Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tom and X-Tina

Long after the last call bell rang, as the empty beer glasses were being collected and readied for the next night on the front lines of my hometown's battle with alcoholism, I went inside to unravel the scroll that had become my bar bill and haggle with the bartender over which internal organ I could comfortably live without, in order to settle up my debt. After eventually deciding upon using my card to pay, I walked outside toward the collection of plastic tables and chairs that comprised my friends' drinking HQ for the evening. As I made my way over, I was stopped (accosted) by a young lady who was drunk beyond anything I had seen before. She asked me to sit with her and her friends, and because she offered me free beer I enjoy meeting random people, I agreed.  

While I'm generally quite good at coming up with conversation topics for the times when there is little or nothing to say, this was not one of those moments. I had spent the first few moments of my conversation with this young lady simply trying to get her to repeat my name.

"Rob, " I said.




"Yes, fine. Tom." (At least it was a real name. Sorry, if your name actually is Rom.)

Her name was Christina, at least that's what I deduced from hearing the name screamed across the table by her equally drunk friends who spent the duration of the aforementioned conversation telling me that I should be sitting with them. She instructed me to hand her my phone so she could put her number in there. She typed her name slowly and carefully and listed herself as "X-Tina" (marriage material). After I asked why her number looked so "ridiculous," she told me she lived in Guelph. So, in search of anything to say, I asked: what people do in Guelph for fun, apart from leave?

She breezed past my hometown insult by talking about birds. I can't remember exactly what was said. I was obviously in no position to attempt to take notes at this point. But I do remember agreeing to part-ownership of some kind of parrot at a future date because I recall trying to convince her that parrots can fly. She might have got them confused with penguins. (Again: marriage material). I guess I must have found something amusing or interesting about the conversation, as it continued for 15 minutes or so; long after the beer at her table had been consumed initial buzz of meeting a random person had worn off.

My friends, noticing this ridiculous scenario (me talking to girls) taking place, were staring, mesmerized across the now empty patio area of the bar. Perfect time for my future wife here to try and plant one on me. I saw her approach coming thankfully, because a full twenty seconds before any sort of leaning action started, she began closing her eyes. Long enough for me to position myself away from any possible contact and probably long enough for me to have Googled "quick exits from awkward situations."

As she leaned in to try and kiss me, my natural reaction was to slowly pull away so as not to make a huge scene. "Wait, wait.." I asked, to no response, as the bar fell eerily silent with almost everyone on the patio watching the gory scene unfold. After hanging there for what felt like maybe a minute or so with just the warm  night air brushing her lips, she opened her eyes to me, sat leaning back in my chair and grimacing, scared to look at what surely was going to be either A) A very embarrassed person or B) A very angry person. As it turns out, one of Christina's pet peeves is when a guy refuses her advances so she chose option B). I was learning so much about her.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?" she inquired.

"Tom" I thought to myself as I walked away slowly.

"You're not good enough anyway," she added, quite convincingly.

And with that Christina and her friends, one struggling mightily to give me the correct finger, huffed their way down the patio stairs towards the anonymity of the sidewalk, clinging onto the railing as if dangling off a four-story building as they went.

The next day I sent a text message to her exotic Guelph phone number telling her that I was genuinely sorry for upsetting her and adding that I hope that didn't ruin her evening. No reply. Shame, I think Tom and X-Tina could have really been something

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In The Hospital

I am sick to death of being ill. Last Sunday, after a lovely 3-hour wait in the local emergency room, replete with a screaming girl who had some sort of cut on her face and a coughing, spluttering chorus of disease-ridden adults, I found my way to a doctor, who informed me that I was quite unwell.

Allow me to take you back to my Sunday morning:

Feeling under the weather, I decided to go against my friends' wishes and decline their invitation for 10am drinks at the local watering hole and instead decided to watch from my home base as England were taken apart by a rampant German team in their second round World Cup match.

At half time in the game with England 2-1 down, I received a text message from a girl I had been seeing, we'll call her Amy,  informing me of her intention to never see me again. Caught up in the game highlights, I forgot to reply. I'm sure there is some sort of connection between my football-watching and her relationship-ending. Anyway, England were losing the game and I could tell that I was feeling rough because the game seemed to pale in significance against my urgent need to find the best position for me to lay on the couch - facing the cushion. The fact that England were 4-1 down by that point probably had something to do with it too.

From my position facing the flowery couch cushion I fashioned a text message to Amy which was supposed to say "Maybe we can get coffee soon and talk?"

Instead, on review, it read "Maybe when coffee tweet?"

I did not receive a reply to my Shakespearean attempts at salvaging the relationship. Sad and feeling like my head was inside of a constantly beating drum, I decided I had to try and sleep and maybe magically, sleep will fix whatever was happening with my body. It did not. I woke up to the sound of my heartbeat in my skull, amongst other gory symptoms that are unfit for publication and concluded that I must make my way to the local disease-orium.

I was greeted at the hospital by a young man in baby blue hospital fatigues and matching white mask who asked me if I had been seen by anyone. I turned around and glanced fleetingly at the constantly opening and closing emergency room doors. I wasn't aware I had to make my entry in secret. I told him I had made my way to the hospital undetected and would prefer to continue this intriguing conversation post treatment. He provided a form for me to detail my bodily complaints, which I hastily filled out as all manner of diseases and injuries revealed themselves to me, like a disgusting conveyer belt on the worst gameshow ever.

