The hour is getting late.
All the regular evening visitors have long departed the rooms leaving the long, echoing hallways empty and bare - with naught but the sound of tense murmurs from the nurses' bay.
There behind the gleaming counters topped by towering case files hide a frightened huddle of night-shift nurses who all whisper nervously in a soft hush, all in the fast diminishing hopes that the fearsome hellion will not pay a visit that night. Distressing rumours from the afternoon shift spread tales of an intimidating monster who devours the unwary nurse - or unwitting physician - who dares walk by that particular room in response to a call. Dread of waking up that particular monster has kept the crew near silent the entire evening.
The button is pressed. The red light on the switchboard blinks repeatedly. There is an audible gasp of dismay as the trio of nurses start hedging their bets to see who would be the unfortunate victim that night.
Yes, we might all laugh at the B-grade medical horror flick scenario but believe me, this happens more often than you might think. Only the fearsome monster in question wouldn't be something out of a surreal Lovecraftian nightmare - but the even more terrifying relative from hell. Oh yes, the demanding, oversolicitous, fussy relation of the patient who no doubt enjoys having servants at their beck and call.
Or at least the touch of a distress button.
Nurse : Hello, do you need anything? Is everything alright?
Relative : Everything's terrible!
Nurse : Oh dear, is the patient alright?
Relative : She is fine but the room is... just so unfashionable! Could we change the drapes?
Nurse : Oh.
Relative : And the pillows are so hard!
Nurse : That we can change -
Relative : Why are the traction weights so old-fashioned? Couldn't we have something more modern? Is the doctor coming by? I haven't seen him in one hour! I need to take a picture of the X-rays for a second opinion. Maybe he's wrong - or at least that's what my neighbour's second cousin told me.
Nurse : Umm...
So you can imagine how hospital denizens look upon such intolerable monsters.
Almost always, finicky patients are easily forgiven by virtue of their lamentably untoward malady - generally enough to make any reasonably genial person extremely disobliging. But their visiting relatives and their idiosyncrasies - along with their increasingly outrageous demands - can be a little harder to take.
So much to my dismay, I am starting to believe that my loud, boisterous passel of relations - oh-so-lovable in my eyes - might be turning into the very monsters that everyone else avoids at work. Ten of them chattering in the room at all hours, eating and drinking with their own portable picnic basket while intermittently bugging the staff with oddly impertinent questions. My sympathies to the undoubtedly stressed-out nurses and doctors tending to my crazed troublesome relatives.
Oh yeah, and my debilitated grandmother too.