Perhaps, I mused, as I wended my way through early-evening traffic yesterday on my way to the Leesburg emergency room, the wound to my thumb that would require five stitches to close it still seeping ungodly amounts of gore into a sodden paper towel clutched in my right hand, the razor-sharp paring knife was not the optimal tool to use to go slashing around in the asparagus patch while preparing the family dinner. Quite possibly, I reflected with some regret, I should have used the machete instead.
The triage nurse's wall was a study in Our Life and Parlous Times. Freshly tacked to it was a flow chart (quite poorly executed, possibly in PowerPoint, I noted with professional satisfaction). The first decision box read, "Been in Mexico in the last two weeks?" (The Yes/No paths led to quite different procedures; respectively, they were, "OK, let's assume you have swine flu," and "You almost certainly don't have swine flu. Go home and sleep it off.")
As the nurse practitioner was swabbing the last of the dried blood off my hand and preparing to give me a tetanus shot, the triage nurse poked her head into the menage. "We need this room," she whispered to my ministratrix. "Why?" was the former's natural response. Quickly eying me, the triage nurse beckoned her out into the hallway; clearly, they didn't want my prying ears overhearing the subsequent justification.
The nurse reentered the room, and hurriedly gave me the tetanus shot. As she was doing so, urgent conversation filtered into the room.
"When did you return from Mexico? Was it more than a month ago?"
"Can you describe the chest pains?"
"Sir, I don't believe that swine flu is a likely cause of your chest pains, but we'll get you an EKG and a complete blood workup...."
Poor bugger. As I left the room to him, he lay on a gurney in the hallway, oxygen mask clapped to his face. He'd worked himself up into a panic attack over the goddamned cable-news overcoverage of this swine-flu thing. He had a sniffle, connected it with his spring-break trip to Mexico, and assumed he was the next Dreadful Statistic. He was, of course, in no more danger than he had been in in Cancún, eyeballing the Kollege Kuties in their bikinis and swilling Tequila Sunrises.
I sidestepped the whole scene, looked for the exit. I stood aside to let pass a young man in a wifebeater, straight out of an episode of Cops. His hands were manacled behind him and a grim-faced gendarme held his elbow. Blood streamed from his nose.
OK! Time to go cook some asparagus!