Thursday, May 3, 2018

"The Thoughtless Delicatessen"

Our son-in-law Tim is scheduled for surgery today.  Barring any post-operative surprises, he should be back in the game in short order. But it’s still surgery.  So there’s that, going on in our family.

Full Disclosure: This post was composed yesterday so it would be available today.  (And so that I'm available, if needed.) The post is not actually aboutthe current circumstance.  (Which, as of this writing, has not yet taken place.) It was, however, the current circumstance that returned a past similarsituation powerfully to my mind.  

I am not referring to my 2009 heart valve repair. That’s an entirely different kettle of surgery.  Oddly or otherwise – I have no point of comparison – when they called my name, I strode down the hall with the exhilaration of John Glenn making his way to the capsule.  I had no idea of the outcome.  I just felt primed for adventure.

Message To Whoever Determines These Things:  One such adventure is entirely sufficient.

In the story I am about to relate, I am decidedly peripheral to the accredited headliner.  It was, however, while occupying that ancillary position that I experienced this illuminating revelation.  Truth be told, if that eye-opening occurrence had not happened, I would never have thought about this.  But it did. And now, forever, I do.

Without burdening you with details, when our daughter Anna was born, her mother (Dr. M) incurred some unsettling post-delivery complications.  For a while, the (Spoiler Alert:  eventually successful) prognosis was dizzyingly uncertain.  It was not “life and death” or anything, but it was decidedly not good.

An hour or so after the birth, the doctor completed his obstetrical follow-up.  When it to came to, “What’s next?” I heard,

“We just have to wait.”

Having not eaten all day, I was encouraged to take a break from the hospital atmosphere, go outside for some air, and nutritionally “gas up.”

The nearest eatery within walking distance was Izzy’s, a local delicatessen I’d had no previous interest in frequenting.  It looked busy, and no one was being carried out on a gurney, so I decided to give it a try.

I stepped inside, and was summarily shown to a table.  My head was literally spinning.  Okay, not “literally” but it definitely felt like it.  And with justifiable reason.  I’d had a front row seat at “The miracle of childbirth.”  And now my ailing wife was being monitored for possible complications.  And I was alone.

In Izzy’s.  

And it was thunderously loud.

The racket surrounding me was deafening – the sound of the ocean, but with meat in its teeth.  If this were a movie, the advisory “Stage Directions” would read:  “Ambient sounds of a delicatessen, cranked up to a million.”    

I had not expected a library, but the restaurant cacophony was ridiculously different from where I had just been, a place of professional silence, broken by the muffled wailing from the newborn “Holding Pen.”  

The incongruity was startling.  Serious decisions were being made across the street.  Issues of survival were on the line.  And now here I am, caught in a cruelly oblivious “Noise Machine.”  

“Don’t they know?” I secretly railed.  “Have they no idea what’s happening mere feet from their pastrami?”  

They unquestionably did not.  I knew their behavior was not deliberately callous.  But still– what an emotional whiplash. I felt like a shell-shocked soldier, back from the “front”, and all around me is babbling nonsense.

Suddenly, out of the undecipherable din, I hear a customer, hectoring his put-upon waitperson with his earthshaking complaint:

“I asked for more ketchup twenty minutes ago.  Where the hell is my ketchup!?!

I wanted to smack him. “That’s the worst thing that’s happening to you?  ‘Where the hell is my ketchup’?”

I wolfed down my soup – the menu item requiring the least digestional concentration – paid the bill, and bolted the deli, returning to the sterile sanctuary of the “Baby Floor.”

The hospital ambience is scary.

But at least there, they understand.

Maybe it’s normal, ignoring the “Unwanted” until it abruptly involves you.  It’s just something I noticed:

There is surrounding everyday life, and there’s the stuff in the hospital.

And they are happening at exactly the same time.

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