I Got to Be the One

I had a sweet experience tonight. It was one of those moments when the world suddenly turns sideways—like when you're driving the road toward home, a road you've driven a thousand times and suddenly you realize with a jolt that you don't recognize anything and you feel weirdly lost even though you know you're where you should be.

I had been visiting a family member at the hospital and as I headed down the hallway toward the elevators, I heard from behind me a very small "Excuse me?" I turned around to see a young Amish woman looking directly at me. "Can you help us?" Her accent made me lift an ear to be sure the words I thought I heard were the words she actually said. "I was looking for someone and then I saw you," she continued. It was very much like English but not at all like English at the same time. "We cannot make it stop."

If she had not been so calm, the words "We cannot make it stop" would have given me pause considering the setting and the fact that I get dizzy at the sight of blood. I get dizzy just typing the word "dizzy." But her voice was steady and sweet and her plain smile was lovely, so I followed as she turned the corner into the waiting room.

It was empty, except for a man who I assume was either her brother or her husband. He lay on a rollaway bed in the middle of the room in front of the television with a sheet pulled up to his red-bearded chin. I barely had time to question what I was seeing when she pointed at the blaring television and asked if I could make it stop.

"We don't know how to do it." The remote was on the table, next to her neatly folded white bonnet.

I picked it up and turned toward the television, hoping inwardly that this was not the kind of remote that requires a user's guide for the uninitiated. I pressed the red button and to my relief, the TV went black and the room silent.

"OH!!!" she said in her soft voice. "You have to point it AT the television."

I showed her which button I had pressed and which end to point at the television, and as I did so I felt like the most sophisticated person on earth; a person of great savvy and expertise. She thanked me profusely as I looked over at the man in the makeshift bed who smiled and nodded at me. I suddenly realized they were staying there—sleeping there.

Their gratitude rolled in wake-like waves behind me as I made my way out of their sixth-floor-waiting-room-bedroom and back to the elevators. I stepped through the door that slid open and pushed the button to take me to the lobby and was overcome by the sense that I'd just experienced two separate realities occupying the same space, neither one better or worse—just utterly different.

I wondered what amazing things she could teach me if I were the one who had to camp out in the waiting room of her world. They would probably be things far more productive and important than operating a remote control. And yet the insignificant, almost effortless act of pushing a little red button had brought a rush of joy and relief to two weary souls taking up vigil in the cardiac ward.

I didn't think to ask her what event had brought them to the hospital today or if they needed anything or if there were any other bits of wisdom I could pass along. I wish I had—but at the same time, it's satisfying to know I gave them exactly what they were hoping for. I'm glad she found me in the hallway. I'm glad I got to be the one to push the button.

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