A hospital waiting room is one of those places where you can watch people work. Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff walk swiftly by the waiting areas with a definite purpose in their stride. This is their turf and boy, do they make a show of it in the way they walk. They always seem to be in a hurry, their white coats fluttering in their self-created vortex, barely having the chance to acknowledge the waiting patients, let alone greet them.
If you’re lucky, your specialist has a waiting room with a clear view of the receptionists’ desk. You get to see them in their natural habitat; on the phone, working on the computer, updating charts and they even find time to deal with patients. The receptionist does all this work in an efficient, swift and somewhat disdainful manner. And they seem utterly unaware of the people waiting to see their boss. You’ll never spot them looking glancing into the waiting area, I mean come on people; they must know there are patients out there!
The waiting room is filled with people reading, playing with their mobile phones, fidgeting, looking bored and, well, waiting. Some of these people look calm, but beneath the surface they are a bit nervous. In fact all of them, patients and companions, seem unsettled. It’s never a picnic. Yet if you do a David Attenborough and observe them closely, you will distinguish different types of ‘waiters’.
There are the ‘static waiters’ who generally have their arms crossed and barely move. You have the ‘casual reader’ who nonchalantly leaves through a magazine or newspaper, tosses it on the table, looks around, smiles at one or two people and then sighs.
The ‘leave-me-alone reader’ has brought their own book and is so engrossed in it that they not only shut themselves off from the others, but they also don’t hear the doctor call their name when it’s their turn.
A rare species are the ‘manic-reading waiter’, they try to read every magazine or newspaper in the waiting room before the specialist calls them in.
A common occurrence in this habitat are the ‘chatty waiters’, who longingly scan the waiting room trying to make eye contact, so that they can attempt to strike up a conversation. Their challenge lies in trying to maintain said conversation.
The ‘posing waiter’ makes a great show of crossing and uncrossing their legs repeatedly and supporting their chin with their hand, while leaning their index finger against their cheek and resting the other fingers on the upper lip.
And of course there is the ‘fussy parent’ who insists on wheeling the pram into a cramped waiting room, taking up three seats with coats and bags and shushing their child unsuccessfully.
But a child will brighten up a waiting room; people will break into a smile and attempt to make a connection. I took Boekkid a couple of times with me on a visit to the doctor’s office when he was still in a pram. He was still a baby and was not that aware of his surroundings, but I am sure he sensed my nervousness. I have not taken him with me since then, somehow the time does not seem right to introduce him to this side of me. But I am sure there will be a time when he will accompany me and perhaps we can see how many ‘waiters’ we can identify.
Thank you for your time, take care of yourself and remember to keep passing the open windows.
© Ferhaan Kajee, November 2009