Escape From Landstuhl

Cross the Death Star with a human lymphatic system, throw in your average garden-variety octopus…and you have Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

The hospital twists, turns, slants and echoes so much that a NASA-sanctioned GPS would probably get lost in there.  I sure did.

I took my first of many computer security classes there yesterday.  In a rush to make the class on time, I never really took note of where I entered the building.  Thus, getting out became quite a challenge.

As I “toured” the hospital megaplex after class, I kept a stern “I know exactlywhere I’m headed” look on my face in an effort to avoid appearing lost.  Looking, or being, lost on military facilities – thanks to Bin Laden and Friends – can lead to security checks involving 3 forms of ID, fingerprints, sphincter tone analysis, rectal probe, tongue samples, etc…if you’re lucky enough to get the “abridged” check.

Most big hospitals are labyrinthine, torturous and seemingly infinite.  LRMC is the largest military hospital in Europe and fits that bill perfectly.  Frankly, I think the place is actually some form of mushroom, with tentacles that connect it to other hospitals all over the world.  Take a wrong turn, ride the shuttle, cross the sky-bridge aaaand…you’re at Tulane.

Anyway, as I walked briskly along a hallway that quizzically descended – in an innocuous manner reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ gently-sloping road to hell – for at least 2 city blocks, I began considering the possibility of an extended stay.  When I finally reached a turning-point I looked back and took in a disquieting view of the hallway disappearing upward into the dim horizon.

There were some maps on the walls, occasionally.  But the Army seems to disdain those little ‘you are here’ flags/dots/emblems.  I can imagine their indisputable logic running something along the lines of, “If we told you where you were…why would we need to put up a big huge map?”  Anyway, since I didn’t, in fact, know where I was, each map I passed looked exactly like the one I just left.  Eventually, the maps took on the appearance of wall art: cheerful, engaging, useless.

Thus, like Gretel leaving bread crumbs behind her in the forest, I started making mental notes of landmarks and where they were in relation to where I was going.

At one point, I passed a cafeteria.  “Note to self:  as with all hospital cafeterias, you can smell it before you see it.  Shouldn’t be too hard to make it back here.”  Later I passed an ATM, “You can now access cash.  Just remember this location relative to the waning smell behind you.”  Eventually, I found a bathroom, with a lockable door.  “Good.  All the essentials.  You can survive for months if necessary.”

10 minutes later, I happened to glance sideways on my way into yet another crooked, sloping hallway, when I noticed the security station that took my ID when I entered.  Just happened to be sitting there.

Staring dubiously at the surprise security station, I found myself willing to give sworn testimony that no such station existed in that location each of the previous 3 times I’d passed through the hall that day.  Therefore, the only logical explanation for such phenomena, I sagaciously surmised, was that the security station appeared and disappeared on some mystical space-matter time loop much too multi-dimensional for my simplistic 3-D brain.  Quickly, before the portal closed, I escaped through it and found my car.

Sure, I could have just asked someone for directions.  But I didn’t for three reasons:  First, and most understandable, is the whole ‘men don’t ask for directions’ thing.  Some genetic force I couldn’t hope to resist simply forbade me from getting help.  You can’t fight Darwin, people.

The second is that I had no idea how to explain to someone where I wanted to go.  My car sat patiently waiting for me in a parking lot the size of a Boeing hangar, somewhere on the hospital grounds.  Which lot?  No idea.  Which door did I come in through?  Never thought to look.  Plus, I wasn’t even confident that the security station wasn’t actually some sort of  translocating plasma-like substance only remotely related to common matter anyway.  How am I supposed to describe that to someone?  “Hi, Dr. SW101 here, could you please direct me to the nearest undulating plasma worm hole exit portal please?”

The third reason relates to my initial concern: security.  Ask the wrong guy where the front door is, and I really COULD end up locked away in that place with pressure probes under my eyelids for the next 10 days.  Better to just find the space-time anomaly on my own.

I won’t be working here with any regularity, so I may not ever learn the twists and turns of that hospital.  Then again, I’m fairly certain that, actually, nobody knows where they’re going in that hospital.  They just wander around, doing the jobs their certified to do, until they see a door to the outside world.  Quickly jumping through the worm-hole, they take a breather, check in with family, then eventually cross back into the tunnel-world and start over.  After a few years, it probably works out to 8-hour days.

I imagine all kinds of hospital staff probably just wander into any open room they find, and act like this is where they’re supposed to be, “Oh!  Hello, uh, I’m YOUR DOCTOR today.  Looks like you got some…uhhhh, let’s see here on the chart…renal failure.  Great!  Ok.  I can handle that.  Of course, bummer for you and everything.  Ahem!  Well, umm…peeing yet?”

“No.  And you’re the 14th doc I’ve seen in 3 hours.  Last week when I was on 3337L, I didn’t see a doc for a week.  What’s up with that?”

“3337L?  Where the heck is that? No wonder nobody rounded on you.  But I know why doctors are seeing you now.  Probably nurses and social workers too, huh?”

“Yeah.  And 3 chaplains, a medical transcriptionist, a zoologist, some guy playing a harp and 8 phlebotimists.  What’s the deal?”

“Take a deeeeep breath.  Smell that?”

“Hospital cafeteria, right?”

“Exaaactly.  You’re right next door.  Lemon chicken with tossed-in beenie-weenie and pineapple chunk sauce today.  Don’t worry, dude.  You’ll always have plenty of people dropping by to see you now.  Everyone can find thisroom.”

One thought on “Escape From Landstuhl

  1. Pingback: If You Want to Learn English…Move To Germany «

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