Playing For Time — It’s Awful.

hospital

I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life the last two weeks visiting either hospitals or medical clinics.

What’s the difference between the two?  Basically, a hospital doesn’t smell as good as a medical clinic, and a medical clinic is always running out of things compared to a real hospital.

No matter.

The hospital where I receive most of my major medical interventions, as they deem necessary, of course, is a bit of an older place, just slightly run down, yet always in some state of renovation.  And the renovators never quite seem to catch up with making the place nice and whole.  As soon as they get one corner squared away, they’re tearing down another.

So I was a bit surprised earlier in the week as I walked up to the main entrance of the place.  Usually there’s a clutter of folks in wheelchairs being shepherded around by family members, and there’s always a few cops loitering around.  I’ve never really seen the security people there do much of anything, except park their vehicles in the handicapped zone out front which makes the real handicapped patients move farther down the curb to unload.

But I’m sure we’re all safer because of the rent-a-cops police presence.

Anyway, as I approached the sliding glass doors at the front, I was met with the sound of keyboard music.

“What’s this?”  I thought to myself.  “They’re now piping Muzak in the lobby to try to make us all feel better than we really do?”

If only that were the case.  As the doors shushed open, a little old lady was planted in the vestibule, sitting in front of an electronic piano, dressed in a shabby caricature of some kind of tuxedo, and banging away on the keys.

She only hit a few wrong notes during the three seconds I walked by.

I guess it was the institution’s attempt to add a little joyousness to the day, but it had the exact opposite effect on me.  For some odd reason, I felt like a prisoner at a concentration camp headed to God Knows Where, receiving a send off from my fellow musician inmates.

I half expected someone in a white lab coat to be waiting ahead, separating the prisoners patients, as appropriate:

“You.  Left.  You.  Left.  You.  Right.”

“Wait a minute.  Why am I going right?  Audiology is to the left.  Please, I want to go to Audiology.  I won’t cause any trouble.”

“You.  Right.  Get the dogs.”

Of course there was no selection, no Sophie’s Choice, but it sure put me in a spooky mood and set the tone for the morning.

Later, after my appointment was finished and I received a relatively clean bill of health, I decided I would take the stairs down from the third floor rather than the elevator.   Might as well get some exercise, I reasoned.

But I vaguely remembered trying the stairs on a previous visit, and I reminded myself they weren’t a straight shot down to the ground floor.  You had to criss-cross a couple of times to different ladderwells before getting spat out at the bottom.

What the heck.  I went for it.  I mean, how lost could I get?

Big mistake.

The next thing I knew I was wandering around the second floor, looking for that elusive express stairwell, when I stumbled into some kind of controlled access area.  Well, it was really more like a holding cell or jail.  There was a pleasant-looking courtyard, except that it was fenced and surrounded by barbed wire.

And then there was the posted sign:  “Danger of Elopement Present.”

What the what?  Where was I?

Wherever I was, it was eerily quiet and deserted.  There were a few lights on in the corridor, but I had a bad feeling I was about to run into an Eloper at any second.

Either an Eloper or Sasquatch.

I tried retracing my steps back while I looked for another stairwell, any stairwell, which I fortunately soon stumbled upon.

Eventually I made it back to the ground floor, and I hurried my little self out of that place as fast as my sore feet would carry me.

The little old lady pianist was still seated in the vestibule, but she was taking a break and talking to one of the inmates patients.

I hopped in my car and departed the parking lot post-hates.

Next stop:  foo-foo coffee.

I figured I deserved some, because even though I really didn’t dodge any sort of bullet that morning, I sure felt like someone was taking aim at me.

Nothing that a little caffeine and a chocolate croissant wouldn’t take care of, however.

- Dad

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Waiting Room Morons

waiting room

“Man, I hope someone else shows up so that I can put this magazine down and annoy the crap out of them with my phone.”

As if going to the medical clinic / doctor’s office / hospital on a routine basis isn’t already bad enough in and of itself, I find myself constantly challenged by the oblivious insensitivities of my fellow patients in waiting.

