Robots

Always tech-forward, Harris Southwest employs robots. Quite a few of them, actually. There are robots like Da Vinci that perform endoscopic procedures, and robots like Pharm that sort and retrieve drugs from the dispensary. There are also robots like TUG, the number-one cause of near-miss heart attacks in patients and staff alike. TUG looks like a flat cart with a handrail on the front side and an enormous HAL-like interface complete with glowing red eye. It navigates the hallways on its own, grabbing carts, carrying supplies, and terrifying the shit out of you when you least expect to see its horrible little robot-gremlin outline whizzing from the dark. There are about fourteen of TUG and when they turn sideways they are nearly invisible.

The hospital is papered with reminders for staff on how to deal with TUG. Open doors if it tells you to, don’t stand in its way, and if you see it getting on the elevator, remember: TUG Rides Alone. I don’t know why they even bother with that last bit. You couldn’t pay me enough money to get on an elevator with TUG.

Sometimes two of TUG will encounter each other in a corridor and, utterly confused, will stand facing each other and demanding, in Spanish, that they move to one side and allow TUG to pass by.

My preceptor Sheila is obsessed with and horrified by TUG. She torments it every chance she gets, blocking its access to things to make it talk, standing on it while it’s moving, and even getting on the elevator with it. Once. She says it spends the whole ride chattering softly to itself and executing a ten-point K-turn, because it can’t back out of the elevator on its own.

Sheila is a brave woman.

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