After a buddy of mine had the poor judgment to choose to be born on the island of Hispaniola, he compounded his ineptitude 30 years later by contracting malaria. Sensitive to my wife's unyielding policy of "no dead guys in the living room," I drove Sebastian to the county hospital where we learned that 1) a fever of 104.1 does not move you to the front of the line and 2) seven hours in the waiting room is more than enough time to tell every joke you've ever heard and 3) if there is ever a good time to become involved in healthcare in a major metropolitan area, Saturday night during a full moon is not that time.
There were a lot of people in the ER. A lot in the sense that there are "a lot" of stars in the sky. Sebastian was endeavoring to get his fever up over 105 degrees so that he could cut the line and receive medical care before the end of the Pleistocene. I was trying to determine the job descriptions and responsibilities of the various uniformed personnel scurrying about, none of whom seemed to be tasked with engaging with actual patients or providing what might have been termed "care."
One woman, whom I will refer to as "the sitter upper" appeared responsible for ensuring that none of the potential patients--either from hunger, fatigue, boredom, or actual illness--remained face down on the tile floor.
Perhaps there were fire lanes involved as I would suggest that you have attended weddings that weren't as crowded as this cavernous emergency room. You have heard about fraternity parties with fewer supine bodies strewn about every horizontal surface. When I obsequiously responded to "the sitter upper" that Sebastian was too ill to get up off the floor, she replied, "he walked in here, didn't he?"
Let us leave Sebastian's inert and feverish frame slumped over a folding chair (he must have recovered at some point or I would not have been able to leave the hospital to write this newsletter) and consider a different venue. My wife experienced a minor come-apart recently in a small town out west. Dropping her off in the emergency room, I prepared myself for a waiting period equivalent to that required to adopt a child from Central America. But before I could park the car and hurry back into the clean, well-lit facility, my wife was already being attended to by an articulate and compassionate triage nurse. Within moments, eight other medical personnel had poked and prodded, tickled and tested, and provided ultrasound, MRIs, and advice to my stunned spouse.
One of the nurses even went so far as to offer me a soft drink.
The only thing the doctor did not do in one of his four lengthy conversations with my bride was to offer her a foot massage. Whether or not Patti received a mani pedi remains an open question as I dozed off in a comfy chair at one point and can not be certain what transpired during my brief snooze.
That there are differences in the quality of healthcare delivery systems in disparate cities is not news. That it would be cheaper, faster, and more efficient to fly across the country to receive adequate medical attention is worth noting. Even getting through TSA and a four-hour transcontinental flight is more attractive that flopping around on the floor and having your roasting carcass emptied into a chair in the big city waiting room.
Allowing your children to choose the right friends is similar to qualifying for boutique health care. You know those kids who live on the 47-foot boat behind the home of their absent parents, the kids who have no chores or responsibilities, the ones who smoke pot every day before school? Your kids would do well not to spend any time over there. When something bad happens--mortgage the farm, something bad invariably happens when unsupervised 17-year-olds live on a 47-foot boat--it would be well if your kids were elsewhere.
Of course, flying out west every time your buddy decides to contract malaria is as unrealistic as hopping on a flight whenever your kids want to go play. The good news is that whereas malaria befalls an unfortunate, keeping your kids safe from children making absurdly poor choices is easier.
When the kids are little, allow them to choose the friends who play imaginative games and run around outdoors rather than children who are drowning in glowing rectangles. Invite for play dates those kids who understand "we don't do that here" instead of "let's watch another fart video."
When the children are older, take them hiking and camping with peers who don't smoke pot.
Because unlike boutique health care, the good kids are just around the corner. There are families who share your values. You don't even have to travel half way across the country to find them.