“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people—we —if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care.”
— Mitt Romney,
60 Minutes interview

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Hey, guys! I know a place where we can hang out 24 hours a day, and it’s called the Emergency Room! We can get everything we need there! There are beds with clean sheets and all the individually wrapped graham crackers you can eat! I like to think of it as a clubhouse, but with more gauze and more screaming! Best of all, it’s free!

Back in the old days, people used to think of the Emergency Room as a place you went for traditional “emergencies”—you know, things like going completely weak on one side of your body and losing the ability to speak, or experiencing the sudden onset of crushing chest pain, or maybe snagging a fishhook in your eyeball. A good guideline for what constituted an “emergency” in this traditional sense was that it might involve, a) the inability to breathe; b) tremendous amounts of blood gushing from your body; c) a baby’s head erupting out of your vagina; d) something that could not wait until tomorrow.

But those were olden times, friends! Today the Emergency Room is a happy place full of many eager, waiting faces. In addition to seeking help for old school “emergencies,” nowadays people come to the Emergency Room for all their basic health care needs, or just to hang out! Feeling tired and need to lie down? Can’t get a checkup or find someone to look at the weird wart on your finger? Get into a fight with your sister who’s totally been stressing you out? Feel a cold coming on? Gonorrhea? Want some IV Dilaudid? Come to the ER! Don’t just sit in your apartment and die—we can send an ambulance to pick you up! And the great news is that the Emergency Room is a chain—sort of like IHOP, there’s always one nearby!

When you arrive at the Emergency Room, just walk up to the maître ’d. If you’re having more of an old-fashioned “emergency,” he or she will whisk you away immediately. But if not, have patience. Just state one or more of the following:

  • “My head hurts.”
  • “My stomach hurts.”
  • “I’m drunk.”
  • “I want a sandwich.”
  • “I’m having chest pain, and I heard you have TVs in all the rooms now.”
  • “All my prescription pain pills were stolen.”
  • “I don’t have a primary care doctor.”
  • “I don’t have an outpatient psychiatrist.”
  • “I ran out of my medicine.”
  • “I vomited.”
  • “I’m seriously having an emergency.”

That should do the trick. If things are taking too long, yell and cry. Start disrobing and fondling the person sitting next to you in the waiting room. Walk back up to the ladies sitting at the front desk and politely tell them, “My pain’s 10 out of 10. This is an emergency!”

Or just leap to your feet and yelp, “I’ve now become homicidal and suicidal!” That’ll get them listening. (Keep in mind this may also trigger a Spartacus-style human cascade of others leaping to their feet, shouting, “No, I am suicidal.”)

Do whatever you have to do to get the attention you deserve. And this leads me to one small critique of the Emergency Room: the service. You can’t make a reservation on OpenTable, which is a bummer. Also, the servers tend to be a little harried and tense. Sometimes they don’t bring you what you order. And rather than wearing the sleek, all-black garb of an upscale wait staff, they wear ill-fitting blue or green drawstring pants. Overall, they are unattractive. They have the bloodshot eyes and gray-tinged faces of zombies.

But can you beat the Emergency Room for price and convenience? Some people are like “blah blah blah Affordable Care Act blah blah blah health care reform blah blah we need insurance for everyone blah blah blah if we had better access to preventive care and primary care providers as well as a viable outpatient mental health care system we could preempt these problems blah blah.”

But I’m like, what problems, people? Come on! There are enough graham crackers for all! For free! And on a good day, there may be Oreos too! We have the greatest red, white, and blue health care situation ever, and it’s America’s Clubhouse: the Emergency Room! Diagnosis awesome!