|RANT "N" RAVE|
Few would argue that the politeness and helpfulness of our Japanese hosts is mostly unparalleled. Imagine my disappointment, then, when in my hour of greatest need I was let down by the people I thought I could trust the most with my well-being - emergency services. While cycling in Kanagawa Prefecture last fall, I was hit almost head-on by a car. The impact sent me flying across the hood and into the asphalt on the other side face first (teeth second, knee third, shoulder fourth). The people in the car were genuinely concerned about my condition and immediately called an ambulance. Twenty-five minutes (and much blood loss) later, it arrived.
I hoped for a speedy trip to the hospital, but after being stabilized and having my pulse checked, I was subjected to a ten-minute debate by the medics as to which hospital they should take me to. While they debated, I watched a display of my heart rate reaching levels I doubt it could have reached had I pedaled nonstop up Fuji-san. It wasn"t even so much the trauma of the accident as the fear that one of my vital organs would give out before the wheels on the ambulance started rolling. "Ichiban chikai!" (The closest one!) I wanted to shout.
Unfortunately, once I arrived at the hospital nobody was in any hurry to remove the gravel from my face either. While waiting 30 minutes before being taken in for a CAT scan, I used a handkerchief given to me by the woman in the car that hit me to keep my blood from dripping on the shiny white tiles. (At least I can be certain it wasn"t used for blowing her nose.) Another wait followed the CAT scan and then it was time for a slew of X-rays. Only AFTER all this was completed was some attention directed to my face, but, amazingly, it still didn"t get a proper cleaning. I had visions of a scrubbing with wire brushes but only received a bit of topical ointment. A few bandages were wrapped about my face like a mummy, and I was sent on my way.
After being stared at like Quasimodo on the train home, I managed to somewhat properly clean my face. A few days later I felt well enough to make it to an English-speaking doctor, and I received all the treatment I couldn"t believe I didn"t receive at the hospital: a tetanus shot, a proper cleaning, and antibiotics. I will, however, never forget the doctor"s first words after inspecting me: "All we can do now is try to lessen the scarring."
I saw Death that day (He drives a black Toyota), and this time He blinked. I"m sure, however, that He had quite a laugh as my situation unfolded in a manner that seemed destined to produce scars that could leave only the yakuza as possible employers for me in this country.
Many thanks to Richard Cadra for this Rant.