Thursday, September 23, 2004

Four years and several days ago, our bothering leg brought forth on this side of the continent, a new pain, conceived in ligaments injured, and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women in the emergency room are equally insane.

Okay, forget that. My Lincoln is stinkin’.

Just telling the time I went to the ER for a minor mishap. I knew it’d be forever before I saw a doctor, so I brought a book to pass the time. But I didn’t need it; there in the waiting room, I found plenty of entertainment. In that sort of train-wreck, Jerry Springer freak show kind of way. All the other patients had non-serious injuries, too... but seriously fucked up stories surrounding ‘em.

Mine was tame by comparison. I had started up with the L.A. Roadrunners, which used to be a small group of marathon trainers. Now it had ballooned to over a thousand members, so they siphoned everyone into pace groups and made us run in double file so we didn’t mob the paths on the beach.

Mikey can’t be herded in like cattle; he needs to roam free like a wild stallion. Stuck in a cluster of runners, I didn’t see the concrete barrier come out of nowhere and attack me. Had to jump, jive and flail, and though I didn’t worship the other runners, I was soon kissing the ground they walked on. As I got up, everyone was alarmed at the sight of blood, but those were just scratches. It was my left ankle that was hurting. Still, I was sure it was nothing, and told them to go ahead; I’d catch up. Twenty paces later, I realized my old high school coach’s answer to every injury, "walk it off", wasn’t gonna cut it here. I still had a mile and a half to go and my swelling hoof was starting to look like it belonged to a Clydesdale.

Meanwhile, moments later... after a great morning of surfing, a slender athletic woman was attaching her board to the roof of her Volkswagen, and about to zip out of her wet suit, when she heard, "Excuse me..." She turned to see a disheveled young guy approaching. Sweating, bleeding and looking a bit deranged as he hobbled his elephant-sized left leg along, he said, "Could you give me a ride?"

Ultimately, she did (driving with one hand on the wheel, the other with a canister of shark repellant aimed at her pained, possibly-psycho passenger).

I spent the rest of the weekend icing up the ankle, but when the swelling was still there, I figured I should limp over to the hospital to make sure it wasn’t broken. Turned out it wasn’t; just a really bad sprain. I knew it all along. I tells ya, who needs some radiologist with a fancy MD degree when you got comic-book send-away X-ray specs?

But while I was waiting to get my results, I got the scoop on everyone else in the ER.

A Korean woman was there with her two-year-old son. The kid had a small cut – maybe just a nick, maybe would need stitches… on his scrotum. How? ‘Cause kimchi-for-brains Mama was changing the toddler, and had him seated naked atop of a chest of drawers. The tyke tumbled off the dresser and as he fell, scraped his balls against one of the knobs. I felt so sorry for that kid. Didn’t know which was worse -- nearly getting castrated by a chiffarobe, or having a nutjob for a mom.

Then there was this other woman: Think of a young, thin Dianne Wiest, but prettier. Short auburn hair, that smile which made her eyes real squinty… Can you picture that? Okay, now imagine her as a gin-soaked floozy in a bloody ratty bathrobe who’s been knocked around more than a stadium beach ball.

The nurses told me that she was coming to the hospital all the time, getting her stomach pumped, or being treated for bizarre injuries from her recent drinking session. The woman refuses to get help, so she had become an ER regular. During the latest bender, she had stood up on someone’s sofa to start dancing, fell back and smashed into a glass coffee table.

What’s with these people? Some folks just shouldn’t be allowed near furniture.

The ol’ rummy looked my way and started flirting, batting her narrow eyes and saying, "Oh, poor thing, what happened to your leg?" A second after the sound of her words hit me, the smell did. Lawdy-Lawd, that vomit and Night Train odor will run over anything in its tracks. I politely answered her question and buried my still-grimacing face into my book.

A few chapters later, a dude sat down next to me. I thought at first it was Dennis Hopper from Easy Rider. Long stringy hair, even longer handlebar mustache. And he talked real slow.

"Maaan, I was on my motorcycle, maaan, and this car rammed me. Bike’s totaled, maaaan."

The woman doctor asked him some specific questions, trying to get the dude to say what happened to him, not his beloved Harley. Seems he flipped over his Hog, broke his fall partially with his hands. I didn’t need my X-ray specs to see they were busted in several places. The knuckles were even more gnarly than my ankle.

But the doc was trying to find out if he sustained any head injuries, too. She asked him to walk; he did that okay. Then she asked him his name; he said "Jesse." Jesse. Perfect. He did remember his last name -- it wasn’t James.

Doc: Jesse, do you know what day it is?
Jesse: Uhhhh...

Okay, he probably didn’t have a job. Every day was a weekend to Easy Rider.

Doc: Do you know what month it is?
Jesse: Uhhhh...
Doc: How about what season it is?
Jesse: Uhhhh... summer?

He was right -- barely. It was almost autumn. And hey, he had a one-in-four-shot. The thing with this guy: it was hard to tell if he had suffered any dain bramage, or was always like this.

Then she asked him what year it was. Jesse didn’t know. It was the year 2000. The Millennium, dude.

Doc: Jesse, do you know who’s the President of the United States?

Oh, come on. What kind of question was that? Jesse didn’t have a job or know about the Millennium, how can you expect him to follow politics?

Jesse: Uhhh... Bill Clinton.

Holy shit. Way to go, Biker Dude. It then occurred to me that while the year is regularly changing, Jesse had eight years to figure out Slick Willie was in charge. After the upcoming election, he’d have to start over again.

The doctor left for a moment and Jesse turned to me. "What year is it, maaan?" I told him and he said, "Oh yeah. I knew that. I knew that." I felt like we had just taken the SATs and were comparing answers afterwards. Ignorance is perspicacity as lobotomy is to what?

Jesse said didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford any head X-rays or brain-scans or nothin’, so he didn’t want the doc to think he got knocked in the noggin.

Just then she walked past and Jesse said, "Hey, Doc. I remembered. It’s the year two-thousand." She nodded... then looked at me.

"Did you tell him?"

I said no. But she gave me a stern look and I broke down. "Yeahhhh..."

Jesse and I lowered our heads -- guilty. Teacher caught us cheating. She walked away again.

"Sorry, maaan," I said. Jeez, he had me sayin’ it. "Didn’t mean to rat you out." But I told him I didn’t think he should scrimp on his skull. Better to make sure his head was okay and worry about the cost later.

He said no problem, and realized I was probably right.

I don’t know whatever happened to Jesse. I hope he’s alright and haulin’ ass on a new Harley. For his sake only, if George W. Bush gets re-elected, it could be a good thing. Jesse might need four more years to know who’s President.


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