Though the only direct feedback on my last physical malady-related post was from none other than Daughter herself, I received a number of informal responses commiserating right there along with me.  That would be reassuring if the subject weren’t so depressing in the first place.  However, what I gamely failed to mention in “No Shame” was that the entire “streaming episode” was preceded by one of the most basic pass patterns out of “The Old Codgerdom Playbook.”

Picture this if you will — three or four of us Codgers gamely woke up a bit earlier than usual, gave up breakfast, and quite possibly did not visit the bathroom so that we could arrive at the specimen clinic before the window opened for business.  Such was the scene when I walked in a week ago.  There were three old guys already seated and waiting, in varying degrees of bodily distress.  God knows what they were holding inside of themselves, and I didn’t want to know either.

At precisely 30 seconds before 7:00 a.m., another Old Codger came shuffling along, dressed in “comfort clothes” he very well might have slept in, and plopped into one of the seats right up front.  To be completely honest, he looked a bit out of it, and none of us gave him a second look.

That is, until the window opened for business, when he sprung to his feet and shot straight away to sign in!

Since I was fourth in priority, I was more amazed than distressed at the gumption this guy displayed.

What were the rest of us?  Invisible?  Idiotic?  Lambs?

Yes.  Yes, we were.  All three, apparently.  But the other Codgers there who just got jumped simply took it in stride.  They silently lined up behind him.

I was incredulous, but then got to thinking that, by the looks of most of them, they weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere else that day.  Hell, maybe getting specimens taken was the highlight of their Friday, for all I knew.

Anyway, they were all pretty much nonplussed about the egregious breach in Waiting Room Etiquette.  Perhaps they’d seen this play before.  Perhaps one of them even invented it.

I don’t know, but my old friend, Karma, was well at work last week, because it turned out that the Line Jumper didn’t have an appointment in the system and was quickly sent on his way by the staff.  By the time he left, he had reverted into his Space Cowboy Demeanor and was, no doubt, headed for another destination where fellow Muggles would become susceptible to his ruse.

Zen-me was whispering in my ear the entire time, and I managed to stay cool and not worry about it.

But that was last week, and today was another round of appointments for me.

The first one out of the chute was with the Eye Doctor.  Just for reference, all the Eye Doctors in this particular office appear to be between the ages of 16 and 17 years old, and many of them could pass for Dog Scientists in another life.

It is an eerie environment in the Eye Doctor’s Office, made more claustrophobic because the damn Waiting Room is so small.  Three or four of us Muggle Patients (there was another Old Codger there, too), sat in very close proximity to one another while pretending to read three-year-old US Entertainment Weekly magazines (Abs of the Stars — Exclusive Photos!).

Then the cell phones started going off, with their cute, but annoying, ring tones; which were then following by the even more annoying and mindless conversations.

“Yeah, I’m still sitting here.  Where are you?  In the car?  Okay.  No, I don’t know what Tammy is doing.  Where is she?  In the car?  Oh.”

Crap like that.

Over and over.

Thankfully, the Waiting Room eventually emptied out, and I was left with another Muggle who wore one glove on his right hand, for some reason.

It was peacefully quiet.

Until he started playing Call to Honor 3 or Wreck It Ralph on his phone.

Bleep-bleep.  Parp-parp.  Tootle-tootle.  Ta-La.

And so on.

I decided I had endured enough of this for one day, and while my eyes were slowly dilating and the world around me became a fuzzy blur, I walked out into the hallway and told the receptionist to come and get me when the doctor was ready.

Well, eventually she did, and I told her about being annoyed in the Waiting Room because of this other guy.  I also told her that I seriously; in fact, very seriously, considered beginning to sing in a tit-for-tat attempt to annoy him, since he was doing such a good job with me.

Her response?

“Well, that depends on how well you sing.  It might not be annoying at all.”

And with that, she darkened the lights and proceeded to give me a clean bill of ocular health.

Zen-me, indeed.

Namaste!

- Dad

You Were Our Best Patient Today. We Only Had Two!

hospbed

“I swear to God I’m going to pop, so stop smiling! And, by the way, who is your tailor?”

