I was really in the moment during my walk this morning, noticing several people who I pass every single morning at the same point of the walk. A young man with a back pack who only ever stares straight ahead and moves so woodenly and precisely it’s as if he is a robot. A woman who walks her dog and a man who is a paramedic both smile and nod as they recognize me as well. It has just dawned on me that what I am experiencing is a bit like moving to a new place permanently. You have all these ‘teething problems’ with transport, figuring out the best route to work, the restaurants you most like to eat, knowing few people. Then gradually as you settle in, you stop taking so much notice because you don’t need to any more. You have ‘your way’ of doing everything, and you seldom vary from that, so that it is rare if you have an adventure or a mishap.
My new gluten free bread is soooo delicious for breakfast. How this simple thing can make me feel so good is amazing. I want the whole loaf. Impulse control. Impulse control.
The first bus that arrived at 20 minutes to 10 this morning would not take us. He was going to the airport, but he had left word with Pauline, an aboriginal woman I had guessed to be a bit younger than myself, that he would be back after the airport run to pick us up. While I continue to wait, Pauline comes over and sits down next to me and starts talking. She is trying to ask me if the Medicare card will get her free medicine. I try to tell her I’m not sure, that she needs to ask someone at the hospital. She is from the bush near Ti Tree and English is very definitely her second language. She struggles to put a sentence together the way I do when I speak Italian. Also like me, she seems to understand more of what she hears than she is able to speak. At 10am another bus appeared and said HE was the driver to take us to the hospital and oncology. Fine.
Climbing on board with us is Colin, an elderly man that has been at BJH since March, he tells me. He has lung cancer. He is skin and bones and can hardly breathe and has a huge scabby sore on his face. He could hardly catch enough breath to push words out of his mouth to talk to me so it was very difficult to have a conversation with him. He was nice enough but sat out in front of BJH all day long, day after day, smoking cigarettes. Lung cancer and smoking cigarettes. I guess it was too late for him, so why bother trying to stop now? When he climbed on the bus he told me he was moving to the accommodation closer to the hospital so he would be closer to medical help, and so he wouldn’t have to walk outside to smoke, he could just sit on his balcony and smoke. Should I say to him, I’m happy for you? I really didn’t know what to say. I looked down at my feet and saw his little suitcase, half the size of the one I had brought, and I could see it was new because the sticker on the front said ‘7 year guarantee’. I was pretty sure the suitcase would outlast him.
When we are about 2/3 of the way there, the driver got a call on his mobile phone and when he finished tells us he must now divert to the airport to pick someone up!! He is not happy because he is supposed to have his lunch once he drops us off but nevertheless he diverts. When we get to the small airport, next to the Darwin airport, he picks up a man and woman who have flown in from Tiwi Islands. He asks wasn’t there another driver come to pick them up? No, he missed them. Good grief. It is as if there is no possible way this bus service can ever be sorted. It is even worse than that, it is as if no one cares if it is ever sorted.
I arrive at the oncology unit and can see they are having a busy time and so I find a comfortable seat and am about to continue reading my ebook when Pauline finds me and sits down beside me. She is a bit shy but for some reason has suddenly decided to talk to me. She tells me when she finishes here and goes back to Ti Tree, she will have ‘bush medicine’ and that will make her well. She tells me her niece who is here at BJH with her and is supposed to be her carer, is… and she doesn’t know the word she is looking for so she wrinkles her nose, which, since the niece has not been coming to treatment with her, I take to mean, ‘not very much into the role of the carer’. Pauline seems sweet and is in such a foreign environment, it must be quite overwhelming I’m thinking. Then she tells me she has been to Adelaide, and a nice lady from the Land Council paid for a taxi for her. That’s nice. Then she mentions that sometimes when she is hungry she gets something to eat at the hospital kiosk, but she has no money today. The light has just gone on. Now I see where all this is heading. A couple more times she mentions she is hungry. I know for a fact that their food is provided by BJH and the government pays for it so I know she won’t starve and I just let the comments ‘go’.
Soon they come to get me for my treatment and after that, since it is Friday it is the day we are to see the nurses after we finish treatment. They record our weight and take blood pressure and temperature and ask us a few questions to see how we are tolerating the treatments. After that it is a quarter to twelve and I figure I will see if the bus might just happen to be about to depart the hospital. I get my usual weak, skinny latté and sit on the bench to wait. Oh, look, here comes Pauline again! She sees I have coffee and mentions again she is hungry. So am I but I’m not eating hospital food! She sits demurely beside me on the bench and has a quiet little spit a few times. Ugh. It is one of my least favorite human habits. I had actually planned to take a taxi but none had come and I have now learned if none are sitting there, it is because they are all busy, so no use ringing for one. A bus driver appeared, but he was not going to the city, he was going to the airport. It seemed the airport was the place to go today if one needed transport! Uncertain how long this would go on, and being tired of Pauline’s ‘hunger pains’, I decided to ring my friend Sabina who had told me if ever I needed ‘rescuing’ to call her. This did seem a genuine ‘need’. It took her about 25 minutes to get there and in all that time there was no taxi that appeared and no bus to town, so it was lucky I called her. I left Pauline waiting for the bus and I felt bad for her, but one cannot solve all the world’s problems.
Sabina and I had a lovely visit and lunch and once again, a bad situation became a good one because I had choices. I suppose Pauline and Colin had choices too, but I’m not sure they were even aware of them, and certainly their choices were fewer than mine, and for my choices I am grateful.