Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On waiting room etiquette....

I don’t care much for waiting rooms and I don’t know many people who do.  Some of them are better than others; when my wife was pregnant and we would go for her monthly check-up’s we rarely waited more than about 5 minute or so.  Not only did we not wait long, but they didn’t even pull that little trick where they take you back quickly and then make you wait in the examining room for three days; offices that do that should have their license pulled.
I’m almost positive that they pump a gas into waiting rooms that makes you sleepy, this would explain why the little receptionist window is only open long enough for them to thrust a clipboard at you and take your co-pay; as soon as that’s done they close it again so that they don’t get sleepy too.  I’ll also never understand why they make you fill out the same paperwork every time you go there; until they prove differently that S-O-B died of kidney failure, just like I reported last time and on the ten previous visits.  Attention to detail and consistency are the keys to escaping detection.
I could write a book about doctor visits, but that’s not really what this post is about, this post is about the waiting room and people who dwell there.  The wait is horrific and the poking and prodding that follows the wait isn’t fun for normal people either, but worse still are the people you have to sit with while waiting your turn.  I don’t know where these people come from, but they violate nearly every social norm known to mankind, they just don’t act like people who have been living in civilized society for their entire lives.  Maybe the explanation is that they weren’t, maybe they were rescued from the jungles of South America. 
There’s an unwritten rule that I follow when entering a waiting room and that rule is that I search for the one seat that is as far away from everyone else as possible and that’s where I sit.  It’s kind of like The Urinal Code.  For those of you who don't know, The Urinal Code states that you have to allow at least one empty urinal between you and the other guy. If, for instance, there are 3 urinals and only the middle one is empty, do you use it? Yea you use it, if you're an anarchist. If you believe in maintaining the fabric of society though you check your watch, or cell phone, or whatever else you can do to look distracted until either the guy on the right or the guy on the left leaves, then you're in the clear.  When society breaks down it will start at a urinal.  Count on it.
This urinal selection is not something that is taught, it is ingrained in our DNA. I'm like a Terminator, I can go into a waiting room or restroom, do a quick two second scan and based upon complex mathematical calculations that not even I understand pick out the correct urinal, toilet, or chair.  Some people apparently don’t care though, they will go into a waiting room filled with 30 chairs, only one of which is occupied, and plop their lazy butt down next to the poor sap that’s sitting in it.
Some people want to strike up conversations with complete strangers in the waiting room.  I’m a people person, really I am, but I don’t want to talk to waiting room people.  My problem is that I get attached to people too easily and that five minute conversation about Dancing with the Stars, which incidentally I don’t even watch, is going to make me feel too close to you.  Just when that bond starts to strengthen and I start to realize that I would take a bullet for you, your name is going to be called and you will be out of my life forever.  I can’t handle that loss.
Maybe it’s because they’re nervous about what’s about to be done to them, but striking up conversations with strangers in a waiting room is a bad idea.  They want to talk about medical stuff, they don’t really want to get to know you.  They don’t want to hear about your hopes and dreams, about your successes and failures; they want to talk about hemorrhoids and bunions.  Hemorrhoids and bunions are subjects that just aren’t that compelling to me.  Now if you want to talk boils, I’m in.
Several months ago I had to go to a place while my wife was having tests run.  Sitting in a waiting room with someone isn’t so bad; at least you have someone to share the misery with.  But alas, as expected she was called back for her two day wait in the back and I was left alone.  At least there’s no one else here, I thought to myself as I settled in for the long wait.  But of course two seconds later in walks the Bertrum von Yapper family, who promptly sets up shop right beside me and without so much as a one seat cushion between us.  When a family enters a waiting room the alpha male is responsible for selecting the appropriate seat for the rest of the pack, but he failed in this responsibility. 
What made this particular incident so uncomfortable is that they received some less than joyful news and when that news was delivered the young lady sitting next to me burst into tears.  What does a person do in that situation?  You were there first and there are about 1500 square feet of unused space containing about 25 comfortable chairs, is it appropriate for you to get up and move elsewhere?  If you do get up and move elsewhere will they see it and think it rude?  Do you say anything at all?  I decided that the solution was to pretend to go to the bathroom and then sit elsewhere when I returned, so that’s what I did.  It didn’t make me happy that I failed to defend my position, but The Urinal Code doesn’t cover everything, so I fell back to another fortified position.
With the von Yapper family though there’s never a bad seat in the house, so I was able to learn that the news wasn’t quite as bad as that young lady thought and that the rending of cloth and gnashing of teeth was a little premature, father von Yapper was going to be just fine.  That brief encounter with the von Yapper family was like a good movie; I laughed, I cried, I was transported to another place and time.  In short it was a real honor to know that of all the waiting rooms in all the towns in all the world, they walked into mine and setup camp in my lap.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but people just don’t respect personal space anymore.  They stand two inches from you while you’re putting in your PIN at Wal-Mart and they force you to listen to conversations that you really don’t want to be a part, all while apparently enjoying total ignorance as to how obnoxious they’re being.  But I’m not the kind to identify a problem without suggesting a solution, so I have a Zorb on order and will just take it everywhere I go and when my burdens are too heavy will ride off into the sunset in it.  That should resolve the issue.

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