Any day is a good day when you go to the hospital in the morning for a procedure and actually leave the afternoon.  Apparently, a lot of folks are not as fortunate. 

So the good news is that I’m home today, and slept in my own bed last night.  But that doesn’t mean the Muggle Medical Personnel didn’t make it interesting for me while I visited their domain.

First, you have to admit, they’ve got all of us beat in the Clotheshorse Department.  What I wouldn’t give to wear clogs, baggy pants, and mult-colored smocks all day!  They all look so carefree and comfortable while they are busy jamming you with sharp objects and confirming for the tenth time when and what you last ate. 

“Yes, I’m being truthful.  It was popcorn at 7:00 p.m.  I thought it was okay.”

I tried to figure out if there was some kind of rhyme or reason associated with the medical togs.  Sadly, I discovered there was none, as the most senior doctor dressed the same way as the lowliest orderly — and they all looked so damned comfortable!

Second, pretty much everyone in the place who is not a patient is somewhere between 12 and 15 years old. 

“Where did you get you undergraduate degree?” I joked with one of the orderlies, thinking he hadn’t yet finished grade school.

“UT-Austin, then my residency in Dallas, and now I’m here,” he replied.

Clearly I was in the presence of some type of super-race of uberexcelling children, because this guy looked younger than my eleven year old.  If that’s the case, I thought, then why isn’t my eleven year old already practicing medicine? 

Sedation will do that to you. 

Third, there is no sound-proofing anywhere, which can be unsettling.  There I lay, post-procedure, trying to figure out why my shoulder hurt so much when the operative incision was nowhere in the same vicinity.  I spied a guy who had a purposeful look wandering around the unit examining charts.  At first I thought he was some kind of doctor, but he was dressed too uncomfortably for that role.  The next thing I knew he was talking to the old dude in the slot next to me — we were really only separated by a curtain, so I heard mostly everything he said.

“We have to live with our choices,” he advised this guy, in a very soothing voice. 

“I know,” came the reply.  “I’m not afraid of death.”

Whoa!  What’s going on here?  Guys, I’ve got a sore shoulder.  Let’s not get my mind wandering. 

“You know, alcoholics like us have to learn to experience pain, without help.”

Again, guys, I’ve got some pain going on here, without the benefit of alcohol.  Can you try to be more pleasant? 

The conversation went along in that vein for awhile, and eventually they wrapped it up and made a point to get together again real soon.  My hope was that I would not be the next one in line to be visited and, thus, become entirely bummed out.  After all, the hospital promised me lunch after the procedure, and I was anxiously looking forward to water and jello.

As it turned out, I did receive a sumptuous feast of Saltines, jello, ramen soup, a muffin, tea, and water.  It was freaking awesome because I was so hungry. 

And I didn’t have to talk to anyone regarding my thoughts on the Hereafter — exactly how do you high five a thousand angels?  I’m gonna find out!  I’m not sure how that’s going to go over with the resident counselors.

And finally, there has to be a downside to all of this, right?  Of course there is, as no good deed goes unpunished in my world. 

Not long after eating my wonderful meal, I felt the need to visit the Necessary Room. 

“Nurse, may I use the restroom?”

Turns out the Muggle Doctor who performed the procedure on me is a stickler for post-operative protocol. 

“The doctor’s orders state you need four hours in the bed, no exceptions.” 

I mean the restroom is all of ten paces away.

“If you really, really need to go, here’s a container.  We’ll close the curtains for privacy.”

Missy, I’ve got news for you.  That container ain’t big enough to hold what’s coming down the pike.

In the end, I managed to hang on until I received my bed release, so I felt doubly wonderful when I finally managed to leave the hospital just a bit later. 

The next adventure was driving home with Wife and Daughter Number Two, and in a stunning case of role reversal, I was able to comment the entire time on my Wife’s driving habits as we sped along.

A short time later, after stopping for foo-foo coffee, she asked me if I would like to drive the rest of the way. 

Of course I answered in the affirmative.  Sweet.

- Dad

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