Emergency room

Spoiler: I’m still alive, or having a nice afterlife.

It was an ordinary work-at-home morning. Woke up, wandered into the next room, logged into the company system and pushed buttons for a while, like George Jetson. At 10:30 or so, I had an inspiration and came back to the bedroom to whack off. An ordinary work-at-home morning.

For all that effort I deserved breakfast, so I zapped a sack of mixed vegetables and fried some fake-chicken, which mixed together with mustard on top is a fine way to start the day, usually. Thinking back, maybe the vegetables hadn't been fully microwaved. I get impatient sometimes, and don't wait for the ding.

Then I went back to work, which was not as boring as this article so far, but pretty damn boring until the heartburn came. Too much mustard and fake-spicy chicken, right? I plop-plop fizz-fizzed two generic Alka-Seltzer into my fabulous ‘Kindly fuck right off’ mug, and when the heartburn persisted I took two more Alkas.

By mid-afternoon I was nauseous, then barfing, then my stomach began hurting, then hurting a lot, like I’d eaten jacks and thumbtacks instead of fake-meat and veggies. By late afternoon the pain was stabbing ferociously, getting worse, and if it got as much worse in the next half hour as it had gotten worse in the past half hour, I wouldn’t be able to drive myself to the emergency room.

Drive now, or ambulance later — or do nothing and hope the pain subsides? Spent a few minutes arguing with myself, but my wife told me to go to the ER, so I gave the cat a big bowl of food because if I’m admitted to the hospital, she’s on her own.

The ER would be expensive, and my insurance is about half a sham — there’s no way it would pay for an ambulance, so I drove, and man, that was terrifying. Used my signals and stayed only ten mph over the speed limit, because if I’d been pulled over I thought I might die while getting my license out of my wallet.

I’d driven my wife to this same emergency room many times, including the time she never came home, so I certainly knew the way. The parking lot was full, and I knew the ER would be crowded. There were thirty miserable souls sitting in chairs, two people ahead of me in the check-in line, and since I'd last been to the ER, they’ve added signs that say, “Masks always required," and "Violence is never appropriate.” Tell it to the Marines, I thought.

When it came my turn, a woman I’ll assume was pretty — hard to tell behind the mask — asked about the coronavirus. No, I live alone and never go out, so I haven’t knowingly had contact with anyone who has COVID.

ER is a triage situation, not first come first served, so when she got to the very last and least important question — “What seems to be the problem today?” — I said I suspected a burst appendix, and re-used that line about eating jacks and thumbtacks. She asked what jacks are, and I couldn’t explain the concept.

I do not remember greater physical pain than that moment. It was coming in waves worse than kidney stones, then simply ‘very painful’, then barely bearable again. The lady said my wait would be at least an hour.

Someone took my blood pressure, and snapped a blood-oxygen clamp on my middle finger. Someone else brought a small plastic band, and read what was printed on it: “Roy A Holland,” and my birthday. "Is that correct?" he asked. The birthday was correct, and I'm Holland, but my name’s Doug, not Roy.

I was in or near delirium, and thought he’d misspoken or I’d hallucinated. Guess I said ‘yes’, so he slipped the plastic band around my wrist. Hadn’t brought my reading glasses, so everything up close was out of focus. I hobbled to a chair to wait, then squinted and held my arm at various distances until I could make out the writing, and yup, the plastic band lied and said my name was Roy. Well, sitting in the chair hurt less than standing hurt less than walking, so I became Roy.

Then an hour and a half crawled slowly past. I wasn’t crying but the pain was really quite insistent, and my eyes were watering. Also I was shivering like a drunk with the shakes, and from a great distance my logical brain explained that the shivers must mean I had a fever. Then I fell asleep or passed out, until I heard a staffer call Roy’s name. She didn't say 'Holland', just, "Roy?".

I groggily remembered being Roy, but couldn’t remember how to speak until she said not-my-name a second time. "Roy?" 

Raising my hand like second grade, I said, “I can be Roy,” and she looked annoyed, like she thought I was joking. When I explained that they input my name wrong, she scolded me.

“You should’ve said something when you checked in.” I couldn’t find an answer but filed her advice away in case I survived this time and there’s a next time. She snipped off Roy’s plastic band, and wouldn’t take me back to see a doctor until a more accurate plastic band had been created, so I waited while she called the runner-up’s name and escorted someone else back.

Maybe two, maybe ten minutes later, someone else slipped a new plastic band around my wrist, and very slowly recited my name and date-of-birth. I mumbled “That’s me I think,” and he led me to one of the doctor-rooms. I’d reached my final destination! Me saying 'burst appendix' might've helped, because several people who'd been there longer than me were still waiting.

The take-me-back guy asked a few questions, like what had I eaten and when, and how’s the pain on a scale of one to ten? From so many ER visits and hospital stays with my wife, trust me, they’re fascinated with that pain scale of 1-10, but my answer surprised me: 8. A few minutes earlier I would’ve said 9-point-five.

