An Early Adventure

Digging around in some old attic boxes, I was able to assemble some documentary evidence of a well-remembered, and highly formative, tale from my youth.

I was 3 years old when my Dad got his first paying post-war job. (He'd been in the Air Force & got $90-month veterans pay while going to McGill.) The annual salary was pretty skinpy, even in those days. We lived with a family friend, whose husband was MIA in the war, so she had some extra space in her apartment, where all the windows looked out onto a shaft filled with pigeon-shit.

It was in New York that I developed the cough that has remained with me throughout my life. A doctor, fearing it was Whooping Cough, recommended a hospital stay. I remember being rushed off in a rough blanket. I was there for a few days, during which time my parents were told that I would probably die, or else get well. It was a miserable experience. Broken plaster, many howling sickly kids, and a few crabby nurses. At one point I coughed so hard that I vomited & was told that if it happened again, I would be made to eat it!

Shorty thereafter my father received a bill. It exceeded his annual salary by $178.16.

My Father attempted to explain that I had only been in the hospital a few days, not 158 days, but he continued to receive demands for payment, which followed him back to Canada. Here are 3 samples. (No need to read them, they're all about the same.... ...skip down to his response....)

After three years, this rather light-hearted sarcastic response managed to catch their attention.... ...worth reading, especially paragraph 3.

Finally, they bothered to check their own records. After 3 years. Oops.

Still, $87.50 was almost 3 weeks pay.

My Father's last response. Clearly I had been in a pauper's ward, and he had been promised no charge.

In the end, I believe they pursued the matter no further, and were happy to get their 40 bucks.

I suspect my views on several matters were influenced by this adventure. Doctors, Lawyers, New York City, Private Medicine....

...and why, indeed, not???