You can play it one of two ways in the waiting rooms of your doctor and dentist: You can act as put-out and grouchy as you may feel, having to take time out of your crucial job running the galaxy.Or, you can smile and take things easy.
I saw the reactions both good and grouchy at the appointment I had the other morning at the dermatologist’s, where – I counted – 14 of us had brought our sorry leotards of skin to be poked and peered at.
The young woman behind the glass window greeted me cheerfully as I approached her at the registration desk.
“How ARE you?” she asked in such a warm human way it was easy for me to give an equally warm and human answer.
“Great! And how are you?”
“Good, good. You know: life with young kids – and isn’t the time change still making them crazy!” she said, and we chatted a bit then: About that turning-back of the clocks and the havoc it wreaks on us all.
She checked me in and invited me to take a seat on one of the molded plastic chairs.
From a television mounted high in one corner, the morning news anchors beamed down a steady stream of stories both grave and cheerful, summoning up the proper facial expression for each. I would say some 70% of the people in the chairs watched, their eyes drawn like iron filings to a magnet, jaws relaxing into slackness.
The other 30%, that is the ones not instantly magnetized by the TV set, did the kinds of things most people while waiting for what’s next:
Person Number One pulled out her planner and took a good long look at her life. Person Number Two read the newspaper he had brought in with him. And Persons Number Three through Thirteen prodded the flat little bellies of their phones with such exquisite precision you’d have thought they were checking them for appendicitis.
All these people I would put in the category of those who know how to take things easy.
It was the 14th person in this waiting room who didn’t know, who felt grouchy, who in fact felt entirely put out just to be sitting there. He shifted in his seat and sighed. He consulted his watch and harrumphed . Then, with a kind of raspy growl, he leaped from his chair and roared up to the desk.
“What kind of a way is THIS to run a business?” he wanted to know.
“I had an appointment for 45 minutes ago! 45 minutes ago, do you understand? Do you people think your time is more valuable than mine?” he shouted. And on and on he went until the woman behind the glass partition, with that same human quality she had shown to me, looked up at him until he was finished and said the kind of neutral and pacifying things that those who wait on the public learn to say.
He hadn’t ruined her day. He certainly hadn’t ruined any of ours. In a way he was our entertainment.
But he just may have ruined his own day, starting it off like that first thing in the morning. He was, as they say, in a hell of his own making.
Thus does it appear that life lessons are everywhere present, even in the smallest waiting rooms of life.