One of the most well known quotes on the Statute of Liberty reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I don’t know about you, but reading this quote literally sends chills down my spine. In my mind, I see thousands of people flocking to a place or person seeking relief from some type of pain or persecution. I see people begging for help from a person or place they view as their last resort.
If you have been reading this blog, then you know this quote hits home with me. Lately, I have been feeling like one of those people begging for someone to give me relief from my pain. As a person that battles with chronic illness and pain, and is constantly fighting to have my pain and illness taken seriously, lately I have been wondering if there is any place on earth that will help me. I have spent hours searching the web and the corners of my mind, looking for a place that would dare to say “give us your sick, tired, and ignored chronically ill warriors, and those yearning to be heard, helped, or healed.” Candidly, after several bad encounters from with multiple doctors, I was convinced that such a place did not exist. Well, friends, be encouraged. I am not afraid to say that I was terribly wrong. SUCH A PLACE DOES EXIST…Mayo Clinic.
After 2 months of waiting, the day for my trip to the world renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota finally arrived. My morning started at 3:00 am with the sound of Ricky Dillard’s “Amazing” blaring from my phone to wake me up. Excited and far too nervous to really sleep, I jumped out of bed at the first sound of my alarm. I had packed my bags the night before, so after a quick shower and kisses for my sleeping kiddos and husband, I climbed into a cab and headed to the train station for my 6:30 am train ride to Rochester.
I arrived at the train station at 5:30am (that type A personality requires me to be early), and was greeted by my dad. With a hearty laugh he said “good morning daughter, ready? I quickly responded, “yep, let’s do it.” After 20 minutes of people watching, small talk, and waiting, we we boarded the train and headed off to Mayo. As I sat on the train staring out the window, I couldn’t help but wonder if what I was feeling was similar to what Dorothy felt as she made her journey to the see the Wizard of Oz. Seriously, it felt as if I was headed off to meet The Wizard of Oz.
As I stared out the window, I imagined that Dorothy, like me, must’ve been nervous yet excited. I imagined Dorothy, like me, wondering and praying that the all knowing Wizard could help her. Like me, she probably wondered if the Wizard would be kind, knowledgeable, relatable, willing to listen, and able to help her. The more I thought about Dorothy and her journey, the more mine seemed to unfold like hers. Seriously, I started to see the characters from the Wizard of Oz. You know, as I type this, I realize that I probably should’ve gotten more sleep…but I digress.
Like Dorothy, I met some very interesting characters as I made my journey to Mayo. Before the end of my trip, I had encountered my very own Scarecrow, Tin Man, and coward/cowardly Lion…the R rated versions of course. Unlike the characters from The Wizard of Oz, the ones I encountered were rough around the edges, drunk, and over sexualized. Now, before I give all the deets, I am woman enough to admit that I boarded the train a little naïve. But, I quickly got introduced to “Amtrak After Dark”. Apparently lots of people meet new “friends” on the train and hook up. There are some people that ride the train between cities simply looking for new romance partners. There are other people that ride the train to drink, gamble, start fights, and just have their version of a good time. Friends, I seriously had NO IDEA. I thought by taking the train I was using transportation that few people used. I boarded that train thinking virtually everyone on the train was headed to Mayo or had some other constructive purpose. Ha!
One of the first people I met on the train was a gentleman that seemed to be a regular at Amtrak After Dark. He was approximately 5’7 and very slim build. He had short dreadlocks that made him look as if he had been electrocuted, and wore blue jeans, a flannel top, Timberland boots, and an oversized First Down coat. For several hours, he walked up and down the aisles speaking to random women, disappearing with them to the bar, and returning with another one. After about 2 hours of this, and without warning, he decided to take an empty seat in front of me. While I saw him take the seat, I was unbothered because it never occurred to me that he would feel the need to turn around in the seat, stick his head into the aisle, and attempt to speak to me. Well friends, that is exactly what happened.
As I sat in my seat staring out the window and listening to music from my headphones, I heard a raspy voice whisper, “hey baby, how you doing”. Surprised that someone dared to interrupt my peace, particularly when I had on my “don’t bother me face”, I angrily looked at the speaking gentleman seated in front of me with his head sticking from around the seat. Still very confused by the interruption of my peace, I glared at him without responding. If looks could kill, he would’ve immediately dropped dead onto the floor. But, no such luck. Undeterred by my silence and evil glare, he said “I said, hey baby, how you doing”. Annoyed at this point because NO ONE calls me baby, sugar, honey, darling, or anything similar, I replied “I’m uncomfortable. I have to shit but am trying to hold it because I don’t use public restrooms to shit. But, I think the shit may win because its fighting!” Trust me when I tell you that he did not speak to me for the duration of the trip…which was absolutely fine with me.
After the rude interruption and establishing myself as completely nuts, I was able to go back to listening to the music from my headphones. Proud of my behavior with the intrusive gentleman, and certain I wouldn’t be interrupted again, I gave myself a mental high five and drifted off to sleep. After what seemed like only 20 minutes, I was woken up by something that sounded like rattling chains. As I slowly opened my eyes, I noticed a woman stumbling down the aisles. She carefully chose every step in an effort to avoid falling or appearing drunk so the bar wouldn’t cut her off…fail. As she timidly walked past rattling because of the change in her pocket, I thought to myself “ahhh tin man”. Before making it to the bar, she fell over into a seat.
Now, if you are familiar with the Wizard of Oz, then you know the story is not complete without the cowardly lion. Just like that story, Amtrak After Dark also had a coward…though I wouldn’t call him a lion. After the drunk tin woman woke up from her short nap and made her way to the bar, I decided it was a good time to take a bathroom break. As I walked the aisles of the train headed to the bathroom, I came across a very muscular gentleman. He literally looked like Vin Deizel. As I approached him, I heard his booming voice say “THIS IS SOME BS. YOU ARE VIOLATING MY RIGHTS. I AM NOT GETTING OFF. I BET YOU DON’T MAKE ME GET OFF.” As I rounded the corner to the bathroom, I noticed him yelling at a very petite African American Woman. In response to his intimidating demeanor and booming voice, the woman simply said “ok sir” and walked off. But, within 1 minute, she was back with a gentleman as muscular as the Vin Diesel look alike. As she stood next to the Vin Diesel look alike explaining the situation, the Vin Diesel look alike stood there in silence. The big gentleman than said, “sir, you are getting off at the next stop, nothing more for you to drink either.” The Vin Diesel look alike simply replied “ok”, and took the first open seat…coward. I thought to myself, “so you will yell at a woman, but quickly shut up when a man arrives.”
Fortunately, Amtrak After Dark did not last much longer after my bathroom trip. Once I made it back to my seat, I took a 3 hour nap and woke up to the sound of my dad saying “hey daughter, we’re here”. We quickly exited the train and entered the awaiting hotel shuttle.
After a hour shuttle ride, we finally arrived in downtown Rochester. Friends, when I finally touched down in Rochester Minnesota, only one word can be used to describe what I felt. Overwhelmed! I felt as if someone dropped me off in the middle of Oz. I was overwhelmed by the massiveness of the Mayo Clinic, the prestige it carried around town, and how the city was seemingly built around Mayo Clinic. Almost every hotel in downtown Rochester had a skywalk that connected directly to the Mayo Clinic. This skywalk literally allows you to walk into Mayo or almost any restaurant or store downtown without ever going outside in the cold. Excited, I rushed off shuttle and into the hotel, eager to finish my journey to the Wizard in the morning.