The hospital looked like an old courthouse. A nurse in a long off-white coat, almost to the ground, received us, and we walked down an unlighted hallway to a large dirty room with many desks, with a doctor sitting behind each one. The room was filled with people who had come with the ill and injured patients. There were no curtains or privacy screens, just desks and doctors and families. The doctor smiled, shook my hand and asked the Chinese man where the accident happened. He asked Mrs. Liu, and she asked me. "Three miles north of the city limits," I replied. That was relayed from Mrs. Liu to the Chinese man who told the doctor.
"How did it happen?" Relay again, to the man, to Mrs. L and to me. "A woman knocked my bike over from the rear," I said, wondering why we didnít talk about the injury. That message and several others went to the doctor and back. Finally, "Where does it hurt?"
We discussed that back and forth. I noticed that all of the desks in the room were bare except that they had jars of some greenish gunk and blood pressure cuff devices. I pointed to several places where cinders were embedded. He took my blood pressure and unbuttoned my blouse. Suddenly he turned me around and threw my blouse up over my head to listen to my breathing from my back. I was embarrassed by all of those people staring at this American woman standing in her bra.
I mumbled and pointed to the embedded cinders. He opened a drawer and brought out a pen, notepad and three small envelopes. He put white pills in each envelope and sealed it with the greenish gunk from the messy jar. He gave the pills to Mrs. Liu, and I pointed to the embedded cinders one last time. No luck! Later Mrs. Liu told me that he said the cinders would work themselves out in a few days.
I was glad that we were about finished with this crowded room with dirty windows that probably hadnít been washed since the takeover in 1949! I decided the building might have been a library in the old days. I wondered what my bill would be and where Iíd pay and whether they would accept "tourist money" or would I have to change it to the old wrinkled bills of common peopleís money. Then the doctor turned to me.
He shook my hand and held it firmly as he smiled and said - in perfect California English - "Now Mrs. Gerard, I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit to our country, but do be careful." I was too surprised to reply. We stood in line outdoors while the Chinese interpreter paid the bill - the equivalent of 35 cents in U.S. change! My local doctor and I couldnít read a word of the report except that my blood pressure was 127 over 72.