Easy chairs do not comfort make. I haven’t found a way to be at ease in a waiting room. Hospitals preclude comfort for those of us who wait. My grandniece is having surgery. As they wheel her away I pat her head, kiss her, and tell her I will be here.
I packed for the experience as if I were going out of town. I have brought my computer, a page of sudoku puzzles, a book, my breakfast, an apple, a pear and a knife, a bag of nuts and a jacket. I surround myself with my “stuff” as a barricade to any conversation with, or interest from, those other “waiters.”
Surrounding myself with familiar items does not give me comfort. But it lets me to stay exactly where I have been asked to stay. I mustn’t leave. My niece (the Mother) has left me in charge.
The volunteer in the pink coat sits with her list of patients and watches the phone. When it rings I am mesmerized by her one-sided conversation. Is she talking about MY patient? Is everything okay? The projected time for surgery isn’t up yet, but is there a problem? She replaces the phone and studies her list, making a pencil note. She studiously avoids looking around the room at the individuals whose eyes are fixed expectantly on her face. There is a collective release of breath as she returns to her waiting posture: arms loosely stretched across the front of the desk; pencil tapping lightly on the paper as she gazes at the phone.
Because it is hot outside it is cold in the waiting room. My chair is located beneath an air vent. I look around but the vents crisscross the room so I reach for my jacket. I imagine one of those toasty blankets they give the patients. I cuddle my coffee cup in my hands.
I look around me. Is anyone confident here? Does anyone think they are doing this right? The people around me seem to be reading comfortably. One older gentleman is leaning back, dozing. I am on pins and needles. I am worried that I might miss hearing my name and not recognize the doctor if he appears. Experience has taught me that although I am more and more uncomfortable, if I go to the restroom it will be the exact time when the doctor appears.
I walk to the desk once more and remind the pink lady who I am, who I am waiting for, and where I am sitting. As the clock ticks past an hour and a half the butterflies in my stomach spread into my chest. The doctor said he would come out. Has he forgotten?
All of this has nothing to do with my grandniece. I know that she will be fine and that although surgery has its risks…this is not a high-risk procedure. This is all about me. It is my fear of missing something important. It is my insecurity at not being in the right place at the right time. It is my fear about being the “grown-up” who will be the recipient of valuable information, which I must assimilate, remember and transmit.
I straighten my back and lift my shoulders. I can do this. I check with the pink lady one more time to see if the doctor has forgotten.
Whew! Her mother is back. She can listen with me. I have discovered that I although I confess to being controlling, I don’t like to be in charge.