Now Playing: Nothing, because I have an ear out for Karen in case she needs help with anything.
I gotta say. Carolinas Medical Center really did exceed my expectations during Karen’s stay there for laparoscopic surgery to repair a (most likely) congenital hernia in her diaphragm. To a person, the folks employed or volunteering there were exceedingly nice and understanding and treated us with great respect. She’s in pain, it’s true, but we think and hope it’s a natural consequence of the procedure. But that’s not what this blog is about.
No, it has to do with the other families of patients there, three sets of ’em in particular.
When we got there Monday, we went to the surgery waiting center, which would become my home for about 81/2 hours as it turned out.
As is my custom, I chose a seat away from other people, and we sat and waited to be called back.
Or at least I thought we had a seat away from everyone else.
Turns out we were sitting fairly near the coffee/tea machine. Which attracted lots of folks, most of whom got their beverage and left. Well, all of whom got their beverage and left. Except for one guy. Who, as it turned out, had just about the most irritating voice I’ve ever heard. It wasn’t that he was Gilbert Gottfried – just irritating on his face. It was just that he had a low voice. That carried. And carried. And he felt obligated to talk. All the time. And to top it off, he was something of a know-it-all. Which I know all about.
We moved behind a partition to get some relief. A few minutes later, Karen was called back to pre-opp, and I got to go see here there a little later.
As it turns out, there was another booming voice next door. We never saw the guy, but we imagined him to be a big old Italian bear of a man. Despite the volume, his voice wasn’t irritating. By listening, we learned he was a big smoker, with a big family. A toddler – I’ll assume a grandchild – poked his head through the curtains and looked at us. We waved at him. Somehow these folks made us feel better. We didn’t know what he was in for, but given the smoking, we knew it might not be good. Still, I never heard the guy gripe or complain, and I wish him the best.
But after all too brief a time I was back out in the waiting room.
I found a seat, again away from the madding – or maddening – crowd. Within minutes, I’d discover just how maddening. They were older women, and they knew each other but obviously hadn’t seen one another in some time.
I don’t even remember when or why I started listening. Amend that. I listened because I couldn’t help it. They were loud, and they talked incessantly.
It was about eggs. Hard-boiled eggs. I can only think of one sentence to say about hard-boiled eggs. Here it is: I hate hard-boiled eggs.
But these women talked about hard-boiled eggs for what seemed like hours. OK, it was really about 10 minutes. Maybe less. It just seemed longer.
They talked about the correct way to boil the eggs. (I can name that tune in four notes: Boil water, add eggs.)
They talked about the correct way to crack and eat hard-boiled eggs. (I can name that tune in one note: Don’t.)
They talked about adding vinegar to the water: Not white vinegar. Not rice vinegar. Not balsamic vinegar. Apple-cidar vinegar. You know, the kind everybody means when they say vinegar.
To be truthful, they might have been talking about poached eggs by this point. I was trying desperately not to listen – and failing miserably.
I finally put my earbuds in and started listening to music (courtesy of my trusty Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet) just to drown them out. Should have thought about that about a dozen eggs or so sooner, but I didn’t want to risk not hearing them call my name from the update desk.
A little later, they called me to the update desk and said the procedure had begun. I knew it would take a couple of hours, so I decided to go get some lunch – it was 3 p.m. by this time. I got a pager and left my cell number at the desk and went down to the cafeteria, where I had a decidedly unhealthy Philly and fries.
By the time I came back up, my tablet was in need of plugging in, so I found a spot in the waiting room where I could plug in.
Unfortunately, that spot was near a group of folks from Hickory. How’d I know they were from Hickory? Because they were hicks. Among the worst I’ve seen. Make that heard.
There were two 40-ish couples, an older man and a couple of teens. The older guy and the teens were fine. The two couples, not so much. There was a blonde wearing white. Tight white. Sort of sheer white. And tight. Especially around her belly, legs and butt. She and the other woman, a less-flashy brunette, were carrying on, laughing and telling stories, loudly interrupting one another and the guys along with them. Again, grabbed the earbuds, but now I really was worried about missing an update. Each time the intercom would sound, I’d have to rip the earbuds out and hope to catch the name. I shot them several glares, but they either didn’t see them or, more likely, didn’t care.
It bothered me. I was there knowing there was a 99% or higher chance of a good outcome in Karen’s procedure.
But it occurred to me, if not to the Hickorians (Hickoryites), that there probably were lots of people in there for life or death procedures. And they had to listen to a bunch of howling and laughing and foolishness. I couldn’t really move – I really needed to recharge – so I just sat there and seethed. And thought up the surgeries I’d like to see inflicted on them. Most of which involved garden sheers and tongues.
Here’s the … And Other Stuff
The irritating folks from Hickory were originally going to be from Gastonia. That’s because I enjoy poking fun at Gastonia, where I lived from 1993 to 1997. I’ve previously called said it was built on the Hellmouth of Weird, kinda like Sunnyvale was the Hellmouth of Demons in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But get this. I have great affection for Gastonia. There’s no place on earth that recognizes its shortcomings and tries so hard to overcome them. If I poke fun at the city, it’s in the manner of friends giving one another the business.
Here’s why this matters: The congressional redistricting plan currently before the goobers in the General Assembly puts Asheville in the same district with Gastonia. Which has apparently outraged the folks in Asheville to no end.
I say that because of what I suppose was intended to be a humor column Sunday in the Asheville paper. Here’s a link if you want to see it, but I can’t say I recommend it. The premise was that because they’re in the same congressional district, Asheville and Gastonia must be alike. Here’s what it was in practice: A snarky, unfair putdown of Gastonia, criticizing it for having pawn shops (which I’m betting Asheville has, too), downtown parking (as if that’s a bad thing) and unpretentious restaurants. The underlying theme: We’re better than Gastonia, and we shouldn’t be in the same district).
Hey, I like Asheville. It has a lot to recommend it, including cool restaurants and music venues. But Gastonia has some damn good stuff going for it, too. Like Tony’s Ice Cream (mentioned, but not enough, in the article). Like the Schiele Museum, which is pretty cool in my book. Like people who – as I said earlier – can laugh at themselves and realize they don’t live in paradise.
The two cities definitely have something in common, though: Terrible representation in Congress. Patrick McHenry from Cherryville represents Gastonia, and even his fellow Republicans thought he was over the top recently with his criticism of the woman helping to set up a national consumer-finance agency. As for Asheville, it’s represented by Heath Shuler, the Republican masquerading as a Democrat. Which is fine, since he masqueraded as a quarterback for the Washington Redskins. And who apparently is torn between running again for Congress and being the athletic director at the University of Tennessee. And maybe being a double-naught spy.
Humility and knowledge in poor clothes excel pride and ignorance in costly attire.
– William Penn