Recently, my father-in-law had to have an invasive but not emergent surgery that required both my husband and me to spend two days in various parts of the hospital with him to translate English as he speaks primarily spanish. The particular hospital that the surgery was done in was one I used to work in. It has been so long since I have worked there, I didn’t expect to see anyone I knew, especially because I typically worked the second shift back in those good ol’ days. You know, the days of black and white television and horse drawn wagons? Anyway, it also happens to be a hospital that we had taken JoDee to on many occasions. As soon as we walked in AC said this looks familiar, and that looks familiar. I figured he would process it eventually but I think it was the wee hours of the morning and the lack of coffee he had in solidarity of his Dad who was surgery starved, but I finally had to tell him. The first few hours were a little bit entertaining as my father-in-law didn’t want to use the interpreter the hospital offered choosing instead to use his son, my husband, to interrupt for him. This was a problem because the hospital policy requires that it be a third party so there is no chance of skewing the interpretation or having the patient withhold information he wouldn’t want his son to know (not a problem in our family). There was a lot of scurrying around, and forms to sign, and blah blah blah. All very boring.
When he finally got underway, or under the knife as it were, AC and I decided to go to the cafeteria for breakfast, which as a side note- was the first date like meal we have had together since Jesus was a small child. This is where we first began people watching. The two maintenance men drinking coffee at the table in front of us were talking about their ex-wives. One was bashing her, pays her two much, never sees his kids, seemed sort of like a dink and the other was saying nice things. They still had a good relationship, she was a good mother, she drove him batty sometimes but he couldn’t complain. The poor Guy B spoke nicely of Ex-Wife B, Guy A spewed venom about Ex-Wife A. Finally, B told A that maybe she was nasty because she had married and divorced the devil, and that comment went over like a lead balloon. By the time we had reached the waiting room again, there were more people waiting. An older woman, a middle-aged woman, a family of folks all speaking Russian and one young girl, maybe early twenties, bleach blonde and face buried in her phone. We all were making ourselves busy minding our own business, when the trilogy of people watching strolled in with their mother. These three were tall. No, not just tall, looming. Just looking at them it was easy to tell they were three brothers. One brother was the tallest and the most unkempt while appearing put together. It was fascinating. His hair looked like one of those signs in a crossroad with arrows pointing in all directions. His clothes were business casual but so rumpled and disorganized, it came off looking business confused instead. A large face, with octopus like lips, full cheek bones, and wide eyes, finished him off. I can only assume he was the oldest, because they all had the same look but each one shorter than the other. The last one, the youngest presumably, was the shortest at six feet tall, and had a limp. The had many of the same characteristics but one of them that not only caught my eye but grossed me the hell out was the uncomfortably large amount of white spittle dried in both corners of all three of their mouths. They were like a circus side show. AC elbowed me in the ribs on more than one occasion but then finally, he was taken in also.
The waiting room was large. Larger than large. Ample enough for all of us to fit without having to sit very close to each other. Until the stooges showed up. Within minutes they had spread out so intrusively the had stuff on every chair. Jackets, bags, laptops and tablets, and one even took off his shoes. And that was before the mother was even called in for her case. When it was time for to go to the pre-op area, the nurse asked if the sons wanted to join their mother and one of them wanted to know if there was any food on offer in the back. I think you are getting the picture. My father-in-law was in surgery longer than anyone else in the waiting room so we saw most people come and go. When the surgeon came out to see the men after their mother’s procedure was complete, the first thing the tall doofus asked was if the DNR (for those that don’t know Do Not Resuscitate) was necessary. Who the hell asks that? Who? In front of people? In a waiting room? I couldn’t help myself. I could not. Could. Not. Help it. Couldn’t. I didn’t even realize I was speaking out loud until someone answered. I said “Who the hell says that?” The lady across from me said that she was thinking the same thing and that she was embarrassed for them. At that exact moment, sounds of yelling and screaming and some pretty explosive swearing erupted from the floor below us. The waiting room was above the ER and Main entrance lobby and it was an open air layout. We could hear everything clearly. A woman was yelling that she didn’t feel like she should have to leave. Several male voices in lower voices were telling her that no one here could help her. The older woman next to me muttered something about a drug addict. The middle-aged woman across from me mumbled something about the world going crazy. The young blonde finally looked up from her phone, turned around in her chair and was staring over the balcony.
“There a bunch of cops down there.”
“It’s a lady. I think she has a kid.”
“No, she said she has a kid in there but the cop said she doesn’t.”
“No, the cop said she can’t see the kid.”
This kind of commentary carried on for about ten minutes. The stooges really didn’t give a shit but the other women did. They pretended not to listen, but they were. We all were. Several cops dragging one slight woman who clearly hadn’t had a good meal in years, or a shower for that matter, out of the hospital on to the sidewalk. None of us know why. Mental illness, drugs maybe, bad parenting. Maybe she beat her kid to a pulp and brought him there, but I doubt it because she wasn’t arrested. I don’t really care what was happening. The moral of this story, to me, was that misery sells. That entire waiting room was pretty much minding their own business, not paying attention to each other except for the three big dinguses, but when that lady was being humiliated, and drawn out of the hospital, she got an audience. The blonde hopped up to check it out, and the older women didn’t tell her to stop giving the blow by blow. No one, not even me, told her to stop. We liked it. We hate to admit it, but it’s true. When we hear a story of someone missing or murdered or beat or overdosing, we call that news. When we see a feel good story we are less likely to believe it’s true or real. Our society has gotten to be one that feeds off of zombie apocalypse and mass murder and Identification Discovery Channel which is really a death station. Another way I can tell is that when JoDee is using and missing and I am suffering and I post blogs, the stats are shooting off the roof. But lately she has not been outrageous, other than hating my guts, or I have been refusing to write about her terrible behavior, so that stats are low. This is not really concerning to me because I now that my blog would be short lived and eventually come to an end (not that I am doing that now) but rather a point of interest. Fascination. Proof positive that misery is a big hit. Very weird.
That really provoked my own thoughts about our situation. Did people stare at us like that? Did people watch us in the ER waiting room, or see us in a trauma room and find our behavior fascinating? Or her lack of behavior fascinating? At what point did we go from spectators to the spectacle? And do I care? No. Not really. I know that at the time that things are in a really bad way I don’t give two shits if people are staring. I am too busy trying to see if she is going to live to really notice. It never really dawned on me to be embarrassed to bring her to that hospital because I use to work there but I know that her father was worried about it (he works in the same hospital occasionally) and there were times she saw someone she recognized and would become embarrassed. I can’t remember if there was a time when I was conscious of it. I know the very first time she overdosed, I immediately brought her there without a second thought. I can’t remember a moment, even fleeting, of embarrassment. Now, looking back, we both must have looked a mess. More than a mess, but the truth is we were. We were absolutely a mess. Truth be told we are still a mess. However, I do have a little satisfaction knowing that I was someone else’s people-watching captivation. Eat your heart out people because some day, I will be character assassinating you right back.