So I just said “I’d rather not have one, since I’ve lived all my adult life in the US.” She waited, and she had that curious type of tenseness that people have when they’re going to make some outrageous and — they think brave — statement.

Finally she says, in a bombastic tone, “You see, I wish I weren’t an American. I’m trying to leave the country.”

This met with a subdued response from my family trio which, because we were in a public space and she was a perfect stranger, couldn’t include what all of us wanted to do which was grab her by the shoulders and SHAKE her. Besides, she might have some logical reason like “we’re all going to die in taxmaggedon.” So we held the type of barely polite silence that means “Are you out of your mind?” without saying it.

Instead she blurts out, “You see, here we don’t have a right to free health care.”

At which point I rotated my head like something out of The Exorcist and said in my best *I am controlling my voice because otherwise I’ll shriek so loudly people from Kansas will run in to see what is going on* tone: “You don’t want the free health care they have in other countries. I grew up with it. And Portugal is not as bad as some.”

She smugly gave me the “Better outcomes. Cheaper.”

At this point I started giving her home truths and anecdotes. I started with the “better outcomes” being because it’s so hard to GET in the system (and not be sent home to die) that most people aren’t in the system when they die — hence, not “outcome” of health care. I continued with the fact that my third year in college was spent sitting in a DMV-like office confirming that, yes, I still had impacted wisdom teeth, causing infernal pain and trying to grow into my jawbone. Every morning I went in to confirm that, no, this hadn’t magically resolved. And then I waited in line. Sometimes I made it to afternoon classes. All this for a two-hour procedure — at the end of the year.