Monday, January 4, 2010

I Insulted His Workplace

I was in the Emergency Room. The reason is not important. What matters is that in 14 hours nobody did anything to help me feel more comfortable. They took tubes of blood and ran other tests. They asked questions -- mostly about my drug usage and alcohol consumption. When I answered NO to all the questions, one fellow asked me what I do for fun. Fun doesn't come out of a bottle or pill or smoke or injection. I enjoy the life of the mind, and of exercise. Staffers who were listening clearly thought I was lying. I'm sure several of those tubes of blood were drug tests.

One doctor came by and told me he needed to pay attention to people who were sick. I said, "If I'm not sick, I should go home." He said he didn't mean that. I repeated that I'd like to go home. He asked why.

I said nobody likes to be a patient in an Emergency Room.

He became furious. "You insulted my workplace."

Huh? I thought maybe he misheard me. "It's not just your hospital. I don't know anybody who wants to be in an Emergency Room."

He stood up and towered menacingly over my bed. "Adult to adult. I don't like it when people insult my workplace."

"Adults don't become upset when they hear opinions that disagree with their own."

The man is a doctor. He works in an Emergency Room. If he can provide help, the person is grateful. But that doesn't mean the person woke up that morning and thought it would be nice to be in an emergency room.

I don't think emergency rooms are supposed to be nice places. You are only supposed to go to one if you really need to be there. And when you are there, nobody is expected to bother with the niceties. If you are brought in from an accident, they cut your clothing off. If you are unconscious, they take your blood without asking. Most conversations are about painful tests. It's not supposed to be a nice place for the patients. I don't know what they do to make it a nice place for the staff, or even if they try to make it a nice place for the staff.

I was nonplussed that this man thought I had insulted his workplace.

I thought I was speaking an easily recognized truth: Nobody wants to be a patient in an Emergency Room.

But this man was insulted. If I had felt I had a choice of doing anything else with my life at that time, I would never have crossed the threshold. After 14 hours, I felt I would be better off elsewhere. Still, this insulted man did not want me to go home.

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