Friday night in the ER.  What a weird wonder it is!  Those of us who work in that world have difficulty expressing its unique delights and dramas to the rest of the world.  We seem jaded, angry and frustrated.  We seem to lose our capacity for compassion.  We wish we could explain it more clearly.

Let me try.  A 35-year-old man from a car crash rolls through the door, reeking of alcohol.  His injuries are potentially very serious.  However, from the time he rolls down the hall on the EMS stretcher, he is spewing an amazing symphony of profanity at anyone and everyone who appears in his field of vision, or who dares speak to him. This includes:  sweet, professional nurse; compassionate, competent physician;  meticulous, dutiful registration clerks; smiling phlebotomists; eye-rolling x-ray technicians and, last-but-not-least, patient but firm deputy.

I’ll recount it for dramatic effect, and for its happy ending.  In place of profanity, I will insert the names of assorted mammals.

‘I don’t want to be at this groundhogging hospital!  You people groundhoggin’ kill people!  Oh flying squirrel!  I want to get the spiny ant-eater out of this armadillo place, you American Bison groundhogger!  And you, you little coyote!  Don’t look at me, groundhoggin’ coyote!  And you, mister police-man, you big ocelot!  I’ll kick your marmoset for you, what do you groundhoggin’ think of that?  Prairie dog right, I will.  I ain’t afraid of you, you field-mouse, groundhogger, cause you’re a muskratting groundhogger of a coyote-lovin’ field mouse armadillo, do you armadillo hear what I’m groundhoggin saying?’

Well, it went on for all too long.  In fact, one of the odd benefits of working in this environment is that after a while, for better or worse, profanity slides in one ear and out the other.  We smile and laugh.  We do the right thing.  The officer, bless his heart, was smiling, too.  Don’t you racoon think he wasn’t!  He knew where this would all go, in the end.

I’ve seen this pattern before, in relatively young drunk drivers.  Profanity and bluster for a while, followed by emotional collapse.  Before two hours had passed, our groundhoggin’ racconer was crying in his pillow.  He was crying because he upset his girlfriend.  He was crying because he wrecked.  He was crying because he knew he had burrowed a nice deep hole for himself with his big-old groundhoggin’ claws and smart-mouth behavior.

He had no serious injuries.  So, after all was said and done, he was shuffling off to the county accommodations, pretty silver bracelets dangling from his wrists.

Like so many Friday nights, we were running a Level I Drama center.  Fortunately, the drama ended nicely; no fight, no death, no tragedy.

But you can see, I hope, why we get so groundhoggin’ tired of some of humanity!  It isn’t lack of compassion; it’s lack of any real reason for us to use up our compassion.

Now, get the platypus out of here and do something useful with your time.


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