Life is as Strange as a Dolphin in the New Jersey River

Sniffly noses, sore throats, and existential dread over the current state of America’s health care system go with the changing seasons in New York City like bacon, eggs, and cheese go with an everything bagel (toasted, obv).

One crisp August morning I woke up feeling less than spectacular with a painful chest cough, completely clogged nostrils, and sinus pressure so painful I was convinced my body hated me and was doing this on purpose. I rolled out of bed and thought that maybe it’s FINALLY time I go to a doctor.

I called my insurance company and found a nearby hospital. I bundled myself up in sweats, my fall coat that could only be described as Grizebella-esque (I’m talking about the musical Cats), and my trusty combat boots, and I set out on my way.

Trudging through the leftover rain puddles and garbage of the dirty streets, I took a second to look up around me while I was retying my shoelaces. I became overwhelmed with the beauty of autumn. The sparse brown, red and golden leaves, seemed to perfectly match the bricks on the old brownstones. I momentarily forgot how sick I was feeling and began to stroll with more of a pep in my step till I reached the intimidating, sterile, shoebox-shaped hospital. It was painted a muddy grey color, had an ominous vibe to it and it appeared to be built without any windows…” what kind of hospital doesn’t have windows?” I thought to myself stunned. 

I enter the building and follow the confusing signs that were adorned with Bugs Bunny stickers, I believe this was an attempt to make this place look more friendly, but as far I was convinced, I was walking into A) a secret undercover prison, or B) a cryogenic chamber where they trick humans into being part of their test studies with promises to alleviate their common colds. 

In the waiting room, I whipped out my iPhone to mindlessly scroll my social feeds when I was greeted with a LOW BATTERY pop up...great. I realized that without my tiny portal to the outside world, I’d have to sit in this waiting room and...wait...just like people used to do before cell phones with Instagram and Candycrush...how did they do it?

As I tapped my feet and looked around the room to find something to distract me, I made eye contact with another patient. She was a raisin of an old lady who could’ve easily been 200 years old, and she was shrieking in pain. She only spoke Spanish, but It doesn’t take Duolingo to understand what she was saying – “I’m DONE fam, let’s wrap this life stuff up already!” 

I wished there was something I could do...I break eye contact and look around elsewhere. A Highlights magazine sitting on the side table next to me caught my attention...they still make Highlights magazine? In this economy?

After thumbing through the tattered pages and admiring how this little magazine has survived all these years, I hear “BREAKING NEWS” coming from the dusty TV in the corner of the room.  

“THERE IS A DOLPHIN FOUND IN THE NEW JERSEY RIVER, THIS IS NOT A JOKE, A DOLPHIN IS IN THE RIVER.” On the screen was this adorable little dolphin doing flips and spins in the river water completely unbothered. While it may not seem astounding to most, there is no plausible reason why a dolphin should’ve been in the New Jersey river, especially one that seemed to love the camera this much, so how did it get there? "How did I get here?" I thought as I broke my attention from the TV to remember where I was. Are we truly living in a lawless land where anything can happen? Can dolphins just appear in a river? Can Highlights magazine really outlast the fall of print media? Can old women really live till 200? As I began to feel my sense of reality slipping out from under my feet I heard my name called, “HUGE, SAY-LEN HUGE,” (*siiigh* I really hate when people mess up my name).

Frazzled I gathered all my accessories that had been stripped off and I followed the nurse in the Carebear scrubs into a small room. 

She asked me for my weight, which I gave her (ughhh), and then asked for my height. I confidently said “5’2.” She looked at me with one eyebrow raised and said, “are you sure about that, sweetie?” This made me anxious, I could’ve sworn to myself that I’m sure that I was sure that that was my height? My mom tracked our heights growing up by having us line up with our backs against one of our closet doors. There were various ages and heights of my three sisters, and I written in different colorful pens. I was told at one point I was 5’2.5 and I just stuck with that all throughout my young adult life. I got nervous and thought that it wouldn’t hurt to have her double-check my height.

As I stepped away from the measuring device, she scribbled on my chart and said aloud, “5’3 and a quarter.” ummm...wait wait wait, what? I wasn’t disappointed by this discovery necessarily, but I was a bit shocked to learn that there was an entire inch and a quarter of me that I didn’t know about. What other secrets is my body keeping from me? Can I do the splits? Are my “sensitivities to tree nuts” a farce? WHY IS EVERYTHING I KNOW AN ABSOLUTE LIE? 

Stunned, she leads me into another room to wait for my doctor. I sat on a bench lined with loud crinkly paper, and as I tried to get comfortable, *crinkle crinkle crinkle,* I sorta felt betrayed by the world that I thought I knew.

In walked a man who couldn’t have been taller than 5’6 (but don’t trust me on this because apparently, I’m not an expert when it comes to matters like these). He was young, bald, white (I later deduced he was probably from somewhere in Eastern Europe based on his accent), had a large scar underneath his crystal clear blue eyes.

I felt a bit uneasy, not because he looked like a Bond villain, but because I haven’t had a male doctor since my pediatrician.

While checking my temperature and listening to me breathe with his stethoscope, he asked, “Miss, would you say you are healthy?” 

I admitted to having an occasional social cigarette and daiquiri, and to not regularly exercising (does walking to and from Starbucks count?).

“Tssk tsssk tssk, no no, this will not do” he exclaimed while shaking his head in disapproval. “Do you eat meat, miss?” I shook my head yes because I am guilty of the occasional shackburger. 

“Miss, you should not be eating meat! You are insides are currently deteriorating as we speak! Me, I’m vegan. I run marathons, and have cleanest blood you ever seen.” I felt very cornered and couldn’t get anything out except an “I...uh..uhh…”

He then sat down in a chair in front of me, full man-spread. He ranted on “Americans, they eat such garbage. All these chemicals is ruining their life! For a girl like you, you should have a clean system. Help you live a nice long life, for your children and husband.” 

I chime in “oh, I don’t have kids and I’m not married.” 

He replied a little too eagerly, “So you’re single?!” was my doctor...hitting on me? Right after he told me I was actively killing myself every time I even walk past a Mcdonalds.

“You need to try vegan lifestyle, try for a week and come back to hospital next week so I can give you a piece of my homemade Ferrero Rocher vegan cheesecake.” wait...I thought I was supposed to be more healthy… 

While trying to figure out how to make sense of all this information that was just told at me, I remembered why I came to the doctor's office in the first place. “Oh, um sir, what about my sore throat, sinuses, and cough?”

“Oh, just take some lozenges,” he replied very nonchalantly.

Hold the phone...Wait wait wait...


Today I learned that dolphins can defy all science and logic by showing up and splashing around in the New Jersey river. I learned that you can live past 200 years old and that “put me out of my misery” can be understood in any language. I learned that Highlights magazine still exists despite print media being dead. I learned that I’m not the height that I thought I was, AND that everything I’m eating is destroying my internal organs. I learned that doctors can hit on you (doesn’t that seem unethical?) but most importantly I learned that I could’ve avoided all of this if I just picked up a bag of cough drops at CVS instead of wasting my time at this scary windowless hospital.

I was annoyed, shocked, overwhelmed, and mostly just confused. My world was ROCKED hardcore that day. I almost wondered if this was a bizarre Nyquil dream or was this actually real life?

I thanked him for his time and hopped off the doctor's chair. I paid the $12 copay and gave the hospital one last look before I left. 

Walking down the tree-lined streets of Clinton Hill with the crisp air hitting my face, I thought to myself, “f*ck if I know anything anymore,” and grabbed a pint of vegan ice cream at my nearby bodega.

*Based on a true incident of my life in 2015. *

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