#thewait

The waiting room at the Medicentre on Jasper Avenue and 117 St is a lot of things. As a waiting room, it is a reminder, of course, of a strength imbalance: those without power wait. It is a processing plant (numbered patients are transformed into hopeful prescription carriers), it is a soundscape (sniffles, coughs, sighs, the squeak of adjusted chair legs, the so-predictable radio songs). It is a wailing room, a mourner's bench, an unlikely-intersection-of-lives point. It is a camera tight shot, as features of fellow patients are studied, furtively. It is a leveller and a lottery. It is a tinder-dry piece of ground for short tempers. It is a borderland, a purgatory, a confessional, an examination room itself.

It is a maze of thoughts backward and forward, and it is a loneliness.

And last week, thanks to a painful and persistent pinched nerve in my neck, it was where I sat. Facing a three-hour-plus wait.

But, for that wait, I have Twitter and the characters on the other side of the screen.



The C7 vertebra is where the problem sits. It manifests itself in the strangest of pain behind my right shoulder blade and down my right arm to my numb middle finger tip. It feels like a pipe cleaner of tin foil is being pulled through my muscles. It feels like an electrical storm in that arm. In the morning, my back feels like a chunk of rebar. So, I summon Hamlet for some relief.




The radio in the waiting room is tuned to Up 99.3. At first, I think this is to cheer the down patients. Or the emotionally inaccessible front desk nurse practitioners. It turns out to be a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the struggles that play out in front of me:



Occasionally, the patients connect with the soundtrack:


Looking, I see an immobile, seated patient, his eyes hidden behind tinted glass lenses, his canopied face obscured by a leather baseball hat pulled down tight, his right hand balancing a pen that never moves to the newspaper crossword held in his left. Listening, The Cars sing from the radio:


The live tweet experiment, powered by an AC outlet behind my corner chair,  starts to get some attention from colleagues at work:


Across the waiting room, sleep delivers one patient to a better place. And I remember interviewing a prisoner who said sleep shortened his jail sentence:


Slowly, the familiar faces are called, their chairs assumed by new waiters:


It is a wasteland. It is time to think about time:









And to consider rock 'n' roll. The part of the chorus where Ra McGuire sings "Three for the lady on the radio" the lady? the lady is Lorraine Mansbridge from her Winnipeg radio days. Does the feathered-hair patient know that? What inaccessible thoughts is he thinking?



Every now and then, a patient stands and stretches and walks around. And reveals something about their soles:


That smell of oil and outdoors and leather and the porch in the old house sits down next to me. How could he ever know that he triggers memories:


There are confrontations, mostly by angry men who seem unable to care and not to care, unable to sit still. The denial of Jesus Christ comes to mind in a weird sort of way:


I wonder why waiting is so hard. Maybe it forces us to consider the emptiness that lurks. Without the distraction of movement and activity, who are we? The artist next to me is not troubled by the wait:


There is colour:


And there is humour:


I think, should I leave? And I remember the fallacy of sunken costs. But I stay because there is hope that my name will be called, even though the mocking Eagles sing from radio:


And, then, I hear my name and a tune from HMS Pinafore:


The visit with the actual doctor lasts about 10 minutes. I get a more powerful painkiller. And some advice on what to watch for. I shake hands with the doctor. On my way out I see the lobby chairs again filled, this time holding up a new cast of characters that have rotated in since I first sat down some four hours before, some eagerly holding their numbers as they wait to be summoned back to the desk to provide their identification, others looking at me enviously, others resigned to the wait.

I feel surprisingly light and grateful:

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