Last night I spent six hours of my life in a hospital, which has lead me to believe the ultimate reason hospitals exist is to increase our potential for patience. You’re confined to levels upon levels of waiting, each longer than the last. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I ride my bike to and from work everyday like a good little hippie. I’ve been seriously riding for nearly 15 years which means I ride on clipless pedals. My first experience with clipless was on a mountain bike. The trail was Salem Park in Winston Salem, NC. I was nervous, as most beginners tend to be. The course was muddy, and I was clumsy. It ended with me wrapped around a tree at the bottom of a set of whoop-de-doos. It was a learning experience: take to the trail when you’re mildly confident, not your maiden voyage.
I now ride strictly on the road and only as a mode of transportation. I’ve long since lost the joy of dodging trees, and the mere though of riding on the road for hours bores me to tears. I do, however, still ride exclusively on clipless pedals. This means I’m that guy with those funny shoes, clip-clopping through the store, seemingly afraid to put his toes on the ground. They look like reverse high heels. The soles are extremely stiff. And the cleat is cause for alarm.
Every morning, upon arriving at work, I walk up a set of rubber coated steps. My cleated riding shoes grip nicely, and the clipclop is muffled to a dull thudthump. Every evening I strap on my riding shoes and exit down a different stairwell. A stairwell with no rubber coating, just raw exposed concrete. This naked set of stairs becomes the banana peel to my Mercedes when wearing my riding shoes. And on this particular evening… Halfway down the oily slope, I slipped—bike hoisted in the air. I land hard on my ass and left elbow. My kidneys slam into the steps. I slide to a halt and my bike finds its way on top of my legs. I gasp for air like a monk grasping for faith. Nothing coming. Pain is searing through my body, and the only thought running through my head is, “I so hope I didn’t break my coccyx.”
Seconds pass and air finally finds its way back into my lungs. I kick my bike off me and pray that no one walks into the stairwell adding pride to my list of hurts. I laid there for a moment allowing the pain to wash over me, absorbing it, trying to read the pain for more than just bruises. I stand up. I’m shaking. Nothing feels broken. I walk, hesitantly and purposefully, down the second half of the stairwell. I reach the sidewalk outdoors and try to roll my bike, thinking I could somehow make it home, dazed and confused. The bike jerks a syncopated roll. I look back and the wheel is slightly bent, grabbing the brake pad awkwardly, and I realize there would be no riding in my immediate future.
I grab my phone, which was luckily unharmed in the fall, and call my wife. She was already in transit, so the wait was short—the only short wait of the night. While I’m on the phone, I notice blood dripping on the concrete. It’s coming from my elbow. On closer inspection, I see a hole in my elbow. A hole. In my elbow. I end the call, and rush upstairs with my riding shoes still on. I scurry to the sink, turn on the water, grit my teeth, and plunge my elbow into the stream. It stings, but I scrub the hole in my elbow anyways. The hole. In my elbow. I finish the scrub down and grab a few paper towels to hopefully stop the bleeding. I walk over to Joshua whose first reaction was to take a picture. Documentation is key. It’s the proof that this really happened. Well, that and the doctor’s bill I’ll soon receive.
Allison arrives and I ask, “How would you like to spend the evening in the emergency room?”
We’re admitted to the emergency room by a portly woman slowly chewing gum. She sees the hole in my elbow and asks me to fill out some paperwork. Thankfully Allison was there and filled it out as holding a wad of paper towels over an elbow isn’t conducive to writing. We hand the paperwork back to our friend at the desk, and the waiting begins.
Everyone knows that hospital waiting rooms contain the world’s most unique people. Take advantage of this. Soak in the sights and sounds … and smells. You won’t get this again for a long time, hopefully.
We sit. We wait.
A couple across from us argues about their parent’s farm. I see no injuries on either of them. They both seem relatively healthy. So, I’m led to believe that a parent is in the emergency room. Maybe they’re fighting over who gets what when father kicks the bucket.
We sit. We wait.
“Spooner,” is shouted. We’re overjoyed; it’s only been twenty minutes. The nurse looks me up and down and asks how I’m doing. My response is that I’m fine other than my elbow and my back. She takes a second look up and down and pauses at my feet. I’m still wearing my riding shoes. She says nothing. We follow her back into a tiny office where she asks me the usual: have I been using drugs, have I had sex with a man since 1978, etc. She takes us to our next waiting room. It’s a smaller room with a few more people.
We sit. We wait.
Allison isn’t keen on sitting still for extended periods of time. She won’t admit it, but I think it’s because she teaches the kids with ADD. She can’t take the waiting anymore and asks if I want some dinner. I decline. She decides to leave and eat. So, I’m left in this second waiting room, staring at my new friends.
There’s a woman three rows over with frizzy hair. Her head hangs between her knees and she’s hugging herself. There are three men next to me—two larger men surrounding a tiny, frail looking thing. I notice handcuffs on the two slices of bread and wonder why they’re escorting this gentleman about the hospital. Click plays on the two televisions, and both officers are watching it intently. How ironic. A movie about a man who wants to fast forward his humdrum life is playing as we all sit and wait.
We sit. We wait.
Another couple enters the room, the woman clutches a baby. The man is pacing the room while she sits down. I imagine he’s scoping out the place, checking for monsters. A smile spreads across my face, but I quickly dismiss it as I notice Officer CHiPs is staring at me. He knows we’re not allowed to have fun in waiting rooms. So, we sit and we wait.
We sit. We wait.
Allison returns from dinner in time for my name to be called. The wait count is up to nearly two hours.
Our nurse leads us back to an emergency room. You know, the kind where you’re put on a bed enclosed by a curtain that doesn’t close all the way and doesn’t reach the ground. So, I sit on the bed. Allison takes the chair. Our nurse asks a few questions about what happened. I explain as succinctly as possible because by now my arm is throbbing and I’d just like to go home. She asks me, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how badly does it hurt.” I say, “3,” and we both have a chuckle at how people usually say, “12 or 13.” Seriously, the scale doesn’t go that high. Stop it. She lets us know a doctor will be with us shortly. What she really said was, “you’re about to sit and wait.” So, we sit and wait.
We sit. We wait.
I pull out my phone and continue reading Chris Anderson’s Free. Allison pulls out her phone and plays Scrabble. She’s an addict.
There’s a woman across the hall from us in a glass-faced room, like the kind Milla Jovovich would be trapped behind in Resident Evil. The woman coughs and moans, incessantly—a hacking, nasty, lung’s-about-to-come-up cough. We’re afraid something is terribly wrong, like and advanced case of pneumonia or lung cancer or … something really bad. Thirty minutes pass by and a doctor comes to visit the coughing woman. He enters, greets her, and informs her that there’s nothing wrong with her. The coughing and moaning stopped instantly and she asked where her shoes were. I wish I shared her diagnoses. All the while, I can’t help thinking that my coccyx is royally chipped.
The doctor arrives. My elbow is scrubbed and bandaged. I’m given a shot. I get to piss in one of those funny looking milk jugs, and then we’re sent on our way.
By this time we’ve spent six hours in the hospital. There’s nothing wrong me other than there being a hole in my elbow that’s too small for stitches and just big enough to be annoying. I’m a patient person. I don’t mind waiting. I never have. I imagine I never will.
Some people despise sitting still. Waiting reminds them of all the things they should be doing but can’t because of some forced restraint. I highly recommend a trip to your local emergency room because hospitals are a test of patience.