When A White Guy Walks into A Waiting Room
The madness begins
Sunday evening, I took my daughter to the emergency room at Baylor hospital. We went there for help with her severe dehydration, after she wasn't able to keep anything down for over 12 hours. This was also having a negative impact on her blood glucose levels. She's a type-1 diabetic.
Before you feel too bad for her, it was her own decision to eat hamburger pizza that she left out all night and part of the next day. It was also her choice to eat a freshly baked, two-week-old cookie that she hid in her room.
Waiting room blues
During my daughter's intake interview with the triage nurse, a middle-aged man forced his car to a grinding halt just outside the emergency room doors. He then jumped out of his enormous Ford truck and screamed, “I need help for my daughter and I need it now!” I wasn't surprised by this, especially since it’s an emergency room; pretty much everyone there needed help. After spotting a nurse at the desk, he stopped her from talking to my daughter, and ordered her to attend to his daughter. He provided the nurse with the details of her “home diagnosis” and her intestinal valve blockage due to pregnancy.
No one within earshot knew what that meant. To the credit of the attending nurse, despite his discourteous behavior, she said “I’m gon call someone to come help you right now, ok suga?” After three entire minutes, no one had come and the guy was visibly and audibly frustrated. Strutting and stomping the entire length of the waiting area, we were all forced to listen to him berate the nurses and the hospital staff.
We were all advised that every patient room in the ER was full and that there would be a wait. Patients with barely attached limbs caused by car accidents were the priority. If you were not bleeding or otherwise dismantled, you would have to wait your turn. You know, triage…
Calmly, the nurse explained, again, nobody was available to help him get the patient out of the car. “Bubba” found a wheelchair and got his daughter out of the pick-up. She wailed with the intensity of a person on fire. Still, no nurses have arrived.
Don’t you know who I am?
He went around to the ER doors and tried to get through, shaking them. No luck “Bubba.” They took her info, and sent her back out to the waiting room.
“Bubba” was like, fuck this, and called 911. In came a security guy, and wanted to talk. Satisfied with “Bubba’s” story, the security guard walked away. “Bubba” was still not for the song and dance going on in the ER. His daughter told him she was feeling sick. “Bubba” told her to “just throw up on the floor, they aren’t helping us anyway.”
During this madness, his truck remained right in front of the ER doors. No ticket given, no request to have it moved. No ambulance arrived. 911 didn’t understand why “Bubba” was calling from the ER, requesting an ambulance to take him to a different ER. Imagine that.
“Bubba’s” privilege had successfully impeded the progress of my daughter’s treatment.
All the disturbance he created prevented the head staff nurse from starting an IV for my severely dehydrated child. She'd left to contend with security and soothe this irate father. I could not believe his arrogance. I understand the concern that a father has for his child, believe me I do. After all, I was there for the same reason.
Everyone in that ER had the same thing on their minds but got in line, except “Bubba.” After having time to review the details of the day, I realized that there were three phenomena that lead to the disparate treatment we received:
The confidence and entitlement “Bubba” had learned in his lifetime gave him license to act with unmitigated gall during his emergency.
His attitude convinced all the non-white female hospital staff that attending to his demands outweighed their procedural training and good judgment.
Our race simply made us less important during a challenging moment.
Unfortunately, the solution to this issue is sold separately.
I can identify the problem, but the answer is in all of our hands. Many believe that privilege is an abstract topic best situated in the halls of academia, while those that live with adversity daily know better.
It's not that I think that I'm coming from a place of no privilege, what I'm saying is that mine isn’t inalienable.