Hi again folks. This post has nothing to do with serving, but it does explain why I didn't write anything last weekend....
I've been feeling crappy all week. Getting over bronchitis. Coughing up phlegm, taking antibiotics, chugging NyQuil and DayQuil, the works. Saturday afternoon, the woman gets a call from one of her friends. She wants to go camping.
"Server, would you like to go down to Podunk to meet Breanne?"
"Sure, but I thought you hated camping? You always freak out when a bee flies by the screen door..."
She slaps me on the leg.
"Shut up. I'll be fine. We're going to sleep in my car."
I get up off the bed and walk towards the window.
"What are you looking at?" she asks.
"To see if you got a new car. I'm not sleeping in that little thing you're driving now. 50 miles to the gallon is great, but it just doesn't cut it when it comes to crashing."
Sure enough, her mid-size sedan has not been replaced by a gas-guzzling SUV or a mobile home. Regardless, I have a feeling that I'm looking at my bed for the evening.
Casting a look over my shoulder, I eye the cushy queen-size that I'll soon be leaving in favor of a partially-reclined front seat. Crap.
We're on our way. It's supposed to take an hour to get there. We've been driving for two hours.
"Want me to hop out and ask for directions?" I ask. I'm sitting in the passenger seat, leg on the dash, head on a pillow. I'm comfy, but I'd like to get to the campsite and streee-etch.
"Yeah, but I don't see any gas stations." We're flying by farms, corn fields, and the occassional trucking company.
"Stop up there."
"That's a bar."
"Yeah, I could use a drink. You don't get one, you're driving. Plus, they'll probably know where we're going."
The woman stops in front of the honky tonk and I extricate myself from the front seat. Opening the door, I notice how chilly it is. Glad I packed that extra sweatshirt...
The bar is bumping... for a hillbilly bar. I stick out like a sore thumb. I forgot my John Deere hat.
The bartender is a sweet, plump little thing. She's more than happy to help me out with directions. She does a great job, despite the fact that the old codger sitting at the end of the bar constantly interrupts her with 'short cuts'.
I thank her, and ask for a shot of her best top shelf tequila.
"Three bucks," she says, pouring Cuervo into a dirty small rocks glass. I love small town bars. I drop a ten spot on the counter, pound my shot, and boogie.
New directions in hand, the woman and I speed off into the night.
Camping is a good time. We're sitting around a fire drinking beer in plastic cups. Apparrently you're not allowed to drink alcohol in a state park. Wonder why?
For some reason, I don't feel so hot. My cough is getting progressively worse, and it feels like I'm getting a fever. I chalk it up to the camp fire and promise myself that I'll hit the hay before midnight.
Luckily, everyone else seems just as tired as me. I'm snuggled up in the front seat by 11:30.
I wake up around 4:30. Have to pee. I get out. It's freezing outside. Going to be a cold Chicago winter....
I do my business and head back to the car. As I'm walking back, I realize that I'm having a hell of a time breathing.
I stop before opening the door. I try to catch my breath. Nothing doing.
I knock on the window. My girlfriend opens the door.
"Having... trouble... breathing... we ... should... go..." at this point, three things cross my mind. First, we're in the middle of nowhere. Second, if I don't get help soon, I may die. Third, I sounded exactly like Stevie from Malcolm in the Middle.
My girlfriend bundles me into the car and peels out of the campsite. Once we get on a main road, she dials 9-1-1.
"My boyfriend is having trouble breathing. Can you send an ambulance?" I would be surprised at how calm she sounds, except for the fact that she works in a hospital. She's holding it together really well... me on the other hand, I'm concentrating on staying alive. It feels like I'm sucking air through a straw.
"I have no idea where we are. We're on Highway A in Podunk.... What's that? A mailbox? Yeah... There's one right here. Says "Coffman." You know where that is? Stay here? OK, please hurry."
The woman gets off the phone. She turns to me.
"It'll be a couple minutes. How you doing? Are you feeling any better?"
She knows full well I can't talk. She also knows full well that by keeping my mind on something else, it may make the time go by faster for me. I know exactly what she's trying to do, which makes it worse for me.
Five minutes go by. I'm in agony. Finally, I can see the ambulance lights break over the hill. Sweet.
The EMT's load my ass into the ambulance. One straps an oxygen mask to my face while the other starts plugging me up to a vital sign monitor. Countless episodes of ER make the real thing seem boring by comparison.
After a few minutes, I'm able to breathe again, although it's still shallow. The EMT's are asking me questions. They decide to give me nitroglycerin.
For those of you not in the know, there are several different forms of nitro. The first is an explosive that can be used to blow a hole in the side of a bank vault. The second form is used to stifle a heart attack.
They stuff a pill under my tongue. It starts to dissolve. It tastes like crap.
Suddenly, it hits me. I'm having a heart attack!?? What the hell? I'm in my mid-20's, I can't be having a goddamn heart attack!
I'm freaking out now, and all of a sudden I can't breathe again.
I pass out.
When I wake up, they're wheeling me into the hospital.
A while later and the woman is able to join me. We're in a hospital in Podunk at 4:30 on a Sunday morning. Surprisingly, it still takes a good 30 minutes for a doctor to get to us.
The only other patient is a girl who is sobering up in the next room. She's not a quiet drunk, and she's been spending most of her time on the cell phone, screaming about how unfair it is that this latest 'set back' was going to destroy her dream of being a cop. She's making very little sense, and I hope to God they don't make her a crossing guard, let alone a cop. Some folks should not be allowed to brandish six-shooters.
Trying to block out her complaints, I turn my attention back to the woman. She's putting on her tough face, but I can see the trails running down her cheeks where the tears have cut through the soot of last night's campfire. She's worried about me.
At this moment, I'm not concerned about anything else in the world. All I can see is the woman sitting in front of me. I always knew that she loved me and that I loved her. I just never realized, up until this point, how much it would actually mean if one of us lost the other.
I think back to my bitching about sleeping in the car. I realize how stupid that was, and I decide to make a conscious effort to never complain about the little things. There are more important things in life.
Finally, the doctor shows up. She gives me an inhaler. Apparrently I didn't have a heart attack. My bronchitis damaged my lungs, causing bronchospasms, which is similar to asthma. The inhaler should help me in case of another attack. She sends us on our way.
The drive home is long, but uneventful. Watching the trees fly by on the highway, I can only ponder the future. How long will I have to deal with these spasms? Will I be able to play sports? Will I be able to throw a baseball around with my future son? Will I be one of those people that lapses into a state of permanent health problems? Would my girlfriend have to take care of me? Would I put her through that?
Finally, exhausted and consumed by thoughts and fears beyond my control, I drift off to sleep.
To be continued...
(You didn't think that this was enough of an excuse? Good, cause it gets worse. This wasn't my only ambulance trip that day....)