It was about 9 p.m. at this point. Orville said I could sleep there and wait for them to arrive if I wanted rather than driving 100 miles back home. But I’m thinking Rolla is only about 110 miles away. I’d rather be driving than sitting here making nice with Orville so I jumped in the Torino and headed west to Rolla.
It took quite a while for me to get out of St. Louis. I have magic. You can ask me to go from wherever I am to wherever you want me to go and I will find the most difficult or indirect route possible. I don’t TRY to do this, it’s an involuntary magic.
Once I was actually outside of St. Louis I rolled down the window and turned on the heat. This is a weird, possibly autistic thing I do on cool summer nights. I was cruising down 44 with this mixture of hot and cold washing over me, Billy Joel cranked and a 7Eleven Big Gulp (these were my pre-coffee days) in my hand.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t until I actually made it to the 109th mile of my 110 miles that this thought occurred to me: “what will I do when I get to Rolla?” In my “ready to make out” induced haze I guess I just thought I’d roll up to a gas station and ask if anyone had seen the van.
I remembered the dog bite and headed for the hospital to see if they were still there.
Now, here’s where the story takes a twist into what could have been a potentially life threatening situation.
I roared up, determined to find Donna, at the hospital emergency room. By then it was around midnight. (I got really lost leaving St. Louis.) I parked and ran right to the admitting desk. There was a receptionist and a security guard and otherwise the place was deserted.
“Have you treated a dog bite tonight? A girl, traveling through with a singing group?” My voice was edgy with urgency.
The receptionist looked down at her desk and started relaying all kinds of helpful information to me about who they had treated, how they had treated her and, unfortunately for me, when she had been released an hour ago.
The security guard then jumped in with even more helpful information. The bottom line was, I was out of luck, the whole group had left and were staying somewhere in Rolla for the night.
I thanked them for the info and left. As I was walking away I was thinking, “Those were the friendliest hospital staff I’ve ever met.” Normally people are very particular about releasing information about other people at a hospital but they had told me a load of information and the receptionist had used medical terms I had only heard on T.V.
Then it occurred to me. I was wearing my scrub shirt. Back in the “olden days” when this took place, there was this trendy thing where people were wearing surgical scrub shirts. You could go in the local trendy jeans store and by one off the rack but I had some from a local hospital (longer story) and was wearing one that day. I was pretty sure Donna would think I looked cool in it (again, the make out thing).
But at the hospital in Rolla at midnight, my mad rush in, asking questions like I belonged there, and authentic scrub shirt must’ve all made them think I was like, Doogie Howser or something.
I headed out of town to a rest area to sleep in my backseat for the night to resume my search early the next morning for Donna. As I lay there, listening to the guy going through the garbage can just outside the car looking for a snack, I thought, ‘what if they would’ve had an emergency when I went in and before I knew it I was elbow deep in an appendectomy or liver transplant before I had a chance to explain I wasn’t a doctor, just a guy looking for a girl?
To be continued…