One of the walls of this café is made entirely of glass, and on the other side of the glass is a dark hallway with the typical Korean polished granite floor, which leads to a large hospital that occupies most of this building, with the result that the hallway is packed with invalids all day long.
As I sit here and write they hobble past me, back and forth, constantly, with all kinds of different ailments—one has a nonexistent knee, and walks as if one of her legs is on backwards; another has a shattered ankle, and has to leap up onto her other leg with every step; still another strides with very small, slow movements, her arm gripped by a teenager in an orange shirt…a long slow train of old, wounded, weakened Asians jittering on the other side of the glass, with some of them occasionally locked up in crutches, and others bound to a wheelchair.
It is apparently abhorrent for them to touch the wheels with their hands, so they pull themselves forward along the smooth dark polished granite tile floor with a single lazy foot that dangles over the wheelchair’s fixed pedals, staring at everyone in the café, through the glass, unashamedly, as though they are invisible.
There is not nearly as much hospital shame in this country. If you go outside and walk in any direction for ten minutes you are bound to come upon a gang of old men in blue hospital fatigues hanging around out on the sidewalk, smoking cigarettes with their IVs still plugged into their wrists. I want to say that the Koreans just generally aren’t as neurotic about hospitals as Americans are: if you are even slightly unwell, your Korean friends will instantly insist that you go to the hospital to see a doctor right now, gobble down some cheap medicine, and get better before the sun goes down.
And if you eventually accede to their demands you’ll find that the experience is the exact opposite of what you’ve been conditioned to expect: there is almost no wait, the visit to the doctor is so cheap it’s almost free, and the medicine costs less than the price of a sandwich. Oh the horrors of socialized medicine.
I’ve been a little under the weather for the last few weeks (from the stresses of taking care of an infant) and my wife kept insisting that I see a doctor, and even though I’m so leftwing I’m probably a fucking anarcho-communist I still resisted. Americans have such a screwed up healthcare system we refuse to see any medical professional unless we are foaming at the lips and writhing on the floor. We have a healthcare complex. I’m pretty sure even those who wanted Obama to shove his fascist death panels straight down the innocent, virginal throats of the American people would still refuse to go see a doctor unless enormous, pus-filled tumors started metastasizing on their foreheads. As a result, colds, flus, and all kinds of curable ailments last for days, weeks, and months, when they could vanish with a flick of the wrist, if only everyone in America were not completely insane. The people there, so far as I remember, avoid the hospital like the plague.
On top of that there’s the litigation (and its opposite, tort reform), the slew of creepy pharmaceutical commercials that bombard you every time you turn on the television, the hordes of doctors stuffed into the pockets of any number of shamelessly evil conglomerates, the horrible amounts of disgusting food people suck down their palpitating gullets like water and the pandemic of Jabbathehuttosis that results from their suicidal dietary habbits, and on, and on. People are so misguided they don’t even know how much better things are in the rest of the world, how far behind their own great nation is, how they’ve sabotaged themselves. Everything is fucked up there. Everything related to health in America is utterly deranged and insane.
But here if you’re sick you go to the hospital for a few minutes, shell out around ten dollars, take your medicine, and get better. That’s it.