Waiting room

Hushed and quiet, forms to fill in.People sit and look at the wall, the floor or through you.

They come and their names are called,they go, to see the anesthetist

People come.A couple with a young girl

He is angry or upset, frustrated or worried.His brow furrowed like the earth on an autumnal day.

His wife sits with their daughter on her lap, hoping, wishing.Worried.

Another man, heart tattoo on his sleeve, reads the pamphlet and thinks of death.His neck is red from the sun or from smoking or drinking too much. Or just stress.

Another woman, wheeling herself in on her walker.She’s lost and needs the toilet. “Its under the stairs” She wheels herself off to that destination, hoping her turn won’t be taken by another patient.

More people come and go, time drags on and the afternoon heat becomes stifling. The clock seems to move backwards, on the wall are posters with health messages and information, as well as the “no smoking” , “no mobile phones” and “no praying” messages.I made that last one up!

An elderly couple arrive, hunched and ragged.

She has silver shoes,white beret and a striped top. Quite jazzy!

She’s dressed for the 60’s though she’s over 80. I imagine her, dancing those nights away.

Her arms wrinkled, baggy and spotted with age, nails yellowing and teeth turned brown.

The skin on her throat and chest looks like scales on a crocodile.

Her husband sits, tired. He’s bald and hot, worried perhaps.Alive, together. How long now till we see the doctor? How long now till we see the undertaker? How long till the next glaciation?

Then a couple come in , close, holding hands. They sit, huddled or cuddled in the corner. Feet entwined as they read those magazines.

Another elderly man with a cane comes in. He sits and shakes his head.The door opens, closes. Ill people come and go

Here, people say “Hello everyone” as they enter and “Goodbye ” or “Good evening” when they leave, but in between there is silence, like in a toilet or elevator or even in church.

People try to whisper, but age defies their hearing and they speak, but softly. We pretend we can’t hear.Those mumbled words.

People pick up those dog eared magazines from 1970, with the crosswords already done.They put them down, having wiped their bogies, and leave them, drying in the sunlight that drifts in through the closed windows, frying slowly in the baking summer heat. The pages curling, yellowing, decaying.In the shafts of sunlight the dust dances, trying to remind us of our destiny.

Where these people will go after I don’t know, and what illness they have is a mystery to me. We are all seeing the anesthetist, which means all of us will have surgery of some sort.

Finally the door opens and the Dr calls my name. But as usual he can’t pronounce it correctly so I stand and check the folder and tell him that it’s me. He’s fed up, as he’s seen many patients , working on the production line. He’s lost sight of our humanity, and perhaps even his. He has no joy in his job, and wants to go home.

People have become a blur for him as his office is cramped and hot, and he has a waiting room full of people , some without appointments as illness isn’t something that we plan. He moans about the computer, about his secretary who hasn’t kept the files up to date, about me.

I tell him ‘We are all human” and he replies, in an Orwellian way, that “Some of us are more human than others”. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.I blink, tell him “Perhaps they need training or time”, and he just reads the folder and ushers me out.

Before I saw the anesthetist, I saw the surgeon for the vein operation. He was full of joy, passion, knowledge and put me at ease, relaxed yet professional. His office is clean, airy, cool and relaxed. He has time to chat, to joke, and even to telephone the dialysis centre and check out the scenarios.The contrast between the two is remarkable, the conditions of work very different.

The anesthetist hasn’t eaten, and orders a sandwich from the secretary, he doesn’t care what flavour. “I eat to live, take no pleasure”. A rare attitude in France, where food is culture.

Quick fire questions and bundle me out of the office. Pressure means that barely have I sat down, the questions are spurted, no breaking the ice here. He has by folder and as its the 4th surgery in 3 months, he’s sick of the sight of me.

He’s just going through the procedure, there is no real need to be here, other than the legal point of view. He knows the medicines I take, my blood group, weight, age, sex, height, allergies and what operations I’ve had.

He ticks his form and opens the door, waves me out, walks to the waiting room and opens the door, calls a name. Someone else looks up, relieved the wait is over, or scared at what will happen next. I follow , like the ugly duckling follows mummy duck. Waddling to the secretary’s desk. “Quack quack quack” in my head. Another one bites the dust.

They walk past me as I hand over my health card to his secretary, along with the consent forms and the information forms. I’m apparently invisible now. Behind me are more people, waiting to go into the waiting room, and in the waiting room are many people. A couple wait with their young daughter.The girl is blonde and beautiful, but she’s grunting and crying as she is mentally disabled. Her parents smile, tiredness in their eyes, their faces worn thin with the judgments of others. Waiting to go into the waiting room, where they will wait to see the anesthetist, who doesn’t want to see them as he’s fed up. He’ll be there for hours yet, ticking forms and asking questions.They’ll be there for hours, waiting to see him.

I gather my things and wander off to the car.

I go home, and they will to. Waiting for the operation.


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