William F. Buckley

But there are those of us who live dangerously, and there you are, at about 6 p.m., your dinner on the tray before you, and your favorite doctor is suddenly there to chat for a bit about your health. In your hand is the bottle, from which you have poured a little libation. You look him in the eye: "Doc, could I give you a bit of this? It's a little Medoc sent over by my wife."

The doctor is in visible pain. He can be the Awful Avenger ("Mr. Buckley, we do not permit alcohol here") or, at the other end, the Great Mediator ("It's not on the hospital menu, of course, but" -- maybe a little wink here -- "we can't control everything a patient does").

But you worry that you are embarrassing an official representative of the hospital by requiring him to seek a balance between his roles as institutional enforcer and as genial caretaker of the health and comfort of his patient. The middle road is to decline the proffered glass with a look on his face that is neither reproachful nor indulgent. It is a look that says to you: "Please do not continue on this subject. Let's get back to your pneumonia."

(3) Scheduling. Even hospitals that manifestly care to be reasonable manage to be unreasonable four or five times a day. The principal offense, of course, has to do with scheduling. If you are bent on discovering why it is necessary to be awakened at 6 a.m. when breakfast is not served until 8, the wisest thing to do is: abandon intellectual curiosity. Say nothing. Submit. And, at dinner time, toast silently all those nice people who care about your health, with a glass of your Medoc.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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