Then he vanished, and later a baby-faced doctor came in. He said, “How ya doin’ tonight, Roy?” and I didn’t correct him. He asked lots of questions, and I knew most of the answers. By then the pain had rolled back to 6 — quite painful, but not terrifying — but the doc didn’t ask me to rate it on the scale. He said he’d order a bunch of tests, and a CT scan, and drugs for the pain, and then he stepped out of the room.

He’d listed four or five tests, so the cost might be merely hundreds, maybe a thousand non-existent dollars, or more. Whatever the price it felt like a waste of money, because the symptoms were subsiding, and while I waited for someone to come in and suck blood from my arm and someone else to wheel me down the hall for a CT scan, the pain faded further. I stood up and did a few touch-your-toes exercises and twisty-turnies, but no matter how I bent myself it didn't make me wince.

Instead of waiting for the phlebotomist, I opened the door and walked back into the waiting room. All the chairs were taken, so I leaned against a wall, and did a few more touch-my-toes. Still very nearly painless, but to be safe, I decided to stay in the ER for another half an hour.

Ten minutes later the same doctor came out, and asked, "Roy, what the hell?" I said I felt fine, felt like dancing, but he said the lack of pain could be psychosomatic. That's something I’d never heard of, and the next morning Google’s never heard of it either, so I think the doctor was full of shit. I touched my toes again, and he said “My medical advice is blah blah blah,” but I said no thanks, and after waiting a little longer, drove home with only minimal and occasional pain.

Then I typed all the above, and slept straight through the night without even any pee awakenings, which hasn’t happened since the 1990s. Lesson learned: No matter what, don't go to the ER — just wait and hope for the pain to go away, and it probably will.

Also, wait for the microwave to ding (but I’ve thrown away twenty dollars worth of frozen veggies and fake-chicken). 

So that was my evening with Roy. Now it’s the next morning and I’m still mostly painless, but exhausted. Yesterday’s going to be expensive, plus probably a surcharge for leaving against doctor’s orders. It’s good to be alive, though, and mostly painless. 



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  1. Who was the first singer who popularized the electric guitar as a lead instrument. Well, we could argue about it for a while, then decide together that it was Sister Rosetta Tharpe who helped invent rock & roll. She sang for the Lord much of the time, but I know of no evidence that the Lord doesn't enjoy some down home rock & Roll from time to time. Here she is singing "This Train" on a tour of England well on into her career (late 1950s or early 1960s). She's the only one playing electric guitar, so those beautiful runs are all hers. The impeccable pianist is the great Otis Spann who was Muddy Waters' regular piano player for years. If this doesn't represent the tap root of Rock & Roll, it's hard to know what does.



    1. That is undoubtedly some of the best nun-rock I've ever heard. Thank you sir!

      Also, if you're on the edge of your seat, here's the lack-of-progress on our problem with comments.

    2. John, this is my favorite of hers that I've seen. I came across it a few years ago :


    3. Cap, thanks for finding this and bringing it to the forum. The BBC agreed to film a special featuring Sister Rosetta and found the perfect spot, an abandoned BritRail station. Long weeks of negotiation ensued between the BBC and BritRail over who should protect the historic station and who should insure it for the performance.

      They finally settled on putting the audience on constructed bleachers across the tracks from the station. The Beeb paid the extra insurance. The rain was thrown in for free because, well, England.

      Note the size of her "lapel" mic. No condenser or transistor there, and, depending on grounding, she's in some danger from both her mic and her guitar. But she was, and remains, a hero in England. She's a hero nobody knows in her own country.


  2. Ronnie Lane was a singer/songwriter/guitarist/bassist who played in many bands during a short, joyous, productive life. He played with Pete Townshend, Rod Stewart, Slim chance, Ron Wood, The Small Faces, the Faces, and several more informal groups. In 1977 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but lived with it, fought it, and went right on playing for another 21 years until it finally got him at age 51 in 1997.

    My favorite Ronnie Lane song is Ohh La La, on which he shares writing credits with Ronnie Wood. Here he is taking the lead with his group Slim Chance at the BBC in 1974.



    1. Wow, coincidence — I don't remember that song as being a hit, but I stumbled across it several years back and it's been on my playlist ever since. So damn joyous! And that's exactly the version I shuffle through two or three times a week.

      That link cuts it off at the end, though. Here's a full version.

      I enjoy it when you spin the classics.

    2. It might be a coincidence, but I doubt it. I added the song to my playlist many years ago under similar circumstances. I think it might require at least a mild renegade heart to be attracted to a pop song that features an accordion and the singer's grandfather.

      Labels rarely mean much, but I love vernacular music which usually means blues, R&B, folk, Americana and the odd national anthem (not ours). As a poetry fan, I'm in awe of the power of words to inspire us and to help us convey our feelings. I'm not sure either of us cares much what other people think of our choices, accordion and all. So sometimes we'll land on the same square. Just a thought.


