The Future of Medicine

Dear Diary,

Time travel is truly exhausting business! I trust that you will forgive my long absence, especially in light of the fact that time seems rather a fluid concept to me at this moment. I have, after all, been gallivanting about during the year 2010. Been? Have I truly been doing something that, technically, I have yet to do for more than a century? The English language lacks a proper tense for descriptions such as these. My perception of time places the events that I am about to relay to you firmly in the past. The year 2010, however, lies surely in the future. Come 2010, I and everyone I know will be worm’s food. But that is not entirely true, is it? For in 2010, dust and bones though I may be in some Caledonian burial plot, I will also be a woman of flesh and blood. Never before has the hour glass seemed so apt a metaphor for time. The sands of the glass are as slippery and insubstantial as time truly seems to be, especially for those in possession of Mr. Robot’s all powerful wrist-strap.

Mr. Robot, I find, is less than genteel. Indeed, he and his wife reside in what is surely a house of ill repute, except that the house seems to enjoy a very good repuation. Termed “Suicide Girls” and “Suicide Boys,” heavily tattooed and pierced women and men proudly peddle their highly ornamented flesh. The walls of the mansion are plastered with nude photographs and illustrations. The budding photographer in me actually admires the artistry behind the coloring and composition of many of the pieces, however shocking the subject matter. The suicide boys and girls place their bodies on display for prurient pleasures, certainly, but a certain innocence emanates from each image. The members of the household shocked and offended me with their explicit gestures and nearly nude attire. I am a woman of my time, however, and I saw clearly that some great social change must occur between my time and theirs. I cannot place my finger on what exactly must happen, but the youths of 2010 celebrate their bodies and their prurient desires without shame or fear.The evidence of this altered attitude is readily displayed on every possible surface of the house.

In conversation, I find Mr. Robot’s wife and neighbors no less candid. They discuss openly – indeed, they shout to anyone within range – matters that the people of my time consider quite taboo. Mr. Robot, for example, is a married machine. Nevertheless, he openly entertains two of the women of the house not quite as mistresses or as kept women, but as equal partners in pleasure. His wife takes no offense. Everyone seems remarkably happy and comfortable with the most unorthodox behavior! Partnership, whether for the long term or for the short term, seems decidedly egalitarian. Ideals like love and romance, not to mention mere lust, govern relationships in the mansion; money is a secondary consideration. Can you imagine? Whatever innocence these people have lost physically, their philosophies seem pure and their motives decidedly good. Imagine, diary! Just imagine it. In 2010, a woman need not marry for security. To be trapped, as I am, between two such suitors as mine seems as vulgar to the people of 2010 as their proud displays of sexuality seem to me. I did not know that the world could change so much in so short a span of time.

Having urgent business to discuss with his wife, Mr. Robot left me to my own devices for a time. I took advantage of this time to search out a medical facility. I found a hulking, boxy structure consisting of enormous lengths of flawless glass connected by vast swaths of whitewashed masonry similar to that of the enduring buildings of ancient Rome. Inside, every surface felt rigid and smooth. Cloth and fabrics had been entirely eschewed; the people of 2010 replaced even the seat cushions with spongy materials wrapped in a slick substance yet to be invented. Strong chemical odors everywhere assault the senses, emanating from each chair, each desk, and even the clothing of each person. No one smells natural anymore. Indeed, everything looks and feels entirely… false in some way. I half believe that the people of the future have traveled to distant planets and brought back with them some strange new building material. Under painfully bright lights so steady that they did not even flicker, the colors of these materials seemed muted and dulled. Even the carpet felt slick beneath my feet, but still gleamed with a clean shine. I do not think I have ever seen “clean” like this before. The hospitals of the future must employ an army of chambermaids, and yet I saw not a single servant during my entire time at this facility.

When I first entered, a trouser-clad woman greeted me with a smile. Her loose-fitting shirt and trousers seemed comprised of the same synthetic material as the rest of the furnishings. In her hands she held the only wood that I saw in the room: a pencil, a wooden board, and a piece of what looked like very thick, very clean newsprint.  I breathed a sigh of relief simply to know that trees still exist. The woman may have worn the plain clothes of a common laboring man, but she painted her face like lady of the night. Her long black tresses, she allowed to cascade freely down her back. Around her neck hung a stethoscope and upon her chest hung a pin identifying her as a nurse. I expected her to attend me directly, but I found the future rather slow when it came to administering aid. Instead, she bade me take a seat and asked a variety of questions. The answers, she scrawled onto her sheet of newsprint before asking for the $200L that, in her time, must be paid before one obtains treatment.

