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A Man and a Van
One Van is Much the Same as Another - or Is It?
Accident and Emergency
As Mr Brown battled his way home through hordes of irate December shoppers, he breathed a sigh of relief. Carrying two hefty bags of presents, he felt certain there would not be a repeat performance of last year's Christmas when almost everyone in his family had ridiculed his choice of gift.
Ever since the end of September, he'd made meticulous observations in order to get things exactly right and today he'd headed for the shops, armed with a list of his relatives' favourite colours, their precise measurements and any other useful details he'd gathered. He now possessed a complete dossier of their likes and dislikes. This year they wouldn't laugh and there would be no mad dash around the shops after Christmas, exchanging any offending items. Of course, he could have bought everyone gift vouchers and saved himself the bother, but then they would no doubt accuse him of being unimaginative.
His mind deeply engrossed in thought, Mr Brown began to cross the busy high street, oblivious to the red signals at the crossroads. "Look out, mate!" yelled another pedestrian from the opposite side of the road. The words barely had time to register before an oncoming van had hit the hapless shopper, tossing him into the gutter, like a flimsy rag doll.
Mr Brown lay in a crumpled heap, his carefully chosen presents strewn all around him. Muffled voices echoed in his ears, intermingled with the urgent sound of sirens wailing in the distance... then nothing.
What happened? he asked himself as he slowly returned to consciousness, finding himself on a trolley in the corridor of the hospital's busy accident and emergency department. Thoughts of his ordeal soon came flooding back... I got hit by a van! What sort of a van? he mused and then became angry with his own seemingly inconsequential question. It was an Inter flora van! But does it really matter what sort of a van it was for Christ's sake? It was a van and it dammed near killed me!
The pungent smell of antiseptic corridors invaded Mr Brown's nostrils as he regained full control of his senses. He decided to do his own damage limitation exercise, seeing there were no doctors or nurses available to advise him of the situation. The hospital staff was rushing to and fro in a frenzy of activity but no one took any notice of him.
Perhaps that's a good sign, he told himself. They wouldn't just leave me here if I was bleeding to death, would they? He wiggled his toes. Yes, he could feel them, all ten of them; that meant that his feet were still there. He lifted one foot and placed it over the other just to make doubly certain. He could move his hands too, and all the bits in the middle appeared intact, if a little bruised. He tried to move his right hand up to his face and succeeded eventually. Yes - he was still all in one piece, but his head felt as if it had been used as a replacement ball by the local Rugby team. He soon found out why when he discovered the huge, tender lump on one side of his head, wincing as his hand came into contact with it.
Mr Brown's entire body ached, but he was thankful; things could have been far worse. He tried to summon a nurse, but the words would not come and soon he drifted into a deep sleep.
The hospital staff was pushed to their limits, and it is at times like these when confusion and mix-ups often occur. We've all heard the scary stories, haven't we? People having the wrong limbs amputated, the wrong organs removed, someone else's operation.
Mr Brown had no way of knowing, but the man on the trolley beside him had the same name and he too had been knocked over by a van; a Marks and Spencer's van, for those who like to be precise. It had even been written on his notes. His prognosis was far from good and he was delirious now as he slipped in and out of consciousness. Soon they would come and wheel him down to the theatre.
There had been a spate of similar accidents that day. Careless shoppers, like the two Mr Browns, ignoring traffic lights, were typical cases. "Take that man over there," said the nurse in charge, to one of her junior staff. "He'll be home for Christmas, no doubt, but the chap next to him will need extensive surgery. Both knocked down by similar vehicles, travelling at similar speeds, but one was lucky and the other wasn't."
Time passed, shifts changed and both patients were moved to make room for new admissions. Somehow, amidst all the confusion and chaos, their trolleys collided and both sets of notes fell to the floor, only to be replaced inadvertently on the wrong trolley by some helpful passerby. Mr Brown still slept. He didn't know how long for, but when he awoke one of the nurses was standing over him, an air of deliberation about her as if she was trying to decipher some frustrating conundrum.
"Mr Brown, can you answer a few questions for me please?"
He nodded in response.
"First of all, can you tell me what sort of a van it was that ran you over?"
His immediate reaction was not to co-operate with a person who asked such trivial questions, but thoughts of home and a warm, comfortable bed beckoned. "Yes, I remember quite clearly; it was an Interflora van."
"Not Marks and Spencer's?"
"No, it was most definitely an Interflora van."
The nurse looked relieved.
"Now can I phone my wife, please? And what does one have to do to get a cup of tea around here?"
© 2014 Stella Kaye