Welcome to Chesapeake Medical Center
It was the first day of the drive to “paradise”: a rental cottage directly on the beach in South Carolina, land of shrimp and grits and John Edwards. We had navigated the Lewes Ferry, enduring the on-deck snippets of conversation overhead from an imposing woman with her toes painted gold, who was conducting real estate deals for people named Aleeshius and Aint-No-Pleasin’. Somehow, they would all be meeting at the lock box after deboarding the ferry to determine if the bedroom was big enough.
We also were regaled with stories from Tattoo Sleeve Dexter and his chain-smoking wife, Arnell about his own method of losing weight, Jenny Craig His Way. “I ate two, yeah, two of them things at one time and I still lost 45 pounds”.
Our destination for the night was the Red Roof Inn in Chesapeake Virginia. Literally, a crash pad with wifi. There may have been some people who saw it as their ideal destination, but only to commit suicide. I consider it a bad sign when the manager is returning to the office with a plunger in his hand. Later, we spotted a Joe’s Crab Shack and consumed a large amount of dungeoness crab, which was so damned delicious, I forgot how tired I was. Went back to the room and my travel companion, whom I will call Susan, informed me that she must take an Ambien every night of her life or she does not sleep. This was quite surprising and alarming to me, knowing how powerful and unpredictable a drug it can be. But her doctor was well aware and she was doing fine with it. You need to know all this because about an hour after we both went to bed, I woke up completely covered in hives, swelling, and throat closing up….ran to get some Benadryl, which I keep for emergencies. She is OUT like a coma patient and I can’t get the damn packet open. There is a special place in hell for the bastard that designed these “easy open” travel packs. It should be filled with delicious snacks in this packaging that he can stare at for all eternity and never open.
Finally, get the pack open, swallow the pill and I am getting worse. I am looking like Will Smith in Hutch. I know I have to get to an emergency room and I don’t even know where the hell I am and neither of us can drive in our conditions. I manage to get her up and she makes the 911 call.
Now, if you have ever heard one of these calls, it would seem to you that it goes something like this:
“Hello, 911, what is your emergency?’
“My husband’s arm was torn off by a bear. Please, help us”
“Is the arm nearby? “
“Yes, no, I don’t know, please send someone quick”
“Calm down, ma’am. I can’t help you if you’re screaming.”
“Yes, ma’am. Are you inside or outside the house?”
“And how did a bear get inside the house”
“Do you use paper or plastic?”
You know how it goes, and I’m choking, while she is on the phone. I was told to stand outside the motel room until they arrive and Susan was told that if I start to vomit to turn me on my side. At that point, I was just thinking of hurling myself off the balcony, next to the woman who was already out there talking to her lover on her cell phone.
The squad arrived and asked Susan if she was going to follow and she had to tell them she had basically the same capacity of someone stoned out on heroin and could not drive so….so up on the wheelie cart I went, providing the only entertainment Red Roof had to offer besides the wifi. The ride in the rig was fun. The very young paramedic had a lot of trouble getting the IV of Benadryl into my hand and I had a lot of trouble not screaming about it. But I will say this. Southern courtesy and gentility really trumps the grumbly New Jersey variety of discourse. Everyone couldn’t have been nicer. I got treated and streeted with a diagnosis of severe allergic reaction to shellfish. Say it isn’t so. Ate it all my life. And I’m in the Lowcountry, on vacation, with money to burn in my pocket. And no shellfish????
So I can’t call Susan because she has returned to the coma, it’s two in the morning and I have to call a cab to get back to the Red Roof, and I don’t have a key. I also have to stop at the 24 hour Walgreens to get a prescription of Prednisone, everyone’s favorite drug for being fat, bloated, and angry. The cab driver is another delightful Southern gentlemen who pretends not to notice my fashion-forward ensemble of p.j.’s with running shoes, and waits for me at the Walgreens. I dash in, because the meter is running, and there is actually someone in front of me at the counter. Really, Chesapeake? At two in the morning? And he’s having a folksy conversation about which ear drops work best and how do you put them in and what are the ingredients and what china pattern do you have and…..
Finally, finally, he leaves, I get up there and realize I still have those heart monitor leads sticking out of my shirt. The filling of the prescription is taking forever, and I ask if there is a problem, and she said, “Well, the robot seems to be down.” I think, “Well, that’s a great name for an Indy band, but what about my pills?” Apparently, this happens “a lot” at this time of night because, I imagine, the robot is into internet porn and can’t be bothered verifying my insurance. So I ask how much the prescription is without insurance and she said, “Eleven dollars”. Apparently, I looked so crazed and indigent that she thought that wouldn’t be an option. “Fill it, I’ll pay you” Got back out to the cab, 40 bucks later, asked the night manager at Red Roof to give me another key. When I walked into the office she said, “Are you the one who went to the hospital?” Was there another person in here with heart leads and a bracelet and really blotchy skin? But sweet, she was.
Got back in the room, Susan sat up for a minute, said, “You’re back fast” and laid back down and returned to dreamland, the time/space continuum having been pleasantly altered by the power of Ambien.