If you are feeling bad and want to feel a lot worse, I recommend a trip to your local government hospital.
Don’t get me wrong: I would be very pleased to be there if I was in serious pain or at death’s door but I’m not. I’m here for something rather mundane. Thankfully.
Also I’m a big fan of national health services. No country can be called civilized which lacks a free and freely available health service. And the people who work there are by and large good people. Doing a good job under trying circumstances.
But if you feel neither ill nor depressed you are sure to feel one or the other as you enter those dire portals.
It’s not quite “Arbeit Macht Frei”. Perhaps just “Abandon Hope all ye who Enter Here”.
Almost everyone looks grim. Or just plain bloody awful. Perhaps it’s the long wait which exaggerates all this. Whichever department you wait in, you will be surrounded by the damned. Aged old birds with dementia dribbling on the floor or worse; sometimes much worse. Or hopeless old men with lost, watery eyes and pale, sickly demeanor which marks them out for imminent decline and fall.
To complete my gloom this morning some old love had incontinence and the waiting room floor bore testimony to her condition. Right in front of the only unoccupied seat.
I am reminded, as always on such visits, of Jean Paul Sartre and Huis Clos in particular. There we all are. No way out. And the realization slowly dawns that we are all dead. Or soon will be. Three damned souls are brought to the same waiting room in Hell and locked inside by a mysterious valet, trapped there forever.
And then, lo! Sunshine suddenly burst through the grimy, unwashed n-th floor windows and my name was called, my number was up. In a manner of speaking.
Salvation had arrived in the form of the lovely Danielle, an exceptionally attractive young Australian doctor from Sydney. The clouds were lifted, rent even by her lovely young smile and the optimism of her glorious youth.
Even the spirits of a curmudgeonly old misery can be lifted in such circumstances. Even in Huis Clos. Long live youth, may it last forever.