Monday, 8 December 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Hostile Hospital, Chapter 3

It’s somewhat ironic that I’m reading a book about people being sick when I’ve been under the weather enough to be driven to see the doctor this week. I hate going to the doctor, mainly because the ones where I live seem to be rather hit or miss when it comes to diagnoses and treatments; as it happens my appointment on Friday basically consisted of me going in, telling the doctor what was wrong with me, him agreeing and writing a prescription, I was in and out in two minutes and actually spent more time waiting for the prescription to be filled than I had getting the thing!

Anyway, not the point of this blog post. After having a somewhat sketchy posting schedule the last fortnight, I’m back on track, more or less, posting one of these reviews every afternoon this week (except Wednesday, of course).

What Happens?

The Baudelaires learn that the Volunteers Fighting Disease do their work at Heimlich Hospital by going round singing to patients and handing out heart-shaped balloons. They wonder how they can gather more information about Jacques Snicket and one of the volunteers tell them they need a Library of Records. Upon arrival at the hospital they hear an announcement; three volunteers are needed in the Library of Records.

Thoughts as I read:

Remember the smiley balloon from the front cover? No, well close the book for a second and look at it. There we go. It makes an appearance again here tied to a volunteer’s guitar. The guitar, incidentally, has ‘THIS VOLUNTEER FIGHTS DISEASE’ written on it. I’m thinking the guy playing the guitar, with ‘VFD’ on his hat, is the bearded volunteer who invited Violet, Klaus and Sunny to join them at the end of last chapter.

The first couple of pages of this chapter are devoted to a delightful little song performed by the volunteers. It’s all about the work the volunteers do, which basically involves being happy all the time, and the people they work with, who are sick and do things like coughing up bile or have measles. Oh and they hand out heart shaped balloons. That’s nice I suppose, though I think if I was really unwell I’d rather have a good book or some antibiotics or something.

Before we can get the rest of the chapter underway Snicket tells us about how music can be used to help people relax or get away with writing in the ‘Cathedral of the Alleged Virgin’. The song the volunteers sing is not one of those songs, not for the Baudelaires at least. They are evidently the least cheerful people on the bus and on this bus, everyone is cheerful!

There were cheerful men, cheerful women, a handful of cheerful children, and a very cheerful driver who occasionally took his eyes off the road to grin cheerfully at all his passengers.

Sounds like a crazy bus really.

The whole way through the song the Baudelaires are waiting to be caught, but all the passengers are too busy singing to notice that they don’t really belong there. We don’t learn the name of the hospital until everyone stops singing for a moment so the bearded fellow can mourn the fact that they aren’t able to sing it all the way to Heimlich Hospital.

The Baudelaires decide to make up false names; Violet calls herself Sally, but the volunteers are kind of a creepy cult and call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ so aren’t too fussed about who the children are. This means that Brother Beardy doesn’t actually know the names of anyone on the bus, and he doesn’t recognise the description the children give him of a certain somebody with only one eyebrow and a tattoo on his ankle. Sunny responds to this with ‘Rats!’

Klaus explains that all then know about this man, who I’m assuming is Jacques rather than Olaf, is that he worked in ‘the volunteer something’. Brother Beardy suggests they look him up in a Library of Records, which sets Klaus to wondering if this would show how he knew their parents. And in turn this sets the children to feeling miserable about their parents having died in that fire.

Brother Beardy calls them out on looking sad. Honestly on this bus looking sad is going to be a major giveaway that you don’t really belong there! He goes on to explain what their volunteer work at the hospital involves; they fight disease by singing songs and handing out balloons which is pretty much what they said in their song but the Baudelaires weren’t really paying attention. This puzzles them somewhat as they can’t understand how songs and balloons make people get better:

“Because getting a cheerful balloon helps people picture getting better, and if you picture something, it makes it so,” the bearded man explained. “After all, a cheerful attitude is the most effective tool against sickness.”
“I though antibiotics were,” Klaus said.
“Echinacea!” Sunny said. She meant “Or well-tested herbal remedies,”

Perhaps the patients get better through sheer force of will to get away from the crazy singing people with balloons?

Just like everywhere else in this series of books, the hospital is a strange building. One side is nice and fancy, but the other half is barely built. Even the sign is half done, ‘Heimlich’ is written in gold letters  but ‘Hospital’ is ballpoint on old cardboard. The Baudelaires have other things to worry about though. Having hitched a ride to the hospital they need to figure out where to go next, after all, wandering the corridors drawing attention to themselves by singing is going to risk someone spotting them and calling the police.

Sunny says ‘Aronec’ which means ‘And we’re not getting any closer to learning anything about V.F.D., or Jacques Snicket’. Then when her siblings wonder aloud where they can find a Library of Records she responds with ‘No walk!’; she’s still new to that and she’s had enough practice escaping from the Village of Fowl Devotees.

Just as the volunteers are preparing to head into the hospital a voice comes over the loudspeaker. The voice is identified as Babs, Head of Human Resources, and she’s asking for three of the volunteers to submit to a new assignment; one which involves the Library of Records.

How convenient!

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