I am all for connecting with people. I think it is one of the great actions we can do. However, I do have to point out that there are exceptions to when this is acceptable. I would like to go on record to say that medical waiting rooms might be one of these big exceptions. I mean, for one, conversation starters are a little limited.
“Hey, what are you here for?”
“Well, there’s this burning rash….”
Annnnnd, I’m out.
Medical waiting room interaction should be limited to: Is this seat taken? or Would you like a piece of gum? That’s it. Hard stop.
A few months ago I had a waiting room experience that breeched the acceptable level of interaction:
I am waiting to be called back for a routine (for me) ultrasound on my liver, for which I have been fasting since midnight. No food, no water, and of course the one that makes me die a little inside…. no coffee. An older gentleman walks in and says hello to everyone.
Great. A talker.
As I busily play mindless games on my phone, trying not to think about the emptiness in my stomach, I pick up comments like “Great to be on this side of the ground!” and “Can’t complain—but you wouldn’t want to hear it if I did!”
Fantastic. A perky talker. Even better.
When I haven’t had my coffee, I hate perky morning people. When I haven’t had my coffee, I kind of hate everyone.
In the optimistic hope of taking my mind off of my short term famine, I go about entertaining myself on my phone as he chattily checks in and then sits a couple seats down from me. I hold my breath. I sit there motionless like a deer that catches a whiff of a hunter. He begins talking to a gentleman next to him.
*sigh of relief*
Conversational bullet dodged.
I desperately try to look like I am doing something very important or like I’m invisible. I really don’t care which as long as it works. Epic fail. I sense that he has turned his sights on me, and I’m pretty sure that I see a red laser dot bobbing around on my chest. The next thing I know, he is getting my attention and asking permission to inquire something.
Now, here is where my Southern hospitality gets me into trouble. My imploding stomach gives off a warning growl for my mouth to follow suit and growl at him. My lip gives just the slightest hint of a curling snarl, but that’s as far as it gets. My stupid brain steps in with its usual sweetness: “Sure,” I reply as I put down my phone.
I can tell he just wants to interact with people. I get that. Then, he asks what I am doing on my phone.
Again, I probably had a chance to shut down the conversation, depending on my answer…quick, brain, what can I say that will make him uncomfortable enough to not want to follow up? And my brain, who got me into this mess, has now deserted me….nothing. I mumble something that isn’t even coherent English, knowing the answer will have no affect on the direction of this conversation.
Perky Talker launches into a whole soap box sermon on how I shouldn’t let a phone take over my life, how we should just enjoy life. I will concede that I do need to put down the phone more. Guilty. Yes, old man, you are absolutely correct.
However, hungrily enduring a medical waiting room is hardly the time to look up and enjoy my surroundings.
This older gentleman describes about how he sits on his patio and appreciates the birds and earth around him instead of focusing on a phone. I said, “True, but I’m not on my patio right now. And there are no birds.” This made another gentleman beside him laugh to himself. But Perky Talker was neither deterred nor phased. On he went about how people should call each other not email.
There was lots more talking….and talking about talking…so much talking. The mostly one-sided conversation meandered until it came out that I was there for an ultrasound and was fasting.
“I haven’t even had my coffee yet. I wasn’t planning on talking to anyone and was actually on my phone to keep my mind off of food.” More silent chuckles from the other gentleman.
Sadly, instead of earning me silence, this new topic revives his revelry! Now he feels sorry for me because I haven’t eaten. I tell him not to feel sorry for me, that it’s only a couple hours, and many people have to go much longer without food.
The the chuckling gentleman behind my new friend is called back. Lucky bastard. I bet he isn’t fasting. I bet he had a nice, big, biscuity breakfast. I don’t even usually like biscuits. But right now they seem like buttered heaven. A fluffy buttered heaven that exists in a quiet room with no one talking.
Now Perky Talker shows his pity for my fasting by relentlessly talking about food for the rest of his wait. Talk of donuts and bagels… talk of coffee…oh, my magic nectar.
For some stupid reason I mention that I am gluten free. Apparently my coffee deprived brain is out for blood this morning. Anyone who has adopted a gluten free diet knows that there are a few select times that it is just so much easier to never mention this aspect of your life. This was most definitely one of those times. But the words came bounding out like a big-pawed puppy with it’s tongue hanging out. There was no time to get the leash on. The words were out the door and peeing in the yard before I could do anything about it.
“Nobody even knows what gluten is,” Perky Talker says.
So I proceed to explain it to him.
“See, no one knows what it is,” he says stubbornly.
So I stubbornly explain it again.
Crickets on his end.
Then more talk of donuts and coffee. Specifically Dunkin Donuts coffee. The Superbowl of coffee. Again, my insides scream at me to shut him up. I have a moment where his arm turns into a big pile of bacon, just like in a Saturday morning cartoon.
I could be wrong, but he also starts to sound like Foghorn Leghorn: “I say, I say, I say, make a phone call instead of the textin’!”
So, mental note: He isn’t against the phone entirely, just against the more recent phenomena of email and text. He wants me to change my ways about phone usage, but is too stuck in his ways to try and understand a different way of eating. I’m too hungry for this.
Luckily his name is called. He walks back to his appointment immediately engaging the nurse with “Just glad to be this side of the ground!” After the door closes, two of the remaining fellow waiting room hostages turn to me and laud me for my patience.
Thanks, guys, but can I eat patience? And does it taste like bacon?
I have another routine (for me) ultrasound coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m trying to decide how best to arm myself against a repeat waiting room violation of this nature. First thing that comes to mind is to not bathe. That’s always an option. Or maybe strap my big, mean .22 to my belt.
Wait….I’ve got it. The foolproof way for no one to want to talk to me.
I’m going to summon all of the energy I have in my fasting state, swing the door open wide, and make eye contact with everyone in the room. Then I’ll belt out, “Great to be on this side of the ground!”
Ahhhhh…perfect, complete, tummy-rumbling silence.