Friday, I enjoyed a special day out with my wife Jackie. We’ve both been so busy that we haven’t really had time to think about spending a full day together. But, fate intervened and provided the opportunity, even if it meant 8 hours in the emergency room.

Her symptoms came on strong at 4am, and by 6am, we self-diagnosed the problem as appendicitis. Plus, an unrelated facebook posting from our sister-in-law Heather talked about appendicitis, so it seemed like maybe we should go to the ER to be safe. However, the ‘doctor’ at the ‘hospital’ suspected ‘kidney stones.’ Actually, it really was kidney stones.

With a little help from morphine and some other drugs I can’t pronounce, Jackie’s pain went from a 9 to 3, and she was able to sleep while they considered the best next steps. Although we were the only people in the emergency room at 7am on a Friday morning, by 10am, it was full, with patients sitting in chairs in the hallway waiting for beds. We shared a room with other beds. The curtains were drawn, so we couldn’t see, but we could hear a man and an old woman – both competing to see who could be the loudest moaner. All we could hear at first from both of them was “Oooh!” every three seconds – not quite in synch, but once in a while, they would manage to say it at the same exact time. Then, once every ten minutes, the old lady would add some cursing to change it up.

Naturally, I was raised right by my parents. They taught me if was curious about strangers, I should eavesdrop very carefully to determine their situations. When the nurse prepared to hook up an IV to the old lady, she warned them that they would have a problem with the IV. She admitted that she was on heroin, with her last use being the previous day. Then, they accused her of being in withdrawal, but she adamantly denied she was in withdrawal.

I saw it once before. I knew a woman back in Chicago who had a heroin problem, so I could predict her story instantly. I’m sure we all have heard a similar story. So, it will be no surprise to anyone of her path to where she sits right now:

She was most likely a woman who grew up very wealthy. She was probably an only child who never saw the neighbors because they lived too far away to reach by foot. She relied on the family housekeeper to invent games because she grew bored of the 47 board games in the closet. She was sent to a strict military / home construction contracting school. All the boys most likely mocked her because she was the first girl ever to attend in the history of the school. Then came the hammer accident to the eye, leading to her nickname of one-eyed Alice. In fact, the teasing was so cruel that she quit school early. Her parents felt sorry for her, so the put her in charge of the family-owned 7-11. It was the least profitable of all their business, so they didn’t mind if she put it out of business. But, she surprised them all and built an entire empire of 7-11s. Even to this day, you probably can’t walk into a 7-11 between 110th Street on the South Side and Dundee Road without contributing to her empire.

And yet, one fateful day, she fell for one of the Pepsi Delivery boys. They enjoyed fourteen summers of bliss cruising in his Pepsi truck up and down the beaches, getting everyone excited by the promise of cool refreshment, only to realize the truck would never stop. One-eyed Alice and her bad news boyfriend Justin would then sneak into the back door of Old St. Pat’s Church during mass, find the kitchen, and make sweet apple pies for the congregation. Unfortunately, their love was not to last. After 14 wonderful years, he got fired, and she refused to see someone without a job. And that’s when her fortune turned. She put all her 7-11 profits into a failing vitamin business scheme, and turned it around to become successful. It seemed she couldn’t touch any business without improving it. Everyone wanted her advice. She wrote a business book and started speaking around the country. That’s when an evil gang of hotel maids kidnapped her, and injected heroin in her for twenty straight days. They stole her books and got $73 on Amazon for them at good used prices. Then, they dumped her off at the hospital where she went through withdrawal.

Yes, we all know a story like this. And, it’s a good thing every human being is exactly the same, so I can draw reliable conclusions about a stranger’s circumstances. It’s a relief to know that once I get a few details about someone, I can put them into the group that best characterizes them, and then know exactly how to judge them. So, I’m sure you understand why I always empathize with the wealthy, hammer-wounded, Pepsi driver-loving, kidnapped, 7-11 owners who get heroin forced on them for Amazon used book sales.

Imagine if I didn’t know someone in this situation. Then, I might have to rely on other people’s characterizations of groups of people. I suppose that would be an acceptable alternative. I know whenever someone makes a judgment about a group of people, it’s usually for the benefit of that group, and should be trusted at face value.

Anyway, Jackie is doing well. So, I can only assume that everyone who visits the ER survives. Everyone.