As my parents and I were driving to Pennsylvania the other day, I noticed a large outpatient medical facility in the middle of a field bordering the Northway, with a prominent sign on top reading “Malta Med Emergent Care.” Some bumptious dumbass must have decided to coin an irresistibly witty marketing portmanteau of “emergency” and “urgent,” only to end up with a real English word that means neither of those things. It’s safe to say that the purpose of this idiotic name was not to imply that medical care was just starting to be provided by Malta Med, emphasis on the passive voice, although this is exactly the sort of organizational incompetence that should be expected of a hospital group stupid enough to operate a clinic under such a stupid name.
Hospital administrators and marketers routinely use exactly that sort of bogus branding to distract ignorant, gullible patients–exactly the ones who most need dispassionate, competent guidance about treatment options–from the dysfunction of the facilities under their supervision. As a rule of thumb, the more marketeering bullshit a hospital group uses, the more its actual hospitals are life-threatening clusterfucks. I have an ear to the ground on hospital operations, and what I hear is often frightening and very often disgusting. Charles P. Pierce is right when he says that “business experts” “have been in the thrall of thieves and mountebanks.” In this particular case, the end game includes vulnerable people coming to untimely, unnecessary deaths, but hey, it’s just another opportunity for business to plunder industry. Thorstein Veblen must be in the midst of a thirty-year smirk looking down on this shit.
Maybe this is what we get as a society for allowing communications majors to get jobs in their field. Communication requires literacy, and communications majors have none. The ones I’ve chatted with have been some of the most airheaded women I’ve met this side of the paralegal I dated off and on who didn’t know what I meant by “indict.” Our state schools could go back to doing cutting-edge crop research, like they did as a mandated public service to continually improve their own seed banks back in the day before Monsanto started buying American governments and turning the United States into a banana republic, or they could settle for teaching bimbos how to be low-rent PR mercenaries. The question isn’t so much whether the intellectually and ethically barren and incurious should be admitted to bachelor’s programs and granted degrees, as whether the pot of gold awaiting them at the far end of that rainbow of shit should be anything more prestigious and lucrative than a 7-Eleven clerkship. They’re awfully dimwitted for Starbucks, after all. If they graduated into jobs that had them constantly thinking, shit, this sucks, maybe they’d take up a trade, and maybe fewer would follow them into wasting their college careers on the death of the mind. But that isn’t about to happen: the incentives in the job market are fucked, and the creeps at the top who manipulate the job market want to keep them fucked.
What does “emergent” mean? Probably, like, emergency-urgent, or something like that. Duh. What does “matriculate” mean? According to one blithering idiot at the Q&A seminar I attended at Dickinson, it was a synonym for “trickle.” This chick had gotten the thick envelope. It was so homophonic it was gay. Who were Pervez Musharraf and Hamid Karzai in October 2001? According to a senior international studies major on a quizzo team I helped smoke, uhhhh, yeah, I kind of recall hearing about them, not that you mention it. What a dumb bastard. He didn’t even skim the international news, and he was hardly even embarrassed. At the other extreme, sort of, this summer I overheard a male barista at a Starbucks in Palo Alto tell a female barista, “You need to watch it. It’s about these dorky kids who get into some drugs.” Her response: “That sounds dumb as fuck!” (No. It sounds awesome.) And this, from a high school coed to her male buddy at a Menlo Park Starbucks a year or two ago: “Taylor is failing life skills.” (I’m sure he is, unless she is.) These people either maybe or definitely hadn’t gone to college, and they were easily able to string coherent sentences together using exclusively real, contextually appropriate words.
Dumbos who can’t properly speak their native language, in the sense of using words to mean sorta kinda what they actually mean, are given and allowed to keep positions of authority over their betters. They’re allowed to boss around literate, competent, decent people. Why? Because the latter don’t tell them, goddammit, you’re a dumb fuck, go back to the fry line right now before I clock that passive-aggressive look of concern off your face. True, one could get into trouble for administering this sort of realtalk to a socially climbing shithead, depending on one’s level of social proof, at least. With enough social proof, or enough blackmail or extortion of HR poobahs, one can do much worse than that. We have a close family friend who is an RN, a savvy, exceptionally well-spoken woman, and who has somehow been organizationally subordinated to a safety compliance nurse who she says is morbidly obese, grotesquely made-up, and thoroughly incompetent, and who “curses like a truck driver.” Her role at her hospital group is to barge into charge nurses’ offices and yell angry strings of obscenities at them for trying to do their jobs properly.
