Night and Day

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by Tim Burdick on 13 April, 2015

Sometimes, life reminds us of good story telling: that perfect line, the bizarre plot twist, or unique character name. This week, I learned (again) how the time of day can influence mood and setting.

When I pulled up outside the Children’s Hospital Karlov, it was after 8 pm. Along Ke Karlovu, the street lamps’ faint orange glow illuminated the empty sidewalks. The eerie building’s windows showed no signs of movement. All the orderlies and nursing staff had gone home, only a single haggard old man guarded the gate. His name probably was Igor or Gunther. A metal fence with pointed spear tips kept out the curious. In fact, all I needed to hear was a single organ playing in the distance or a candle lit face at a window, and I was leaving. The best children’s hospital in Prague looked like a mad scientist’s lair.

Since that night, I have visited the hospital many times. In the daylight, I discovered the building’s lovely neo-realistic architecture. True, the shadows still made it more sinister, but the inner courtyard revealed the buildings’ original colors—a lovely sunflower yellow, tan, and beige. Also, there were lovely trees budding on patches of greass. The security guard looked sleepy and bored no matter how often I waved at him. Outside the main entrance, the handrail bars alternate colors: blue, yellow, red, and green. Once you were past the sliding glass doors decorated with snowmen stickers and owls, you discovered the sauna-like temperature of the reception.

Once, inside there were no Igors only friendly nurses taking care of four babies in the intensive care unit. The corridor was full of pictures of happy infants expressing thanks to the doctors. The painted faces of the happy cat and bunny were from another era, but not the people. They were flesh and blood, happy staff and I couldn’t be more relieved that they were looking after my son and wife.

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