In Which Our Heroine Blows Her Nose On the Rich
Here's what happened: I went for a routine yearly mammogram this morning. They had scheduled me for one at Our Lady of the Damned next week, but since I'll be leaving on my trip to Mexico and they couldn't possibly reschedule it for another 843 years, I decided to hell with that, I'll just pay the damn $50 cash and go to a private hospital instead. So I went over to the new imaging facility associated with Deep Inferno General Hospital. It's nearby and that's the hospital that has my previous mammography records on file anyway.
I had been to this new facility before, just over a year ago. I think they'd been open maybe about a week when I went in for my first chest x-ray last summer. I had more x-rays and my first CT scan there too, before it became painfully obvious that my situation was going to be an unaffordable nightmare and I was quickly shunted over to the public charity system.
So I'd been to this place before, and I vaguely remembered it as just another shiny new medical building, nice enough but bland and boring and really no big deal. But that was before I'd spent half my life struggling to stay sane and alive in the dingy grim airless noisy smelly teeming infectious waiting rooms at Our Lady of the Damned. It might be the understatement of the millennium to say that my perspective has changed since then. Today I saw the private facility through entirely new eyes. And the culture shock was just about too much for my poor septum.
First of all, instead of circling around for 45 frantic minutes and finally parking illegally in some muddy field 2 miles away, you just pull right up and park directly in front of the architecturally attractive building. Yes, park anywhere! There are dozens of nice shady spaces from which to choose. The sidewalk out front, instead of being littered with huddled mobs of hacking, dying patients wearing flimsy hospital gowns and hooked up to IV poles, desperately sucking on their last cigarettes, is lined with tidy colorful flower beds. There are songbirds singing in the shade trees! Songbirds!
When you can finally tear yourself away from this little mini-Eden in the parking lot you walk in the front door and suddenly you're standing in a fucking solarium. A solarium! With skylights! and palm trees! and a giant aquarium filled with flashy exotic fish! Instead of Bob Barker screaming from an overhead tv, classical music is playing over the speakers. There are no surly armed law enforcement officers guarding the front desk. No humiliating public triage, no interminable lines where you take a number and wait an hour just so you can get your stupid labels and take them to another line to wait two hours just to hand them to the person who may or may not be sitting at the window. No, here you just walk in the door, glance around at the fucking solarium, and immediately a pleasantly smiling person greets you with, "Good morning! How may I help you today?"
You don't need a card or a number, you just tell this pleasantly smiling person your name, and she beams at you like you're her long lost best friend. She enthusiastically shows you to the waiting area, and Oh. My. Dog. The waiting area! It's so damn immaculate, they could perform brain surgery in there, and you could eat off the floor while they did it. Not a drop of blood or snot or vomit anywhere. It's absolutely beautiful: sunny and airy and spotless and did I mention clean? It has clean comfortable chairs, 99% of which are actually empty. It has large clean windows that look out over a landscape of gracious old oak trees. It has art on the walls, little pots of fresh live mums on every table, and brand new up-to-date magazines. Not to mention that giant aquarium with the flashy exotic fish. Plus, it's clean.
I'm not exactly sure why it has all these upscale amenities though, because there wasn't a long enough wait to enjoy them. About 30 seconds after my butt hit the clean comfortable cushion, before I could even pick up the latest clean issue of Atlantic Monthly, it was my turn to go in. I swear, they move you through there so fast you practically get the bends. But listen to this: they didn't screech my (badly mispronounced) name over a loud staticky PA system that you could hear (but never quite understand) five parishes away. Instead, a happy smiling woman came to the door and gently spoke my first name, kindly beckoning me to follow her to the back.
Has anybody else died of shock yet?
No, but wait: hold on, it gets better. The solarium/waiting area business was nothing compared to the mammogram wing of the building. Dear Dog in heaven, it was a fucking spa in there!
The kind happy smiling woman led me to a posh private dressing room, and instead of handing me the traditional flappy flimsy mortifying open institutional gown thing, she gave me a soft thick plush clean white terrycloth bathrobe. I mean a real genuine 100% cotton bathrobe, with the Deep Inferno General logo monogrammed on the front. It was very stylish and flattering, and it had a tie that actually worked.
Once I was tastefully and modestly robed, she led me to a large private waiting room, this one even more luxurious than the last one. There was a skylight in here too, and interesting original art on the walls. Little desk fountains with waterfalls bubbled peacefully around the room. There were rare elegant real orchids on each of the tables, and soothing orchestral music played in the background. I sank into a large plush sofa that was so soft and deep you could barely see the top of my head. The kind woman offered me a fancy bottle of cold spring water, and apologized profusely because I might have to wait two whole minutes before I was called.
And that's when I lost it. I mean, totally lost it. I started laughing so hard my shoulders were shaking and I had hot bloody tears streaming out of my nose. The poor kind concerned woman thought I must be nervous about getting a mammogram, so she sat down beside me and patiently patted my arm, assuring me that it would all be very quick and painless. This made me laugh even harder so of course she thought I was crying, and rushed to fetch me another complimentary bottle of expensive imported spring water and a box of tissues. But it was no good, by now I couldn't stop. I simply could not stop. I was out of control. It was too much for me.
Is there a word for this, a clinical term, for a semi-hysterical reaction to the culture shock of being swung like Tarzan on a vine across the nation's great yawning medical gap, flying through the air and landing with a thud on its radically, irreconcilably opposite shore?
Is it possible to go back and forth between these two sides of the gap, brutally aware of its size, without going insane?