The girl’s eyes continued to beg askance of me.
“The police were called. They thought I was drunk so they put me in a booth, slapped me in the face a couple of times. I came to, managed to get around the corner and into my apartment, where a friend found me in a coma a day later, so I was taken to the hospital.”
“They’ll be here soon,” Manuel announced from the front door – we could hear the sirens.
“I was referred to the neurologist who had treated an astronaut for a concussion after the spaceman fell down in the bath tub. He told me about low blood sugar. I think that is what you have, from drinking and not eating because you’re not used to doing that. It’s important not to panic, not to try to stand up and go somewhere, because that is what I did the next time, and fell over again, this time in the bathroom. I fell under the urinals but nobody helped me, and they just peed over me.”
My depiction distracted her for the time being, but when two Miami Beach firemen entered, she began to moan again, her breathing went shallow, and she did not respond to questions as they were testing her vitals.
“You need to respond to me, young lady, if we are going to help you,” one fireman said.
No, she had not eaten anything today and not much the day before. No, she was not taking medications. Yes, she had been drinking alcohol the previous night. No, she had not used drugs, but thought she must have been poisoned.
“Your vitals are normal,” he said.
“You have what is known as a hangover,” was the stunning announcement.
She looked bewildered.
“What? But I’m so sick.”
“We can take you to the hospital, but it will cost you.”
“Probably twenty-thousand dollars by the time they get done testing you,” I chimed in.
“Does this cost me?” she asked wanly.
“No, there is no charge for us coming here,” the fireman said.
“Should we give her some glucose?” the other fireman asked.
“No,” he answered, and said to the girl, “You need to hydrate, to go home and drink some Gatorade. Where do you live?”
She explained that she was from Scandinavia, was staying at a hostel across the street, and then she began to cry.
“What will they think? They will laugh at me.” She sobbed ashamedly.
“It does not matter what they think, young lady, and they will understand because they have had hangovers too, and will go get you some Gatorade and some pasta,” I said.
“Your health is the important thing, not what people think,” said one of the firemen. “Come, we will take you there.”
“Remember, never drink on an empty stomach, and if you do, drink plenty of fluids afterwards and eat something,” I said to her as the firemen took her out the door. They put her in the ambulance and drove her to the hostel in style, with lights flashing.
The poor girl, I reflected, her parents evidently did not educate her about the hazards of drinking on an empty stomach, or explain what a hangover is and what to do about it. Strange, for I thought most Scandinavians from the Vikings on down were experienced drinkers.
She was back at the Internet Café the next day, feeling much better and thankful for our Southern hospitality. She said her roomies at the hostel understood very well what had happened to her, and went out and got her some food and Gatorade.