In my previous post, I talked about having ‘one of those faces’. I meant one of those faces that makes people want to confide in you or trust you with information usually not divulged to strangers. Last year, between Christmas and New Year, my Dad was admitted into hospital as an emergency patient. He ended up having to stay overnight in a ward sharing with five other unfortunate men who were in hospital over the holidays.

Once we had established that he wasn’t in danger, but that they would need to keep him overnight for observation and the adrenaline of the emergency had worn off, it became easier to notice other things about our surroundings. For example, before he went up to the ward, in the intensive care section of the emergency room, he was on a bed that could only have been designed for someone about 2 feet shorter than him. Now my dad isn’t a giant, he is of average height. I must therefore assume that in the emergency room, the hospital staff feel that you will be more comfortable/easier to treat with your legs hanging off the edge of the bed from about mid-calf. Apart from the fact that Dad was also shirtless and sockless (which I don’t think my Dad has been, except for in the shower or swimming, since 1975), he was also under an air-conditioning vent which was spewing cold air despite the icy outside temperatures. Presumably the doctors get hot and sweaty whilst rushing from patient to patient, but seriously, any longer in that bed in that location, and they would have been breaking out the foil blankets. Finally, they moved him. I had gone home to get Dad some essentials – toothbrush, newspapers, medications, snacks, thermals etc.
When I got back, he was in his ward. He was in the bed by the window, and the guy opposite him was an extremely friendly man called Terry who had decided that he knew Dad from somewhere, and was trying to place him. My Dad kept telling him he usually lives in Greece, but to no avail. He kept calling out locations and times they could have met, with Dad denying ever having been there. We settled Dad for the night, and were summarily kicked out at the end of visiting hours by the scary looking nurse. We were told not to come back before 9:30am.

