Lord of the Flies at the ER

IMG_0743After a bad spill I took a few weeks back, I spent four hours in a busy ER, where, after being ushered past Registration into the vast waiting area, my main thought was, “Where do I sit?”

I first saw a seat next to an elderly woman with a sort of Dowager Princess accent who was going on and on to her companion about the “horrid” job the city does in maintaining the public walkways. “Hmmm, not beside you,” I thought. Then I saw one by a guy I’d put in his late 30s who was scowling angrily and massaging his back. ”Maybe not beside you either” I also thought.

I walked clear to the end of the row, down by the two public toilets, just happy to sit down and open the new Gloria Steinem memoir that I had just received as a gift. But as time passed and people kept trooping in and out of these facilities not three feet from where I sat, I decided to do my waiting elsewhere.

I spotted a small semi-enclosed area with a television. “TV!” I thought, and entered it to find it occupied by two very tall men.

The brow of the first man furrowed as he showed me his swollen hand. “I have to stay here all night attached to this IV,” he told me, indicating the apparatus he was connected to.

The lip of the second one twisted into a sneer the second he caught sight of my book.

“Gloria Steinem!” he snorted, his hand covering a gash on his chin. “She made all that stuff up, I hope you know.”

“MADE IT UP? Seriously?” I thought, but said lightly, “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

Just then a third man with long gray hair over his eyes arrived at the entrance to this area and stood for a moment beside the staff member who was escorting him.

“Jeez will you look at THIS guy!” yelped one of the tall men.

“Hey, SHAGGY!” cried the other. “Get a haircut!”

“Guys, guys!” I whispered. “He can hear you!”

“Who gives a crap?” the first man replied. 

The man took a chair and slumped over an arm of it, cradling one hand against his chest.

“Hey FOOL!” said the second of the two men, at which point the newcomer sat up and let loose a barrage of curse words seldom seen in a family newspaper.

The two tall men cursed him right back. The air grew thick with profanity.

“People!“ I finally pleaded. “Can’t we all just get through this?”

“Come on!” replied the sneering man. “This is FUN!”

And that’s when I realized: Here I was making judgments about what I thought I saw in these others, never imagining that they were very likely making judgments about what they thought they saw in me.

And what did they see? Some kind of book-clutching post-menopausal woman in running shoes, a backpack and an ancient fur coat.

They didn’t know I wore the coat because I had travelled 100 miles, by bus, on an eight-degree day to get to this ER. They didn’t see the holes under its arms, or know that it had once been fiercely peed upon by my cat Abe, right through the bars of his pet taxi. They only saw someone resembling those two Jacquie Onassis relatives from that ramshackle house in the Hamptons. Someone who thought she could teacher-boss everyone into behaving nicely.

So I guess none of us knew very much about anything or anyone in that big ER on that cold wintry night; but it seems pretty clear to me now that no one understood less than the preachy lady in the ratty fur coat.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Lord of the Flies at the ER

    1. Thank you for the Sarah and it is always so good to hear from you. I just took myself on a trip down memory lane and looked at what your family had written about your remarkable mom after her death.

      1. Thanks Terry. Actually I was the author of that piece (though my dear brothers made a few editorial suggestions). She would have loved your columns.

  1. The ER, the great equalizer, almost as good as the Social Security office waiting room. The Sisters’ that was a great documentary. I hope you’re not still waiting in the ER and you are OK. Some people in Lowell think they are too good to wait in a public ER.

  2. I like what you say here: it IS a great equalizer, and like the other places you mention a part of our shared common life. It bothers me so much to see the uppity doing everything they can to secede from our shared public spaces.. I have a broken bone in my back : bummer of all bummers but could be worse could be worse .. Thanks Mike !

    1. What a story! So sorry to hear that you took a fall 😦 I hope your recovery goes well and that you are back to normal very soon! — ❤ form Kathy R — your former partner in crime —- We could have had a blast together in that ER!

      1. we sure could have ! remember laughing like mad when we saw people slip on the wet floor just inside the door at church. The funny dance they did! haha! little did we know it would one day be us. btw nice yoga pose shoveling the other day on Facebook!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s