I am sitting in a hotel breakfast room looking out at the relentless grey drizzle. Fat people are queuing up at the buffet, piling plates with greasy eggs and bacon, hash browns and fried bread on the side, and then returning for croissants and iced pastries. They are clearly determined to meet the criteria for bariatric surgery, and the sight of it all increases my queasiness.
I am the only person sitting alone, nursing my cup of muddy, tepid black coffee, knowing that if I ask for another it will be no different. Then Jim walks in and I can tell at once that he is not happy. Before I can say hello, before he even sits down he flings his keys on the table and says ‘well I’m never doing that again.’
I say nothing, knowing from experience that anything I say will be wrong and will irritate him. The waiter comes over and offers coffee or tea. Jim grunts ‘coffee please’ and sits down. I wait. ‘Well, I can hardly believe it.’ I wait a little longer and the story slowly comes out. We had bumped into friends of some colleagues in the hotel, people that we had met on a couple of occasions. They were away for the weekend with their four year old son Sam and new baby daughter. The son had fallen on the stairs and hurt his ankle. Jim had been just behind them and had quickly checked the little boy over. He had explained to the parents that nothing seemed to be broken but that in young children it was impossible to be sure. As Sam was reluctant to walk Jim suggested that they go to A&E. He offered to drive Sam and his dad so that the mum could stay behind with the baby.
Jim’s offer was gratefully accepted and they turned up at A&E. Jim explained to the triage nurse what had happened and Sam was sent to wait with his dad for an Xray. Two hours later they had seen a doctor who had reassured them that there were no broken bones and that they could go. Jim had waited to see what was happening and was ready to drive them back to the hotel. As he pulled up in the hotel car park Sam’s dad leaned aggressively towards Jim. ‘Thanks very much mate, all down to you that we’ll have missed our breakfast. You could have saved us the bother of all that wasted time – call yourself a doctor?’