Tag Archives: waiting rooms

Waiting Room Sendoff

My sister and brother-in-law had warned me that my dad’s follow-up eye appointment would take a while, perhaps even several hours. But I wasn’t worried. I had cleared the day to give them a break from the parent care-giving duties that had kicked up a notch in the past several months. Plus, I thought the previous appointments had been long because they involved a procedure. This was a follow-up appointment. Even if we waited for an hour, we still had time to swing by and pick up my mom and go to dinner. How bad could it be?

My optimism is a really a fascinating thing.

At first it was typical waiting. They shuffled us from one waiting room to another for a couple of eye tests the doctor would need. Fair enough, and I kept thinking of it as passing the time we would already be waiting, and it would bring us closer to the actual appointment. We waited maybe 20 minutes for each test, and each test took about 5-10 minutes. So far, not so bad. And we got there early, so I was thinking we were actually ahead of the game.

I work in a large academic medical center. You’d think I’d know better.

After about an hour or so we landed in what we came to think of as the Final Waiting Room. The inner sanctum, the final boss fight. It was smaller than the others, and there was only one seat available when we got there. Soon after a woman got up and left, so we sat together. Time passed. My dad and I chatted pleasantly, had spells of companionable silence. We tried to get some of his favorite news websites to come up on my phone, but nothing would load at first. When they finally did, it was the mobile version, which was unfamiliar to him, and he couldn’t find the articles he wanted.

Outside the late fall afternoon light started to fade. I checked my watch. 4 pm. Still time to see the doctor and pick up my mother.

Suddenly a newcomer swept in and started chatting, asking questions. The spell of quiet of the Final Waiting Room was broken. The woman was new to this doctor, and she was quickly told by the old-timers that the wait could be 3 or more hours. They were mostly sanguine about it, and were soon telling stories of past waits like we were huddled around a campfire, which considering how dark it was getting outside, would have felt kinda nice. My dad and I are introverted in those kind of situations, so we just listened. But then people began sharing their appointment times. I perked up, expecting our 2:30 time to be the earliest.

I sometimes wonder if unbridled optimism is something that needs to be treated medically.

People started chiming in: 1:45 pm, 1:15 pm, 2 pm, 1 pm. Turns out there were two of us with a 2:30. I marveled that the energy in the room had not changed. People were actually kind of laughing, as if we had cracked a code. We had no idea when we’d get called, but at least we knew the order. The assistant came into the room and called out a name — it was Mr. 1 pm; we all cheered for him. The assistant looked surprised and a little uncomfortable. That’s right, lady, I thought, we’re all in this together now, so you just keep calling those names, and we’ll be just fine. The talk turned to recipes and food, so I tuned out (read about my glorious food fails). Outside, the predicted storm had begun with a steady rain.

The assistant came in and called Ms. 1:15, and now we were really getting into it.

“Goodbye!” “Good luck!” “Have a great weekend!”

The woman next to me leaned over and said, “I feel like we should have handkerchiefs.”

“Yes!” I answered.

So when Ms. 1:45 got called, we waved our hands like handkerchiefs, and sent her off properly like the Queen Elizabeth leaving Southampton.

At 5 pm I asked my sister to tell my mom we were running late. At 5:30, it was finally our turn. There were only a few of us left at that point, but the pretend handkerchiefs waved just as energetically. We got sent off, the doctor was happy with my dad’s progress, and we did, eventually, get to have dinner with my mom.

I just looked up at the Eckhart Tolle calendar I have, and this month it says, “Waiting is a state of mind. Basically, it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. With every kind of waiting, you unconsciously create inner conflict between your now and your projected future. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.”

Wise words — I would only add that waving handkerchiefs in the now works too.



Parts and Labor Day

We all have comfort zones. Mine is a well-constructed bubble that I try to leave as little as possible. But the world sometimes intervenes, as it did when I got a recall notice for my 2007 Toyota Corolla — something about a randomly exploding air bag on the passagers side, or some such. Why do I care? I’m not sitting there. But then it dawned on me my kid does sit there sometimes. My mechanic told me that while there had been only a few incidents and the risk was low, if I ever wanted to sell my car, I’d need to have it done. I only have 40,000 miles on it, so there’s a good chance I could sell it at some point as a curiosity on eBay when everyone has switched over to self driving cars. I prefer spending money on wine rather than car payments, but if the price and time were right, I’d be happy to sell my “classic” car to some collector.

After getting five recall postcards and four emails, I called the dealer closest to my house, who told me he didn’t have the part and then hung up. No offer to order it, or tell me Bob at this other dealership may have one. I’m sure the fact that they would make $0 on me had nothing to do with it. 

Then I called the 800 number of the recall center — I thought they could light a fire under a dealer. But mostly they just harassed me. We finally found a dealer 40 minutes from my house. They had to order the part, and so gave me an appointment in 6 weeks. The overly concerned recall center lady asked me in a serious tone  if I had another mode of transportation for 6 weeks? I refrained from a snarky answer: lady, I own a 2007 Corolla, do I seem like a person with an alternate form of transportation?

Rather than answer directly, I countered with another question, something along the lines of, is that really necessary, and then her voice went up an octave and she said loudly, “Ma’am! You could die! Or seriously injure someone else!” 

Um OK, agitated recall lady. Yeah, sure, I have a whole garage of cars at my disposal, just let me off the phone now, OK? And why don’t you go all crazy on your dealers, who don’t seemed alarmed in the least to not have the part. “Sir, you could kill your customers!”

And so, six weeks later I found myself at 8 am at the dealership, trapped there for an estimated four hours for the repair. I was working remotely and my coworkers had instructions to send someone in after me if I didn’t emerge in five hours. 

When I got there, my car was ushered into a hanger-like garage swarming with people in red shirts, with a smattering of blue and black shirts. The Star Trek Ill-fated red shirts thing came to mind, and I was relieved to get a guy in a blue shirt.

After his snarky comment, “Drive a lot, do you?” he sent me off to the dreaded suburban dealership waiting room, where, I feared, people and their souls go to die. 

You have to understand that when my car needs servicing, I drop it off in the morning, take a different train to work and pick it up at the end of the day. Doing a car-related errand where I have to wait, in the middle of nowhere, is way down on the list of things I like to do, below taxes and colonoscopy.

It was a senior citizen fest, and luckily my laptop prevented any of them from wandering over and making small talk while I gripped my free coffee with the determination of the condemned with a last request. 

My work was soon interrupted, however, by a Red Shirt older woman, who was walking around straightening chairs, eating popcorn from a ziplock bag, and asked random people how they were doing, and if they got their free drink ticket. Then she greeted a guy with a kid in a stroller, and the job title “Baby Greeter and Gusher” came to mind. Just as I was thinking, they actually pay someone to do that? She helped a lady with a walker find a seat. So, I felt like a jerk, but now I’m thinking, how did this woman even drive here? Maybe she has the senior shuttle drop her off here for a free coffee and a chat with the Red Shirt.

Retirees continued to trickle into the waiting room, with a few working stiffs like myself. I watched enviously as a Red or Blue or Black Shirt came out to tell them their car was ready. 

After three plus hours it was my turn. Having survived the recall lady’s dire warning that I could die, it was a cake walk fending off the mechanic/salesman’s list of all the things they found and what I should get looked at. I just had to smile, nod, sign and get the heck out. I was soon safely back in my bubble. And no one was hurt, not even the Red Shirt. 

Phot credit: http://www.vintag.es/2015/07/pictures-of-people-traveling-by-bus-in.html?m=1