Mrs Happy and I went to Orlando earlier this year to get away from the crazy cold and snow we've been having this year. It was a wonderful trip. We took in a day looking at the Kennedy Space Center where we saw the Space Shuttle engine and launch road. We also spent some time on the Disney property by staying at the Swan hotel right on the Disney Boardwalk between Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We ran the trail every morning. In the Swan hotel, I saw my first wine vending machine ever. But the best part of the whole trip was the fascinating discussions Mrs Happy and I had talking to strangers. This is not usually my cup of tea. But this trip was different. We had a great time talking about everything from economics and Medicare to Tiger Woods and NASCAR. What did I learn on this trip?
For starters, I learned that Sherwin Williams, the paint company, was having their yearly manager's meeting at the Disney property while we were there. They took over several hotels on the Boardwalk. Mrs Happy and I found it odd that most of the Sherwin Williams folks were men. During one of our escapades, we got the inside scoop
Happy: You must be part of Sherwin Williams, huh?Stranger: Yeah, this is our yearly get together for managers.Happy: It seems like you have all men here.Stranger: You're right. There are 6,500 of us from Sherwin Williams. Ninety percent of us managers here are men, which seems to go against our mission statement for seeking out diversity. Chuckle, Chuckle
By I learned after talking to these strangers that the management within Sherwin Williams was almost all men. And these guys were loud. At night near park closings on the Boardwalk, you could hear many of them drunk, yelling and screaming with their Sherwin Williams badges hanging around their neck. In fact, I had never been that guy to call security on a hotel room before, but these guys next door to us were in a drunkin stupor at 2 am dropping F*** bombs about everything you could imagine. When security came to tell them to quiet down, they brought out out more F*** bombs. Not a great way to represent your company on company time.
I also learned from this Sherwin Williams guy that IBM had bought out the Hollywood Studios park for an entire evening exclusively for their IBM employees that came for their meeting the week before. I wonder if America would be as outraged at IBM for shutting down a theme park for their employees using investor capital as America is at the industries taken over with taxpayer money. Are taxpayers outraged at the thought of spending tax payer dollars or the idea of excess in a time restraint?
Our favorite restaurant at Disney is the English Fish and Chips joint in Epcot. After talking to some strangers, Mrs Happy and I learned that the once a year trade show for pro shop golf professionals was being held in Orlando that week. We sat and ate lunch with a pro golfer from Utah. A fascinating guy. He told me how he had back surgery six weeks prior after having lost over 30 yards on his swing. He said it was amazing the difference the surgery had made in his mobility. He said he got the surgery now, after avoiding it for many years (concerns about a failed surgery) because he did not know what the future of ObamaCare held for him. That's interesting. People pushing up their health care needs now because they fear what the future holds for them. I don't blame them one bit for their concerns.
He said he tried out for the Senior Tour three times but just missed it. He said if a golfer doesn't make the tour on their first couple tries, they should forget it. The younger seniors on the tour will blow them away on the course. He explained the whole pro golf trade show business to us. This is the time of year when all the pro golfers who own their own pro shops come down to Orlando to see what all the distributors are offering for the year. Everything you need to fill your pro shop is in this trade show. And you know I was going to ask:
Happy: What was the status of Tiger Woods at the show?Stranger: No where. He was missing in action. Not a single booth had Tiger Woods in any of their displays. Not even Nike had Tiger Woods on display.
You know you've hit rock bottom when even Nike won't display Tiger Woods. Talking to strangers lead us to a nice couple from Nevada, who just happened to live in my current state years ago. They built a nice home on a lake in Reno and have been enjoying their lives there for years, traveling every chance they get. They tried to teach us about the Indians and the trees but I was completely lost. The drove a fifth wheel down to Florida. They were there visiting an elderly couple friend with a million dollar home on the beaches of Daytona. They told me about the behind the scenes tour NASCAR offers at the Daytona raceway. They said they weren't NASCAR fans but that the tour was something not to be missed.
Talking to strangers even brought us to a nice lady from Kentucky. She said her daughter was just graduating from nursing school. I can't remember the rest of the conversation. I think I asked her if there was a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky. And then there was the plastic surgeon. One of the most fascinating stranger talks I had was with this guy. He wasn't just any plastic surgeon. He was a boob doctor. He was almost 70. He was originally a family medicine doctor back in the 1960's when he realized then that family medicine was, in his words, "slow suicide". He couldn't see himself being on call 24 hours a day. After eight years of being a family physician, he decided to become a surgeon.
But things were much different back then. He didn't go do a surgical residency. He simply had a surgeon in town sign off on his surgeries. In fact today he does nothing but breast augmentation and he's never taken a board exam for surgery. He has also been grandfathered in from all previous and future certification requirements in his field of expertise. On a professional level, I find all of this shocking. What are his requirements to remain a physician in good standing within his state of practice? Nothing more than 50-60 hours of CME every three or so years. That's amazing.
While talking with this stranger, I learned how he runs his business. He accepts no insurance. He owns his own outpatient surgical center and charges a cash fee of about $4000 per surgery, a little more or less depending on whether saline or silicon is used. He does about 600 cases a year and bunches them on two or three days a week. (4 cases a day). He said each case in the operating room takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. That's cash revenue of about 2.4 million dollars a year on 300 hours of operating time. Add in perhaps a generous hour of pre and post surgical care and you're looking at 2.4 million dollars of revenue on 900 clinical hours a year. That's $2,600 per hour.
And he won't do any reconstructive surgery or operate on anyone with previous radiation exposure because he doesn't like complications. He said he hasn't carried malpractice in almost 20 years because of the med mal system in his state, but he probably doesn't need it anyway, since he hasn't been sued in almost 20 years. I asked him how his business was doing in the recession
Stranger: It's down about 15-20%. But that's OK, I just work less.
LOL. You gotta laugh at that. Working less. Perhaps 20 hours a week instead of 25. Here's a guy that found a way to make the system work economically to his favor. He's an economic genius. He's generated enormous income on the backs of a healthy population who's supply seems unlimited. He has cherry picked out the quickest and easiest surgical patients with the fewest complications and charges whatever the market is willing to pay him. And he's done it with no formal training or required recertification as to the strength of his skills. And yet, the people still come flocking to him. He would seem to have it all. Then I learned the truth. I asked him if he was going to meet his wife in Florida.
Stranger: I"m not married. I've been divorced three timesHappy: I guess you can't be good at everything.