I did not go to work today. Instead, I slept until ten o’clock, straight through without interruption. Then I went to the emergency room to deal with whatever is ailing me.
Remember when I broke my foot? And how thrilled I was by the emergency room being entirely empty so that the whole diagnosis-to-rolling-out-the-hospital-doors-with-cast-on took only about an hour? Turns out I had been deceived. I had gone to the VIP emergency room, reserved for friends-of-friends-of-doctors. I had star treatment then; it was a regular red carpet treatment. Oh, those were the days.
But today, upon arrival at the emergency room, when I walked into the doors I had been used to using with the foot fiasco, I was kindly directed into the Doors for Regular people. It was then I knew things would be different. And they were.
I should have known the procedure for Doing Anything in Brasil is a long and winding one with many stops. My American brain, suddenly flustered by change of doors, snapped into action and I proceeded to the reception. Normal, right? Here’s how my first conversation in the hospital went:
Me: Hi, could you please speak slowly because I’m still learning Portuguese.
Him: Sure. Do you have s;lihera 89for?
Me: I’m sorry. What?
Him: Do…you…have…a…s;loinear;klj? Ts;kherlllllseijnr? E?
Me: Can I see a doctor today?
Him: You can. But we work as a sklehronalk meaning that you have to eeeehoR with a IILLJIOlkisjerkj.
Me: Oh. So I don’t know what to do now.
Him: You have to pay.
Me: I can pay.
Me: I’ve been here before for my foot. I saw Doctor So-and-So.
Him: Do you have to see her again?
Me: No, I can see anyone.
Him: Okay. Come with me.
So I’m not sure what it was that I negotiated, or what exactly his hang up was, but he led me to a number thing–that red thing at the deli section in supermarkets that give you a number so you can go up and buy your cheese. I had apparently missed the gigantic number thing when I walked in the door. The kind man told me to wait at another door, when a different man would call my number aloud so I would have to go in and wait there. And when I was done in the small room, I would be sent back to the big room for a different number where I would be doing more waiting. It was basically a whole lot of waiting and numbers. In my defense, how was I even to be aware of the presence of a deli number thing in a hospital emergency room? It was so foreign to me that I didn’t even see it as I walked in. Deli number things clearly don’t belong in hospital emergency rooms, I thought, so why bother seeing it?
In the small room, I sat at a table with a man who was to ask me what was wrong, fill out papers, and then send me back out again to wait. The man had been prepped by the first man that I don’t have much of a Portuguese vocabulary, so when we sat down, he took a deep breath and started this next conversation:
Him: YOUR NAME? (yelling.)
Me: Gina. G-I-N-A. My last name is Coggio. C-O-G-G-I-O.
Him: YOU HAVE ALLERGIES?
Me: Yes. Penicillin and Ammoxycillin.
Him: WHAT HAPPENED?
Me: Ten days ago, I got sick. I went to Rio for Carnaval and started getting better, but when I came back on the bus, my head and my throat and everything started hurting again. I noticed red dots on the back of my throat. Yesterday I had a fever, I was nauseous, couldn’t taste anything. Today I’m better.
Two hours later, I was back in the out-of-doors, just in time to get hit with a gigantic thunderstorm that turned the skies bright white with clouds all the way down to street level. I was glad to be out there, though, since being in the doctor’s office, while nice and relaxing in that there was a person who was going to help me fix what was wrong, I couldn’t help but feel completely weirded out by how intently this doctor was staring at me. I started chattering away in incomprehensible Portuguese about traveling and whatnot, all the while the doctor–attractive, yes, but ewww, come on–was trying to peer into my soul. I had to avert my gaze a number of times, and couldn’t stand up fast enough to leave to get my prescriptions.
Want to know what my prescription was? Tang. Orange Tang. Or something so like it that I can’t wait until my next dose. Which, according to my understanding of the Portuguese instructions, is anytime I damn well please. And I damn well please right now.