My guess is that she’s threatened to sue the hospital for fattie discrimination if she’s fired. If she is fired, she’ll be fired with cause, for chronic workplace harassment, but she’ll still either tie up a bunch of more fit employees in depositions or extort a settlement worth several years of her salary. Any way her bosses try to cut it, she’ll cost them a bundle. We had a woman like this at the environmental consulting firm, an emotionally unstable fat bitch who had alienated or scared at least three quarters of the office. She seems to have bent the then-office manager over a barrel when he threatened to fire her for being grossly unprofessional and unfit for duty. Granted, I had to read the tea leaves on this, but it sounds pretty plausible. This woman was exactly the type of superficially professional but deeply wretched influence-peddler who would do exactly that. She managed to hold this job for years despite barely being ambulatory and having duties including frequent field work on construction and remediation sites.
To get an idea of hospital administration in the United States, think of someone you respect and admire. Now imagine Roseanne Barr, at her fattest and most obnoxious, violently shoving a dildo up that person’s ass for ten or twenty years. Imagine Mr. Garrison shrieking, “I’m gonna fuck you to death!” But not to some Eurotrash Franco-Canuck “president,” but to normal, decent people, trained clinicians who are doing their best to run a hospital while he does his best to fuck it up. To death. It’s a fair analogy, since patients actually die young as a consequence of this wankery, thieving, and drama. It’s hard enough to care for sick people in the best of circumstances, but at least in a well-run hospital, it’s only the worst of the patients who are threatening or assaulting the staff. Now imagine coming away from a workday trying to treat the violently psychotic, only to be verbally abused at length by some pottymouthed, grotesquely fat cunt in low-class geisha makeup who would probably be arrested for yelling exactly the same screed in exactly the same tone of voice at a passerby in front of the hospital.
There’s an established tort case law for suing the shit out of some boor for looking at your ass the wrong way around the office, but not, apparently, for suing administration Quislings and the higher-ups harboring them until the Quislings are broke from wage garnishment and out of a job because the company’s liability insurer has cried uncle. In crude terms, they make our work environments hostile because we don’t make their work environments hostile. Their decent colleagues are too reticent to call foul on their behavior, and so they get out of control.
Plus we worship that kind of shit in the United States. We regard The Office as resonant social commentary, not a Faulknerian novel about a dumpster fire engulfing sorry bastards other than ourselves. We’ve been taught to regard this sort of dysfunctional horseshit as normal, even admirable. It isn’t about work being less than entirely pleasant; no one does a lick of work on that show. And we have disgustingly manipulative “reality shows” like Gold Rush, which follows a sausagefest of shitheads dredging for gold in old Klondike plays. Bros can get really into that crap, apparently.
In a society as deranged as ours, Emergent Care is probably, shall we say, emergent. It doesn’t just happen in a metaphysical sense; it’s done to us, by evil people and organizations in positions of power. But we give it our assent. We could be a self-governing people. Instead, we’re a peasantry, trousers around our knees, bending over and putting lube up our asses, moaning, fuck me, Big Mamma. Or else Big Mamma is yelling obscenities at us, just to grind us into the dirt. In a decent society, she might be defenestrated into the Susquehanna River if she kept talking to subordinates like that, but most of us are too timid to even talk back to her. Massa don’t like backsass, now.
Remember, we were founded as a slave society, and Canada was not. Should I love it or leave it? All right, bitch: give me immediate Canadian permanent residency or shut up. I’m not saying I won’t emigrate for the medical care; I’m just saying that I can’t entirely figure out how to pull it off. Maybe a country gets the emergent care it deserves, and maybe I deserve some emergent care, too.