Waiting Room, Gainesville VA, April 24, 2015
by James Glaser
May 3, 2015
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So, I was sitting in the waiting room for Intervention Radiology at the Gainesville VA Hospital like I have done so many times before. You wait, and the only time you know you really have an appointment is when they call your name and you actually go in. Sometimes they call your name just to explain to you that there has been an emergency and they are not going to get to you that day. No, it doesn't matter if you are making a 200-plus mile round trip to be there.

Other times at the VA they might tell you your appointment was changed, and somehow they forgot to tell you, and yes, they are sorry.

So, like I said I was sitting there waiting, and I am on the end seat in a 60 foot long line of chairs up against a wall in a long hallway. Somebody rolls this old guy up next to me, and he is in a wheelchair. They guy looks old enough to have been a Spanish American War vet, but I knew he had to be a WWII veteran. He sat there looking pissed.

To tell you the truth, I don't much like WWII vets. They treated me and a lot of Vietnam veterans like shit when we first started using the VA. They would tell us that we were not in a real war like they had been. I don't know what they thought happened to the guys with missing legs or arms or the blind ones, but all in all for the most part they treated us badly.

I'm sitting there waiting, and this old guy says he needs to go to the toilet. I get up and push him down there and ask him if he needs help. He gives me a dirty look and somehow, with a lot of effort he stands, holds on to the door handle and makes his way in. I wait and he comes out and tells me he could use some help in sitting back down. So, I do my best to ease him down into his wheelchair and roll him back to where we started.

After the two of us got back to our positions, he looked at me and said, "Thanks." I don't know what was wrong with him, but I could tell he was an angry man.. He just had a pissed-off look on his face. A male nurse came up to him and asked if he knew his name and social security number. The guy said, "Fuck you." The nurse apologized, and said he knew the guy knew those things, but he had to get them down so he could check him in.

After that the nurse tried to chit chat with the guy, and I had to smile to myself. I knew that old guy was in no mood for small talk. Well, the nurse asked if the guy was a WWII vet, and he said, "No, I just got back from Iraq." The nurse gave up and walked away.

The old guy looked at me and said, "I'm a pre WWII vet. I signed up before Pearl Harbor and got stuck for the whole war." I said, "Me too." He laughed, and for the next 45 minutes the two of us swapped stories about how screwed up the VA is, and all the shitty things that have happened to us at the VA over the years.

He did say though that it used to be better years ago, back in the 50s and early 60s. But then all these new rules came out, and there were more vets trying to get help from a system that didn't get any bigger.

About then they called his name and mine a few minutes later. When I came out, he was gone, and I was ready to head for home.

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