Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Angel in Plaid

A few weeks ago I got a form in the mail from the new regional colon cancer screening clinic. This being Canada, and having universal health care and all that, the government is working to reduce the incidence of colon cancer. This means an occult blood stool test every year, and beginning at age 50 a colonoscopy every five years.

Of course, having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome I am not a candidate for the rubber scope up the innards, because my insides are fragile and easily punctured. But checking with my doctor she said this clinic also does the "virtual" colonoscopy, no scoping involved. However after doing little reading on that I realized I am no more a candidate for it than I am the other, as both involve fasting with only clear fluids for 72 hours, and I take medications which absolutely cannot be taken on an empty stomach. Can't go without the meds either. However, I've been doing occult blood screens since the early 1990s and they have always been normal. No family history of cancer, no risky behaviours like smoking or drinking.

But at any rate I am a "difficult" enough patient to care for that I do not want to be seen as non-compliant so yesterday I put myself together and drove the 15 or so kilometres across town through traffic to the hospital complex where the clinic is located.

The directions that came with the package said that parking must be paid for on entry in change or by credit card. You are then assigned a stall number you must use and that each half hour costs $2.25. They said pay for at least two hours of parking.

I memorized the complex map, and found my way into the parkade. The paybox was blocked off and a hand-lettered sign said, "Pay at elevator". So in I went and luckily parked in the handicapped stall right outside the elevator entry door.

As I entered a bearded man in a plaid shirt and suspenders followed me in. There was a machine, something like a gigantic and over-important parking meter, about 10 feet inside the door. There was an elderly couple standing in front of it, looking at it in total bewilderment. "I think you… No, first you… but do you press this one or that one?"
Typical Hutterite Couple

Anywhere else a bearded man in a plaid shirt might be a biker, in this part of the world he's an Angel in disguise who goes by the generic name of "Hutterite".  The Hutterites are a communal branch of Anabaptists who trace their roots to the Reformation of the 16th century. Their founder Jakob Hutter (who died in 1536) established the tenents of their faith including living in community and sharing goods equally and absolute pacifism. Most Hutterites today live in Western Canada in communities of 60-80 families and farm communally. I see them in the WalMart every time I go. They still speak Old German as their "home" language and dress very distinctly.

Based on my experiences with them they are a warm-hearted and generous people, and this Angel was to prove no exception. He stepped up beside the older couple and asked if they needed help. They admitted they could make neither heads nor tails of the machine.

"Here," the Angel said, with a faint German accent,"I'll walk you through it. What stall are you in?" And in 30 seconds they were on their way.

Meanwhile I had dug my change out and was trying to calculate how much I needed to put in for two and a half hours, which turned out to be $11.50. I looked at the machine. The directions were unclear. Did you put stall number in first or time desired? Did you punch in time desired and then add money?

"Ach, sweetheart," he said (Hutterite men say they are lovers, not fighters. Most have 15 rosy-cheeked children and plump satisfied-looking wives.) The "sweetheart" was not patronizing or flirtatious, it was an endearment which fell easily from his lips as it would have on a daughter, auntie or grandmother. "This machine baffles everyone the first few times. Let me help you."

He walked me through it. "We put first in your stall number 1-1-5, then we say for how long you want to stay."

I told him two and a half hours. "Ya, we put it in, 2-3-0. Okay. See there, on the screen? It says put in $11.50."

So, I put in five toonies ($2.00 coins) a loonie (a $1.00 coin) and two quarters. He pushed the button. "And your receipt comes out here." He reached into the slot, and there's no receipt. He pushed the cancel button. Nothing happened. He repeated the steps. No receipt.

"Not a problem," he said. "It works better with the credit card." It was out of his wallet and into the machine before I finished my protest. He handed me the receipt.

I dove into my purse. "No," he said. "It is my pleasure to help."

I located cash enough to repay him, (the machine does not take bills) and thanked him profusely. "You can help someone else with this." I told him. You are my angel today." 

He just smiled. He helped me find the elevator I needed in the banks of elevators along the hallway, and we parted when he got off at his floor. 

Was my afternoon a total waste of time? I spent four hours of time and energy and accomplished nothing, plus I spent $23.00 for 15 minutes parking. Or I can look at from another viewpoint and say I was in the right place at the right time to meet an Angel yesterday. What a privilege.


Linda P. said...

Our small town was ravaged by wildfires a couple of years ago, with almost 1700 homes destroyed. Mennonites, another Anabaptist community, have traveled from across the United States to help some of the uninsured rebuild.

oklhdan said...

What a great story!!!#