Friday, July 31, 2009

Listening to the wind

Growing up in Arizona, especially in northeastern Arizona on the Colorado Plateau, you get a lot of opportunity to listen to the wind. The wind tells you a lot about what is happening around you and what might be coming. A wind from the south and east brings clouds and rain. A wind from the north and west comes only in the winter and brings cold and sometimes rain. Because of a huge stationary high pressure area over the Four Corners, winds blowing from the south and west seldom bring anything except hot, dry weather.

Since I was a lot younger and spending time outdoors on the Plateau, I have noticed that the wind patterns have changed. Not enough to notice from day to day, but over a year's time the clouds no longer move in the same directions and the weather is not so predictable. I used to watch the sky and could tell within a few minutes when the rain would begin, now it is not so easy. I used to watch the lightning over the White Mountains and now this is a rare event and not just because I no longer live up on the mountain.

Watching the country and our society, I see a shift in the way our country is drifting. It is just like the wind, the changes are mostly subtle and only noticeable over a long period of time, but just like the changes in the storm patterns on the Colorado Plateau, our country is fundamentally different than it used to be.

One marked change is that I notice that people have generally become entirely materialistic. They want the latest large screen TV, the latest, newest and most expensive gadget, car or phone. No one seems satisfied with what they have, they always want more, more food, more entertainment, more free time, more vacations. Almost no one lives a conservative life style, even young, newly married couples I know, want and take international cruises and trips to exotic locations. All people talk about at work, besides the latest illness or accident, is what they are going to purchase or where they are going for their next vacation. These are not wealthy people, but young married and unmarried people who are making an average or below salary.

Recently, I saw an announcement for a business expansion. The Chief Executive Officer extolled the virtues of their newly enlarged business with a "host of guest amenities, including flat-screen televisions" and "free valet drivers to park your car." The public was invited with their families for a free tour and light refreshments "so they can get acquainted with the new space first hand." You might imagine that this was a hotel or restaurant, no, this new expansion was a hospital emergency room! Just think about it, you are in the middle of having a heart attack and you think, I have to go to the new hospital because they have flat-screen televisions.

The fact that a hospital would even think it was necessary to have such advertisements is a clear indication of the change in our society. Who would have thought that I would choose my emergency room based on valet parking and light refreshments.

This attitude towards life is so materialistic as to be offensive. Nothing in the article says anything about the degree of care you might receive or the competency of the doctors, all that seems important to the hospital and probably to the general public, are the amenities. With all the current controversy over the rising cost of health care, maybe we need to see if emergency room patients really need flat-screen televisions.

We often look to a change in the wind as being beneficial. In this case the changes that are coming into our society are destructive and like the wind when it gets too strong, may end up destroying our society entirely.


  1. I always liked St. Johns because it reminded me of the elm-canopied street I grew up on in Northridge, CA. We all had an acre of land and most of us had horses or chickens, goats, or even sheep and orchards and large gardens plowed with a tractor. Two blocks of an acre each were part of the "Rurban Homes" or Eleanor Roosevelt Project designed in 1934 during The Depression to encourage families to be more self-sufficient. My grandparents purchased our home from the original homesteaders in 1935 for $2000.

    As for the modern E.R. being "an Experience", it sure is! A few years ago James and I took David to Good Sam after he sustained numerous black widow bites while working on the car. He was having trouble breathing, his throat was swelling and it appeared very serious for a while. However, it was not deemed urgent enough to administer care for the first 4+ hours we waited in a totally filthy, impossibly over-crowded waiting room. It was disturbing how incredibly dirty everything was: entire McDonald's meals sitting on chair seats or smashed into the carpet, warm milk shakes spilling over onto magazines and oozing down on the floor, dirty diapers like juicy stink bombs abandoned underneath chairs, the few trash cans literally over-flowing with unidentifiable content, etc.

    I asked a receptionist for a pair of gloves, disinfectant and a trash can. I told her I was going to clean up while we were waiting. After a surprised pause, she told me the screaming obvious: I was not allowed to "clean up", y'know, they could be "liable". I said yes indeedy, they were already liable for spreading the plague to anyone who haplessly walked into their facility foolishly thinking they were going to receive help. The patient felt better and we were all convinced we were coming down with something deadly if we didn't get out of there.

    Maybe our visit would have been more palatable if they had a flat screen t.v. and cheese and crackers - not on the floor, that is.

  2. It's not what you think. The law firm I work for represents a hospital. The reason they do this is because as the health care system gets more and more strained, as more and more people lose their jobs and their health insurance, more and more people have to go to the ER either for simple issues more suitable to a General Practitioner, or because they let a simple issue go too long and now it is an emergency.

    That means more people in the waiting room, or in the exam room with the patient. These people are already upset and now they are confronted with a long wait. It doesn't take too long for those people to start acting out, even if they are normally quite meek.

    Increased entertainment and food options keep people happy and calm, which is necessary in an ER waiting room.

  3. I agree. I think it's an outgrowth from the implosion of our culture as we continue the slide toward "ME"-ism. It's a frivolous sort of standard that continues to increase beyond common sense limitations. Until people like us stand up and say, you know, I think that's a little garish and over the top... people will continue to go in this direction.

    personally, I have better things to do with my money and resources than look for valet services at my hospital.

  4. It's nice to be able to shop around and find hospitals that make the experience less miserable. Thank you free market system!! Especially here where I live litigation has driven a lot of doctors out of business, especially OB/GYN's because of the high costs of malpractice insurance. That specifically has been caused by Me-ism through frivolous lawsuits where nothing is really sought but free money. That causes long waits and fears of liability, which ruins that patient experience for everybody. I'd rather get in and see a doctor quickly than have snacks and TV with a long wait. Valet parking means nothing if there is a shortage of doctors.

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