This is the story of a recent trip to the emergency room where I arrived, unfortunately, without a large harpoon imbedded in my chest.
I say "unfortunately" because if you arrive in the ER with a large harpoon imbedded in your chest, there is at least a chance that you'll be treated within the next several hours and sent on your way -- assuming you can get very far with that sort of injury.
Otherwise, the odds are that you'll languish in a stiff-backed plastic chair for a long time, moaning and thumbing through an old People profile of Cher until a bored nurse calls your name.
To tell you the truth, I wasn't even the one who was hurt on this visit to the ER.
What happened was, we had just sat down to eat at this cookout. And everything was going along fine until this woman started screaming in my ear.
I thought she just didn't like the anchovies in the salad.
But it turned out a bee had stung her on the side of the face. And within seconds, she looked like she'd gone 10 rounds with George Foreman.
She didn't take it very well. Then again, neither did I.
I don't know if you've ever tried to eat barbecued beef with someone screaming in your ear, but it's not a pleasant experience.
I couldn't even get to the horseradish, the woman was carrying on so much. And taking a sip of beer was out of the question, too, with the way she was digging her fingernails into my arm.
Finally some do-gooder suggested taking her to the emergency room. And I was elected to drive. Just because she was my wife.
All I can say is, wait until the killer bees make it up this way. She'll have to leave the country, go to someplace like Sweden. I don't know how we'll break that to the kids.
When we arrived in the ER, a nurse looked up from her Danielle Steele novel long enough to say: "Fill out these forms."
As gently as possible, I tried to point out that my wife's left eye was now swollen shut, and the other eye was closing fast.
"So unless the forms come in Braille," I said, "I don't see how . . ."
"Then you fill them out," the nurse barked.
Mentally I made a note to call the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It was important that they know we may have found Adolf Eichmann's sister.
(Incidentally, there is nothing more uplifting than being healthy in a hospital emergency room. All around me people were moaning and crying out in pain. And here my major concern was getting change for the soda machine.
(I'm telling you, it was all I could do to keep from whistling in front of those people.)
Once the forms were filled out, we took a seat in the stiff-backed plastic chairs and began sizing up the competition.
There was a man clutching what appeared to be a broken arm. There was a teen-age girl who had apparently cut herself across the hand with a kitchen knife. There was a kid with a sprained ankle and various other minor injuries.
Luckily, there wasn't one gaping gunshot wound in the bunch.
"Hell, we should beat out that sissy who cut herself with the knife," I whispered. "She's not even bleeding anymore. I'D take us first, if I was a doctor."
Needless to say, it would be Christmas before the kid with the sprained ankle was treated.
So we settled back to wait. As my wife gazed listlessly at the TV overhead, I grabbed a People and hunkered down with another riveting puff piece on Brooke Shields, the strange young actress and Michael Jackson confidante.
Time dragged on. I remember drifting in and out of consciousness, although that is a perfectly normal reaction when one is reading People.
I was also starting to get edgy from sitting in one place. Plus my wife's soft whimpering was driving me nuts.
"Why couldn't you have a better injury?" I snapped at one point. "If you'd only ridden your bicycle over a cliff or been attacked by a Rottweiler, we'd be out of here by now. All you think about is yourself!"
I guess it was a couple of hours later when Nurse Eichmann finally looked up from her novel and called our name.
My wife was ushered into the examining room. There she was treated by an earnest young intern who informed her that, in the future, it might be a good idea to stay away from bees.
By then I was slogging through my fifth People and an absolutely numbing profile of Robin Leach, shuddering through each page with thoughts of that annoying voice.
So don't talk to me about suffering.