A frantic businessman rushed into the emergency room, threw his attaché case on the reception desk, and exclaimed, “Nurse, I need help!”
The noise woke her up, and she said, “What?”
“This is an emergency!” he said.
“You’ll have to take your place in line,” she informed him.
“What line?” he replied, looking around. “The place is empty.”
“Oh,” she admitted, and held out her hand. “Can I have your insurance card?”
“Sure,” he said, “what’s that?”
“Proof that you have health insurance.”
“Oh, proof,” he said.
Just then a door flew open and a man was wheeled across the room on a table, accompanied by a doctor with a notepad.
“Relax,” the doctor told him. “It’s only a heart attack.”
“But I need help, now, or I could die,” the man informed him.
“Don’t be silly,” the doctor replied. “I already gave you aspirin. That increases survival rate by an average of 33.3%. Now, I have to ask you some questions. Up to four blood vessels in your heart may need replacement.”
“Your insurance only covers two. I need your permission to do the others.”
“OK, OK!” the man consented.
“Good,” the doctor acknowledged. “Now, would you like anesthesia?”
“Of course,” the patient said.
“Excellent,” the surgeon went on. “Your policy is vague on that. Now, when I’m done with the bypass, would you like me to sew you back up?”
“What!?” the patient needed to know.
“Your insurance only covers the incision,” the doctor informed him.
At that point, the patient was wheeled off through the other door.
The businessman turned his attention back to the night nurse. “Nurse! I can't wait all day. I have appointments to keep!”
“Maybe you should come back later,” she let him know.
“I would, if I could,” he told her. “But that's my problem. I can't remember what my appointments are.”
“It’s terrible, just terrible,” he nearly cried. “I lost my memory!”
“Oh,” she noted, and handed him a form on a clipboard. “First, you have to fill this out.”
He looked it over, and said, “I’m in deep trouble.”
“Is there a problem?” the nurse asked.
“You want to know things like my name, my address, and my phone number! How can I tell you stuff like that when I lost my memory?”
“I'm sorry, sir. Everyone has to fill one of these out. If you can't do it yourself, you'll have to have a family member or friend do it for you.”
“But, nurse,” he explained, “if I could remember who my family and friends are, I'd still have my memory.”
“I'm sorry,” she insisted, “rules are rules.”
Just then a cute young wife hurried in, pulling her husband along. He seemed to be in pain and held a small paper bag.
“Excuse me,” she told the businessman, and addressed the nurse. “This is an emergency!”
“Oh,” the nurse said.
“We have to see a doctor right away,” the man added through his apparent agony.
“I’ll be with you in a minute,” the nurse responded.
“I don't have a minute!” the man replied.
“We have to see a doctor now!” the wife told her.
“Everybody does,” the businessman observed, obviously getting into the swing of things. Then, as if to himself, he lamented, “Oh, I used to have such a great memory! I mean, I could never recite The Iliad or anything like that. But, as least, I could remember my name and address!”
“You don't understand, nurse,” the wife pressed on. “There's not a second to spare!”
“What's seems to be the problem?” the nurse asked.
“We had an argument,” the man sighed, and nearly fainted.
“I love him,” the wife said. “You have to believe I love him. And I'm sorry. But–“
“– What?” asked the nurse.
The man pointed to the bag, and said, “She cut off my navel.”
“Your navel?” the nurse inquired, and turned to the wife. “Why that part?”
"She said, 'I wish you were never born,'" the husband told her. “Then she whacked it off.”
“Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry,” his wife said, consoling him with a pat or two.
“I need somebody to sew it back on before it's too late,” the man said.
The nurse gave his wife a clipboard with a form on it. “Fill out this paper and have a seat.”
“We don't have time for that!” she screeched.
“My navel is dying, dying with every passing moment!” the man wailed.
“And how would you like to be married to a man without a navel?” the wife begged to know.
“A doctor will be with you shortly,” the nurse replied.
“Come on, darling. I'll fill it out,” the wife said, leading her husband by his free hand.
They took a seat, and, dutiful wife that she was, she began to fill in the information.
The businessman observed them with an increasingly crazed expression, and told himself, “I've got to remember something, anything, even if it’s just something general. Plato said something. I know he did. Ah, that’s it! 'You become what you do.' Hey, maybe I'm a classical scholar. No, no – I have too many appointments for that. Maybe I'm a philosophy major who went into business. Oh, I don’t know, I just don’t know!” he admitted, and turned to the nurse. “I have to see a doctor, now!”
“Is your form filled out?”
“Here,” he said, and handed it to her.
“It's blank,” she informed him.
“That's the point!” he shouted. “It's blank, I'm blank! Get it! I lost my memory.”
“Don't you have a wallet?”
“You must have some I. D. in it,” she explained.
“Hey, why didn't I think of that?” he said, and took out his wallet.
At that moment, an intern who seemed not to have anything to do for a split second, entered the waiting area. “Who's next?” he dared to ask the nurse.
The businessman held up his wallet and was about to speak, when the wife rushed up with her pained husband in tow, hand with clipboard extended.
“We are! We are, doctor!” she claimed.
“She cut off my navel,” the man told the doctor, in an effort to claim precedence.
“Your navel?” the doctor asked, and said, “That's really serious.” Then he turned to the nurse, “But who's next?”
The nurse pointed to the businessman. “But he hasn’t filled out his form yet.”
“That's all right,” the doctor said, and turned to him. “You can finish it while we're talking.”
Feeling a pang of fellow feeling, the businessman replied, “No, no, doctor – I can wait. I only lost my memory. On the other hand, he–“
“– lost my navel,” the husband interrupted.
“All right,” the doctor conceded, turning to the husband and wife. “Come with me.”
“Oh, thank you!” the wife told the businessman.
“Now, tell me,” the doctor asked the husband, as the couple followed him, “how did you lose your navel?”
“She cut it off,” the husband groaned.
“Family spat?” the doctor queried.
“You could say that,” the man answered.
“I said I'm sorry, didn't I?” the wife retold him.
When they had disappeared behind the swinging door, the businessman began to fill out his form, referring to the cards he felt fortunate to find in his wallet. “Name, address,” he mumbled to himself. “It must be me because it’s my wallet. But what about my appointments? And my wife's name, if I have a wife? I can't go home without knowing that!”
As he toiled, another intern entered.
“Next,” the nurse said, pointing at the businessman.
“Oh, thank you,” he told her.
“What seems to be the problem?” the intern asked.
“I lost my memory.”
“Sorry about that,” the intern said. “How did it happen – a traumatic emotional event, a knock in the head, something you ate?”
“No, no, nothing like that,” the businessman said, taking his PDA out of his attaché case. “You see, I keep everything in my electronic organizer. At first, it was a convenience. Then, over time, I became dependent on it. My own memory withered from disuse. Finally, I couldn't remember anything without it. Nothing. Zip. Then today, it happened.”
“What?” the doctor asked.
“The worst possible thing. The battery died.”
“Oh, my,” the doctor admitted. “That’s serious. I better take notes.”
He removed a PDA from his pocket and motioned for the businessman to follow him.
As they walked toward the swinging door, he asked, “Now, tell me, when did you first notice the problem?”