SOMETHING happens to people when they visit friends or relatives in the hospital. I was forced to spend a few days in one not long ago for minor surgery, and had a chance to observe the weird behavior of people who came to comfort me.

As a patient, I discovered you are at a complete disadvantage. Dressed in hospital garb, and stuck in a bed, you're no longer on equal terms with your pals. Without their realizing it, the entire relationship has changed.

From being a friend on equal footing with the Parkers, I suddenly found myself being treated like the senile uncle when they appeared at the hospital room door.

"You look great," Yvonne Parker said. "Doesn't he look great, Bill?"

"You certainly do," Bill agreed. "I've never seen you looking better."

"I feel great. I'm sore, but I feel just great."

"You have good color in your face," Yvonne said.

"Thanks," I replied. "Won't you sit down?"

"We can't stay too long," Bill said nervously, as he sat down. Then he got up. "Would you like a drink of water?"

"I don't think so, right now. But if I do I can pour one from this pitcher next to my bed."

"Isn't that great, Yvonne? He can pour his own water."

"I think it's just wonderful. Can I help you with your pillow?"

"No, thank you. I'm very comfortable."

"You look comfortable. I wouldn't even know you had been sick," Yvonne said.

"What does your doctor say?"

"He says I'm doing just fine. He doesn't think I'll have to stay the week."

"If he says so, he should know," Bill said.

"He wouldn't let you go home unless you were better," Yvonne said.

"That's what I thought," I said. "The reason he wants me to stay here is, if I go home, I'll overdo it. At the same time, he doesn't want me to stay in bed all day because I'll get stiff. He wants me to walk around."

Yvonne said, "We'll leave if you want to walk around."

"No. I don't want to walk around now. I'll walk around later."

"I can't believe how good you look," Bill commented. "Doesn't he look good, Yvonne?"

"I've never seen him look better."

"Well, what's going on in the outside world?" I asked.

"Don't think about the outside world. Your job is to get well," Bill said. "Isn't that right, Yvonne?"

"That's right. There's no sense thinking about other things until you're on the mend."

"Well," said Bill, "we don't want to tire you out."

"You're not tiring me out. I feel great."

"You don't think you're tired," Yvonne said, "because you feel so good. But you have to rest. Do you want me to put your bed down?"

"No, if I want to put my bed down, I can do it with this button right here."

"We don't want to interfere with your dinner," Bill said.

"It's only 3 o'clock. They don't serve dinner around here until 5."

Yvonne said, "Then you probably want to wash up for it. Bill, we'd better be moving along."

Bill got up. "You look just great."

Yvonne agreed. "I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."

Bill said, "You're going to be okay, guy. Isn't he going to be all right, Yvonne?"

"Of course he's going to be all right. He'll be his old self in no time."

"You hear that, fellow? Yvonne says you're going to be your old self in no time. And when she says something like that, you'd better listen to her. She knows what she's talking about."