Welcome to the ER, 21st Century Style

March 19, 2012   // 0 Comments

by Roger White

I get nervous simply approaching the building. The bright lights, the important sounds of rushing people and vehicles—the very feel of emergencies in progress—unsettle my stomach and quicken my pulse.

The evening air is cool, excited by gusts and breezes swirling from the north. A front is moving in, but circumstances give me the impression that even the night is stirred by these critical moments. I’m suddenly covered in goose bumps as I usher my wife and daughter into the reception area.

We accompany our daughter to sign in, and it’s obvious from first glance that our situation is not nearly as serious as some of those around us. We are only a minor emergency, so we’ll have to wait.

The waiting is interminable. Our daughter bravely holds back the tears.

“It happened to me, too, honey,” my wife says, putting a reassuring hand on our daughter’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. They’ll fix it up.”

Inside the inner sanctum now, the hushed urgency of myriad conversations and vital tone of learned, caring consult and somber consideration of options and ramifications, mixed with a few cries of desperate pleading against the inevitable, impress upon me that I am without a doubt in a place where decisions, skills, timing, and training mean everything.

We comfort our daughter in the interim, soothing her, trying our best to let her know that everything will be all right. Most of the conversations around us we can’t help but hear, picked up only in snippets and instances of outburst and intervals of silence.

“Tell me again what happened exactly.”

“He fell, and something just cracked…”

“This is pretty bad.”

One solemn couple in the corner is told frankly that there was nothing that could be done. They are escorted into another room. My wife and I exchange glances, slowly shaking our heads.

“Dad…” my daughter begins.

“It’s OK, honey, it’s not as bad as it looks. I’m sure it’s going to be just fine.”

One man ahead of us reacts angrily to his diagnosis. He doesn’t seem to care who hears him.

“This can’t be! There’s no way to fix it?!”

“I’m sorry, sir, there’s just too much damage.”

And finally it’s our turn.

“What happened here?”

Our daughter is too caught up in her emotions to speak, so I do it for her.

“She…dropped her baby.”

“I see.”

Our daughter holds out her shattered, lifeless iPhone, its little face disfigured into a spider web of cracks.

“You can repair that, right?” I ask, suggesting with my optimistic expression that all is well.

“Unfortunately, no, sir. When the screen is cracked like this, there’s really nothing you can do.”

“It was so young,” I offer, gazing wistfully at the dead doohickey.

“It’s a phone, dear,” my wife says flatly, and I’m suddenly pulled out of my living analogy.

You think I’m joking, you who haven’t dropped your baby yet. Just you wait. The Sprint Store (or insert your brand here store) is the new ER, the trauma center of the New Age. Specialists and technicians here are the new doctors and surgeons, making life-and-death decisions on your dropped, drowned, squashed, mashed, or chicken-fried doodad. It’s serious business.

I thought my daughter was going to suffer a nervous breakdown while we waited the—oh, God, three days!!—for the replacement doohickey to arrive.

I will admit, I eventually did get a cell phone myself, at my wife’s insistence. But I use it as a phone. Imagine that? I have never texted. I don’t know how to text, and if it rings while I’m driving, I just let it rumble away in my pants. There is some satisfaction in that.

It is beyond me, and will likely remain far beyond me until I’m a dead doohickey myself, how our kids live and breathe life through their iPhones. I was at a concert not long ago, and I actually saw a girl in the audience watching the concert on her doodad, streaming on the internet. You following me here? The band is RIGHT THERE, live and in spitting distance—and she’s looking down at her doodad!

I was tempted to pluck the foul thing from her hands and stomp it into the ground. But then I would have had to accompany her to the ER and start the process all over again.

“What happened here?”

“I squashed her baby.”

“I see…”

 


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