Triage was next. I rolled up my sleeve so the Triage Nurse could take my blood pressure. She told me it was really low, in way that suggested I was doing something to influence the results.

"Hmm, your blood pressure seems a little too low," she said as she sat back in her wheeled-chair, folding her arms and pausing like a police officer waiting for an admittance of guilt.

And then, as is the way in these sorts of places she calmly followed up with a defeated shrug and said ;

 "Well, anyway, take your form to the next window and a doctor will be with you soon."

Soon, in hospital terms is not like the soon you are I know. Hospital soon is an altogether different kind. The kind which can span anywhere from 10 minutes to the day Steve Jobs eventually takes over the world and makes us his i-slaves who help him build his fort that will protect him from those large-thumbed Blackberry hordes.

In this case, soon was around three hours. I would have made use of those three hours, but given my state, all I could do was call my family and ensure that nobody sat close to me in the hospital by coughing excessively and looking intensely at anyone who even dared look at the plastic red seat beside my own.

Just as I was perfecting my cough, a group of people scurried in,  surrounding a girl with a cut on her forehead who was obssessively asking each of her posse whether it looked okay. It did not. But not one of her friends were ready to admit it.

 "It looks okay, " said one.

"It makes you look edgy, " added another, hilariously.

The blond-haired girl paced the waiting room and in her increasing angst continued to make various appeals to the Triage Nurse to let her in first, ahead of the bleeding children and the pale elderly humans who comprised the rest of my fellow emergency room inhabitants.

Eventually, it was my time for them to look under my hood and assess the damage. I was guided through the hallowed doors to the treatment area of the ER and onto a hospital bed by two nurses who, after setting my decrepit body down on the linen sheets, attached me to various machines who's job it would be to monitor everything that occurred in my body for the near future. It is nearly impossible to rest when your heart-monitor flat-lines eleven times over a ten-minute period because of "system maintenance," helping you to receive nervous glances from everyone in the room, even though you are sitting up and thus clearly not dead.

I rested my head gently in slow-motion on the industrial strength pillow and listened to the conversations of other unfortunate souls in the cramped and dark emergency ward. Next to me was a man who, every time someone came in and asked him how he was,  would say "Not great, I mean look where i am." and then laugh to himself and wait for the other person to laugh too. Mr. Popular had about 300 visitors over the 3 hours we shared a 40ft squared piece of the universe, each beginning with the same query, and receiving the same response.

The nurses station was occupied by two female nurses who were comparing their hospital outfits like they were at a fashion show in Milan,  "Oh, yours has ducks on it. Very cute," and a male Doctor who was resting his head on his hand and staring at a piece of paper, looking bored with the persistent chaos that surrounded him.

As I zoned out staring at the ridiculous "If you're feeling unwell, welcome aboard " boat poster on the wall above the nurses station, a doctor made his way inside the room towards my heavily-blanketed bed.

Talking with doctors is often confusing for me. They expect me to understand what they're saying, so long as they say it in a calm way and use patronizing hand gestures to articulate their point. I nodded along and unconsciously agreed that it would be best if  I go for an ultrasound. I was taken to the ultrasound room by the hospital porter, a man who more closely resembled a tree than anyone I've ever seen. He grabbed the entire hospital bed with one arm, almost lifting it, and turned it around while holding the door open with the other arm.

From there it was a 5-minute magical carpet ride to the ultrasound room, which I was placed outside in the brightly coloured waiting area along with four other people, all aligned in our hospital beds like we were about to compete in a race around the hospital. Judging by the condition of those elderly women, I would have won that race quite handily, too. Instead, I was called in for my ultrasound by a young girl, who looked around twenty-five. She was quite attractive, which made the whole ultrasound experience quite awkward. I tried to break the tension.

"Have you had anything to eat today?" she asked, for probably the 15,000th time that day.

"I could go for a bite, " I responded.

She steadfastly refused to break character, although the faint hint of a smile seemed to suggest she at least appreciated my attempts at humour. I decided against adding further comments ("Don't tell me whether it's a boy or girl, I want to be surprised." etc.) and just sat back and wondered whether that ultrasound gel that they use is really necessary. I still don't think it is.

The tree-man came back to taxi me to my HQ on the hospital emergency ward which would be my home for the next couple of  days

"How are you feeling now?," I heard faintly

"Not great, I mean look where I am."

Home sweet home.

When the Doctor next came back to me  he scrawled on a piece of paper and held it in front of my face like a hostage remonstrating for the camera in one of those kidnapping videos. Instead of saying "tell my wife I love her" the note described the medication I should be taking for the next month.

Pleased with the official diagnosis and assigned course of treatment, I was now able to relax a little as the nurses poked and prodded their way to helping me on the road to recovery. After a few days of rest and daytime TV, I am now able to be a human being again : going outside, meeting people - even playing football again (albeit for a quite out-of-shape pub team).

As much fun as my hospital experience was, I would rather not do it again.