Doctor, My Colon
Oh God. There’s blood on the seat and around the rim of the bowl. There’s not enough hand and ass alcohol-based sanitizer in the world. I exit the toilet. Ann looks up at me from a row of attached chairs. Are you okay? I grimace. Ick, I need a shower. It’s Saturday night. We’re waiting on a friend in Edmonton’s downtown Royal Alexandria hospital. We’re in Emergency.
I sit back down beside Ann and try to ignore the round face of the big white clock keeping bedlam time. Minutes crawl over broken glass through administrated chaos. Stretcher cases line a dingy hallway. Paramedics are required to stay with their patients until a doctor is assigned the case. This could take hours. Like the harried nurses in scrubs, the EMTs are unfailingly polite and attentive even whilst ensnared in red tape, hanging around toeing the peeling lino and sipping dishwater coffee.
I’m reminded once again of society’s good fortune; there are many among us who don’t have jobs so much as callings. Ann says it might be a good idea if the Minister of Health sat incognito in this room for a few hours, if only to observe the outnumbered, overwhelmed and under-funded public servants in action. Good God, she’s right, as she usually is.
We sit. There’s no way I’m even going to touch one of the rifled and crumpled newspapers lying around. People queued in ER aren’t at their best. My stomach churns a soup of revulsion and pity. Christ, I may really need to use the toilet. This is a scary prospect, but less fearsome than a fate worse than death: meeting my maker in a place like this.
A uniformed peace officer outfitted with a heavy utility belt paces his circuit giving everybody a suspicious evil eye. He peers into the bathrooms. A filthy, hirsute homeless man is gently escorted to a seat near us. Is it rude to move away? A rubber gloved EMT affixes a white band around his wrist. The man begins to scratch at the unscabbed parts of his flesh. He then uses the toilet. A young woman wearing a cough mask talks to the ceiling about the electrical properties of egg yolks. She goes to the toilet twice. A young couple dressed in very stylish black, their faces bloodied, alternate clean up trips to the john. Four wasted street people come in. They occupy the four available bathrooms. They regroup and abandon one of their own who has since crashed out on a chair. Jesus. A pregnant redhead clutches her belly and looks anxious. Solidarity, sister!