    3. I used to say I liked all kinds of music, except opera and country. Then I went to an opera, and it was pretty good. I've even heard country music that seemed to be music.

      As with everything else, there's more good stuff out there than any of us have time to discover...

    4. Hi Doug,

      Sounds like you need a few recommendations for some country music. I don't like a lot of it, just as I don't like a lot of pop, but there's some quality stuff out there. I hope I'm not overloading you with the following fairly short videos of various sub-genres of country music.

      A vid from the Letterman show featuring the late Earl Scruggs, one of the founders of bluegrass, with Steve Martin and a bunch of other banjo players picking Foggy Mountain Breakdown . . .


      The David Bromberg Band, playing together these 50 years songs of the heartland. This one is called Diamond Lil, recorded live in a studio, so you get the best of both worlds . . .


      In English, this song is Ghost Riders in the Sky, but this group, which was founded in 1958 by four brothers from Yucatán, Mexico doesn't speak much English. Not necessary for this traditional country song . . .


      You know who Neil Young is. Sometimes he is a country singer, as in this version of After the Gold Rush played entirely on a bellows harmonium (which I've always called a pump organ) and a harmonica . . .


      Willie Nelson. Always On My Mind . . .


      And finally, the late Townes Van Zandt, who wrote this wonderful song, sings it solo while smoking a cigarette.
      Pancho and Lefty . . .


      Hope you enjoy some of this country music.


    5. Ghost Riders rocks, but the key word is rocks. That’s a damn fine cover and I’m playing it a second time. Genre labels get smudgy, sure, but if Ghost Riders is a country song it crossed over onto rock stations, so to me it’s rock.

      David Bromberg — this band is new to me, certainly listenable, and I very much like the song. It’s the only song and artist in this bunch I don’t think I’d heard before, and I’m playing this one a second time, too, soon as Ghost Riders is done. Damn fine music, but despite its slight countrishness (there is a fiddler in there) it sounds like rock’n’roll to me.

      Townes Van Zandt is awesome. He wrote some great songs, had some mental problems, and lived for years in a shack, so of course I love the guy. It even looks like the video might’ve been filmed in his shack. But he’s not country, sorry. He might’ve thought he was country, but if so he was mistaken. Dude is rock’n’roll.

      Same as I’d never call Muhammed Ali ‘Cassius Clay’, I have to ID a genre as it IDs itself, and every time my radio lands on a station that brags of country music, it’s the music that makes me punch a different button. Instantly, usually. Nothing on those stations sounds like this.

    6. Doug, you make good points and I really appreciate that when I send you a song you give it a fair, objective listen. Your objectivity is beyond reproach. Methodology is another question.

      I think if you asked 100 studio-grade musicians in Nashville and Memphis, sort of the traditional homes of country music, 75 or 80 of them would say that Townes Van Zandt was a country writer and singer. But no radio programmers ask professional musicians what songs they should include in their format. So sixty minutes of programming on a Country or New Country format station will include four songs by Garth Brooks or his current equivalent, two songs by the latest Disney starlet who has "gone country" seven songs by forgettable under-30 big hat assholes, and eight pick-up commercials. That's a really bad way to define country music and probably a good way to sell pick-ups.

      But if you got no Carter Family, no songs written or sung by Willie Nelson, no goddamn Hank Williams for God's sake, no bluegrass, and of course no Jimmie Rodgers, who only invented country music, then you have an hour of pick-up commercials, which was the original idea, but very little country music.

      The people I named above all get played on College and Public Radio stations around the world, and are generally identified as American Country Music or, at worst, Americana.

      So I'm just suggesting that there might be a commercial definition of country music and an artistic definition.

      I always enjoy discussions with you because you are both fair and thoughtful. Thanks.


    7. Yeah, we agree about the old masters (Carters and Cash, Nelson, Williams, Rogers, absolutely Scruggs and Flatt, doubtless more) and about commercial radio, country or otherwise, an InSinkErator switched on.

      Music is music, good music is good music, and modern commercial country ain't neither.

      I tip my hat and sashay in your general direction.

  3. Doug, I don't know how I missed the post. I hope you're feeling better. If you have the kind of insurance that covers visits to primary care physicians, I hope you make an appointment and get some tests done. When something hurts that much your body is likely telling you something. Good luck.

    Also, I don't know the official Pathetic protocol to submit entries for the sing=along, but I was trying to do that a couple times as well as turn you onto an oldie and a very oldie.

    best wishes,

    1. I'll see a doctor if the belly problems recur, but elsewise no worries about my health. Also, no worries about the 'check engine' and 'brake' indicators in the car.

      I have no official protocol for anything. Send everything that's good, please, and I'll be rockin'.

    2. OK, one motherly warning; then I'll stop. This could be an appendix flareup. If that sucker bursts it could kill you. Please get it checked out.


    3. I'll have it checked as soon as I'm Canadian, or if it happens again.


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