I am the others. Hours waiting in a medical facility on the North side, the side for people without health insurance, without money, without connections, I am privy to the service of the underprivileged.
I am a white middle class statistic without health insurance with a shoulder that was hurt in a white middle class Iyengar studio and a fused sacrum that’s becoming more troublesome. I cannot do my job as well as I need to. I am in pain and I am a lucky one because I am allowed free medical attention through an effort called Art Docs which is to alleviate the suffering of starving artists.
Turning the corner into the hospital parking lot I pass a shoot -out at a pawn shop. The parking garage that is the only option for General Hospital is full. I make several passes before parking several floors above ground and my instinct in an unfamiliar setting tells me to take my chance on the stairs. Do not get into an elevator in a parking garage in the hood.
The entrance and alien waiting area is stripped down and I think of an army triage in a war zone. The place feels abandoned but for the gentle mannered young girl behind a plastic window who takes my name and steers me to the elevator toward my destination. It smells of cigarette smoke and despair.
I enter the next waiting room and then another. I have not seen another white face. I have seen the legless, the toothless, and the hobbled before old age, the starved and overweight, the overburdened and the other world.
The nurse who checks me in laughs when she weighs me and tells me of her battle to lose weight. She takes my input and seems bemused that I have nothing to note but an allergy to Sulfa. Do you drink, smoke, suffer abuse; any meds, surgeries or accidents? No, no, no and I know how lucky I am to be a rare statistic here. I am sensitive to being out of place; an observer who can walk out through the worn doors to freedom.
Two hours later I’m seen by a kind very young doctor who attempts to use each of the hand sanitizer wall dispensers which are empty. He quickly rinses his hands at the sink and thoughtfully extends one to me with his introduction. He has me go through some mobility tests. He tells me that MRIs and X-Rays are expensive and he doesn’t think I need surgery so why bother. He gives me exercises to do that I have in fact been doing since last November and suggests I double up on anti-inflammatory meds.
I ask him about my displaced sacrum and he says he doesn’t know what to make of it but I can tell my time is up. Relieved, I thank him and head quickly out the door catching the eye of a woman in another room. A scarf covers her head. She sits on the table with her husband in a chair by her side and casts me an imploring glance, making a gesture of helplessness with her hands. She calls softly; I have been here such a long time. No one is coming.
What can I do but smile to say that I get it. No one is coming feels like the banner for the poor.
I stop at the plastic window to have my parking pass validated. There is a distressed young man, a dark skinned foreigner with poor English accompanied by a parking garage guard. His car has been towed. He didn’t understand the sign; explains that he doesn’t read English and now his car is gone and the powerless clerk behind the plastic window just repeats again and again; you parked in veterans parking. There is a sign. I can’t help you.
He gestures for me to hand him my pass. I am the lucky one. For this guy… no one is coming. As I walk away I hear the guard asking the hapless desk clerk what he should do. I wish I had the money to get this guy’s car back but I’m dealing with first world problems that leave me no resource but my prayers for the helpless.
I live in the light, where civilization seems to flourish but I know it’s an illusion. The leader of our country wants to punish Syria for spraying poison gas on its innocents while Monsanto is allowed to poison our innocents and those we import our produce to. We pick and choose who we will champion based on its bang in our bank and how it might affect our future. We mandate equality for all and demand societies whose constructs we do not understand to follow our moral code while our people go hungry and illiterate and our financial leaders dictate our compass.
We are not protected. The leaders may think themselves immune but few can stand the allure of Tolkien’s ring. My precious will ensnare all who come in contact; that can touch the power, feel the power, be befuddled by the power. We are pawns on that board. Our future hangs in a precarious balance; all of us.
Still, some of us have a better cushion than others; a bigger space between us and the grit. Some of us are lucky. I am the lucky one. It’s up to me to pay that forward. I began today with a greater effort, extended myself purposefully into the discomfort where I can do some good as I’ve done before but confess to being so often relieved when my extended hand is not taken. Today I did not take silence for an answer but kept pushing.