Saturday, June 25, 2016

Adventures in waiting rooms

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else
Charles Dickens
As we were leaving the doctor’s clinic after our “two-for-one” follow-up visit for our respective left feet, he turned and said, “You know, that whole deal in the waiting room reminded me of the Group W bench.”

Yes, indeed, it did.

“Group W bench” not ringing any bells? Then you’ll need to get a cup of coffee or something cool to drink, relax, and spend about 20 minutes listening to Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant.”

As with the waiting rooms in most doctors’ clinics, this doctor’s waiting room is usually packed with people. He appears to be the only podiatrist serving Northern Arkansas. No, we don’t live in Arkansas, but it is actually closer for us to drive to Arkansas to see him than it would be to see the nearest podiatrist in Missouri, who is about 90 miles away. He has a lot of patients – too many patients, in fact – and as with most doctors, he is usually overbooked.

But on this particular day, perhaps 8 people were in the waiting room when we arrived.

Although there were plenty of seats to choose from, I ended up sitting in the empty seat next to a woman and her great granddaughter because where Richard chose to sit was on the wrong side of the knee scooter, and I would not have been able to get off and on it again easily and would have had to turn around, which would have put me heading in the wrong direction when it came time for our appointment, which meant I would have had to turn around again...

Richard got out his materials and began working on one of the articles that was due in a few days, and I got out the book I was planning to read, but instead of reading the book, I began visiting with the woman next to me and her great granddaughter. We had a grand old time trading stories about the ailments with our feet that had brought us to the office and other injuries we had sustained over the years and our jobs and all sorts of stuff.

Soon there were only 4 of us who were actual patients: a woman who was sitting with her back to us (I never did see her face) and who was doing something on a tablet, the woman next to me, and Richard. Then, another woman walked in, stopped, looked at us in surprise, and commented she had never seen the waiting room this empty.

She signed in, took her seat, and began to tell us one funny story after another about doctor’s waiting rooms culminating in a particularly hilarious story about being left naked in an examination room, forgotten, while the office began shutting down for the night. And then the other woman who was there put her tablet away and also told a story about being forgotten in an examination room and also convinced she was going to be locked in for the night.

So we offered opinions about what we would do if we were accidentally locked in. That was a no-brainer, we concluded. We’d go to the front desk and use the office telephone to call for help.

Having sorted that out, she began a discussion of the pitfalls of hip replacement surgery  -- sometimes during the operation the nerves going to the feet get cut and then there are problems with the foot (she was wearing a brace for that reason). Turns out the other woman also had the same problem but was using a walker instead of wearing a brace.

Then it was our turn to see the doctor, so we never heard the end of the tale. The foot is doing well, but I won't be able to walk on it for about another month.

That last patient who came before we were called in for our appointment definitely lightened the burden of waiting for everyone there and was a very useful person indeed. She managed to morph the shared boredom and isolation of an interminable wait into a communal event of shared laughter and joy.


Paula said...

Interesting. I've noticed the patients at John's doctor's office are always more talkative then the patients at my doctor's office. John's doctor is a rolly polly friendly black man and will stop to talk if you see him out in public (small town) but my doctor is a small Hispanic man and if I see him in public he seems afraid I'm going to ask him a medical question. I would never do that.

Far Side of Fifty said...

What a fun wait...some people are fun to talk to...although I have not met such a bunch while waiting ...yet! :)

Leilani Lee said...

Paula: I wouldn't either! I have a friend who is a nurse practitioner, and one time when we were having lunch in a restaurant, one of her patients called her over as we were leaving and began discussing his medical issues with her in public. She had sent him to a specialist "Well, the results came back and I have dementia..." I should not be listening to the conversation so I left the restaurant.