But then we’ll go in for a procedure and lay there, unconscious, while the medical community roots around in there doing who knows what. I mean, the paperwork we signed beforehand said what, but no one’s actually watching. Maybe they put you to sleep so you don’t see the doctors frantically googling things.

I think it’s possible that we don’t fully trust them because of all their rules. The medical community has a lot of rules, and not all the rules seem to make sense, at least to us. And nowhere are there more rules than in hospitals.

For example, “No running in the halls. Unless you’re on staff.”

In recent years, both my wife and I have had medical procedures at various points—nothing serious, don’t worry, but I mean no one goes in for fun. And all the rules don’t help. I feel like if hospitals were smart, they would just remove all their rules, and it would drive up business like crazy. But whatever; it’s not my place to tell them. It’s my place to tell you. So here are some of the rules we spent the entire time wondering about:

{No Personal Affects

You get a corner of a hallway with a bed and a curtain around it, and you have to get ready in there. The hospitals are not very big on privacy; they’re very big on curtains. They’re like, “If it works for basement shuls, it’s good enough for us!” Then they give you a smaller curtain to use as an outfit.

“One size fits all.”

When is that ever true? It’s not even true for blankets!

They’re like, “You have to wear this gown, or else how will we know you’re a patient?” You might be a visitor taking a nap on a gurney!

But it’s not just the gowns; we have to take absolutely everything off. Socks included. They give you grippy socks, in case you go to a trampoline place later. Because when you’re lying on an operating table, unconscious, you need grippy socks. Where are you walking, exactly?

Maybe it’s just to make sure you change your socks at all so they’re not in the operating room wondering if they cut a valve.

They also give you those hairnet things, so your hair doesn’t get in your open chest cavity or whatever. But it has to be a hospital-mandated hairnet. If you are a woman, for example, you cannot wear a tichel. Even underneath. When my wife went in, they said, “You have to take off your tichel,” so she said, “Well, can I have like 5 hairnets, then?” And they gave them to her. You can’t wear one snood, but you can wear five hairnets. That’s how many it took to make it not see-through.

They don’t want anything. I had an operation on my toe a few years back, and they said, “You have to take off your watch.” I said, “Are you coming in through my wrist to get to my toe?”

Maybe they don’t want any distractions. They’re going to be in the middle of operating, up to a really delicate part that needs absolute concentration, and your watch alarm is going to go off.

“Yeah, this is when I normally daven Minchah.”

And the doctors will be screaming at each other, “How do I turn off this alarm?” “I don’t know!” It’s going to be beeping the whole rest of the operation…

So maybe watches make sense. Also, a watch can snag on the doctor, I presume, because I know when I work in the kitchen, I keep snagging my pants pockets on the drawer handles, so I can only imagine how many times this happened before the doctors said, “Can we just get rid of the watches?” And that way, they can put on your ID tag. Which is snag proof, apparently.

Also taking off anything metal might make sense, because of magnets. I don’t know what they’re using in there, but if I were designing an operating room, I would magnetize the tray so everything doesn’t go flying if the doctors bump into it by accident. You don’t know who’s going to slip. Unless the doctors are all wearing grippy socks.

{Don’t Eat After Midnight The Night Before The Surgery

I don’t know if this is true before all operations, but fasting the day of a surgery does make some kind of sense, from a religious perspective.

The hospital said, “Don’t eat after midnight,” and then my wife read the instructions they sent (she reads these things), and it said, “Don’t eat for 8 hours before the surgery,” and the surgery was scheduled for noon. So she asked, “Well, is it midnight or 8 hours?” And they said, “Really it’s 8 hours, but we tell everyone midnight because people don’t know how to do math.”

Well, do any of these people routinely count six hours between meat and dairy?

{We’re Going To Keep Coming In

They also have this policy where everyone who works in the hospital has to come into your pre-op area, one at a time, to introduce themselves and give you a rundown of what they do for a living and also make sure the information on your wrist is correct. That’s the first thing they ask.

They have to check the same info 100 times in case it changed. The wristband says name, age, date of birth, gender. What’s going to change? You’re gonna catch a spelling mistake in my name that no one else caught, including me? And who cares? Is there another Schmutter in here today without the C?

It’s right. I checked to make sure this is me. Have you ever come in after the other 6 doctors and gone, “Whoa, that’s way off! No one caught this?”

I mean, sure, it’s important that the information on your wrist is correct, so they don’t misplace you, like luggage.

“Where’s my husband?”

NURSE (checking computer): “Chicago.”

And on top of that, you have zero other identifying things on you, because they made you take off all your personal affects. You’re going to be sleeping on the operating table, and they’re going to say, “Which patient is this again?” And then they’re going to call in your spouse to identify you, and your spouse is going to say, “I don’t know; I only knew him by his watch that I got him.”

And checking your wristband is not all they do. At least half of them ask how you’re feeling.

I mean, I’m in a hospital…

“How are you feeling?”

Before my wife’s procedure, she answered one doctor with, “I’m a little bit nervous.” And he asked, “Every day, or just today?”

It’s hard to tell. It started today, so…

{Visiting Hours Are Visiting Hours

They also have policies about what time people can visit. Even spouses. That I don’t understand at all. Yes, I know the patient needs to rest. I know this because the doctors say, “Try to get some rest.” They say try, because you won’t be able to get some rest, because they don’t let you go five minutes without someone walking in to make sure you’re still there.

I mean I guess it makes sense for them to come in one at a time because it’s a tiny room, and they don’t want to come in like a pit crew—one person is changing the fluids, one is changing the food, one is emptying the trash can, one is asking about the meds, and one is checking to make sure your bracelet still has the correct information, and they can all be out of there in under a minute and then you can get a full hour of sleep before they all come in and do it again.

So they don’t say, “Get some sleep.” They say, “See if you can get some sleep.” Like it’s a challenge. You think you can get some sleep? Let’s see.

So then what are the guests interrupting?

Maybe they just don’t want the guests sneaking the patients out, and after a certain time of the night the security guards go home.

{Someone Has To Awkwardly Walk You Out

I guess that’s good middos, but you don’t know this person, and it’s just you and your spouse, walking really slowly because one of you just had an operation, and one of you is laden like you’re flying to Israel, and whose idea was it to bring these balloons? But this person can’t hold anything. And then you have to squeeze into the slowest elevator ever, and make awkward elevator small talk.

“So what’s the weather like? I haven’t been outside since yesterday.”

And then they just abandon you on the curb, as does your spouse so he or she can find the car and circle around and fight the pickup lane while you sit there surrounded by your luggage, like you’re outside an airport where all the incoming passengers are severely jetlagged.

And then you come back to work, and everyone’s like, “How was your vacation?” n

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send questions, comments, or ideas to Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at


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