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A few days ago I went to the hospital emergency room because I had an emergency. I won’t tell you the details, other than to say it was a breathing problem—as in, I couldn’t. At times like that, the times when I cannot breathe, Dr. Lung thinks “pulmonary embolism”, but since it was his day off Martha did his thinking for him and called 911.
Shortly thereafter (1) the fire truck roared up (in case I was on fire), (2) the fire chief followed in his SUV (to certify that the non-fire was in fact fully not extinguished), and (3) the ambulance with two attendants in big rubber fire boots to kick through the non-rubble. For the first time in four years, I actually saw our neighbors—some in their front yards, but others standing much closer just in case I was soaked in blood.
Neighbor #1: “Do you think she finally murdered him?”
Neighbor #2: “Naw, the cops would be here to arrest him for provoking her.”
Everything went well at the hospital. No embolism. The doctor gave me a prescription for opiate painkillers (which I neither needed nor took since I had no pain), instead of the root beer sucker I craved. Best of all, I wasn’t admitted—I was free to go home, back to our little love nest. Alleluia! Happy days are here again! Roll me over on the carpet and rub my tummy! On the Ecstasy-o-Meter I was an eight, until Martha pointed out a rather disturbing problem: having arrived by ambulance with oxygen, I was going home by Toyota without it. Uh-oh.
“Gee whiz, we shoulda thought to bring your portable unit with us!” she said, slapping my forehead because I’m always the forgetful one.
When being loaded into an ambulance I have a tendency to give the future very little thought. Stuff like, “I wonder if I should switch our investments to junk bonds,” or, “I hope Martha cleaned out the dryer filter so there isn’t a fire.” And poor Martha had worries of her own. She was worried about me. She was worried if there was a Starbucks between the house and the hospital. Mostly she was worried if she had enough sudoku puzzles to last five hours of my bitching in the emergency room. Stuff to breathe with—who woulda thought of it amid all the worries and chaos?
So Martha came up with a plan:
1. She would drive back home, hoping there was a Starbucks between the hospital and the house.
2. She would pick up my portable oxygen pack and check the dryer filter.
3. She would drive back to the hospital. Screw Starbucks.
4. She would put me in the car and attach me to my oxygen.
5. She would drive back home, put me to bed, and let me bitch all I wanted because she was going to bingo.
While I waited for her, I sat in a wheelchair equipped with oxygen right by the emergency room entrance door. In just my pajamas, socks, and no underpants. With my hair combed with a Mixmaster. Without a shave for a few days, or a bath for the same number of few days. I was a mess. I was pathetic. All the people who walked by me, which by my unofficial count was 2,693 in forty minutes, wondered why I wasn’t in the plastic surgery ward.
Here are a few comments I picked up from passersby:
“If that man is going home they did a terrible job! Maybe we should move Aunt Myrtle to another hospital because she doesn’t look all that hot, either.”
“Hey, Mommy, look at that man’s hair: It looks just like those fluffy dandelions in our front yard! Can I go blow on his head?”
“You know, Chester, somebody ought to buy that poor man a Starbucks.”
It was then that the idea hit me. The idea was I shoulda had a sign (with a piece of string) around my neck that said,
Don't ever let this happen to you!!!
And a tin cup for donations because quarters make a lot of noise in a tin cup. They used to use tin pans in church so everyone could stare and sneer (with loving kindness, of course) at the cheap bastards whenever there was a loud TIN! Slot machines always use tin so that twenty lousy nickels falling on TIN sound like someone’s ship, the Queen Sucker, just came in.
I wouldn’t have kept the money, though, even if it were as high as one or two dollars. I mean, what would happen if the insurance company found out that I was self-insured?
[A sincere thank you to the Chandler, AZ Fire Department, the Mesa, AZ Fire Department, and Banner Desert Medical Center for the quick response and care you have given me. Your response time is amazing. I’m still pissed at the ambulance guys, though, because they never run the fancy lights and siren, even when I plead, beg, and threaten to ... hold my breath.]