Yesterday was a scheduled off day for me, so I was volunteered to take my sister to a local hospital for some outpatient surgery. She has a nice job, with good insurance so this was at a fancy, suburban hospital. The interior of the place looked like a very toney Hotel: big plants, soft classical music, muted drapes, chair rails, everything chic.

It's odd for a place to look like a hotel, when they don't want anybody to stay the night and nobody here wants to sleep here either.

As I wondered up and down the halls waiting around I saw dozens of hosptial workers with the same tired, earnest faces. When I would talk to the nurse or a clerk I got the same understated concern. Optimism, carefully worded. They wanted to appear supportive, but years of failed procedures and sudden crises had probably made them cautious. It was as if they were only able to give the impression of empathy rather than the real thing.

I guess too much would wear you out in that kind of job, I don't know. It was just that the whole place gave me the creeps.

The halls were filled with quiet footsteps, noded chins and averted eyes. 5 floors of attractive furnishings filled with whispers and pursed lips. Vague smells of disinfectant, storage carts filled with multiple plastic containers and distant humming of lab rooms. The absence of natural sound.

I finally stepped outside to breath some frigid air. Huddled people raced to and from the parking garage. Outside geese flew over head, trucks honked on the nearby freeway and life was moving ahead at regular speed. It was a reassuring feeling.