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[personal profile] joebelknapwall

I'm not a fan of hospitals. Even worse, I'm not a fan of hospital waiting rooms. More even than that, I'm not a fan of hospital waiting room small talk in response to the "news" channel television that's blaring there because my fellow countrymen are all so addicted to distraction that they can't go five minutes without some day-glo idiotalk to keep 'em entertained into grumbling self-righteous complacency.

"Yeah," said the walleyed Baltimore lady with big hair and a misconception that I, as another white person in a Baltimore hospital waiting room, would be on her side. "I think that's whut they should do."

I didn't acknowledge. I was reading a book, trying to stave off a headache from a week's worth of powerless fretting, and hoping that my mom was not expiring on a gurney somewhere.

"Yeah," the walleyed commentator repeated, with emphasis. "Don't you think so?"

It was made impossible for me to stay in my bubble of private space. I peered furtively around the room. Just me, just you, and a TV set loudly being fair and balanced at me like a frantic street corner preacher with a megaphone down in the gay neighborhood of a big city.


"Ah wuz sayin' that the soldiers ought to go there when they come back here."

Go where? Why am I so often the target of middles of paragraphs?

"Go where?" I asked, hoping that the mask of please-stop-talking-to-me I was trying to present would be clear. It wasn't.

"Put 'em on the borders at Mexico and Canada, so we can keep them from floodin' in."

"What, Canadians?"

"Nah. Mexicans. Immigrunts."

I narrowed my eyes. I briefly thought that my mother could be at death's door, and my instinct to stand up and bellow "WOULD YOU PLEASE SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU WALLEYED IGNORANT IMBECILE!" at the walleyed ignorant imbecile could be indulged without regret, with the excuse of grief and all that, but I decided to be positive, to project my best self in that space, and let it go...
after a fashion.

"Well, that's a thing, I suppose."

An answer devoid of content for a meaningless question.

The walleyed ignorant imbecile furrowed her brow. Like so many of the people who want to incorporate you into their army of the disgruntled, she'd met an unwilling recruit. Just like the groaning complainers in supermarket lines, looking back to me with rolling eyes to lament that the cash register wasn't working properly and therefore aren't we all united in our distaste for these ignorant people who are not like us— Just like the folks who moan about how stupid everyone else is, quoting long-debunked conspiracy theories to support their rants about the "sheeple"— Just like those church ladies who used to knock on my door and open with the question "isn't it just terrible the way the world is going down the tubes?" because that's supposed to be the thing we all agree on these days—

—Except the world isn't going down the tubes. We live in the world of the future compared to the "good ol' days." We are smarter, faster, stronger, more compassionate, more informed, more thoughtful, more able to filter the chaff, more concerned over the stuff we used to pretend not to see. The world of my childhood was a world where neighbors would tut-tut about mixed-couples and still think Jewish people were discernably different and we drove monstrous cars that guzzled fuel by the barrel and would still kill you in a low-speed accident. We had leftover John Birchers stinking up politics, Uncle Ronnie threatening to push the button, and an epidemic that we let run wild because those people aren't like us, dear. In the world of the future, science stands a good chance of fixing my mother's unexpected calamity, whereas in the good ol' days, ol' white-haired Doctor Nelson would come in shaking his head.

I'm not nostalgic for that sun-kissed Thomas Kincade painting of our supposedly illustrious past, and of a world of happy caucasians being productive little John Galts for the shining city on the hill that's surrounded by the slums where the people who built that shining city live.

We are strong because we are many, and diverse, and distinct, despite our common goals.

thing?" asked the walleyed ignorant imbecile, and I could tell she wanted more, but when my mom is in trouble, the last thing I want to talk about is why, dear lady I've never met before, but who feels like we're old buddies united against the flood, there's so much wrong with everything she thinks, says, and feels. I made a little sketch in my head of the moment, smiled a clearly insincere smile, and looked back down to the little electronic book in my hand.

My sister stepped back into the doorway.

"Found her, she's on the fifth floor," she said, and I followed her out. 

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January 2013

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