The fact that the nurse was in a closed glass case and didn’t even look up told me I had to help myself. I registered myself at a kiosk with my driving permit.
Then I waited. And waited and waited. Full five hours. In firm upright chairs, the only kind that was available in the waiting room. Clearly the hospital doesn’t want its patients to slack or droop or be unduly comfortable.
The waiting was interrupted by three brief intrusions. First, a nurse recorded my name, address and birthday. Probably she didn’t record these properly because three more people later asked the identical questions. Then she asked my height, weight and complaint. Earlier they used to check your height and weight; now they thoughtfully take you on trust, reducing their own chore.
Second, a clerk made me sign a sheaf of papers, presumably to make sure of my financial obligation and the hospital’s exemption from any liability for mistreatment. The clerk was too hurried to explain and I was too sick to pay attention.
Then a paramedic took blood samples for tests. Usually this takes five or ten minutes. This time it took four insertions and thirty minutes. The paramedic was visibly uncertain, almost nervous, and the explanation may have been that he had started work – he told me – just two months ago.
A fourth person came with a gurney to take me for a CT scan. When I wanted to know the reason for the expensive procedure, he simply wrote down “Refused” in his papers and departed without another word.
Finally, after five hours, I was admitted into the inner sanctum and found a bed. A nurse geared me to a IV fluid contraption and left, presumably in search of a doctor.
The well-awaited doctor appeared after thirty minutes, quickly perused the blood report and pronounced the indices normal. He said I “looked good” but he would prescribe some medicines in case I needed them. He also said a CT scan wasn’t needed at all. Just then his mobile rang and he rushed out to take the call.
Again I waited and waited. The doctor did not return, nor did the nurse. I desperately needed to go to restroom, but was stuck to the IV machine. I frantically yelled and a passing nurse came in to relieve me and let me relieve myself just in time.
I had had enough of waiting. I started marching up and down the corridor in search of the missing nurse and doctor.
At last I found the doctor, who pleaded a “long, troublesome” call. It is possible that even good doctors have irate girlfriends. I told him I had had the Waiting Cure – he didn’t demur – and now wanted to go home, if only I had the promised prescription.
I came out after another twenty minutes of waiting, with a prescription I never used and a bill for $4200. The big sign outside the hospital, Emergency, seemed glowing in the dark with an ironic message.