€śPLEASE SIGN IN AND HAVE A SEAT. The doctor will be with you in a while,â€ť predicts the pleasant receptionist from behind the counter. Her cheerful, pastel flowered smock fails to elicit any comfort for me.
There are files and forms in front of her and in front of the office manager, who sits at the desk behind her. Behind them are even more files in color coded pigeon holes. I wonder what color I am. It seems so chaotic. How do they find anything? What if they get my file mixed with someone else's? What if the doctor gives me the bad news Iâ€™ve been expecting, only to give me a somber, apologetic phone call in a week, informing me that he gave me the wrong diagnosis? What if some other poor soul gets my diagnosis?
The nurse from the examination rooms calls the man who was watching television. He gets up slowly and shuffles without expression toward the nurse.
â€śOK. Thank you,â€ť I tell her as I turn to face the waiting room, which suddenly feels closed in. The painting reprints of flowers in vases put up here and there only add to the feeling. There are matching wood-framed chairs set in twos or threes along the walls, each group separated by an end table. A center table holds magazines that cover a multitude of interests. A few of the chairs are occupied with people waiting. In one corner is a television. No one looks happy to be here. Why should they be?
I find a seat in view of the television. On the screen is a clean cut man, who is hosting a show based around better health. As I watch, he talks about eating fruits and vegetables. He talks about getting exercise. Everything he says is irritatingly predictable. I would turn his smug expression off, but a frail looking elderly man is absorbed in the show. I canâ€™t help but think that he is revisiting his life, wishing he had started following the hostâ€™s advice thirty years ago. There are a million things that can go wrong with our bodies. We accept that we are not invincible, yet we live in denial of our mortality. If we manage to live long enough, it boils down to a spin of the disease wheel for most of us.
Quickly tiring of television, I decide to read, but the magazines are out dated, dog eared, and stupid. Who really gives a damn about sports, home interiors, or car engines, when your life could be on the line? I donâ€™t want to read anyway. I donâ€™t want to sit, I donâ€™t want to stand, and I donâ€™t want to pace. I donâ€™t know what I want to do. I take a breath and sit back in my chair. I sneak a look at the other people sitting in the room as they sneak looks at me. All of us are sitting alone in our worry filled worlds.
The door that leads to the examination rooms opens, and a nurse wearing a brightly flowered smock holds the door for a middle-aged woman who walks out alone, her eyes are troubled and watery. What on earth happened back there, I ask myself. She walks an unsteady line to the receptionist counter and speaks in almost whispered tones while shaking her head. There is some paper shuffling by the office manager, who finally produces a narrow, glossy brochure. She hands it to the woman, who is fighting to maintain her composure. The receptionist tries to console the woman by handing her a tissue. After a brief conversation, the receptionist hugs the woman and wishes her good luck. The woman leaves quietly, still clutching her tissue. If the receptionist knew the womanâ€™s future before the woman did, she didnâ€™t let it show. I want to ask her if she knows what I have.
The nurse from the examination rooms calls the man who was watching television. He gets up slowly and shuffles without expression toward the nurse. She holds the door for him until he passes by her. They both disappear as the door closes behind them.
Several more people come in, sign in, and have a seat. Someone else comes through the door from the examination rooms, and leaves the office with a look of muted despair.
Finally, the nurse opens the door and calls my name. I answer her call. I walk through the doorway and follow her.
She shows me into a small, sterile smelling room and closes the door. I sit alone in silence and take inventory of what I see. There are cotton swabs and tongue depressors in jars, a blood pressure cuff, locks on drawers, paper covering a brown vinyl upholstered bed, an unsettling drawing of the inner workings of the human body, and a framed photo of daisies in a field.
I await my turn at the wheel.