Waiting and waiting and waiting…

Janice Lindsay
Janice Lindsay

By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer

Doctors call it “the waiting room.” That is what I’m doing. I have a sore throat. I arrived on time for my appointment. I checked in. I paid my co-pay. And now I am waiting.

I have been told, “It will be a few minutes.” Uh, oh. “It will be a few minutes” is doctor-office code for “I hope you brought a snack and you’re starting to read a Victorian novel, because we are Backed Up.”

I am prepared. I have toted today’s fat newspaper.

In order to concentrate on my newspaper, I must block out the loud health-TV’s repeating segments offering advice on scary things that go wrong with human bodies.  I must try not to overhear the receptionist’s phone conversations with other patients. I must ignore the round young woman who sits across from me, her back to the TV because she prefers to stare at a middle-aged lady with a sore throat trying to read a newspaper.

Normally, I read the fat newspaper in 45 minutes but, under these conditions, it takes longer. I am not quite finished when my name is called at last.

In the quiet examining room, I settle into a chair between the blood pressure machine and the white countertop scattered with mysterious boxes, bottles, and jars.

I hurry through the final pages of my paper.

The doctor will arrive any second.

She doesn’t.

Providentially, a glossy color poster on the wall to my left displays drawings of the insides of an ear, nose, and throat. I see that ears, noses, and throats are filled with reddish, curvy, squishy-looking fleshy stuff. The ear text reads, in part: “The auditory ossicles vibrate and the footplate of the stapes moves at the oval window.”

I am not making intellectual progress.

I read a taped-on-the-wall notice about managing diabetes when you have cold, flu, or infection, though I do not have diabetes.

I read about how to avoid foot problems. I do have feet.

High on the cupboard door opposite me, a poster shows how big a lump in your breast must be before you can detect it during self-examination, how big for the doctor to find it, how big for a mammogram.

On the wall to my right, another cheerful full color poster shows a cutaway of a human head: “Pathways to Migraine.”

I do not even want to think about that.

I am beginning to feel not at all well.

Finally, my gaze rests on something completely different, a large oil painting of what looks like a Mediterranean village. A flowered walkway follows the curves of a brilliant blue bay. Pink stucco houses peek out among lush gardens on sunny hillsides.

But I must not tarry in this comfortable pretend world that doesn’t belong within the unsettling medical world in which I am currently lodged.

I perform an act that I have resisted until this very moment. I look at my watch. I was to have attended a meeting a short distance away, which was due to start more than an hour after the end of my scheduled appointment. That meeting began 10 minutes ago.

Maybe I’ll leave, I think. I’ll request a refund of my co-pay. But insurance gods decree that, in order to see another doctor, I must first get a referral from this one. My sore throat and I are trapped. So we wait.

Suddenly, a knock on the door! It is the doctor!

I call, “Wait! I’m not ready!”

Not really. I say nothing.

The doctor offers a sweet, almost apologetic smile.

“Today,” she explains, as if she is sharing breaking news, “We are Backed Up.”

Contact jlindsay@tidewater.net