I'm killing time. Sitting in the ante-room of a Chilean accident and emergency department. They call the patients through using a tannoy system. Like every example of the breed, this one is equally incomprehensible. The next component for raising a blood pressure. Fortunately the Forager's name, with it's full Sunday version is sufficiently different from those previously called, sufficiently unusual, that it's enunciated slowly. When we first dated back in the age of slide rules, I was warned never to use a diminutive of her given name, and now I hear it being broadcast to all. The 's' is always swallowed. Triage ask the questions and take the reading. A meaningless blood pressure reading. It's well known in our local surgery that the sight of a pressure cuff sends the Navigator's bp score to the stratosphere. I hear her trying to reassure them as to what's normal. Then they cart her off. I'm presented with a bill and told to go and pay. One of multiple digits.....
We left our pitched campsite, the sun was breaking over the mountains, had complimented ourselves on the short break we'd had. Speculated on what lay ahead, looking forward to an ocean sat to starboard. Cycled just one kilometre when she caught her rear pannier on a surveyor's post, ending up sprawled across the road. The army bus coming from the rear stopped in time, the corporal climbed down, picked her from the asphalt, she declared that there was no problem and they moved on. Then the shock, the pain, the swelling sets in. Walked very slowly back to the site, pitched tent and hired a taxi to this corridor. Taxis don't give change.
We even had the presence of mind to collect up all our insurance documents, supposing that a credit card would be the most important for the moment. They don't take cards, cash only. Just glad they're not measuring my pressure. I wait some more.....the clock on the TV scrolls through the next hour, as an overendowed hostess discusses the attire of the underdressed celebs walking the red carpet for some award ceremony. The style is called 'Classico y tranquilo', I call it 'near naked'.
The doctor comes to find me.....elbow broken in two places......suddenly...... there's a different adventure.
Slowly we edge through the process.... A transfer to a private clinic, as internationals we'll be paying, and anyway there's no spare beds.....they need to operate, to place a metal pin.....tomorrow evening....
At the Clinica...comes the next pressure point....they don't recognise the insurance company; frankly no surprise there, but will the bank recognise this card?.....second very prolonged attempt.....success....., the tab has seven digits. I don't even try to convert.....chipped and pinned, barcoded and finger printed, now we make our way to the fifth floor.....to be screwed and plated.
And a view from the small ward room.......out over the Pacific. Body boarders, parapenters, fishermen, and a cormorant's eye view into it's nest. Three full grown chicks in a nest wedged into the axil of a lamp standard. The corrosive droppings eating a Humvee's bonnet paintwork.
All those cycled miles, all the potential disasters that you can never know about because they never happened, that were a few moments behind or because we were in the right place at the right time. Now the laws of averages have caught up with us. And yet the 'what if...?' kicks in. We aren't solo travelers. We weren't on an Andean mountaintop, halfway down a bear-infested, truckless road, stuck cashless, bankless in the outback, nor crashed out in the middle of the USA's mass-transit desert.
If you must, do the deed, do it in a place that's within walking distance of a quality hospital, it helps with shoe leather and stress management. Do it close to a bus route, helps with the eventual escape. Do it where it's warm, helps with the recovery period. Better still, don't do it.
This evening, I'm sitting in a hard hospital chair, up in her grand circle, watching a soft mellow sun set right into the sea, as a finger nail new moon follows it down. One adventure is put on hold, time for a new one.