The 5 Worst People You Could Meet in the ER

When I left my apartment at 11pm this past Saturday to take my small dog, Jack, out for his night walk, I never expected that a mere hour later, I would be sitting in the waiting room of the Lenox Hill ER with a bleeding, lacerated eyelid. Long story short: in an effort to prevent Jack from engaging in a toothy grappling match with an even smaller dog, I picked him up, at which point he started thrashing around like a catfish, scratching my arms and accidentally catching his tooth on my poor, delicate eyelid in the process.

Of course, the only appropriate response to having my eyelid torn open by my dog’s fang was for me to immediately take him home and then collapse to my knees in my front hall while calling out weakly for my fiancé. I vaguely recall muttering the phrase “he hurt me” around 15 times from my spot on the floor before I finally decided to quit whining and have a look in my bathroom mirror to assess the damage. There, I was confronted with a rather gruesome sight: a bruised, bloodied and sliced right eyelid that definitely had to be looked at by a doctor ASAP and possibly stitched back together. I burst into tears all over again, not because my eye hurt (though you know it did), but because I was terrified that I was about to walk into an ER that would be packed with sick and/or badly injured people. While my fiancé and I hurtled down the West Side Highway in the cab to the hospital, I mentally compiled a list of the 5 worst possible archetypes that I could encounter in the ER. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. The Puker: I have a severe vomit phobia, one that’s so bad that I will switch subway cars if I think there’s even the slightest chance that another passenger is about to throw up. Owing to my severe aversion to barf, I was extremely worried that I would have to sit in the waiting room next to someone who was spewing uncontrollably, possibly into her handbag out of sheer desperation. I decided that if I walked into the ER and saw any single hint that someone was throwing up, my only course of action would be to accept the fact that I would now have to spend the rest of my life with a Fetty Wap eye and go back home.
  2. The Wailer: I get that everyone deals with pain and stress differently. With that said, it would be really shitty to have to deal with your own pain and stress while someone else is howling histrionically right next to you. I can deal with low moans, sure, but I knew that if I were forced to listen to someone caterwaul with reckless abandon while waiting to see the doctor, I would have no choice but to put that person in a sleeper hold and lower them gently to the floor, blissfully quiet at last.
  3. The Belligerent, Rich Drunk: Unless I’m drunk myself, I absolutely cannot stand drunk people. They’re loud, they’re sloppy, and more often than not, they’ve forgotten their ability to regulate their emotions back at the club. Given that the Lenox Hill ER is located in the West Village, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York City, I had visions of being trapped in the waiting room with some entitled, boisterous, wealthy douchebag in a whale belt who had injured himself while doing something like sabering the cork out of a bottle of Dom Perignon. I actually wasn’t too worried about having to confront this archetype, mostly because I was pretty sure that someone else would beat me to the punch – literally.
  4. The Chatty Cathy: For some reason, strangers in every country I’ve been to always insist on striking up conversations with me. I think it might be because my version of “Bitchy Resting Face” is “Friendlier Resting Face Than I Intend to Have,” and I’ve got a habit of raising my eyebrows in repose, which must look like a signal that I’m a bit simple and would be happy to talk to literally anyone because it means they’ve noticed me. Listen, I’m as gregarious as the next guy, but there’s a time and a place for small talk, and it sure as hell isn’t while you’re waiting to be seen by a ER doc at midnight on a Saturday when you’re wearing your pajamas and bleeding from the face. I’ve often thought about the best way to stop an unwanted conversation before it starts, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this problem is most quickly solved by listening to the Chatty Cathy’s opening line, pausing momentarily, and then responding by squealing like a pig as loudly as I physically can. I’ve never tried it, but I’m pretty sure that this technique would also be a great way to get someone to give me their seat on a packed subway.
  5. Brad the Impaled: Every now and then, there’ll be a story in the news about some luckless fool who accidentally impaled himself on a spiked metal fence and had to be rushed to the ER with a 3′ long iron pole sticking out of his abdomen. Every time I hear a story like this, I physically shudder with horror, and I live in fear that one day I’ll be unlucky enough to witness this kind of horrific mishap, because that’s some straight up Final Destination shit right there and I don’t need any curses passed onto me, thank you very much. I think I would actually faint if I had to wait in the ER next to someone who had been impaled, and while one would hope that this kind of injury would grant you an immediate admission to the hospital, I do vividly remember a particularly horrifying anecdote that a doctor I used to work with once told me about a former patient of his. The guy had come into the ER, waited patiently for a few hours until his name was finally called, and only THEN revealed that he had A 10″ KITCHEN KNIFE LODGED IN HIS GODDAMN BACK. Shudder.

Miraculously, when I finally arrived at the ER on Saturday, it was completely empty – completely! – which meant that all of my neurotic planning had been for naught. Plus, I didn’t even have to have my eye stitched, although I did have to have it surgically glued together and bandaged with an unsightly, Nelly-circa-2003 steri-strip that I have to keep on my eyelid for a full week.

In closing, this experience taught me two important lessons: one, that I shouldn’t pick up a dog who is in the throes of a blind fury, and two, that I shouldn’t worry trouble until trouble is barfing into her Kate Spade tote next to me.

Listicles Oh SHIT. Reflections Stop the insanity!

Caroline Nierman View All →

Sharp Teeth, Sharper Tongue.

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