Last night I went to the hospital. My thumb was swollen, painful, and generally not very nice after a nasty rugby game, and I wanted to make sure it wasn't broken so I could play again the next day. I went with a friend (who had also done something similar to her nose), thinking it would be over and done with in an hour or two. This was where I was terribly, horribly wrong.

Stage 1: We entered the emergency ward, all smiles and laughs at our pitiful situation. However, the smiles and laughs soon vanished after an hour of sitting in a waiting room crowded with very sick people for whom I could do nothing. Someone was crying, and I shuddered quietly. Finally, they called my name and a woman with no expression typed miscellaneous facts about my life into a computer. I was then allowed to pass into the next stage of hell.

Stage 2: I walked down a narrow corridor, elated at the thought of finally seeing a doctor, only to find another, bigger waiting room. My friend then entered wearing an expression that read "Is this a fucking joke?" and crumpled down beside me. The clock ticked for another ninety minutes. We joked about the hospital actually being a collection of bigger and bigger waiting rooms, all leading to a central bottomless pit. Oh, if we had only known how right we were...

Stage 3: My name was called once again, and, like a sheep being zapped by a cattle prod, I jumped up and ran to the next desk. There, they directed me to yet another waiting room. The faces were more familiar this time, people I'd seen in the original stage of hell had been sucked along the vortex with me and now fidgeted by my side. After forty-five minutes of this, staying calm was becoming very difficult. It was an exercise in will, really, not to stand up, tear the x-ray machine from the wall and beat myself with it until I reached the utter tranquility of the afterlife. Somehow, though, I made it through unharmed.

Stage 4: A doctor walked in, said my name, and coldly grabbed my right hand. "Oh, yep, she's swollen alright." Well, thank you Captain Obvious!. I'm glad to see that countless years of medical school have allowed you to expand your vocabulary in such a constructive way as to permit you to diagnose my injury with such accurate detail. I'm sorry, but after three hours, bitterness becomes a necessity. I was sent to X-ray for pictures. The x-ray waiting room was, coincidentally, the next stage of hell. I was alone this time in a leather seat - this was a quieter, comfier stage of hell, filled with more magazines. Suddenly, everything became funny. My situation, my thumb, the fact that I had been here for three hours already, all funny. Ha ha. I giggled quietly.

Stage 5: X-rays done, I walked back to emergency, got lost, and then found my way into the fifth stage of hell, which was really a repetition of the third, but this simple fact made it even more hellish and therefore warranted a stage all to itself. After another hour, the same doctor came back to read my x-ray.

Stage 6: This one was the worst. In a matter of seconds, he threw the x-ray up, read it, and told me that it was just a sprain and that I should put ice on it and go home. I had waited four fucking hours for a trivial brush-off! I didn't even get a bandage so I could at least look hurt and get some much-needed pity. I want my money back. At least Dante got to meet Lucifer.

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