Holly and I needed to visit the local emergency room for a follow up doctor's appointment. In New Brunswick, where you will need more than a four leaf clover and a lucky horse shoe to find a family physician, this is typical, but the norm seems to be to hope your medical problems go away or metastasize into something extremely nasty that will get you seen by a doctor, albeit too late. At least I believe that is the province's plan for reducing the ballooning cost of health care.
During our three hour spring Sunday afternoon wait at St. Joe's - that is the affectionate moniker St. Joseph's Hospital is known by in Saint John - we were privileged to observe some of the local characters sharing this same adventure.
Laura is a nine year old who came in with her mother and two older sisters for, what seemed to be, a typical outing. Nobody seemed particularly perturbed about having to visit a hospital as the mother acknowledged the security guard by name and guided her family to the number dispenser like some African plains' creature, where she made certain each had their own. Mom, as Laura liked to yell in repeated staccato bursts until being told to pipe down, had achieved her three hundred pounds for the prized flowered moo moo that adorned her pale white figure years ago and was using this formidable presence combined with her stiff, angry voice to assert her dominance just as she had undoubtedly had to do through her childhood to obtain the necessary food and attention while learning to use the power of an unattractive body over potential predators.
Little Laura, with her thin frame to match her thin, somewhat greasy straight dark brown hair, would light up when receiving the attention she sought from her mother in the form of a verbal assault and make her way toward her sisters with pride on her face and her fingers and thumb forming the shape of the letter L, adding "Loser," under her breath as she neared earshot of the one entity that represented both older siblings. Laura could easily be mistaken for a boy were it not for the puffy sleeves adorning her blouse.
Her sisters had gravitated toward a pair of girls they knew from school that were looking very important with the texts that were constantly leaving and entering their cell phones. These two, who could have been anywhere from 13 to 16 years old, were both thin and sporting clothing designed to highlight this and complement the over-applied makeup.
To our right had sat an older overweight (though not quite obese) man breathing and, sometimes, coughing loudly through a tracheal stoma and his lady, who resembled an older and even more weathered version of Laura's mom. They had entered the triage room just before Laura's group had entered. Upon returning to the emergency waiting room, they were greeted by Mom yelling with her normal voice as she ambled toward the couple, "Dad! What the hell are you doin' here?"
"He took a walk in the woods and fell."
Mom maneuvered her ample frame into the couple's personal space, never lowering the volume of her voice. "Alone?" she blurted, turning her head accusingly to the woman, then looked over her shoulder, "Look Laura, it's Grandpa."
This went on for some time while the nurse behind the glass completed Grandpa's registration and the herd moved the show to the seats in the centre of the room, providing a much more entertaining and apt spectacle than the Nascar that someone - someone who had undoubtedly left the ER long ago - had tuned the television channel to. Laura's mother's cell phone then announced an incoming call with loud country music and she held the phone to her face to read the ID before flipping it open and answering it, "Whaddya want, Mom?"
Grandpa's seats were taken by a young man and two young women, all looking far more tattered than their years should suggest, who had just said nonchalant hellos upon recognizing each other.
"What are you here for?" he asked the one with longish dark hair and dark featured face.
She had an abscessed tooth, it turns out, but returned the inquiry and was told that he needed some money Saturday night, so signed himself up for the local mixed martial arts fights, even though he wasn't expecting a victory. Now, it was time to get the souvenirs from his match looked after and the conversation flowed like Crosby's molasses until we heard them mention another girl they knew.
"She would lick a guy's feet for a thousand bucks," said the dark featured woman. Noticing the negative reaction this drew on the faces of her listeners, she added, "What?! Money's money. I'd do more than that for a thousand."
It was somewhere around this point, well over two hours in, that Holly and I moved to the second, smaller empty waiting room where we put the television on HGTV and hoped we wouldn't miss our names for our chance to see the doctor this go 'round.