Hm I wonder if this will reply directly to your post or not (Mountainlvr).. I hit the little thing next to your post but nothing happened hah. Anyway, to answer your questions:
I was back to school in 2 and a half weeks. My doctor said people are usually out within 3. I had discomfort, but nothing that prevented me from learning or going throughout the day.. I just had to walk a little more slowly, and take breaks from sitting down for long periods of time. And, of course, take my pain killers as prescribed.
The price of the surgery will vary completely based on where you live. I'm in CT... the surgery cost about $5,000. I also got an additional small amount of lipo on the sides of my waist, which was an additional $2,000 I think... if you need or desire lipo, the surgeries can be done at the same time as long as the surgeon assesses the area and determines that it will be safe. If you want lipo on your sides or anywhere in that general region, it will cost more if you get a separate surgery. It could cost up to $1,000 more.
That is in CT, though. Different surgeons have different prices. If you're going to a high-profile plastic surgeon in New York City... well, you could be paying up to $20,000!
Do some research in your area and talk to several people, get some references if you can from hospitals and anywhere else. I had to wait 4 months for the surgery after my initial appointment and assessment. Sometimes you may have to wait longer, perhaps shorter, depending on the schedule of the surgeon.
Looking at different pictures online helped me out. They can either freak you out or get you excited! When/if you eventually get an appointment... ask every single question you have, no matter how small. You'll be paying big bucks for someone to change your body forever, you need to know what you're getting into.
Not all surgeons use the drains, for example. I had the two thin tubes coming from my pubic area... they attached to two little plastic pouches that the liquids drained in to. They had to be changed (emptied) regularly. My thoughts are that they were beneficial - I mean, where else does all that stuff go? Does it just float around inside you? Yikes.
But then again, I am no doctor.
Also to note: the placement of your scars may vary. Generally, everyone will have the "hip-to-hip" thing, and the small bellybutton scar - but some people who have a LOT of excess skin or other physical issues may have a vertical scar that goes up in the center, in addition to the others. If you're getting what is referred to as a "mini tuck" then the scar from "hip to hip" will be shorter and probably won't span your entire waist width.