I recently took Widget2 to the hospital to have his stitches removed. It was an appropriately chaotic end to a chaotic month.
Before this incident, my most recent experience with stitches involved a steel beam, a quick trot to the ER, worker’s comp, and a barely noticeable scar below the hairline. Easy and forgettable. But that was 15 years ago. Before Florida. Before children.
Emphasis on children.
It turns out that when you have children, going to the doctor means packing enough gear for a 20 mile hike through Paris Island during Hell Week. You’d have to see the size of my backpack to believe it. You’ve got your basic essentials – diapers and wipes – and then you just keep adding more stuff: changing pad, change of clothes, sanitary gloves, three bottles filled with warm water, formula packets, toddler snacks, fruit squishies, electronic toy laptop, electronic toy ipod, Kindle (yes, an actual Kindle…for our toddler), and of course the ginormous folder of x-rays dangling from a string on the outside of the bag like some hideous brown cape. All of this, mind you, is for a simple trip to the doctor to snip a thread on the child’s nose.
In retrospect, I should have done it myself at home.
So I load the backpack, x-rays, stroller and child into the car and head for the highway. My GPS leads us through bumper-to-bumper traffic to a giant moon on the horizon. But wait a minute…that’s no moon. That’s a hospital.
The first bad omen is the hospital signage with arrows pointing left, right, up, down, around and through. The children’s hospital is one way; parking is the other. Fabulous. But that’s not the worst part. To GET into the parking lot, you’ve got to drive onto a strip of road in the dead center of the entire medical industrial complex that I have come to realize is far more than just a children’s hospital. I’ve got cars and pedestrians and wheelchairs coming at me from all directions. The architect, I’m convinced, must have been a sadist. I pull into the left turning lane behind a minivan to enter the lot. The minivan turns. Then stops. I pull up to the white line and wait for the traffic to move. A pregnant woman crosses the road, goes into the maternity ward, and returns with twins. Days later, the minivan pulls around the line of stopped vehicles (which turns out to be people waiting for valet parking) and takes a side lane into the lot. Now is my chance!
We park. I get out the stroller, bag and baby and head downstairs. A hospital employee directs us to the other side of the campus. We reach our destination five minutes ahead of the appointment time, only to be told that the doctor we’re looking for is across the street in the building we just passed. We rush back across the street, head to the sixth floor, and enter the plastic surgeon’s office.
Plastic surgeon’s offices, evidently, are not designed for children. I’m glad we brought the Kindle, but not so happy that the only waiting room entertainment is a TV playing The Butler. Because, you know, I’ve been dreaming of adding a racial slur or two to the list of new words my son has learned.
I lied. The TV isn’t the only entertainment. There’s also a mountain of paperwork that requires three phone calls home to complete, and a 4-year-old boy who keeps trying to talk to my child and play with the Kindle.
At least an hour after the 3:15 time when our appointment was supposed to happen, the office assistant calls us to the operating room. A couple hours later, the assistant returns to apologize that the doctor is dealing with a problem patient. By the sound of it, the problem patient is the 4-year-old boy from the waiting room. Another hour or so passes. The doctor arrives. Just in time for a poopy diaper. The doctor leaves while I finish. Fifteen minutes later he returns. Looks at Widget2 for five seconds and steps back out to get his tools. Poop #2 happens. The doctor returns. Snip, snip, done.
On our way out of the parking lot, the guy at the booth asks for $3. I pull out my debit card. They don’t take debit. I can only pay with cash or check. “I only have plastic.” “Cash only.” “Can you send me a bill?” “We don’t send bills” “I can’t pay cash.” “You should have read the sign.” “I saw lots of signs. I didn’t see that one. And anyway I had no choice. I had to take my kid to his appointment.” “The gate’s open.” “Are you sure you can’t mail a bill?” “The gate’s open.” “Sorry.” I drive away. A criminal.