Sow’s Ear: The waiting room blues
April 14, 2006
by Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.
A waiting room is like a holding pen with reading material. It’s where the sick and injured linger until one by one, he or she is called to the inner sanctums where in contrast to the restrained gloom of the anteroom the atmosphere is one of hustle. Clerks, medical personnel of assorted varieties, and white-jacketed doctors zip along corridors lined with closed doors. Unlike a TV game show, these doors don’t lead to a new car or even dinner out.
Behind each entrance is a tiny room furnished with a narrow padded bench covered with either a cloth or a long piece of butcher paper and if luck is with me, there’s a couple of pillows piled at the top end. One wall of the compartment has a kitchen counter with cabinets above and below. The opposite wall generally sports drawings and photos of parts of human anatomy but without skin. This artwork allowed me to visualize what my insides look like or possibly how I might appear if I were a steak.
I had the option of sitting in one of two molded-plastic chairs or I could climb up on the table-height bench and take a nap. Or if I didn’t feel inclined to snooze, I could scrutinize yet another magazine from a selection piled on a shelf under the bench.
Perusing the literature found in medical clinic waiting rooms has broadened my education. I have learned I can take mail-order courses in darned near any subject. I could join support groups to help me figure out how to make sure my socks match. I could seek counseling to reveal a deep-seated revulsion for tapioca. I could attend seminars in the art of pasting noodles on egg cartons. But best of all, I could answer magazine quizzes right there in the waiting room and immediately learn whether I might be well-mated, not mated, or would like to be mated ” with the gender of my choice.
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I paused at yet another quiz that wanted to teach me what to do to “Train and Toughen Your Body for Outdoor Activities.” The questions and answers addressed pursuits such as mountain climbing, hiking, canoeing, boating and skiing. I read on, but not one sentence mentioned the outdoor endeavor of how to pull a calf in zero temperature with the wind blowing. Not one word was written about how to insert a tube and introduce colostrum into a half-alive calf’s stomach. There was nary a single bit of advice on how to pull a newborn from a cow having trouble delivering while whipping snow eats your face. Maybe I should develop a quiz?
About then, my reading was interrupted by medical personnel in white coats who, as they entered, grabbed plastic gloves from a wall-mounted box and slipped them on. I was pretty sure the medicos didn’t plan to A-I me, but for a moment I felt some concern. I tossed the magazine back on the pile with its comrades and prepared to submit to whatever was in store.
It did cross my mind that waiting rooms would be far more pleasant if they also included a well-stocked bar, but I suppose that would mean insurance rates would go up. Oh, well, at least I could be grateful I wasn’t lying in the middle of a pasture in the biting cold.