The man had been cutting back and forth, over and around the entire highway along the sea when by chance his car stopped next to the woman's at a stoplight. I'll never forget with what style the woman moved her head just out of her window, fixed her eye on the man and muttered the immortal words: "The gentleman does not have a mother?"
My companion and I laughed uproariously. Never had I seen such a classy comeback.
For various reasons, this inimitable moment has kept coming back to me the last few weeks during the Affordable Care Act fights. Every time some smart acre says with firm assurance that young Americans will not pay for health insurance because they are all Olympic specimens or men shouldn't have to pay for women's pregnancies, I hear that woman's voice from Rio: "The gentleman does not have a mother?"
Do these male critics not care enough about American mothers to include their health and birthing care in family health plans? Do they not have a wife, a sister, a daughter, a cousin, a female friend? Do they not care enough about other new mothers, or have the minimal common sense to know that every bad birth will cost the state mammoth amounts if problems are not dealt with in the beginning? Or, better, beforehand?
So I say to the many men who have been quoted in the papers these last months, saying smugly that they are happy with their current policies that do not include pregnancy coverage because they, as men, have no intention of having babies, "You are FOOLS!"
As to young people, I have found that, in all the newspaper and television reports claiming that the young essentially don't NEED and thus don't WANT personal health coverage, few actual young people are quoted. Usually the quotes come from insurance companies, health care activists or general commentators. So we have little actual proof, only a miasma of anecdotal material, that says many young people are, in effect, selfish little brats.
The reason young people should pay for health insurance is that although the little buggers may THINK they will never get sick, immortality hangs loosely on their shoulders, just waiting for a chance for some mosquito, fly or speck of cholera to poison them, or just pausing until Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, the horrible bacteria infecting hospitals, hits them. Item: C. diff and such bacteria do not differentiate between ages 24 and 58 and 72.
Since you ask about my own experience (you did, didn't you?), I need to tell you that I had a deadly form of hepatitis when I was a blooming 21 and in school in Vienna. One day, I had never been so happy; the next day I was in a coma that lasted almost two years. My goddaughter, at just 35, suddenly got ovarian cancer. It is a miracle she is alive.
Taken your blood pressure lately? How about your temperature? Breathing tests? Checked your family background for cancer indicators? Had a cat scan or an MRI? Can't get pregnant? Well, of course, you can deal with all those things yourself. No need to have health insurance. If you get sick, as President George W. Bush so elegantly put it, "just go to an emergency room."
Sure, just go to the emergency room of your hospital. Winter? Wear your warmest sweater, hat and gloves because the lines now snake around the buildings. Illegal aliens are having their babies in the E.R., so step carefully. If you don't have health insurance, you come last. Might as well go get a pizza and come back tomorrow, when it will be even worse.
Despite all the arguing about Obamacare, the most important fact remains that we are a country of many become a community. From the first landings on the New England and Virginia coasts, our Protestant forefathers believed in working as a community.
And some national efforts need to be overseen by the government. Driver's licenses are one -- without them, we would all be put in danger. Health care is another -- without it, we are equally endangered.
If you care about your country, you will want health care for everyone. But if you don't pay, there's no way.
(Georgie Anne Geyer has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years. She can be reached at gigi_geyer(at)juno.com.)