After I paid another woman, one who sat behind a counter and controlled what looked like a complicated cash register, the nurse assisted me to a private, sterile room. Ever a slave to her piece of paper, the nurse bade me stand upon a scale in order to take note of my weight. A strange cone was stuck into my ear. It beeped, and the nurse took note of my temperature. I then sat upon a paper-covered piece of furniture that seemed half bed and half table. The nurse wrapped a cuff around my arm, placed the round end of her stethoscope underneath the cuff, and squeezed a connected air bladder until the cuff tightened painfully around my arm. This, she informed me upon inquiry, allowed her to take note of my blood pressure. Why my weight, the temperature of the inside of my ear, or the pressure of my blood (whatever that may indicate) is relevant to the injuries that I sustained during the boating accident I cannot discern. During this entire process, the nurse barely glanced at my wounds. She did, however, ask more questions about them and the method by which they were sustained.

This part of the healing process complete, the nurse handed me a paper shirt and instructed me to slip into it. What modesty such a garment is supposed to provide is beyond my understanding. The nurse did leave while I changed, which is, I suppose, a small mercy. She instructed me to “sit tight” until the doctor arrived. Minutes later, my wounds still untended, there came a rapping at the door. A new woman entered. This one wore an impossibly white pea-coat over tight-fitting denim work trousers and a decolletage-baring shirt decorated in shiny golden sparkles. Garish hoops hung from both ears. Her long, black hair she pulled into a fierce ponytail seemingly designed to stretch her eyebrows into a perpetual expression of surprise. Like the other women of her time, she presented an elaborately painted face and stood several inches high upon dagger-thin heels. She wore a stethoscope and clutched the omnipresent wooden board and newsprint. Despite her appearance, the lapel of her pea-oat proclaimed her to be a doctor.

She introduced herself as a doctor, too. Stupidly, I asked, “Are you certain?” I did not intend impertinence, but really! Who ever saw black woman doctor done up like a can can dancer? She laughed and informed me that yes, she was the doctor, and also much more: she was actually the chief-of-staff.

I closed my gaping jaw and answered her questions, many of them repetitious, while she marked down my answers. After what seemed like a long wait, the woman doctor bade me lay down. She observed and palpated my various injuries before inserting a needle into my arm. Shortly thereafter, the familiar effects of opium descended upon me. The nurse returned with a gurney and the two of them together wheeled me into another room, this one nearly filled by one hulking object: a white monolith through which a person-sized hole had been bored. From this hole extended a padded slab. The women placed me upon this slab and fitted protective cushions over my ears. The slab then retracted into the monolith. A great deal of banging ensued. According to the doctor and the nurse, the loud machine would determine the extent of my injuries. How it did so, I am not sure.

This step of the diagnostic process complete, the nurse wheeled me back to the private room for yet another round of tedious waiting. Finally, the doctor returned to inform me that the M.R. Eye (apparently, the name for the loud machine) had confirmed what I had already told them several times: my ribs and leg had been broken. Only now, after hours of waiting and answering questions and submitting myself to various unnecessary tests, did any healing actually occur. The woman doctor removed my bandages and cleaned my wounds with stinging liquids. She wrapped my leg in plaster. For my ribs, she fitted me with a rigid corset. The wound above my eye, she addressed last. This, she stitched closed with a single suture. The miracles of healing that Mr. Robot had promised were not available, it seemed for a mere $200L. Seeming pleased with her work, the doctor provided me with wheeled chair and a piece of paper. The chair, she instructed me, I was to use for the next four weeks. I could resume use of my crutches for two weeks after that. The paper, I was to take to a pharmacy in order to obtain a prescription for more opium.

My doctor helped me to dress before releasing me into the care of my friend, Mr. Robot. I cannot explain how appalled and betrayed I felt by this entire ordeal. What sort of doctor forces sick and injured people to come to her? The hospital consisted of a great deal of solitary waiting and information gathering, but no more healing than could be obtained at home. In my time, a physician attends his patient’s sickbed daily until the patient is well. Any competent nurse can diagnose and bandage broken bones without the aid of startling machines. Pain is alleviated by almost the same drug. The future is clean and, apparently, egalitarian. It is also plodding and impersonal. If there is a cure for my injuries, I will not find it in a hospital in the year 2010.

And so, for now, I leave you with these impressions of 2010. More information is sure to come.

Your Disappointed,

–Miss Palabra Puddlegum–

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