More ER Tales: The Good The Bad & The Ugly

IMG_0959More, even cruder stuff happened in that Emergency Room I spent four hours in and wrote about here. I didn’t tell it all in part because I didn’t think I COULD tell it without using the real language that I heard there.

But it wasn’t just the language I didn’t tell about it. 

I didn’t say that for my long, long wait I chose to sit by a man who woke that morning unable to move his leg from the knee down. I sat beside him because of his face, because of the expression he wore, that struck me as so socially ready and amenable in spite of the look of anguish that flashed across it now and then. Like me, he had come a long way to get here, and like me, he was alone. But his wife worked there at the hospital and he seemed to feel comforted by that knowledge and was with communicating with her regularly by text.

We sat together trying to ignore the behaviors going around us – like the fact that the dowager princess lookalike who had tripped on the cobblestones had actually called the city workers she blamed “fucking assholes,” an utterance that shocked me to my boots coming from a lady in her 70s with such an otherwise hoity-toity manner

She was eyeing me pretty good, I noticed and maybe it was what I had on, I don’t know. But when she saw the Gloria Steinem book I was reading she said, “Do you like that?” in a flat level way but then said nothing more when I told her yes.

The man with the dead leg and I really were right by the toilets, as I said, so after an hour or so I asked him if he wanted to move. “Sure,” he said, so with him in his wheelchair and I pushing, we rounded the corner to the semi-enclosed space that held the two tall guys I spoke about – only the chair would fit because an elderly lady wearing a sari and seated in her own wheelchair had been placed at the enclosure’s entrance in such a way that we couldn’t get him by it. It wasn’t my place to move her and I we could both see that. “I’m fine,” he said and wheeled himself back to where he had been.

Here in my new spot the first tall man I told about, who had reddish hair and who had what looked to me like cellulitis on the hand that was attached to an IV, told me they had to keep him hooked up here all night at least and maybe for 24 hours past that.  “It sucks because I have to go to Florida this week on a job!” I agreed that it sucked, which I didn’t say in the last post.

I didn’t say either that the sandy-haired, second, tall man, the one with the gash on his chin, had gone directly on from telling me that Gloria Steinem was a fraud to attacking what he called  “that whole Martha’s Vineyard crowd.” “Matt Damon! Fuckin’ Ben Affleck! You know his brother Casey Affleck? Guy’s an fuckin’ midget!”

I didn’t say that when the ER staffer brought in the homeless-looking man with the long grey hair covering his eyes he had leaned in to him and muttered, “Behave yourself now.” Thus I shouldn’t have been surprised by what followed when the two tall guys started to mock him to his face, calling him “Shaggy” and worse. I didn’t say that he finally sat up from his slump and called them both faggots before the rest of the F words began flying thick and fast.

“Guys!” I didn’t tell you that I said. “Guys, what about this lady hearing all this language?” I said, indicated the woman in the sari and who was 80 if she was a day.

“Oh don’t worry about HER!” snapped Shaggy. “She doesn’t even understand us! She’s an Arab! She speaks Arabian!” Then he shouted enough more bad things that the burly male staffer who had brought him in came flying into the room, took him by the elbow, hissed “I warned you!” and hustled him to a different area.

Just after that they called my name and I got seen.

Thirty minutes later I saw, in an exam room that they were escorted my quickly past, the man who had no ability to move a leg that was paining him terribly.

We waved to each other and though there was no opportunity to get it, how I wish I knew his name. 

Because me, I just fell down while running on wet tiles around a pool and got a compression fracture in my back; but this man? This man I can’t stop thinking about. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to wake one morning with such symptoms and I so hope he’s ok today.





The Lively Times Bus Station

bus station rainy dayI recently I took a bus to a part o​f Massachusetts where spring comes early, as I knew well, ​having lived there in ​my college years​. By late March, lunchtimes would often find me heading to a quiet campus spot by the pond, where I would stretch out on the flat belly of river-plain and let the sun’s warmth seep into my bones.

The day the following events took place however, the temperature in that valley stood at 42 degrees six weeks into spring or not, and ​a steady rain flung itself like handfuls of cold pennies at all our faces. 

I say “our.” I was in a bus station that late afternoon along with what seemed to me like an usually large number of people, perhaps because of this gruesome twinning of the cold and the wet. ​I thought maybe ​they had come to get in out of the weather. 

In the Ladies Room, an elderly ​lady with a cane waited outside the occupied wheelchair-accessible stall.

“Are you coming out soon?” she asked after a while, rapping on the door. Then  “​You’re not handicapped!” she  snapped at the far younger woman who emerged at last. 

“I certainly am!” the woman shot back. “Want to ​see my license?”  

“N​o​ THANK you​!” the older lady ​pronounced, ​hobbling past to enter the stall in question. 

​Now at one of the sinks, a young blonde was telling all present about a man she had just encountered who couldn’t stop remarking on how beautiful she was 

​and how many boyfriends she must have  – “right up until he started calling me a loser and saying I’d never amount to anything​.” 

“Goodness!​” said one of her listeners. “How did you react to that?” 

“I slapped him ​and said ‘Go back on ​your meds​, fool’ 

In the ​large waiting ​area, meanwhile, things felt much more placid. 

A thin man came in out of the rain wearing a ​huge heavy-duty trash bag, one corner of which made a whimsical peaked cap atop his head​,with a hole cut out for his face. Because the bag stretched clear down to ​the floor, he had to ask several people ​for help in ​taking it off. 

The security guard came through then and demand​ed to see people’s bus tickets.

​Everyone ​lacking such ​a document was ordered to leave. 

Some drifted out. Others seemed to just lift and resettle, like birds on a wire after the quieting down of a mild disturbance ​below. 

Two men stood watching ​an update on the Don Sterling affair on the TV screen that hung from the celling. 

“It’s rare when a white man gets called out for racism” said one.

“Ah, the guy was just jealous​, ​h​is girlfriend with a bunch of young guys” said the other. Both were African American.​ 

The clock on the wall marked the slow-passing time. 

A middle-aged woman punched her phone awake and got to work excoriating  the person who answered it, while over by the windows, a bus driver and two lounging civilians debated the merits of cremation vs. burial.​​

​”Cremation’s way cheaper too!” said one.​

“Hey dust to dust either way,” said another, by way of ​finishing ​on an amiable note. 

The clock-hands kept inching onward. More of the ticketless drifted in. 

And thus by degrees id the afternoon drained away. 

​Then, ​a fresh wind, ​as nimble as like a set of salad tongs ​in the hands of a professional chef, began tossing swirls of litter outside by the buses​, just as, in the sky, a ​slice of ​clear blue opened up right at horizon’s edge.