From Where I Sit – The Waiting Room

Much of our lives are spent waiting. Waiting in traffic, waiting in lineups, waiting for word, waiting for the perpetually late, waiting for service. Some of us are better waiters than others. We people-watch. We read the latest thriller. We eavesdrop. We catch a snooze. We make lists recapping the day or planning for the next.

Others of us fret and fume. Check our watches. Curse the inconsiderate. Pace and plot revenge. Feed our ulcer.

Nowhere is waiting more practiced than in the offices of pros?doctors, lawyers, accountants, hairstylists, auto mechanics. It’s routine, commonplace, expected. It’s the norm. You may be the first patient of the day and still be kept waiting. Yours may be the first cut and colour, yet you wait. First car on the hoist doesn’t mean first one off.

?Okay, just have a seat, it won’t be long.?


The waiting room. Have you ever wondered who decorates and furnishes these places? In my experience, they run the gamut from flea-market shabby to ultramodern chic. Bikini-clad babes, limited-edition art prints, Oilers posters, or pictures of hair models may adorn the walls. The best one has to be a poster with a tranquil, babbling brook, lush forest, and clear sky mounted on the ceiling over the gynaecologist’s exam table.

Just relax now. This won’t take long.

Shabby carpeting and worn furnishings don’t speak well for the success of these joints. Cheesy furniture, circa 1960, doesn’t inspire confidence that the advice or service dispensed is any fresher or more up-to-date.

And what’s up with those nondescript beige chairs? Or those terrible moulded ones welded together in sections, usually with a little table attached? If we’re expected to spend the best years of our lives waiting, the least they could do is give us good chairs. Ergonomic chairs. Comfy chairs. Clean chairs. And maybe some chair rails to prevent those unsightly scuff marks where the impatient have rubbed and gouged the paint.

Why not shock us with the latest, greatest paint colors? Give those walls a jolt. If nothing else, it’s a sure conversation starter. As is the children’s play area, complete with miniature kitchen play set or dreaded wire-and-beads gizmo. The endless whapping of those beads back and forth drives me to distraction. Other times I’ve been captivated by the innocence of the smallest among us. Unless, of course, they’re whiny brats.

Can’t forget the waiting room magazines. Though sometimes they’re old enough to be museum quality, they also tell us a great deal about the lifestyle and interests of the person for whom we wait. Or perhaps who they believe their waiters are.

Do the countless copies of the old Alberta Report mean they loved that stuff, or just couldn’t say no to the telemarketer selling subscriptions?

Westworld tells me he’s an Alberta Motor Association member. Canadian Living tells me someone earned air miles for subscribing. The one-inch-thick Brides magazine at the beauty salon appeals to the young and in love. National Geographic awakens the visual. People and Us titillate with the latest dish on stars, superstars, and has-beens.

Cosmo shocks the sheltered. Good Times advises boomers on matters of health and finance and fashion. Reader’s Digest is the waiting room icon. The orthodontist spoils his young patients with Calvin and Hobbes or Far Side Gallery cartoon books.

Some publications serve to educate. The endless wait can be spent poring over brochures like ?Breast-feeding your Baby,? ?6 Reasons to Continue Chiropractic Care,? ?Total Person Concept in Healing,? or ?Care of Your Feet.?

Eavesdroppers find waiting room conversations are one of two types.

Loud, obnoxious, self-serving talk slows the clock even further and makes the room oppressively small; enough to make the most gentle among us consider violence. Contrast that with the hushed, often worried tones exchanged between husband and wife, mother and child. Words of comfort and reassurance, words meant to distract.

Frankly, I prefer the blandness of muzak over the uncomfortable, privacy-betraying silence. There’s nothing worse than overhearing private conversations between doctor and patient or lawyer and client, especially when you’re up next. Is it really anyone’s business you’re being audited by Revenue Canada? Or that you and hubby just updated your wills and left everything to The Centre for Ethical Treatment of Government Senators?

Waiting rooms aren’t going away anytime soon, so just make the best of a bad situation. A flask full of relief may be the answer, from where I sit.