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Hospitals Are Amazing (pun)

by Jason Edwards

A friend of mine had to go the hospital a few days ago. Nothing life threatening, of course, but even if you’re only there for a hangnail, the hospital induces a general anxiety and state of subtle panic in anyone. Since my friend needed emotional support, I hopped in my car and headed in that direction before I remembered how terrifying hospitals can be even for visitors. Maybe it’s all the Latin doctors use.

On the way, I realized I had no idea where to park, or what entrance to take. Parking in Seattle is impossible on a good day, and downright evil when you’re in a rush. I am not making this up: Seattle has been consistently voted one of the worst major cities to drive in. We have one way streets responsible for the establishment of indigenous people, who have given up trying to find their way home, and just established new dynasties between the fire hydrants and the mailboxes.

I finally found a parking garage, and, of course, the slowest driver in the universe was in front of me. He had to stop at every single parking spot to read the sign that confirmed he was not allowed to park there. I would have honked my horn, but I was afraid I’d give him a heart attack—this restraint on my part, though, was not consideration, but desperation, not wanting to be stuck behind some dead guy.

All of those space, those empty space, you see, were reserved for doctors—it was frustrating to see two floors of spaces I couldn’t park in, and then disquieting to realize all these empty space meant that all of those doctors were not in the building that day. Maybe ambulances should just start taking patients to golf courses, so folks are sure to see a doctor at least somewhere.

Once I found a spot, I got out of my car… and promptly got lost looking for the elevator. My wife says I have no sense of direction. This is like saying a bear has no sense of dining with fine China. I can get lost in a bathroom. Lately I’ve been relying on my smartphone’s GPS features, but this has had the unfortunate side effect of making me cocky. And when you’re cocky in a cement tower with no cell reception, you’re just stupid.

Eventually, through a careful application of the left-hand rule, and blind luck, I found the elevators. I went up to the main floor, consulted the maps. I was delighted to find them incomprehensible. That’s not sarcasm. I was expecting the maps to be incomprehensible, and having at least one thing go as expected gave me a kind of bitter satisfaction.

I should point out that the map for this particular hospital campus included a building called “The Health Building.” That’s sort of like going to a university and finding “The Education building.” Or going to a military base and being directed to “The Military Building.”

You know that old saw, about how when you lose something, you only find it in the last place you look? Yeah, goes for hospital emergency room entrances too. I found pretty much every other entrance to the hospital: oncology, spinal cord rehab, chemical dependence rehab, post-stroke rehab… if I get shot and need the emergency room, screw it, I’ll just go to gaping-wound rehab.

When I finally found the emergency entrance on the map, I started to navigate the maze from where I was to get there. And it is a maze. There’s signs everywhere, and since none of the hallway junctions are at right angles, the arrows all go in really weird directions. They’re pointing up and to the right, backwards, with curly-cues on them… one of them was in 3D, and pointed right at me, and said “You are there.”

At one point I saw a sign that says “Emergency is on A floor.” Now, I was in a tiny bit of a panic, so I didn’t catch the capital letter. I started freaking out. Great! Emergency is on a floor! So that means Surgery is on a wall and Osteopathy is on a ceiling? Come on!

And the whole time I’m looking for the emergency room, there’s pages going off. “Paging Dr. Blue. Paging Doctor Green. Paging Doctor Mauve with a Hint of Canary.” What the hell, am I in Rainbow Bright Memorial Hospital?

Actually, I have friends who work in medicine, and they told me nurses use code words so the patients don’t get alarmed. There is no “Doctor Blue,” that’s just a code for when someone’s croaking and they need the defibrillators. Personally, I found it a bit unsettling. I started doing the translations in my head. They said “Paging Doctor Brown, and I heard “Paging Doctor One Of The Psychos Got Loose Again, Dr One Of The Psychos Has A Freakin’ Scalpel, Please Report To The Nurse’s Station.”

Somehow, I found the emergency room desk. It was easy, when I finally figured out that all I had to do was follow the smell of despair and depression. Not the despair of getting one’s hand caught in a pickle jar. No, this would be the despair of realizing you have to wait three hours for a doctor to show up, and the only thing there to entertain you are tattered issues of People magazine from 1994 and a 19 inch TV mounted on the ceiling showing Lawrence Welk reruns.

At the check-in desk, I told them the name of “my cousin,” and they buzzed me right in. This was a bit frustrating. I had an elaborate story prepared, explaining why me and my cousin had radically different last names, nationalities and skin colors. I was even going to throw in some bullcrap about being an advocate and an interpreter. But receptionist didn’t even look at me. I could have been a serial killer looking for bad asthma patients, or something.

So I sat with “my cousin” for a few hours, cracking jokes and stealing as many latex gloves as I could fit in my pocket. Like I said, it wasn’t a life-threatening situation in the least, no big deal at all. I think, actually, during my harrowing trek through the labyrinthine corridors, I was actually the one who had been in the most danger. Everything worked out okay, and “my cousin” was released no worse for wear.

But thank goodness I thought to grab a candy bar from a vending machine before trying to leave. because on my way back to the car, I got lost again.

1 comment to Hospitals Are Amazing (pun)

  • Good stuff! :) :) :)

    A couple of my faves: I should point out that the map for this particular hospital campus included a building called “The Health Building.” That’s sort of like going to a university and finding “The Education building.” Or going to a military base and being directed to “The Military Building.”

    and

    Actually, I have friends who work in medicine, and they told me nurses use code words so the patients don’t get alarmed. There is no “Doctor Blue,” that’s just a code for when someone’s croaking and they need the defibrillators. Personally, I found it a bit unsettling. I started doing the translations in my head. They said “Paging Doctor Brown, and I heard “Paging Doctor One Of The Psychos Got Loose Again, Dr One Of The Psychos Has A Freakin’ Scalpel, Please Report To The Nurse’s Station.”

    That’s good to know, by the way! Very interesting.

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