I’ve made more than my fair share of trips to health clinics, schlepping my parents to various doctors for real and/or imagined health issues. Generally, the drama which unfolds in the waiting room is reminiscent of a playground scuffle, but with the intensity of a Greek tragedy.
A kindly old man with some sort of neurological infirmity constantly rearranges the rows of chairs that line the waiting room. He does this with terrifyingly strong jolts, his body jerking uncontrollably with each ministration. Across the room, the nurses stand behind the reception desk, asking him to leave the chairs alone. But, it doesn’t matter. He moves the chairs every which way as the elderly men and women slowly stand, grumbling their protests, but obeying the rearrangement. The staff seems annoyed but patient; I gather they find him harmless.
Loud arguments between seemingly hearing impaired patients are frequent. They hurl insults, stomp around, move their seats, and then reconcile by the coffee machine. There, a waiting room veteran dispenses coffee with an anecdote or two. His jokes are difficult to understand, but I admire the careful way he arranges his clothes: a worn camel colored cardigan over a white button down short sleeved shirt and black trousers. His loafers are clean and old; his thinning hair is slicked to the side. He rarely misses an opportunity to flag down the surprisingly nimble 93-year-old woman who runs the janitorial staff. She barks orders in Spanish while he ambles beside her. They must have some sort of implicit, multi-cultural, multi-lingual understanding.
Regardless, this unlikely group assembles without fail every single day of the week. Each time I visit the waiting room, whatever paraphernalia I bring to entertain myself remains untouched as I sit and watch these folks interact in the waiting room.
“Blah, blah, blah,” says the centenarian sitting next to me in my father’s doctor’s waiting room. I know she is a centenarian because of an unsolicited announcement: “I was born in 1911.”
“Blah, blah, blah,” she mutters, “I can’t understand nothing when people speak Spanish!”
Here’s the kicker. I am the only person sitting next to her and our sole verbal exchange was conducted in English. I start to correct her but I notice her hands are shaking, so I let the moment pass.
As my parents make their way out through the maze of chairs, I stand and say goodbye to her. “Adios!” she says with a nod.
I guess some things are best left a mystery.