Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sometimes the universe reminds us ...

Sometimes the universe reminds us that not everyone is an asshole.

It seems to be getting easier and easier to only see the shit that gets flung at us. Conversely, it also seems to be getting harder and harder to see the gentle kindness that might tap us on the shoulder.

Is it really easier to only believe that a couple of young people harassed an elderly man walking his dog in a park than it is to believe that another pair of youngsters walked up behind a pregnant mother with a toddler in tow and helped her carry her groceries in? I know that often it is for me.

Oh, I know that there are bad people out there, that there scam artists and men who beat their wives and wives who beat their children. I know that there is hate and pain and misery in great abundance and sometimes, on a really bad day, I think that that's all there is.

Well, I am here to tell you that it's NOT all there is. There ARE good people out there, most of which we never hear of or see for ourselves except for the rare "puff piece" used as space or time fillers in the media. Most of us are running as fast as we can just to stay a step ahead of the real darkness. Most of the time it's a "good" day if we manage to maintain our position in the grey twilight that's the usual rule of the day. We can't or don't take even a split second to notice much of anything else.

This isn't some warm, fuzzy "believe in the essential goodness of people" piece. I will be the first one to say that it's NOT paranoid to believe that the whole world is out to shit on us like pigeons on a Civil War general. However, I have decided that I will also be the first one to notice that it's truly been a good day because someone let me slip into traffic ahead of them.

I'm a "totally and permanently" disabled veteran due to my years in the United States Navy. That means that I not only can't work but, since I can't afford health insurance, all of my medical and psych treatment comes to me courtesy of the Veterans Administration.

My experience with the VA goes back to the "bad old days" of incompetency and what we called the "rent-a-doc" system. Physicians barely able to avoid jabbing themselves with a hypo would contract with the VA for six months or maybe a year. It was a grim time for our vets; at the time I declared that I wouldn't let anyone from the VA lance a boil on my butt.

Now, I am pleased and proud to declare that the quality of care provided by the VA has risen dramatically and is almost always top notch. And, believe me, if it were not, I would be the first to say so. Hell, I'd be the first to walk around with a sign that said so and bellowing it at the top of my lungs. I am wonderfully stubborn, with a positive gift for invective and unpleasantness. I'm also crazy as a pet coon so I don't really give a fuck about "what people think".

However, for all its improvements, the VA is still (brace yourselves) a bureaucracy. The dinosaur is big, it's klutzy, it's slow and often it strangles itself with it's own red tape and "policies". Tonight I faced that tape without so much as a fingernail clipper.

Around 11:00 PM, I was revisited by the joys of a urinary tract infection. Ever the overachiever, I got all the options with this model; extreme pain, urinary incontinence, fever, dehydration; nothing I did or what meds I took worked to make it even a little better. Now, I realize that THAT is much, too much information but I really do have a reason for showing you around my bathroom.

All I wanted to do was get thru the night so I could hit the VA in the morning, see my doc and get the drugs to kill first the pain and ultimately the infection. That ship had sailed when it started but I refused to accept it. Along about 1:00 AM, after bellowing like a gut shot steer from the latest bout of agony, I gave up my illusions, checked with the VA night watch and headed off to the local emergency room.

The folks at the ER were kind and competent but there really wasn't much they could do even after the lab work came back. When, after two hours, it finally did, it told the doc's and nurses and I exactly what we all already knew; namely that I had a UTI. "Gee! Ya think?" The doc did his doc thing; wrote me a couple of 'scripts and sent me back out into the night that had disgorged me.

So, it's 3:30 in the bloody AM, I've got almost no cash and I'm willing to kill my resurrected mother with the winning lottery numbers if it would stop the gut-ripping pain. When I got home, I called the VA in the forlorn hope that there was any joy to be had there. There wasn't.

The receptionist and the night nurse would have liked to help me but there is no pharmacist on duty in the wee hours and, besides, the nurse can't write 'scripts or call them into my neighborhood Walgreens store. The {ahem} "Physicians Assistant" on duty would A. not talk to me on the phone; B. pony up the drugs; C. check for samples; or D. call the 'scripts into Walgreens to let them know that the VA would cover the charges. I happen to know this is doable because it was done for me during my gall bladder-sponsored vacation of not so happy memory.

After wishing that PA hemorrhoids and a proctologist who uses a wire brush to treat them; I tried the only other thing I could think of, I called Walgreens. I asked the pharmacist how much the antibiotics which would cure me and thus stop that annoying screeching I kept hearing. By his accent I could tell that he hailed, most likely, from the Middle East. He told me the cost was $11.43; disappointed, I thanked him and hung up.

After a few more moans, I began to to toss the place for any spare cash; I flew thru the house like a drunken bat in a cell phone store. EUREKA! I scrounged up an old crumpled five dollar bill and $6.97 in change. I grabbed my keys and set out for salvation. I gave the little, elderly pharmacist my prescription with the air of Sir Percival at his utmost extremity.

I wandered around for a few minutes, trying not to bite pieces out of my own shoulder blades, while he composed my personal Holy Grail. When he called my name over the intercom, I rushed back to find the magic elixir bottled and ready for me. Ok, OKAY! So it wasn't an "elixir", it wasn't even a liquid; it was a small bottle of pills but they were damn sure "magic" to me.

I was already apologizing for all the change as I began to pile it on the counter.

Shaking his head, he said, "No, no. You don't have to."

I looked up confused (not an unknown occurrence) and asked him, "What? What do you mean? I don't have to what?"

He shook his head again and said, "You don't need to pay. No charge."

Still not getting it, I tried to push the change to him; he smiled and said, "No, no charge." He pushed the change back at me and put a little bag into my hand. The attached receipt read, "TOTAL $0.00"

I must've thanked him a dozen times before he managed to make his escape back into the bowels of the pharmacy safe from thick-headed, desperate headcases. For some reason, my eyes were kind of moist and I was almost home before I remembered to shut my mouth.

Like I said,

"Sometimes the universe reminds us that not everyone is an asshole."