When Maureen and I went anywhere she would see someone smoking and she would launch into the fact that she had contracted pnuemonia when she was studying Japanese in Tokyo and anyone smoking - be it within ten feet or a football field away - irritated her now asthmatic system. For example, when we walked into the school cafeteria the other day immediately she was put off and told me:
"Look at that! Can you believe it?"
I, however, was thinking of dumplings and tea soaked eggs so I did not notice the man 40 feet or so away and I replied:
"Look at what?"
I squinted and looked. I feel I have as good a set of eyes as the next person. I have never had to wear glasses. A friend who is an optometrist told me once I might have to wear reading glasses someday in the distant future. When I squinted, I saw a man sitting at a table at the other end of the cafeteria and at that point Maureen fills in the blank.
And, I think 'whatever.'
"He's smoking in a cafeteria around students. Can you believe it?"
Yes, I can believe it and furthermore it is none of our beeswax because we are ambassadors of sorts in another culture. I am such a good ambassador that I have taken up smoking in solidarity to the cafeteria workers around the People's Republic!
Well, the next thing I know, I have to sub for Maureen because she is in the hospital on the drip and I feel really guilty because I thought she was such a hypochondriac. I relate this whole story to Jennifer. I tell her that I thought Maureen's illness was psychosomatic and now she was on an IV in the hospital and I am yammering. Jennifer then tells me that Maureen will have quite a shock because the staff and the patients definitely smoke in the hospital.
This shocked even me.
"They smoke in the hospital?!"
"Yeah, when I took my sister, there were people on IVs smoking and the staff was smoking."
"You have got to be kidding"
"I am not kidding," Jennifer replied and then added "She is going to be in for a big surprise."
Later that night, Jessie, an assistant in the office who had escorted Maureen to the hospital, told me that Maureen was back at her apartment. I was confused and amazed.
"She is already out of the hospital?"
"Well, then I will go by her apartment to see if she needs me to go get her dinner."
"She is probably hungry," Jessie informed me.
"I had the students do Get Well cards for her anyway, so I will give them to her."
I went to Maureen's apartment expecting to see the angel of death with her. I lightly knocked on her door. To my surprise, she opened the door and invited me in and looked quite spry for someone who I thought was on a first name basis with the grim reaper.
She then explained:
"Oh, yes, where I am from in Australia if you are put on the drip that means that you are very ill indeed. Here they put everyone on the drip. Patients around me were eating crisps and drinking sodas while they were on the drip. It was like at the school cafeteria. It was a madhouse. They had babies on the drip. The babies they stuck the needle in their forehead so I heard quite a few crying babies today. It was mad! Did I tell you about the man next to me?"
"Was he smoking?"
'No, No, he wasn't that would have been the end!" she said with exasperation. "He tapped my arm and pointed to, I thought, the ceiling. I did not know where he was pointing. At first, I thought he was just being fresh. I finally realized he was pointing at my IV bottle"
"Your IV bottle?"
"Yes, I looked and there was somehing floating in it."
"Like a fly?"
"No, more like a spec of something. At that point I rang the nurse."
"Yes. " Maureen continued, "Of course the nurse tried to explain exactly what the spec in my IV was but of course I had no idea what she was saying. I was finally able to stop her by giving her the word 'CUT' in sign language."
"What happened next?"
"She took that IV bottle away and went on with the next bottle that I was to have. I would not wish this birdflu on anyone!"