Let’s get this straight. My appointment’s at 9, but you want me there at 8:30. And why would that be? Why didn’t you just make the appointment at 8:30?
Don’t ask, just do what you’re told. Good enough. It’s your house, we’ll play by your rules. It’s 8:30 sharp, and I’m sitting in the waiting room waiting for my 9 o’clock appointment, thinking weird thoughts such as, if we were at maximum efficiency then we wouldn’t need waiting rooms. I mean, churches don’t have waiting rooms, neither does Hooters.
I begin to look around the office adorned with terrible art in cheap frames secured firmly to bland walls. Do they really think somebody would steal this stuff? My attention wanders to the magazines. There are many, most at least 6 months old. Some more than that. There’s nothing like reading a news magazine that came out last year. Why can’t they update this stuff? I do hope the periodicals doctors read are more current than that.
A nurse orders me back about 9:20. She plants me in a tiny room and closes the door. She returns in a few moments to take vitals, blood, blood pressure, heart rate and stuff like that. Then she leaves again after promising that the doctor will be with me in a minute. Actually it will be several minutes. I sit on the napkin on the examining table hoping not to mess it up, or be required to.
I look around the stark room. The walls sport graphic pictures of body parts, depending on what kind of doctor it is. There are tools sitting around, various devices designed for various types of probes. I hope they are not needed. I have never been fond of probes. Time passes slowly in a place one does not want to be, and this tiny doctor’s office is such a place. I glance at my watch. It seems to be moving slower than usual. Perhaps I need a new battery.
The doctor arrives. “Good morning Mr. Cox, how are you this morning?”
Not that well doc, that’s why I’m here. Actually I do feel well, but agreed to the visit because he ordered it. I didn’t want to disappoint the doc. Looking at his laptop more than he does at me, he quickly determines my status and decides what kind of pills I need. More of what I’ve been taking for years. The order is emailed to CVS and the visit comes to an end. Five minutes at the most. About $400 that somebody will pay. If there was a patient examination I missed it. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention. It was kind of like that car inspection where the mechanic is a good friend: Is your car OK? Yeah, it’s fine. Great I’ll put a new sticker on your windshield.
I walk back through the waiting room that is now filled with patients waiting impatiently. They were on time; it’s the doctor who lives by different rules.
And so it goes, or went. On my drive to CVS I make a decision. Although I don’t want those pills that will be waiting for me, I will take them anyway. I also purchase a tube of toothpaste. That will help keep my dentist happy. He at least examines me. It’s much easier to keep track of the condition of one’s teeth than the obscure processes going on inside the body. I also agree to eat better and exercise a bit. The doctor said my potassium was low so I’ll eat a banana.
Visits are necessary to keep us well, I know. They are fundamental to a healthy lifestyle, but really. If perfectly well patients weren’t clogging up those awful little rooms at the doctor’s office then the really sick patients writhing in the awful waiting room could see the doctor faster.
Either that or get rid of those old news magazines and sprinkle a few Playboys and Jehovah’s Witnesses tracts on the table. There’s got to be a way to make the time pass faster when we’re somewhere we don’t want to be.
Doctors could make their waiting rooms more interesting if they wanted to, and then when the nurse calls us back we could say: “I’ll be there in a minute. I’m busy.” S
Gene Cox is an author and inventor who recently retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.