Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Waiting Room

For lack of any inspiration whatsoever today, I am inserting a column that I wrote for The Register News-back from 2005 when I was a "reporter".

Whoever coined the term "waiting room" was a virtual genius. No other name or title could be more fitting or more accurate. It is simply that. A room where you wait.

And wait. And wait....

I usually measure my waiting room experiences by the number of magazines I can finish reading while there. An acceptable wait is a cute decorating magazine or a thin entertainment publication. Two National Geographic's or a complete Reader's Digest always gets me worrisome. And never, ever, under any circumstances is it acceptable to wait through an entire reading of the AMA Journal.

I have waited so long in doctor's offices that even the free pamphlets they provide start to look interesting. I've actually caught myself reading about the side effects of allergy medication, the working of the lungs, and the psychological impact on children who don't eat breakfast.

These brochures are solely put out for reading (and waiting) purposes only. They are not meant to be removed from the waiting room. I mean, do you really want to be seen carrying off a booklet entitled, "Bladder Control and You"?

When you actually get back into the exam room after a lengthy wait- it is like winning the lottery! You're ecstatic! You have reached the half-way point!

But, most times the joy is short-lived. Another type of wait continues. However, this can be a more comfortable wait. Here, all alone- away from the shifty eyes of other patients- you can take off your shoes, pick your teeth, adjust your underwear, or take a nap.

I have memorized the wall charts in every exam room I've ever visited. There's something very empowering about being able to blurt out the parts of the inner ear at your next dinner party. And it may come in handy someday to know the location of the spleen- in case you have to perform emergency at-home surgery.

I have played with the blood pressure cuffs and weighed myself (and the trash can) several times in one wait. I've depressed my own tongue, swabbed my dirty ears, and used the cotton balls to remove stubborn shoe scuffs.

NOTE: If at all possible, it is always a good idea to avoid examination rooms that are equipped with defibrillators, drills, stirrups, or fine stainless steel cutlery.

After a waiting room experience of any great length, it is strongly recommended that you see a doctor immediately. Complications such as eye strain, sore muscles, and complete lunacy may occur.

I have just discovered that the same genius who coined the word "waiting room" also created another very appropriate word. "Patient".

Go figure.