The night before my surgery, around 11:00 PM, my roommate's snoring became impossible to ignore. I didn't want to disturb her by turning on my reading light, so I gathered my book and wandered down the hall, hoping to find a spot where I could sit and read until I got drowsy. I found a little room just outside the twin security doors that isolate the patient ward from the rest of the third floor.
Everything was blissfully quiet. I read until 3:30 AM. Feeling like maybe sleep could happen even in the midst of the log-sawing taking place in my room, I closed my book and walked the couple of steps to the doors of 3NW. I waved my hand in front of the sensor that normally signals the door to open, but they remained closed! Uh oh. I waved my hand again at the magic door-opening-square on the wall. Magic Limit Exceeded. You lose! It wasn't working; the doors remained firmly shut. I pushed on the doors manually. Nope. They were truly locked. Am I gonna be sleeping in a chair tonight? I had my cell phone in my robe pocket, but I didn't know who to call. I didn't have phone numbers for anyone at the hospital. What to do?
Surely people come through these doors after hours. There's probably a sign if I just…oh look! A sign. Next to the door, behind a portable stand and fixed to the wall was a sign that read, "After hours press call button." Underneath the sign were three buttons: a white one, a red one, and another white one. None of the buttons were labeled. Hmmm…I pushed the first button. Nothing. I pushed the second (red one). Nothing. Then I tried the door again, and that time someone heard me! A nurse came to the door and let me in. She didn't ask who I was—it was clear from my plastic ID bracelet, frumpy hospital gown and robe that I was a patient. She explained that I could "just hit the call button", and then demonstrated by pushing the third button, the one I hadn't yet tried.
I made my way past the first and second nurses' stations on my way to my room at the very end of the hall. When I passed the third station, I saw a familiar face. It was the nurse who cared for me on my first night at NIH.
Nurse: What are you doing up?!
Me: Oh. My roommate is kind of a loud sleeper. I went out to read for a while.
Nurse: She snore?
Nurse: You want some earplugs?
Me: You got some earplugs?!
Nurse: Sure do.
Me: Then, yes! Yes, I'd love some earplugs!
Nurse: Since you're up I think I'll just go get your vitals now.
We stepped into the darkened room, momentarily flooding it with light. Abruptly, the snoring halted, but only for a second. The nurse quietly giggled.
Oh glorious earplugs! Thank God for...zzz...I slept for three solid hours before transport arrived to wheel me off to surgery.