What if people behaved in public the way they do in the emergency department?

It’s often hard to describe what happens in a busy emergency department.  Many of us who spend our days or nights immersed in the soup of suffering and crazy that is a modern ED.  We have stories and insights about life and human behavior.  But invariably, people struggle to believe us.

‘They don’t really do that, do they?’  People ask this with a mixture of disbelief and hope.  Disbelief that humans can do the things they do. And with hope that ‘it just ain’t so.’

So here’s a thought experiment to illustrate what we face, day in, day out, night after night, weeks, months and years on end as the ED becomes the epicenter of modern medicine and of human brokenness.

Try the following things on for size and you’ll have an idea of what we face.

*Go to a store and try on clothes.  Urinate in the changing room.  On the wall and on the floor.  Then ask someone to clean it up while you continue to try on clothes.

*Walk into a courtroom and plead your case before the judge.  When she rules against you, look at her and everyone in the courtroom and say ‘I know where you live and I’ll kill all of you.’  See how that ends.

*Go to the grocery store to shop, knock things off the shelves and when management approaches to try and ask you to stop, punch the manager and at least one check-out clerk.  Then, tell everyone you can’t help it, you’re under stress and that you’re really sorry.  Then see if the manager to says ‘no big deal,’ or tells the clerk not to press charges because you didn’t mean it.  See if you walk away without being arrested.

*Walk into your accountant’s office, and after he submits your taxes tell him you aren’t paying him.  Then tell him you’d like a sandwich because ‘I haven’t eaten all day.’  Ask for a cup of ice-water.  If he gets upset, tell him you want to talk to another accountant and you’d like a blanket.

*Go to your kid’s school because of a problem (grades, behaviors, whatever). Take five family members. Insist that all of them go into the meeting with the principal.  When you don’t like the answer, have everyone text another family member.  Also call your cousin who is a teacher’s assistant and tell the principal she needs to talk to your cousin, who knows what she should do despite her EdD.  See what she says.

*Walk around a mall.  Buy some things.  At closing, tell the staff you want to exchange them.  When they ask you to come back, say ‘I’m not leaving.  You will do what I say.’  Then ask to talk to the regional and national manager when you don’t get your way.  Make everyone stay long after their shift.  Will you get what you ask?  We’ll see.

*Call an electrician to your house.  After he diagnoses the problem and begins to fix it, and is ready to leave, tell him about your plumbing problems which have been present for ten years, and how your roof is leaking and that you’d like him to evaluate it all. When he says it he isn’t the right guy and it isn’t the right time, call his boss and complaint.  Leave a nasty review online.

*Get ridiculously stoned on a combination of drugs and alcohol (a ‘party pack’ as we call it).  Go to the public library, scream at everyone and lie down for a long nap, attempting to kick or punch anyone who touches you.  Think you’ll have a long nap?

*The next time a police officer pulls you over, keep talking on your phone while he stands by your car, and hold up a finger, saying  (repeatedly) ‘just a second, I’m so sorry!  It’s my cousin.’  Yep.  Try that.

*Find an aging relative with dementia, take him or her to the local county office building and say ‘yeah, this is my mom.  We’re going out of town and can’t take her. She doesn’t do well alone.  She isn’t sick, but can you just keep her in the office for a few days? Thanks! See you soon.’  It’s called abandonment.

I could go on, as could many others.

But these are just a few insights (a very few insights) into what every…single…day looks like in an emergency department somewhere.





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