Sorry for Last Year
I’m sorry. I’m soooo sorry. Everything in the country, in society, in the entire universe is in such a terrible state right now, and it seems to just get worse all the time. So on behalf of me, I sincerely and deeply apologize. Because it is clearly my fault.
Let me explain.
Way back in 2019 (remember that year? Remember how exciting it was, when we could do things like leave our house, meet friends, or go to work? Oh, those carefree days of our youth), I had a freak biking accident. I’d like to say that I was flying down a windy coastal highway and slid into an epic crash while braking hard to avoid hitting an animal. Or that I went sailing over the handlebars and into a ravine while mountain biking. Or even that I was side-swiped by an aggressive and bike-blind driver on a busy Silicon Valley street. But the reality is much less exciting.
I just fell over.
I was pedaling at a leisurely pace on a one-speed cruiser… and then I wasn’t. The next thing I knew, I was sitting on a curb, talking to an EMT while looking at an open ambulance and a viscous pool of liquid that used to be inside of me puddled on the street.
They quickly zipped me over to the nearest hospital to check up on things like whether I broke my neck (nope) or spine (nope) or anything else (nope), but there fortunately wasn’t anything major wrong, just various bangs and scrapes which you’d expect to get on a short, quick journey from a bike onto asphalt. They kept me in the trauma unit overnight, running various tests, all of which were normal.
In the end, they put the incident down to dehydration. And that’s probably true, although I suspect my body might have just been trying to catch an ill-timed nap between meetings. This was pre-COVID and pre-work-from-home-forever, when we didn’t have the luxury of declining meetings to just have a nice snooze on the couch.
Side Note: The U.S. Healthcare System is the Best in the World. Except for Everywhere Else in the World.
I’ve heard politicians claim that we have the best healthcare system in the world. And for sure, we have some great experts, technology, and facilities. But I learned a major lesson about exactly how awesome the U.S. healthcare system is from my short visit.
I spent 24 hours in the trauma unit of the closest hospital, where they monitored me and ran a bunch of tests. They did a good job and, heck, I’m still here, so I can’t complain. But would anyone care to guess what they billed my insurance company for this overnight stay? Anyone?
24 hours of care = $102,000
$102,000! Plus another $3,700 for the five-mile ambulance ride. This amount would surely bankrupt many (most?) people, and it’s ludicrous that it’s considered an appropriate charge for one day of any kind of care, unless that care is accompanied by gourmet food, a beautiful room, impeccable service, and someone handing you $100k in cash.
Fortunately, I was only responsible for my regular insurance copay. Meanwhile, my insurance company only paid $40k of the original bill. Apparently part of our amazing U.S. healthcare system is some kind of street-fair bartering between huge healthcare conglomerates. Even that bargained-down amount of $40k is still a lot more than most people can afford. And what about if you didn’t happen to have a big insurance company to negotiate that price down for you?
After that fun and ridiculously expensive overnight stay, I returned home to recover, which didn’t take long. Besides a few bruises, I was really fine, and returned to work almost immediately. The only real change to my lifestyle is that I now stay more hydrated (or at least feel really guilty when I don’t, which is probably good enough).
The World Spirals Down Into the Abyss
Since my accident, we have all watched the world go from one crisis to the next, piling calamity onto calamity until it seems like it can’t get any worse… and yet it always does. It’s like body aches and pains; some problems never go away, they just become less critical as other issues become more pressing.
It started with the political situation in the U.S. getting increasingly bizarre and unpleasant. Then we added a global pandemic with tragic health and economic consequences. Then systemic racism and civil unrest bubbled into the mix. Somewhere in there, murder hornets made an appearance, and then the locusts came back (of course). Fires burned up most of California, covering the remains in smoke which guaranteed we couldn’t leave our homes. And then came the American election, which apparently still hasn’t ended, several weeks after it actually happened.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten many things that have gone horribly wrong since a year ago. It’s so hard to keep track of them all.
And It’s All My Fault
Take a step back and look at everything that’s happened in the past year. I think it’s clear that 2020 was a hallmark year, unparalleled in history for the sheer amount of social, political, and natural disasters.
Like many people, I’ve been asking myself why. Why has everything gotten so very, very bad? What’s the common element in everything that’s happened in the past year?
Me. It’s all me. I fell off the bike, and then it all went to Hell — steadily, progressively, and unceasingly.
Wait, What? A Bike Accident?
Well, yes and no. I’m not saying that my bike accident caused all of these freak situations in the world. Or that I caused these problems directly.
Or maybe I am saying that.
Let’s roll it back to my accident. When I say that I was riding along on that cruiser bike and woke up talking to the EMT, I’m making a couple of assumptions that might not actually be true.
For one thing, I don’t even remember getting on a bike. The last thing I remember is walking between buildings, thinking that I should ride a bike to get there faster. And then I woke up sometime later, sitting on the curb.
For another thing, and this is at the crux of the matter: Did I actually wake up?
In a movie or a novel, the point where a character suffers a jump-cut in their consciousness is the point where they change from reality to some kind of dream world. Think Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (if you weren’t forced to read it in school as I was, you should), or the final scene in Brazil. What if my waking up wasn’t actually coming back to consciousness in this world after my accident, but rather waking up in some alternate reality after my existence here ended or (in a more positive interpretation) continues somewhere on life support?
In fact, what if I didn’t actually have a bike accident at all: that’s what I was told when I woke up. But if I didn’t actually wake up, then I could have ceased to exist at my last waking memory, walking between buildings. So maybe I didn’t even fall off a bike; I just… fell. Which is both depressing and totally consistent with my level of physical coordination.
So if I didn’t wake up, maybe it’s all okay. Even though I am saddened by and struggling with all of these world calamities, and seeing all of you struggle right along with me, it’s fine. Because it is all just happening in my own mind. It’s just some movie I’m watching on Netflix that probably has a happy ending, eventually.
I have no idea what’s happening in the world I used to inhabit, but I’m sure it can’t be as bad as it is here, because it never was before. It’s unreasonable to think that everything we’re going through this year is even possible, much less actually happening. It just can’t be this bad. It’s a lousy and predictable action movie where all of the situations are stretched to an unbelievable point just to drive the action hero’s response.
Meanwhile, we are all suffering, at least in my current reality. So I’m sorry for that. I brought it all upon you by falling asleep on my bike. Or not, depending on how much of my origin story I choose to believe. I’d like to think that I could fix it, but it doesn’t seem possible in this reality. I mean, the me in this reality couldn’t even manage to stay upright on a slow bike ride, right? We’ll just have to continue bearing through it until I wake up on the other side again. Fortunately, I’m a light sleeper, so it can’t be that much longer.
I derive some peace from realizing that at least you are all much happier in the real reality, and that everyone on this side is just in my imagination. And that I wasn’t really billed $102,000 for a single night’s stay in a hospital. I really think they should have caught that in the script-editing process for this movie, because that’s just completely unbelievable.