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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 08.02.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Listen to your mother, kid

OGDEN, QC | James emerged from the water at Weir Park with blood streaming down his face. Not heeding the wisdom of mothers since time immemorial, he and a friend had been hurling mud at each other.

He didn't lose an eye but he did nearly lose an eyebrow - a good half-inch gash from a mudball that had clearly surpassed the acceptable rock-to-mud ratio.

The cut looked deep. The medical consensus around the park was, "Ooo, that's going to need stitches."

James and I arrived at the Magog hospital around 2:30 p.m.

The Admissions clerk said it would be 5 o'clock before we'd be seen. Long, I thought, but we could handle it. I had a novel, James had a "Garfield" book. There was television.

I soon suspected I may have misunderstood the Admissions clerk. She hadn't said "5 o'clock" -- she'd said "five hours."

By the time this mistranslation was confirmed, we had already invested three hours. If we left now, we'd have wasted that time. Best to stick it out.

James quickly became bored with Garfield, and television was hopeless. It was stuck on the TVA all-news channel and it was a slow news day. The same broadcast repeated every fifteen minutes. Luckily I have a knack for tuning out French so the chatter of the TV was like a clunking air conditioner - except for the ads, especially the frequent Holiday Inn ad with people playing "Marco Polo" around the pool. It ran over and over and was as tedious as a real "Marco Polo" game.

James, you may recall, had come from the beach. In our haste, I had forgotten to retrieve a shirt for him. So he sat there in his bathing suit and sneakers, getting colder as the evening wore on.

"Do you want my shirt?" I offered.

"No, I'm okay," he replied. Whew, I thought, glad to keep my shirt on; no one wants to see that.

After a while, a siege mentality began to set in and I started resenting the other patients.

"Look at her," I said to myself. "She's not even sick. If you're not bleeding, crying or limping, what are you doing here? Clogging the system, that's what you're doing."

By 9 o'clock, hostility had turned to camaraderie. A small camp formed in the hall outside the waiting room, where we complained about the medical system and the fact that there was only one doctor on duty. Every now and then, someone would bang on the triage door and harass our captors. Ineffective, but it felt good sticking it to the man.

Eventually, a security guard shooed us back to our waiting room/cell, saying the halls had to remain free in case of emergency. As if: the guard was just as bored as we were and needed something to do.

Around 10 p.m., James (having counted all the floor tiles and run out of things to "I Spy") had gone from worrying about getting stitches to saying, "I'm going to be mad if we waited all this time and they say I don't need stitches."

"Oh yeah? Who are you going to be mad at?"

He paused and thought. "You," he said.

I understood. By now, we had invested eight hours into waiting. It seemed daft to leave, foolish to stay.

Just after 11, I said to James, "You know, I think you'd look pretty cool with a scar. Let's go home."

I knocked on the triage door and said, "Can I have his hospital card back? We've been waiting nine hours."

"Name?" asked an ill-tempered nurse. I told her. "Salle 2," she barked.

At last! We went into the cold examination room andů waited. But at least there were new things to "I Spy."

Finally the doctor arrived. In ten minutes, James was glued shut (no stitches) and taped up. We left the hospital at 11:55 p.m., waving goodbye to our fellow inmates as we passed the waiting room.

Moral of the story: Emergency rooms suck, so listen to your mother.

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