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Walt Bugleman, his temperature now a high-grade fever, departed the department store and in short order arrived at the chemist. The line-up was so long it looped round the first aisle. But that did not deter Walt. He marched to the front counter like a solider on a mission.
“Hey! Hey, mister!” a man in the line-up gestured toward the aisle, “The line starts back there!”
“Yes, yes, I’m in line. I was in this line long before you. I was in it three days ago!”
Walt strode up to the counter and showed them the pills with the wrong brand name. “I want this mix-up fixed now!” he bellowed. At the word ‘now’ he brought his hand down upon the counter with such force that the chemist shuddered and took a step back.
“You need to go to the Pharmacy Board website and follow the links,” the chemist said.
“How long will that take?”
“A couple of weeks or—”
“Or a couple of years of my life!”
The whole business of complaining sure was a pickle. You had to fill out one form after another just to arrive at the point where you could fill out the complaint form. All the red tape made Walt want to complain about the complaints procedure but then probably they would just give him another form to fill out! If you were not stern enough, they would dismiss your complaint, and if you were too stern, they would feign that they were the victims of abuse. There was a tenuous, barely visible middle ground that one had to find while complaining. But today Walt’s emotions had got the better of him — and why would they not have? For it had become obvious to him that the health care system was both unhealthy and uncaring!
Walt heard the words “public nuisance” uttered by someone back in the line he had cut to the head of. A man from the line came forward and seized Walt by the arm. Shocked at being touched (he did not even like shaking hands), Walt jerked his elbow free.
“Oww!” cried some other man.
Walt turned round to see a man in a T-shirt with both hands cupped to his nose which evidently had just been contacted by Walt’s elbow.
The T-shirted man formed a fist and punched Walt back. The crowd gasped.
The last words Walt heard as he fell to the floor came from the chemist: “Call an ambulance.”
Six days later, Walter Bugleman’s eye had turned the colour of a bottle of chartreuse. A soreness had taken up residence on his face, along with a sour expression. He knew what his error had been: one must not leave one’s home. He locked the door and pushed the sofa against it.
But on the other hand, one must fight for justice! The health care system needed a remedy — and Walt would be the man to cure it. Which was why once again he was at his desk shouting at someone over the phone.
“I’ll say it again, I want to speak to a lawyer now!”
“I can make an appointment for you to come in and—”
Walt slammed the receiver down.
He had made umpteen telephone calls only to be told to come to the office, come to the office. That meant he would have to leave his apartment.
He put his hands on the table and pushed himself up out of his chair and began his Leaving-the-Apartment routine, checking everything thrice — the stove, the lights, everything. When Walt reached the front door, he was about to make an anti-germ sleeve when a man burst through from the other direction so Walt did not have to touch the handle. A good sign! He walked down the street, keeping to the left. Since he had to start his day with a coffee, he had no choice but to turn towards Little Johnny’s Café.
Walt came to a full halt. He noted a banner draped below the café sign:
UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
After a moment’s reflection, he continued, dutifully, toward the café. After all, it was his particular duty. One had to tell imbeciles they were imbeciles, for how else would they know?