A trip to Urgent Care

This post is not about the usual hiking/travel, coffee or beer subjects. There won’t be photos, and it might make some people uncomfortable.  Read further at your own risk.  I’m going to try to complete this post without being political in any sense, but life is politics, so I may not be entirely successful.


When I was a young lawyer, I received a letter from an opposing attorney in a case which ticked me off.  I was all set to draft a combative letter in return and to the judge and to the client.  Before doing so, I went to my mentor (a partner at the firm) and told him about the situation.  He gave me a long, appraising look when I told him how I was going to respond.

“Yeah, you could do that, John,” he said.  “And then he’ll fire back another nasty letter, and it will escalate. You will be able to bill more hours.  Both sides will harden, and you will be in the same position as you are right now.”

“What should I do?”  I asked

“What I would do is pick up the phone and work it out,” he answered.  “You’re both smart and reasonable people.”

The advice worked.  I got what I wanted at at a cost savings for the client.  It was good advice then, and it is good advice now.  No matter who you are, we have more in common than what draws us apart.

During the previous post, I mentioned that I caught a bad cold and passed it on to the rest of my family.  Julia and I recovered, and Justin seemed to recover, but then he had a really bad relapse.  We were concerned that he might have pneumonia, which is a big deal with his weakened respiratory system.  We ended taking him to Urgent Care.

While I rarely go to the doctor myself, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals and doctors’ offices due to Justin’s neuromuscular disease.  Waiting rooms are typically filled with sick people, and this place was crowded with coughing, sniffling people who generally looked “out of it.”  During the morning, a little boy threw up into a paper bag as he passed me on his way to the bathroom.
The only danger I perceived as I sat in the clinic was from all of the sick people around me.

 Justin and a young man were seated near each other, waiting to be called back for lab tests. The young man was African-American and of slight build.  I probably wouldn’t have even remembered him if not for what was about to happen.  Justin and Julia went back for more lab tests.  A few minutes passed.

Suddenly, I saw two security personnel at the front desk talking with several Madison police officers.  My curiosity increased as the police officers started walking towards me and then beyond me.  A few steps away from the young man, they slowed down.  In a calm voice, one of the officers politely stated that he knew that the young man was carrying a knife and asked if any more weapons were in his possession.

The look on the young man’s face was genuine shock.  He started to deny that he had any weapons and then realized that he had a visible but sheathed knife on the outside of his pants  His next step was to inform the officers that he didn’t have any other weapons.

“Am I in trouble?” he asked in a concerned voice.

 The officers stated that they would need to talk to him about that and to please stand up.  As this was going on, the few other people on that end of the building (besides me) were ushered to the opposite wing.  A private security officer placed herself in front of me  and apologized that something like this had to happen.

When the young man stood up, an officer on each side grabbed an arm, moved his arms behind him, and clicked on the handcuffs.  Then they sat him on his chair. He yelled out at the discomfort of sitting down while handcuffed.
I couldn’t hear everything that was said at this point while they talked with the young man, but I gathered that the officers were informing him that weapons were not allowed inside the clinic and that he had passed a sign advising him of that fact when he entered.

It didn’t surprise me that weapons weren’t allowed in the clinic, but I hadn’t seen or paid any attention to the sign when I came in.  I sometimes carry a knife in my pocket but not that day.  When I do carry a knife, I’m rarely conscious of my knife as a weapon. I consider it a tool that is used to cut stuff with, as needed.

Next, the young man was ushered out of the building through a back exit.  The law enforcement officers brought him around to their cars in the parking lot and talked to him for awhile.  I don’t pretend to know what was said or what happened in the parking lot.  I have no idea.  I did observe officers come in to interview clinic employees.  Everyone agreed that the young man had not brandished the weapon or done anything other than politely sit there waiting to be called for his labs.  Everyone agreed that clinic policy is no weapons allowed, and I heard the private security officer state it was policy to call the police in these situations.  “We have no choice,” she said.

Eventually, the police left.  Awhile later, the young man came back inside without any police escort or his backpack or his knife.  I could hear him talking to someone on his cell phone as he walked past me.  “Man, I’m going to jail,” he said.  “They found my pot.”

Without further incident, he completed his labs, saw the doctor, and left. He looked embarrassed but stayed calm, quiet and polite.   Undoubtedly, besides being sick, he was having a really bad day.

Those are the facts, as best I recall.  I honestly believe that private security and law enforcement did all of the things that they are “required” to do under the circumstances.  No one forced the young man to wear a knife on the outside of his pants or to have pot in his possession ( and it had to be more than just a tiny amount, which is decriminalized in Madison). I believe he made an honest mistake in forgetting about the knife and that he made a bad choice in carrying around the pot.

Having acknowledged all of that, I can’t help but think that someone at the front desk or a private security officer should have been able to exercise discretion and advised the young man of the no weapons policy and that the knife was considered a potential weapon. “Sir, you can’t come into this medical building with a knife (pointing at the sign).”

I also couldn’t help but wonder how many guys like myself have accidentally entered the clinic with a concealed pocket knife without being handcuffed and taken down.  I guess the next step in ensuring that we are all safe is to walk through weapons detectors on the way to the doctor.

Finally, I wondered what kind of world we live in where “policies” have taken away our discretion to solve problems like reasonable, intelligent people with common sense.  Make no mistake; this event will be costly to the young man and to taxpayers. Yes, there is a huge cost to “feeling more safe.”

Getting back to Justin, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, started a treatment with multiple antibiotics and is back at school.

Roan Mountain is still on the calendar for the end of the month, along with a short trip to Door County.  Back to our regularly scheduled program…

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