I don’t remember exactly how many times I’ve been to a hospital Emergency Room, but I’m sure this is the first time the directions included the phrase “go past the bar.”
But then again, I’ve never been in an Italian hospital before.
If I have to visit a Pronto Soccorso, better it be for something as minor as a blocked ear. Though it was mightily annoying, I knew it wasn’t serious. Having suffered and earache in air before, and considering that I was less than a week away from flying home, I concluded that I had better take care of my ear now.
Paul had already gone home, so I was on my own for this little adventure. Wishing for the zillionth time that I had worked harder on my Italian, and doubting my lousy Italian’s ability to withstand the stress of an ER, I made a cheat sheet of handy words. Steeling myself for battle (and a long wait), I mounted those stairs.
There were 9 or 10 people, including a couple of elderly women in wheelchairs, near the registration / triage window. When my turn finally came, I described my admittedly minor problem, filled out forms, and waited. I settled in for a long wait, appreciating that I was a low priority.
Before long, “SMEETH-AH” (Italian for “Smith”) blared out the PA system. I was buzzed through the doors to a common room with orange plastic-sheeted gurneys lining the walls. One of the elderly women, still in her wheelchair, sat near one of them.
A doctor at a computer called me to his desk. I remained standing as he got up and looked in my ear and said, “yes, I see” in Italian. I pulled out the ear drops that a pharmacist had recommended and the doctor’s eyes lit up. “Yes! Yes! Use them three times a day and come back on Monday after 8 a.m.,” he said as he returned to the computer.
Then came one of those familiar, awkward moments when I didn’t know what was going on. Was I supposed to wait? Was he typing something that I would take with me? Did he even know I was still there? The answer soon became evident when he looked up and essentially shooed me away.
When I returned on Monday for my follow-up, this time the Pronto Soccorso was empty. The registrar had me fill out the same form and she created a file that looked exactly like the one her colleague had made two days earlier. But this time I was sent downstairs to the ambulatory ENT office.
And there the miracle worker cleared my ear and made me very happy. I would have skipped all the way home, but he gave me a form and told me to return it to the ER. No one was at the window and, doubting that paperwork qualified as an emergency, I hesitated to buzz for attention. When the registrar finally appeared, she took my form and told me to wait.
At least I had a nice view, as this wait was the longest (and, to be fair, still not all that long) so far.
I finally heard “SMEETH-AH” called, and a nice man brought some forms for me to sign and explained that I would receive a bill in the mail. Only as I was leaving did I see what the charge will be: €25 (about $26).
Cleared ear: €25. Experience: Priceless.