The next morning, we arrived to find Dad rested and already eating breakfast. He was wearing his hearing aids, which was surprising because he usually puts them in just before going to work. He explained it was because Terry had been talking to him all morning and he couldn’t hear him from across the ward. As the morning wore on, Terry and the surrounding patients started to notice us too. Terry – a mad Tottenham supporter (nobody’s perfect) had already asked me to let him know the score and we had had the required Arsenal vs Tottenham argument. At one point, the elderly man next to Dad, who had been sitting in the chair by his bed waiting for a wheelchair to come and take him back to his usual ward for about 3 hours, suddenly stood up and started looking around. Terry looked over.
“Sit down, you’ll fall” he called over to the man.
“I don’t want to sit down.” he answered.
“You’ll fall, sit down mate,” repeated Terry.
“I can’t sit down, the chair is cold.” he answered.
“Put your pillow on the chair, and it will be warmer and softer.”
He looked at his bed and I could see him calculating whether he would be able to reach the pillow without toppling over. I stood up and walked over to him.
“Do you need any help?” I asked.
“Yes dear, could you put the pillow onto my chair and help me sit down?”
I went over to his bed, took the pillow and put it underneath him getting as I did so a full on view of his bare backside. Then I helped him sit down, me holding onto him on one side and my Mum on the other.
And speaking of bare backsides, Terry’s equipment was on display the entire time we were there. I mean it was right at eye level as I was sitting next to Dad. I really felt like I knew Terry very well by the time Dad came home. As I walked down the ward to ask the nurse something, the guy in the middle bed opposite Dad put his arm up and said:
“Excuse me Miss”
I went over, assuming he wanted me to get a nurse or hand him something.
“Yes?”
“Could you steal a wheelchair and take me to the gift shop?”
I had heard him arguing with the nurses about the gift shop previously and they had all said that he wasn’t well enough to get down there.
“Sorry, no.” I said, “But I can go down to the gift shop and buy you whatever you need if you like.”
“No, it’s ok, I don’t have any cash, only my card.”
“Ok, sorry.” I said and went back to sit with Dad.
Ten minutes later he calls me over.
“Excuse me again, Miss”
I went over.
“You don’t look like the kind of person who would rob a sick man. Could I give you my card and you can go to the gift shop for me?”
“Sure, ok, what do you need?”
“I need two boxes of Roses chocolates, a litre of orange juice, 5 chocolate bars (a twix, a snickers, a mars, a bounty and a milky way) and two packets of milk chocolate digestives.” he said completely serious.
I paused.
“You’re not diabetic are you? You are allowed all these things, or am I going to send you into some sugar-induced coma?” I asked, imagining being responsible however inadvertently for this guy’s demise. Death by good deed is still death after all. He laughed.
“No, no it’s ok. It’s not all for me, and I won’t be able to get down to the shop for several days.”
“Ok,” I said, as he handed me his bank card. “What is your PIN number.”
He pulls out his phone and starts tapping in numbers in different formations to see what felt right.
“It’s 1279*,” he said “no wait – 1792. Yes, that’s it, 1792.”
I took his card and off I went.
I get downstairs, and start loading up the counter as if I had heard of an impending war or chocolate shortage. The man behind the counter looked at me with a disapproving look. I could tell he was totting up the calories I was purchasing and calculating how many of said calories would end up on my hips, and how many would end up elsewhere on my person. Finally I finished. He added it all up, told me it was £16.22 and I put the card in and typed in the PIN. INCORRECT PIN, the machine blinked at me. I looked up at the man and smiled, trying to look confident.
“I’m so sorry, it’s my husband’s card, and he is upstairs and unable to come down himself,” I lied. “I’ll just go upstairs and check with him again.”
I toddle off upstairs, ad approach the guy’s bed.
“You gave me the wrong PIN.” I told him, “Are you sure it’s 1792?”
“Wait 1792? No that’s not right, it’s 9217. He pulled out his phone again and pretended to tap it into the keyboard. “Yes, sorry, It’s 9217.”
I went back downstairs. The man heaved the bag of goodies onto the counter and handed me the card machine again. I pushed in the card, and tapped in 9217.
INCORRECT PIN. LAST ATTEMPT.
I gulped. “Wrong pin again, so sorry. I’ll just run up and check again.”
I dashed up the stairs arriving breathless at his bedside.
“You gave me the wrong PIN again,” I said. “The machine says last attempt. I feel like all kinds of criminal down there. Think, man, think! What is your PIN?!”
He looked really contrite.
“I am really sorry. I thought for sure that was the right number. I do have the money, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
He pressed a few numbers on his phone and showed me his bank balance. £122 or something.
“I am not worried you don’t have the money,” I said, “I am worried the guy is going to cut up your debit card and call the police in to deal with me!”
A look of extreme concentration crossed his face. He stared at his phone keypad. He tried a few combinations. Finally he spoke:
“7219,” he said with conviction. “7219 that’s it. I’ll write my mobile number down just in case it’s wrong and you get into trouble, just have the guy call me. Please get something for yourself too, I feel bad you’ve been up and down so many times.”
“Ok, 7219, thanks” I said, and went off to meet my doom.
By the time I reached the shop for the third time, I was sweating profusely, my palms slippery with it. The man was practically vibrating with excitement wondering if this was the time he was going to get to cut up a card. Along with the bag of calories and the card machine, he also had a large pair of scissors sitting on the counter in preparation. I smiled sheepishly.
“Ok, last attempt,” I said, “Let’s have a go.”
The man typed in the necessary info, handed me the machine and I stared at the keypad trepidatiously.
I pressed the numbers slowly and surely, my eyes darting around trying to gauge how long it would take me to reach the exits. When all four numbers were pressed, I press the Green Button….

PIN OK the machine practically smiled. I sagged with relief. I took the bag upstairs and handed it over along with the card and the telephone number.
“It worked,” I said, “Here’s your stuff.”
“Thanks so much,” he said, “but you didn’t get yourself anything!”
“It’s ok, I didn’t need anything.” I said. “Enjoy your chocolates.”

As I made my way back to my Dad who had been watching the exchange, no doubt wondering if this guy was single, I thought to myself that it is at once a curse and a blessing to be in possession of one of those faces, but more often than not, a blessing.

 

*Obviously, the PINs have been changed to protect the innocent.

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