Pissing On The Floor At Starbucks

Here’s a little something different:

The husband and wife had driven down again from Maine to meet their broker at nine that morning to look at the condominium they were slated to buy later that winter in Boston. This time they came to follow around a property inspector who had the job of telling them what was wrong with the place. The inspector walked slowly in and out of each room with a Samsung tablet computer, preloaded with some sort of inspection report template and checked a lot of boxes. He made a few comments, also pre-written for his convenience, and after a little over an hour, charged them 469 dollars for his services. So far so good, their new home-to-be was, he said, in pretty good shape.

After this expensive lesson in big city price gouging, the couple and the broker headed down the steep street to the bottom of the hill for coffee at Starbucks. Outside the coffee shop the broker left them saying she had too much work waiting for her at the office. The couple went in and while the wife secured a couple of seats at the long communal table, the husband bought a medium dark roast and a small mocha with no whipped cream, throwing in a New York Times for good measure.

Right after he returned with the drinks and paper it happened. First, there was a sudden stiffness in his shoulder muscles followed by a fast spreading overall weakness. His head slumped slowly forward and a terrible headache filled his skull with a crushing pain making it hard to think or even keep his eyes open. He started to sweat profusely soaking through his shirt and sweater in a matter of a few minutes and his bladder let go allowing urine to run down his legs and drip onto the floor below the table.

His wife sitting across from him noticed all this of course and tried calmly to persuade him to leave Starbucks and get help. The small puddle of liquid on the floor next to his right leg she first thought was from somebody’s wet boots but immediately realized it was sunny outside. She said later told him she hoped it wasn’t what she was pretty sure it was. 

Whether because of a macho attitude or just not being able to think clearly, he refused moving. “Let me just rest for a while”, he kept saying.

Most customers at their table pretended not to notice what was happening, but the polite young man seated almost directly across from the husband asked the wife if there was anything he could do. As the old man slumped over with his head resting on this hands on top of the table, he slowly began to realize he couldn’t stay that way forever and he really did need somehow to leave Starbucks and get help.

His wife, for what seemed like hours to her, had been softly saying they should go to a hospital nearby where their family doctor had his office, but how to get there was the problem. They had parked their car in a garage nearby and it was doubtful he could walk far enough to get to it. An ambulance was an increasing probability if things kept on much longer. She got up and started to go outside to see if she could get a cab. The concerned young man at their table asked if he could help. She thanked him but said no she didn’t think so.

The husband watched his wife standing on the corner with her arm in the air waving at passing cabs and remembered they also had the new transportation service Uber on their cell phones. He asked the man next to him if he could get his wife to come back in. He went outside to relay the request and she returned. With a few taps they quickly summoned what turned out to be a black Chevy SUV with a helpful competent driver who took them to the hospital by the shortest possible route. The first positive thing in the last hour.

As they were driving the husband began to notice how hot and wet he felt and took off his damp sweater to see if the cooler air inside the car would help his sweating. That felt nice until they reached the hospital and had to get out into a brisk wind, whereupon his damp clothes quickly chilled him to the bone as they slowly went the few feet to the door of the hospital, him leaning heavily on her shoulders.

Their doctor, a college classmate of the husband, was compitant, brusk and funny as he pushed a cotton swab forcefully up the husband’s nose and quickly diagnosed his problem as the onset of flu. “It hits you almost instantly and it’s like a freight train”, he said. “The flue shot you got this year doesn’t really protect you against this strain.” 

Seeing the man’s soaked underpants, he left and returned with some disposable diapers for him to wear on their way home. The two men traded rude remarks as the doctor struggled to get the diapers to fit and the couple left shortly after that with a prescription for Tamaflu and a gruff farewell of “Get out of here!” from the doctor as he returned to the little Chrismas party his staff was having.

And so she drove them the four hours back to their home in Maine. At first the husband was sure he would throw up sometime during the trip and prepared for that by putting the small wastebasket they carried in the car up front between his legs. He found that if he lowered the seat back and held on to its top with his arms over his head the nausea wasn’t quite so bad. 

She was hungry and stopped at a McDonalds to grab a quarter pounder, some fries and a coke. She wanted him to at least take a sip of the coke but he was sure it would make him sick and refused. She quickly ate her meal in a parking lot space that fronted on the overcrowded highway. Cars passed fifteen yards in front of their windshield at sixty miles an hour. He felt sick from the fatty burger smell that filled car but didn’t throw up.

Gradually as they drove north he began to feel better and when they got to Bath she stopped at the CVS pharmacy there to get the prescribed Tamaflu. He immediately took a pill. By the time they arrived home it was dark outside, he was feeling much better and their locked-in cat was very glad to see them.

Two and a half months later the husband died of a massive stroke while still in an ambulance racing to get him to the emergency ward of an understaffed and, for the moment, unaccredited local hospital. The lawyers had a field day drawing and redrawing the necessary documents to enable his widow to buy the apartment by herself. 

The cat hated being inside all day and had to be put up for adoption.

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