This week I went to the hospital emergency room at midnight one night with acute stomach pain and vomiting. Don't worry, I'm fine now. But at the time, I thought it would be prudent to get a professional opinion as to whether my appendix was about to explode. My spouse was out of town, so I hauled myself up the hill to the ER in a taxi between bouts of nastiness. There's nothing like telling a cabbie you need to hit the ER to make him drive fast. Loud stomach noises and a greenish facial tinge help too.
When I arrived, I was a mess. So much so that I couldn't sit upright in the waiting room. I huddled on the floor with my head on the seat of a chair. I may have been moaning. At some point, the situation overtook me, and I availed myself of the plastic bag the paramedic at the door gave me. Then I moaned some more.
This was new territory for me. I don't believe I've ever thrown up in public before. It's not something I care to repeat. It drives home the point of one's frailty very effectively.
Then the following conversation happened between me and the gentleman sitting three seats away:
Him: Miss, are you all right?
Me: Not really, thank you, but I think I'll be OK for now.
Him: Do they know you're here?
Me: Yes, the nurse took my name and told me to wait.
Him: Do you need anything, can I get you anything?
Me: That's very kind, but no thank you.
And then I went back to wallowing in my misery until someone medical came to examine me, which did happen reasonably promptly.
I'm not sure I would have come near me had the situations been reversed and I'd been waiting to have a sprain looked at and someone upchucked two seats away from me. But what's important about the above exchange is that the nice gentleman in question was the only person in the waiting room to check on me in my distress. He was also quite obviously a homeless street person.
As a longtime city-dweller, I've become inured to the sights and sounds of homelessness. Had I passed this man on the sidewalk I most likely would have looked away and pointedly ignored him. That probably doesn't say particularly great things about me.
However, on this Canadian Thanksgiving I would like to say thank you to that gentleman for being kind to me in the middle of a not-so-terrific night.
I'm also thankful that I live in a society that was able to find him a warm coat and change of clothes, a bed for the night, and a detox referral. I know this happened because I overheard the nurse discussing it on my way out three hours later.
I'm all better now. In the grand scheme of things, I have a lot of things to be thankful for today.