October 13, 1997--One day after Indigenous Peoples Day, what they still call Columbus Day in retrograde parts of the country
I last wrote you when
a. my culture shock was in full bloom;
b. my toaster and rice cooker were in the mail; and
c. I was apparently turning the corner on disillusionment with America by getting health coverage.
Right. So on October 1, the day my Kaiser health coverage went into effect, I walked into the corner of a table and tore the toenail off my left big toe. No problem, I thought, and pulled out my Kaiser card and called emergency. Twenty minutes later, I was still waiting for the “advice nurse.”
Who told me
a. not to pour alcohol on the toe, as I was thinking I ought to do;
b. to get myself to the minor injuries clinic at the emergency room; and
c. to get there in the next twenty minutes, because emergency was closing.
So I wrapped the abused member of my digital community (I've been in America a long time now; I know we call everything a community) in a paper towel and took it to EMERGENCY.
“Can I park here?” [hobble hobble]
“I don't know.”
Oh. Sorry. I didn't realize you were with that woman they're wheeling in. (giggle giggle) - Paramedics giggle. I guess the woman isn't hurt too bad.
I find my way to registration and pay my $15.00.
“Your Kaiser card please!” Thank you. You are a real person, so we can take care of you.
Triage wants to know why I didn't bring the nail. I get up to go back and get it. This suggests I'm in shock. I follow the yellow brick line past the woman (she's broken her hip, it appears) into the back room where a nurse in a clown suit bathes my toe in water and I fly through the ceiling. Doctor Ishihara (no clown suit) then comes and sticks three needles in my toe (I hit the outer stratosphere) so I won't feel anything when he vaselines gauze on the wound and kisses it and makes it better.
It's two weeks tomorrow since that happened. The toe is no longer sensitive. My back, which I threw out hobbling because of a gigantic surgical shoe, is now no longer bothering me and I can go to the opera wearing shoes again. I may even have a new nail in only six to nine months.
All is well. Except that somebody got murdered outside my house last Sunday night. Two people. An old man out taking a walk and his caretaker. 10:30 at night. David and Slamet were just leaving and we heard a loud report. I used to call those things gunshots, but after the meeting with the police last night where I was filmed and my friends are calling to tell me they saw me on television, I learned you call them loud reports because sometimes it's not somebody shooting your neighbors. It's only a kid hitting a stop sign with a baseball bat.
David and Slamet came for dinner. A lovely dinner. Less lovely for David and Slamet, because on the way here they were hounded by some guy in a pickup who followed them around the block shouting something behind the window they couldn't hear. They had failed to start fast enough when the light turned, or something like that, and he decided he had to punish them. So he followed them for blocks. They got away from him only when he got out of his car at a light and came up, rage still written across his face, to their window. They rolled down the window and sprayed him with pepper shot, and then reported him to the police and came to dinner.
Between the threat of attack and the murder outside my house, they fixed my e-mail handler so I can now read and send attachments. I'm really coming into the cybernetic age.
I've been in California almost three months now. No more culture shock. I'm thoroughly at home. I think of Japan a lot, and I think I'll be ready to go back when the time comes. It will still annoy me that they don't have grass and trees like we do here. And that they talk all the time of violence in America. I wish they wouldn't do that.
I got my toaster back. They didn't send the refund for postage, like they promised. But the toaster toasts my toast and that makes breakfast easier because I haven't smoked up the kitchen by putting toast in the oven and forgetting it since my toaster came back. And my rice cooker's back. It didn't work at all, remember. Now it works, but it burns the rice, so we don't use it anymore.
Well, I guess that's all for now. Three months down on the sabbatical. Five more to go.