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Suburban Island

Emergency Room on a Friday Night
Tuesday, May. 27, 2003, 8:42 a.m.

Question: Why didn’t I ask for the Twinkies?

What I Learned: Bring a bag lunch.

The crown jewel of last Friday was my visit to the local hospital emergency room. I don’t usually go to emergency rooms – instead I tend to just plod along hoping things will get better. Friday however, I just did not feel like my asthma was responding to the medications in the usual way. Finally, I decided that I needed to make sure there wasn’t something terribly wrong. I imagined all kinds of bad outcomes, which began forming in my mind like a cluster of those little bubbles over comic book character’s heads. The first imagined outcome was just flat out keeling over from what ails you because you were stupid and didn’t go to the hospital when you should have. Then I thought about how people go in to the hospital for one thing and come out finding that they’ve really got something much worse. Then I considered how nice it would be to get just one nights rest in a nice hospital bed where no one except the rotating hospital workers would bug me.

I told my husband that I thought I needed to go to the emergency room. He was tinkering with the car and looked a bit dismayed. He had to wash up first but I guess you have to look your best when you are dragging someone to the hospital. It gave me time to gather myself up so to speak which essentially consisted of putting all my meds in a zip-lock bag and finding a book to read. I was dressed in sweats and sandals. My hair was dragged back in a ponytail with a plastic clip. I put some lipstick on but I don’t think it helped. This was my ER look. It's not going to catch on.

The emergency room on a Friday night is an interesting environment. One hardly needs a book, so fantastic and mesmerizing is the whirl of activity taking place before your eyes and ears. I sign in and sit down – I will be sitting there for over 2 hours before anyone at the hospital talks to me about what’s wrong. In one corner, there are kids in a huge makeshift play area banging around and making appreciative shouts. Many unhappy looking people sit about – some desperately looking through rag-tag magazines on the waiting room tables in the impossible hope that there will something there worth reading. One woman lays newspaper on a series of chairs to make a bed that will probably cause her permanent back problems. There’s a real global thing going on in the ER on this Friday night – many nations seem to funnel their sick into this one big waiting room. It seems it is a small world, after all. Additionally, a date-night theme begins to emerge, as many young couples appear suddenly and sometimes dramatically, clinging to each other in the most romantic of ways, as if stirred up like little moths by the brilliant neon glare of the overhead lights.

My son has come along with me too and I am glad because he got me a big bottle of water at the gas station that we had to stop at as well before we could drive to the hospital. Who would have thought we could have squeezed so much in before hitting the ER. So finally there we were with nothing to do but sit and sit and sit. Eventually husband and son got kind of bored with all that sitting. They decided to make a trip to the 7-11 down the road. And why not, I ask? I asked for a hotdog because that what you should bring back anytime you go to the 7-11. That and a lottery ticket and maybe a pack of Twinkies too but I didn’t remember about the lottery ticket or the Twinkies. Too bad, because about an hour later, I received an ice-cold hot dog on a stale bun along with a couple of packets of mustard. Luckily there was a microwave in the ER waiting room too – they think of everything. I was glad to have the hot dog even if I did have to eat it standing up right there.

Afterwards, I sent everyone home. As they left, my son slipped me a pack of sharp cheese he had picked up on his 7-11 excursion. Now that’s a good kid. I tucked it in my purse, savoring the knowledge that I had a little snack for the extended wait. It was good I did. After over 2 hours of patient waiting, I finally went up to the window to find out what the deal was – how long was this going to take exactly? Well, I guess it might have been forever because about 6 people back on the list was my name crossed through in thick black ink. They had accidentally skipped over me. Oops. Now that makes you kind of want another stale iced-cold 7-11 hot dog, if you know what I mean. I sat down and ate the stick of cheese. It was fairly delicious too.

As it was, I actually got out at about 5 in the morning. My husband came to pick me up and when we got home the birds were singing like they were trying out for a Hitchcock movie. I didn’t care because I heard a louder call – that of pillow and blanket – and I headed right for it.

DETAILS: Coffee: turtle mocha+ Listening to: the ceiling fan + Observing: newly filled bird feeders + Watching: MASH re-runs + Weather: Maybe some sun

Today’s Suburban Strategy: Hang out in a crazy kitchen...

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