Am I A&E worthy? This was my concern as I sat in the waiting room. I bore no XL Bully bite marks and no knife in the eye socket. Sure, I wasn’t right. Earlier, I went blind for a bit and couldn’t talk properly (disturbingly, no-one around me seemed to notice these difficulties at the time; did I come across brain-damaged anyway?). But was I bad enough to take up valuable A&E time, space and resources?
The paramedics who came to the flat said I had to go with them in the ambulance. Yet, I was the one who called 111, I hadn’t shrugged off the malfunction, I’d put this wuss train in motion.
Did I really belong here with these people? The retchers. The bleeders. The limpers. The groaners. Certainly I was way below the gurney-ed, the stricken souls gliding past on beds, bound for unseen wards where the howlers lie. The truly ill. How I envied them.
How I also marvelled at the calm beneath the chaos. The patience beneath the pain. An assent to the system of triage, where the sickest must be seen first. It was going to be a long night for me, but one I decided to fill with admiration for people, real people.
Diversity doesn’t work? Well, as with London in its entirety, it’s beautiful in A&E, where every type of person gathers, and respects one another, united in the truth of bodily failure that gets us all in the end.
Did I belong here? With the retchers, the bleeders, the limpers, the groaners, the truly ill — how I envied them
Misty-eyed, I looked down to see my boot was nudging a half-full vomit receptacle that had been dumped on the floor. Perhaps some folk are better off dead.
A&E time is different to normal time, it goes in all directions, egged on by your own head which decides, based on no information at all, what time you’re likely to be seen.
I arrived at 7pm and I thought I would be seen at around 10. I decided if I wasn’t seen by 11.30, I’d leave to get the last train home.
Ten came and went. I swiped endless rivers of TikToks on silent. At 11.30 came a weird sensation. Was I having a religious moment? No, I was going to pass out.
Not wishing to disturb my fellow A&E-ers, I went out into the corridor and collapsed down on the floor. Oddly, despite how heaving it was, not one person passed by in the five minutes
I was down there. Perhaps I was a god. My dribbling mouth suggested otherwise.
Back on my seat, I was cheered. I was ill. Perhaps seriously. Result.
Midnight came and then I was called. Doctor time. Sudden shocking attention. Questions. Stroke tests: hand-eye co-ordination drills. I was sent off for an MRI scan, escorted by a cheery porter. Greek guy, big high-fiver, strutting the corridors like a diminutive Shaft. He told me he used to run fish and chip shops all around London. Guy had battered half the Atlantic.
“What happened to you?” he asked. I explained. “I had the same thing the other week. I was all right, just got on with it.” Cheers.
Post-scan, the porter guessed I was hungry and took me to Costa. I munched on a brownie and sipped milky coffee, a child in his wake.
As long as there are people like him around, life will mostly win. Back with the doc, the scan came back clear, but she said I needed more tests. For now though, I was free.
Was I A&E worthy? I think I did my bit, but better than belonging to A&E is walking out of it.
Ain't nothing but a hound dog
I was taking my dog for a walk around Nunhead when a man dressed as Elvis tapped me on the shoulder.
I took off my headphones. “What?”
“Hound Dog,” Elvis said. “What?” “You’ve got a Hound Dog,” Elvis said. “You know… the song.” Unsure if I was dreaming, I asked Elvis where he was playing and he said in the pub on the corner. I asked him if he was going to the big exhibition about Elvis at London Bridge and he said: “No, it’s too expensive.”
If an Elvis nut can’t earn enough money impersonating Elvis to see the Elvis exhibition then what’s the point in anyone living in this city?
I was about to offer to buy him a ticket with money I don’t have when I was interrupted by a man on crutches throwing two people out of his flat, one of whom had been unfaithful to him. Despite his need for crutches, he started using them to hit the pair as his dog — sorry, Hound Dog — chased them into the middle of the traffic.
God I love this hateful place, I thought, and put my headphones back on.
Martin Robinson is a features editor