As often happens, a routine hospital check-up kickstarts my “pull-yourself-together” mantra that there’s always someone worse off than me. But this time the trigger is a little different.
Striding energetically to the Orthopaedic X-ray department, overtaking patients on trolleys and in wheelchairs, I feel almost fraudulent for being there, although I’m only obeying my rheumatologist’s instructions.
Queuing at the department’s reception desk, I scan the waiting room to assess how long it will be before it’s my turn to be seen. I do a double-take when I spot a pair of uniformed policeman in bullet-proof jackets, sitting opposite each other and trying to look inconspicuous in the far corner of the room. Once booked in for my x-ray, I casually sidle over and take a seat a few feet away from them, gaining a front row view of whatever proceedings they are there to perform. I’m hoping the radiographer won’t call me in any time soon.
After a few moments of pretending to read a magazine, my curiosity is rewarded. A slender young man with a Caribbean accent, his arm in a sling, returns from the x-ray room and heads for Law Corner.
“It’s ok, it’s not broken,” he assures the policemen, as if that might have been their biggest worry. He looks away, as if he thinks he’s dismissed them. The younger policeman nods assent.
“Good, well, we just wanted to make sure you’re ok. And that you don’t want to press charges against your attacker.”
“No, I hit him back and he ran off, so we’ll call it quits. Let’s leave it there.”
But the young policeman doesn’t leave it there.
“And now my colleague has something he’d like to say to you.”
He nods across the aisle expectantly.
“I have to tell you that we are here today to arrest you on suspicion of possession of cannabis,” begins the colleague, and segues smoothly into the standard legal warning so familiar from TV.
Wow, a real life “nice cop, nasty cop” routine, I think gleefully. I don’t know whether everyone else n the room is hanging on their every word quite as shamelessly as I am, but I’m too transfixed to care.
Sling man is looking incredulous.
“Cannabis? You mean weed? A spliff? Does that count as cannabis?”
PC Nasty’s expression makes it clear that yes, it very much does count as cannabis.
“But when?” says the disbelieving sling man.
I bite my lip to curb a smile. Don’t tell me there’s a choice of occasions!
“Further evidence has come to light following your arrest and release in March this year,” asserts PC Nasty.
“No, you’re having me on! This is a wind-up! Someone else must have given you my name.”
“That person also gave us your correct birthday, full postal address and other personal details,” is the stern retort.
Sling man’s tense shoulders drop and he sits back.
“Oh, that will be my brother,” he asserts confidently.
“We took the person’s fingerprints, so when we get you down to the station we can take yours too and see if they match,” chips in PC Nice.
Sling man looks down at his arm as if wondering whether last night’s fight will have broken his fingerprints. A sudden thought apparently floods him with relief.
“March, you said? March 2010? No, it can’t have been me. I haven’t been arrested this year.”
“Deborah Young, please,” comes an untimely voice from reception. Reluctantly I gather my things and head off for today’s dose of radium.
But there’s still a spring in my step as twenty minutes later I stroll back to my car. Yet again, a hospital trip has shown incontrovertibly that there’s always someone worse off than me.