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.

 

 

 

 

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.