A Week at the Hospital Cafeteria // Retreat Doctor's Hospital

The Ask: Spend a week at an unconventional location and report your findings.

My Partner: Andrew Vessels (ST).

The hospital itself blends into the city, to the point where if there weren’t signs designating it as a hospital, I would probably assume it’s just another office building. We walked in together on day one, inviting many friendly staff members to point us towards our destination as soon as they saw us looking at signs. I wondered if when they saw us coming in every day, people would be less welcoming and more suspicious - while I was nervous about this every day, it never happened.

The welcoming atmosphere did not dissipate when we reached the cafeteria - every day, the cashier and any hospital staff there were attentive and kind to anyone they recognized as visitors, but there was also the overwhelming feeling at times that the cafeteria was there for the staff, primarily. It was nice to have a place to escape to, while it seemed it was mainly for hospital staff, it was ok for visitors to be there, and to make that place what they needed it to be.

It made me sad to watch the people who came in to eat by themselves, all facing towards the TV to give themselves something else to do - even though the times that anything interesting was playing were few and far between. I realized at one point that I was almost one of those people, sitting by myself, but I was taking notes on my phone, which made it a little better.

Knowing that the hospital cafeteria was open only at certain times for breakfast and lunch made it so that it was a designated safe haven at those times, when I could be there to observe and eat and get away from whatever else was going on. The food wasn’t amazing, but it was cheap and surprising - their lasagna was some of the most comforting food I’ve ever had.

The entire time I was there (until the last couple days), I somehow used the wrong trash can and exit. Nobody corrected me, nobody told me I was doing something wrong, they just let me do what I needed - making me feel more welcome, and that it was all ok.