11-7-49

I know my date of birth. I mean, I’m almost positive now.

I checked into a local healthcare facility and the first thing they asked me was the date of my birth. This was obviously very important. I was shaking, I had a fever, sweating through my shorts and having trouble with balance as a clung to the ledge of the receptionist’s desk, but above all, I had to get my birth date correct.

“Eleven-seven-forty-nine,” I mumbled.

“That’s November?”

“Eleven. That’s November. And forty-nine is forty-nine. Could I get in quick?”

I shuffled back to the holding pen.. “What’s your date of birth?”

I assumed that the fever was causing me to hear double. “Eleven-seven-forty-nine.”

“Eleven-seven-forty-nine?”

I sat down. “I’m really woozy. I need to sit.”

Then came the perfunctory round of blood pressure, thermometers and computer clicking. I guess this was some sort of triage. I thought I’d been talking to a doctor for the past ten minutes then she said, “The doctor will be right in.”

My shoes were older than the handsome young fellow who walked in wearing the obligatory white coat.  He was obviously fresh out of med school since he only had one pen in his pocket. “Mr. Bradbury?” He had the right patient. A very good sign. “What’s your date of birth?”

Was the movie called Groundhog’s Day….the film where Bill Murray was forced to relive the same day again and again? “Eleven-seven-forty-nine.” He nodded as if I’d answered the question correctly and would therefore be eligible for a new toaster. Before I could ask him when he was born he ordered up a chest x-ray and an EKG. The burly radium-filled man came to get me and before I could have an Instagram taken of my innards he asked me when I was born. I told him.

Then back to the holding cell where the EKG machine was waiting to pull the hair off my chest. The nurse was a sweetheart. “How are you feeling?” How do you answer that in a doctor’s office? “Uh…not good.” “Well,” she said, “we’ll see what we can find.  What’s your date of birth?”

“Eleven-something-forty-nine…maybe. I think.”

“Excuse me?”

“November 7th, 1949. Same birthday as Billy Graham but don’t write that down. He’s in worse shape than I am.”  She thought I was being funny. I wasn’t. I was simply trying to make sense of this birthday orgy.

“We’re sending you to the Passavant ER.”

“ER? Isn’t that for emergencies?”

“You need further tests.”

Passavant Hospital’s single best selling point, the one that sets it aside from all other medical facilities including the Mayo Clinic, is Calvin Foreman, the fellow who wheels people in and out of the ER. The guy wakes up with a smile on his face and laughter in his heart, and I think that many patients are cured before they reach the reception desk. Cal insisted that I be wheel-chaired in and although I didn’t need the lift, it gave me a few more minutes with this most joyous of souls. As he steered me toward the front desk I said, “Cal, don’t you even care when I was born?” He laughed and said he didn’t.

“Mr. Bradbury. We have your paperwork already. What’s your date of birth?”

Apparently they didn’t have quite all of my paperwork. In less than a minute I was shuffled to one of the examination rooms where the questions got really tough. “What’s your date of birth?” I had it memorized by now. “Eleven-seven-forty-nine.” Twice more I was asked my birthday by the variously sterilized folks who came to attend to me. I was beginning to think that someone was planning a party.

Six hours later I was out the door with a prescription in hand, ready to drive home and simply crash for a couple of years. Only one more stop, the Shopko pharmacy. I like these folks. If you’re sick they truly seem to care. The line was relatively short and I knew the folks waiting on the benches. Before long the lady behind the counter called my name and I swiped my debit card. “Could I have your date of birth?”

It had been a long day. I simply showed her the back of my hand where I’d written the date with permanent marker. People shouldn’t leave their pens laying around the ER.

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About the author

Ken Bradbury is an adjunct instructor of theatre at LLLC after retiring from Triopia. He entertains on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat and is the author of over 300 published plays. Website: creativeideas.com

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