Thursday, October 23, 2003

Of All The Cabs In All The Cities...

I once wrote a poem referring to a state institution that was "tucked" into "the landscape of the fucked." I liked the hard, vulgar rhyme. The institution was a local state school for the retarded where experiments were done in the 1950's that involved serving radioactive breakfast cereal to the residents. The landscape is a swath of land that includes this school, a state mental hospital, since closed, and, of course, at the high end of the spectrum of the fucked, McLeans.

Today I felt I had entered a similar zone: one of Boston's gargantuan teaching hospitals where my CT scan, bone scan and neck xrays were scheduled today.

It was snowing, it was cold, and it was rush hour. My cab driver seemed anxious. I was anxious. The hospital was teeming with the afflicted. The rhyme of my poem occurred to me. Oxygen tanks, casts, wheelchairs, beds, worried faces, lost expressions, limps, canes: and me among them, one of them, human, afflicted, mortal, frightened. Not the powerful doctor, no. The suffering patient. A card carrying denizen of the landscape of the fucked. Golgotha. Welcome to incarnation.

My tests went fine: folks were prompt, courteous, helpful. And, for the bone scan, I got to lie on my back for a full 45 minutes without the Aspen AKA Albert DeSalvo Collar that I've been wearing for a month. That was bliss. Heaven. I walked a few blocks and had lunch at a little soup joint I'd seen dozens of times from the MBTA. They had vegan soup. It was delicious.

Then I went for my neurosurgery appointment.

The receptionist peered up at me.

"Oh, your appointment was canceled," she announced.

I grew peevish and asked, calmly but sarcastically, mightn't it have made sense to inform me of this fact ? To, say, call me ? I pointed out that I've been out of work for a month, enduring the DeSalvo Collar for a month, had just had a morning's worth of tests and might just begin to cry.

At that, she went to fetch some Ubersecretary from the depths of the office. A fellow patient looked me in the eye with an expression that clearly said: isn't that always the way !

Now if it had been that the doc was called away for emergency surgery -- no problem ! But they didn't say that. It simply sounded like a schedule change that they simply hadn't told me about.

Ubersec arrived, apologizing, but not explaining. Rescheduled the appointement for 11/3. Too deflated and discouraged to lobby for anything sooner, or to even think of asking to have the doc call me with the xray reports, or to insist that they take the MRI I'd obtained from the other hospital for him and have him read it, I slunk away.

And summoned a cab.

It came promptly, and an extremely cheerful driver greeted me effusively in French: ca va bien au'jourd'hui ? I replied as best I could in French, and was immediately -- embraced and buoyed are the only words I can think of -- in and by his warmth and good cheer. As we drove and conversed, and he discussed his large family and his kids, I suddenly realized that he was the very same cab driver who ferried me home at dawn from the Grossly Inconvenient Community Hospital On The Outskirts Of Nowhere (vide infra, Oct 21, "Audite") at the end of my 24 hours of medical hell last May !

"Do you ever drive in the early morning ?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," he replied. "I begin at two AM !"

"And did you pick me up last spring at GICHOTOON ER -- remember, it was dawn, and the inside door panel of the cab came loose !"

"Yes, yes !" he cried, remembering perfectly well. Both of us were amazed at the serendipity and strangeness of our reunion. It's a big city with lots of cabs, after all.

I told him how, at the end of my terrible 24 hours last spring, he had so immensely cheered me up -- and here he was again, doing the same thing !

Doctor Fritz, my guardian angel, thank you and God Bless.

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